So WWE Women’s Champion Charlotte is still champ (as of the May 23 Raw), and at the Extreme Rules pay-per-view the night before, she retained her title all on her own.
Well, not quite. She did have help from main roster newcomer Dana Brooke, “disguised” as Charlotte’s famous father – 16-time world champion Ric Flair – to distract Charlotte’s opponent Natalya.
The following night on Raw, Charlotte called out her dad and further cemented her status as a heel champion – by sending him packing!
The now-retired Flair, she claimed, had clung on to her just to stay relevant. Disrespecting both her father and her wrestling heritage, she reduced the Nature Boy to tears and declared that she finally realised she didn’t need him in order to be successful.
How much longer the 30-year-old will reign is unknown, but fans shouldn’t kid themselves that the Flairs are anything but tightly knit. It’s just part of the show, folks.
Grunt ‘n’ Groan caught up with Charlotte (born Ashley Elizabeth Fliehr in Charlotte, North Carolina) for some quick questions, and learnt that backstage, the elder Flair is pretty hands-off in terms of input in her matches.
“He’s just a fan,” she laughs. “And he just wants me to be happy.”
The 1.78m Charlotte, who towers over many opponents in the Women’s Division, came late to sports entertainment – she only joined WWE development territory NXT in 2012 and was initially billed as “a genetically superior athlete”.
After defeating Natalya to win the NXT Women’s title in 2014, she went on to hold it for 258 days before Sasha Banks took it from her.
Charlotte was promoted to the main WWE roster last year and made waves as part of team PCB (Paige, Charlotte and Becky Lynch) and beat Nikki Bella for the Divas Championship in September.
Soon after, she began her heel turn, with Flair distracting her opponents to give her the win. Still, despite the questionable victories, Charlotte’s in-ring intensity and her devastating Figure Eight (an “evolution” of her father’s infamous Figure Four leg-lock) have caused numerous opponents to submit.
At this year’s WrestleMania, the Divas belt was officially retired and replaced with the Women’s Championship. It was also a milestone for women wrestlers in WWE who had, up to that point, been referred to as “Divas” for some years; they would henceforth be referred to as “superstars”, the same term applied to their male colleagues.
Her triple-threat title match that night with Lynch and Banks was a show-stopper, easily surpassing many of the men’s matches (the Dwaynester’s looking at that somewhat lacklustre Dean Ambrose-Brock Lesnar mismatch in particular).
With the recent return/arrival of Emma and Brooke, the Women’s Championship scene in WWE is set to get even more intense. But asked about her dream match-up, Charlotte is quick to name someone you’d never guess: “Stephanie McMahon!” Now that would make a heck of a pay-per-view draw.
1. You’ve had a rapid rise, from NXT to the main roster and being champion. Could you share what it felt like as you were climbing to the summit?
There was no room for failure, I just didn’t want to be scared, I knew that I could do it, and I was just honoured to be a part of this talented division as a whole. I hope that the division just keeps getting better.
2. You took the plunge into sports entertainment fairly recently. How does the experience compare to the expectations you had going in?
It’s surpassed every expectation especially with the new title, how it looks … like the men’s title, being called superstars, the focus is on ability. If you look back at the AT&T Stadium (the venue for WrestleMania this year) and the three of us being highlighted with the guys, you can just tell the women mean a lot to the company right now.
3. In your current heel persona, you draw a fair amount of heat from the crowds. As part of PCB, you were a fan favourite. Which does it for you – cheers or jeers?
Haha, I wouldn’t say I was a fan favourite … (but) I prefer the boos!
4. Your Triple Threat match at WrestleMania 32 was off the charts. Does that put a lot of pressure on you in the ring, to equal it or top it?
Tenfold … 100%! I feel the pressure every day but pressure makes diamonds, and I just want to continue to work hard and to see, you know, where the hard work takes me and just never be afraid.
5. The reinstatement of the Women’s Championship and the “superstar” label replacing “Divas” – what has it meant to you and your colleagues?
It means everything. Just the fact that we don’t have a different name from the men, that we’re all equals, (shows) we’re just as important of an asset and are that capable of putting on the quality that the men are for the company.