“As much as it hurt to miss WrestleMania, it was amazing to watch Sasha and see her succeed,” Flair told Sports Illustrated.
Charlotte Flair ranks among the most decorated stars to ever perform in WWE.
She has won the Royal Rumble and headlined a WrestleMania, one of the first three women ever to do so. In addition to wearing the NXT title on two separate occasions, she is also a 10-time world champion in WWE. Synonymous with greatness, her brilliance in WWE is undeniable.
Underneath the Charlotte Flair armor is Ashley Fliehr. That is the person that gives life and charisma and distinction to the on-screen character, as well as the one relentlessly pursuing a legacy. Despite operating under a massive shadow—she is, after all, the daughter of the legendary Ric Flair—she has carved out and created her own magnificence.
Setting unrealistic standards, and then surpassing them, has been par for the course for Flair over the course of her nine-year career. So it was a humbling moment when, for a mixture of reasons, she was left off the card this past April at WrestleMania 37.
“I was devastated,” said Flair. “I did not take that easy. Missing WrestleMania was hard.”
Competitive by nature, Flair grew frustrated while watching the card, constantly reminding herself that she should have been there. But her mindset changed as she watched Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair in the main event opening night.
“As much as it hurt to miss WrestleMania, it was amazing to watch Sasha and see her succeed,” said Flair, whose history with Banks dates back nearly a decade. “Seeing her come off Mandalorian and be in the main event, that was amazing. And Bianca has that special ‘It’ factor. She needs to keep taking that and run with it. Her story, and what she embodies, it’s incredible. So I was happy for both Sasha and Bianca.
“With Sasha, I cannot wait until the day we get to bring our story full circle. We were babies when we were performing in 2015. To see how far we’ve come as performers, and go back to that rivalry, I can’t wait. Seeing her main event and be the star that she is, I could not be happier for her.”
During the second night of WrestleMania 37, Flair’s unquenchable desire to be the best returned in full force while watching Asuka wrestle Rhea Ripley. Flair has had WrestleMania matches against both performers, and while closely studying their match, a new fire was lit to bring both her opponents, as well as herself, to new heights. That journey continues this Sunday at WWE’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, where Flair wrestles Ripley in a match for the Raw women’s championship.
Flair and Ripley share history. They had their phenomenal, hard-hitting match at WrestleMania 36, a masterpiece of empty-arena wrestling during the pandemic era, as well as a triple threat at the following TakeOver: In Your House when Flair dropped the NXT title to Io Shirai after Ripley took the pin. They even had a seminal moment in this past year’s Royal Rumble, as Ripley and Belair teamed up—both literally and symbolically—to eliminate Flair and set up the finishing sequence to the match.
“I’m thankful that Rhea and I are now getting a platform to tell our story,” said Flair. “I am disappointed with how our story played out in NXT. I loved our match at WrestleMania at the PC. I’ll talk about the match for years to come. This is now a chance to tell our story.”
Flair, Ripley and Asuka worked a triple threat last month at WrestleMania Backlash, which saw Ripley retain when she defeated Asuka. The story continues at Hell in a Cell, with Flair placing immense pressure on her shoulders to ensure that Ripley is presented as a star.
“I need to bring my best to do what needs to be done for this story,” said Flair. “Rhea needs to get the best Charlotte Flair and Charlotte Flair needs to get the best Rhea so she can take the ball and run with it, be the future, make a name for herself, and do what she’s meant to do.
“I feel a personal responsibility to make sure she is a star. When I was in her spot, I remember how fragile and nervous and uncomfortable I was. I remember seeing Nikki Bella walking out and thinking, ‘She is a such a star.’ When I held the Divas championship, I felt like it owned me. I wish someone would have say, ‘Come at me and prove to me who you are.’ I want to do that for Rhea. I keep hearing she’s the future, so let’s go out there and see it.”
There is rarely a moment when Flair is featured on WWE programming and she is not involved in the title picture. She is clearly aware of that, as well as people’s frustrations around it, yet she also has an innate understanding of the perpetual stress involved in that responsibility.
“The women’s division is much smaller than the men’s division, and I realize I’m constantly in the title picture,” said Flair. “That pressure lives with me. I’m never in a side story where I can be relaxed. The women are constantly fighting for time, storylines, and equality. Being placed in positions that are always featured, I always feel that pressure and it never goes away.”
Flair, who promised to wear a new robe this Sunday, wants to showcase distinctly unique elements to her work on Sunday. There is the flash and pomp, but also that tenacious passion to win the match, illustrated in every pin fall attempt, to make the viewer feel her desire to be champion. As she continues to evolve in the ring, she is also thrilled to have viewers see a different side of her character.
“This is Charlotte Flair unhinged, and I hope they let me be more unhinged,” said Flair. “I’m having so much fun. I had put so much pressure on myself the past four, five years, and I eventually have to let this go, but I wish I knew who I was during the Becky [Lynch] feud. I’ve grown so much since then. I’m not scared, and I wish I could go back in time and take those handcuffs off myself. That’s why I can’t wait to have the sequel with her. It’s going to be epic.”
Back in a title match, seeking to once again prove why she is the best in the world, Flair eagerly awaits the chance to apply her craft at Hell in a Cell.
“I want to outdo what I have already done,” said Flair. “With Rhea, our match at Mania was great, and we can make it even better. Now we have a story behind us. We’re going to steal the show. This is going to be the match of the night.”
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