The entry of Charlotte Flair in World Wrestling Entertainment coincided with a revamp of the women’s division. Out went the matches between skimpily-clad women, treated as mere accessories while male superstars roughed it out.
Now, female superstars are no longer fighting for a ‘divas’ title; they are WWE champions just like the men in the two brands – Raw and Smackdown. Charlotte, the daughter of Hall of Famer Ric Flair, is a ten-time champion and one of the most recognisable faces in sports entertainment.
Women have started headlining main events, and Charlotte, along with professional rival Becky Lynch, and Ronda Rousey, were also the main competitors in the famous WrestleMania – an arena that was strictly reserved for the likes of Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, The Undertaker and Co.
Over the past year, Charlotte has been involved in a long-standing feud with Lynch, who was her former best friend according to the storyline in WWE. Charlotte has assumed the role of the villain – the heel – and Becky – the face – or the hero. The Irishwoman has been one of the biggest stories of the past year, breaking barriers in the testosterone-fuelled world. It’s not uncommon now to see young boys wearing T-shirts with their faces.
“When one woman succeeds, we all succeed,” said Charlotte during her recent visit to India, unfazed by Lynch’s recent surge. “I think what made Becky and I so special, the rivalry was because you either have chemistry or you don’t. And maybe, some of it [the animosity] was true maybe some of it wasn’t. And both of us, on a professional level, view psychology and our business the exact same way. We were able to tell that story organically and [it] was awesome.”
Living up to a famous last name may have been too much of a burden to carry for any young wrestler, but Charlotte is no longer seen as a product of nepotism. The ten-time champion has a unique set of moves that very few in the industry can pull off. The 33-year-old’s flexibility and athleticism has drawn widespread praise.
Not everyone views her the same way, though. In an ESPN interview, just days before WrestleMania, Charlotte was introduced as “Ric Flair’s daughter” on their ticker while her competitors, Rousey and Lynch, had their achievements listed out.
“So, it’ll just always make me work that much harder,” Charlotte laughed off the incident. “But never once have I wished I wasn’t his daughter. Like, there’s nothing I’m more proud of than being his daughter and being able to continue his legacy.”
She added, “I think I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t have the pressure or the chip on my shoulder. So it’s a mixed blessing. He really didn’t pay attention to my career or helped me or talk to me until I figured it out on my own. I talk to him everyday but it’s not necessarily input, it is support – he’s still just dad not Ric Flair.”
Charlotte sees a clear distinction in terms of style and ring presence too. “I feel like my dad is much more known for his charisma, his personality, his contagious catch line or his just his persona, whereas the ‘Queen’ has a presence.
“What made me stand out was my athletic ability. So, we’re opposite. But I wish I was as charismatic as my dad. That’s the one thing that’s so special about him is: he’s always been true to who he is,” she said.
Her father Rick has been dealing with health troubles off late and the death of her brother motivated Charlotte to try her luck in WWE. “I built this character that I wanted to be like in my real life, and being able to be a role model, using hardships to motivate myself,” she added.
There has been a recent surge of Mixed Martial Arts fighters entering WWE and Rousey’s success has opened doors for many others. In the current roster, Sonya Deville, Cain Velasquez, and Shayna Baszler have also made a mark. Charlotte, who was a national-level volleyball champion before entering WWE, pointed out that coming from an MMA background is not a guarantee for success.
“Just because you’re an MMA fighter doesn’t mean you’ll be good at what we do,” she said. “I don’t care if you’re tough. I don’t care if you made it [in MMA]. This. It’s a completely different business, where sports and entertainment come together and what we do does not come naturally.
“And being able to connect with an audience is what makes you a WWE superstar. Why did Ronda Rousey do so well? It is because she figured that out. Did I think she was going to be able to? No, but she did. People connected with her you could see her emotion in the ring as she fought and not everyone can do that. So I think it’s awesome that people in MMA want to be a part of what we do, but it doesn’t mean that you’re going to be good at this.”
It is not uncommon to see hate venom spewed on social media, often directed at Charlotte for supposedly having an easy run to the top compared the rest of them.
A sportswoman all her life, Charlotte goes back to where she started. “I think being a captain and playing team sports my whole life made a huge difference coming into WWE because wrestling is very much individual.
“But having to work together as a whole as a division, to lift each other up and to bring that as another talent, I think has made a huge difference because I don’t think in the past everyone always worked together for the same goal.”
Professionally, though, the Charlotte-Lynch feud isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. “I need to beat Becky for my eleventh championship,” Charlotte said, straight-faced, remorseless, and no-nonsense – all qualities that have made her a serial winner over the past five years.
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