Rhea Ripley retained the WWE SmackDown Women’s Title over Zelina Vega in the opening match of the WWE Backlash 2023 pay-per-view event in Puerto Rico. The fans were heavily behind Vega in the match, wanting her to win.
During a recent interview with Peter Rosenberg for the “Cheap Heat” podcast, Ripley talked about the crowd reaction to Vega. She said,
“I was honestly living in that moment. We had the press conference earlier that day and I heard the reaction Zelina got when she went out there, it was loud. I was very excited for her, but then I went out there and it all turned into mami chants and I was like, ‘Oh.’ It’s cool to hear, don’t get me wrong, but I was thinking about later that night and I was like ‘Oh no, hopefully Mami chants don’t drown anything out’, because I know how special this event is to her because I know how special it would be for me to be able to perform in Australia, so I can relate to that. Especially since she’s never had that big opportunity that she’s worked so hard for, this was like her WrestleMania moment in a way. When I went out there first and I got the mami chants, I was [worried] but wanted to see what happened when her music hit. The crowd just like turned on me instantly, I had to like sort of talk to myself like ‘Yo, they are so hot for her right now, I can only imagine the emotions that she’s feeling right now’ and then seeing her walk out with the flag, go to her family, hug them, get in the ring and get so emotional live on camera when I know that she’s not a very emotional showing person, it was hard for me to play off it in a way that Rhea Ripley would because [I felt it personally]. I wanted to smile with her, but I wouldn’t. I’m very happy she got that moment and she got that opportunity, and I know it’s gonna be something that she’s not gonna forget for the rest of her life. I’m glad that I could be the person in the ring with her to help her get to the point where everyone is just like believing in her in an established way.”
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