Stephanie McMahon may be preparing for a fight with Ronda Rousey this Sunday, but the Chief Brand Officer of the WWE has nothing but good things to say about the former UFC superstar. In a recent interview with Fox News, Steph discusses the vital importance of an event like WrestleMania, and what’s next for the organization throughout the following year. That includes the revamped focus they’ve put on the women’s division.
Fox News: Do you feel Ronda Rousey signing a full time WWE contract can open the doors to other athletes outside to pursue a career in the WWE?
We recruit from the Olympics; we recruit from rugby, football overseas; we recruit from everywhere. I do think Rhonda has brought heightened awareness. She is arguably one of the world’s greatest athletes. She is also just a tremendous star. She just exudes this energy and charisma that you can really connect to because you have to have the total package. Athleticism alone is not enough. And I think Rhonda speaks to the caliber of athleticism that is in WWE but it also speaks to the women’s evolution, and I can’t wait to see how her presence will give the women’s evolution even more weight.
Fox News: How important is it that women are being featured more now in a male-dominated sport.
Our audience is 40 percent women, and our women weren’t always treated as equals. They were treated as secondary or tertiary-type characters, and it wasn’t until our fans started a hashtag called #GiveDivasAChance — that was a reaction to a 30-second tag match that happened on Monday Night Raw — and that hashtag trended worldwide for three days. And it was so loud that our chairman and CEO — my dad, Vince McMahon — responded and said “We hear you, keep watching give Divas a chance.” And at WrestleMania that year AT&T Stadium Hall of Famer Lita went out, and she unveiled the new championship belt. She announced the re-branding of the Divas division to the women’s division. And announced our women were going to be called Superstars, same as the men. And since that time our women have been more regularly featured in main events on all television and pay-per-view programing. There was the first ever Hell in a Cell match, first ever women’s Money in the Bank Ladder match, the first ever women’s Elimination Chamber match. I’m going out of order. The first ever women’s Royal Rumble match, and then this past December we had the first ever women’s match in the UAE Abu Dhabi, and our fans started a chant that said “this is hope”… I just can’t imagine what that must have felt like for everyone in that arena to be a part of that movement. I think the women’s evolution represents something so much bigger than the WWE, and I’m just so proud that we are a part of it and helping to amplify it and make it as big as we possibly can.
With the announcement of next year’s WrestleMania being hosted by MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Fox also asked Steph about some of her favorite memories from the show of shows.
Growing up I always went to matches at [Madison Square Garden], and I remember I would sit in the stands, and I would sit next to where the talent would come out, and André the Giant (André René Roussimoff) would walk by and he would squeeze my leg a little bit, because he couldn’t break character, he’s larger than life in every conceivable way, and he would be walking through and just give my leg a little squeeze and that’s just a powerful memory for me every time. He was always my friend. George “The Animal” Steele was my first encounter when I was anywhere from 3 to 5 years old, and I was walking backstage at my first ever live event and all of a sudden a group of kids came around the corner just screaming and I waited to see what was going to happen and here comes George “The Animal” Steele. If you remember he was bald had a lot of wrinkles in his head. He was very fury, very hairy but [it] looked like fur and he dyed his tongue green and he was all in character and he came at me, and I screamed at the top of my lungs. I ran to my dad (Vince McMahon), ran up his leg buried my head right in his shoulder, and he started laughing. And I was like “Hang on a second, this is my dad who I know would die defending my honor, and he’s laughing at this?” And it was my first sort of inclination that there was more to this business than I really understood.
For the full interview, including the always amazing input by COO and Stephanie’s husband Triple-H, click here.