Power profile: Meet WWE star Charlotte Flair, the Queen of women's wrestling
A group of women made history during the last decade within the Women’s Division of WWE. Ever since the WWE discontinued calling the women wrestlers ‘Diva’ at WrestleMania 32 (on April 3, 2016), the women wrestlers are referred to as Women Superstars. While several Superstars have contributed to the evolution, there’s one name that stands out and that is of Charlotte Flair.
The 33-year-old American professional wrestler Ashley Elizabeth Fliehr aka Charlotte Flair is a second-generation wrestler, daughter of legendary WWE wrestler Ric Flair. Ever since her debut on NXT in 2013, the young woman has given some serious competition to her rivals. Some of her face-offs have been noted as the most brutal matches in the history of WWE and she is a 10-time Women’s Champion since joining WWE’s main roster in July 2015. In fact, Charlotte was the first woman to headline the WWE pay-per-view event — Hell In A Cell match opposite Sasha Banks (in October 2016).
Earlier this year, she became one of the three women (alongside Becky Lynch and Ronda Rousey) to headline WrestleMania, WWE’s flagship annual event, in April 2019. In August at WWE’s 32nd SummerSlam 2019, Charlotte defeated the legendary Superstar Trish Stratus with her 8-leg lock in a dream match and went on to earn ‘The Queen of All Eras’ title.
It is such an impressive career graph that makes the Superstar one-of-her-kind. The Queen was in India for a promotional tour and also made an appearance at Maruti Suzuki Arena Bengaluru Comic Con 2019. In a candid chat, Charlotte opened up about the pressures of being a wrestler, what she likes doing when she isn’t at the matches, her relationship with champ Andrade and her love for Bollywood music.
What are your earliest memories of wrestling?
I would sit in the front row during my dad’s matches. His music would play, and he’d make his entry, I’d be like, ‘Dad, look at me, hug me, kiss me, I want your attention.’ I wasn’t interested in the match or his opponents, just seeing him come out and knowing that this is dad made me happy. My earliest memories are of jumping up and down thinking, ‘I’m just so proud that he’s my dad.’
Since your father was a wrestler, was this career a natural choice for you?
No! I played sports. I started gymnastics, jazz tap and ballet. Then when I got to middle school, my parents and I decided that I would start basketball and volleyball. But I fell in love with All-Star Cheerleading, which I don’t talk about very often. And I did AllStar Cheerleading and played volleyball until high school. I didn’t like basketball. I wasn’t very good at dribbling. Umm, but I gave up cheerleading because I am so competitive, I wanted to be on a co-ed squad. So anyway, I ended up playing volleyball in high school and then played incollege. I never really thought about wrestling. It was my two brothers who were going to continue the Flair name, who wanted to wrestle and cared about it. I was just like my dad’s a wrestler, I get to take my friends to the show and that’s really about it.
How challenging was it to establish your brand name and come out of the shadow of your father?
It’s still a challenge to keep proving myself. It’s a mixed blessing to be his daughter. I don’t think I’d be the talent I am today if my dad wasn’t who he was. I always have this chip on my shoulder that nothing is good enough. Sometimes, I feel I’m just here because of who my dad is or I get championships because of my dad. Somedays, I wonder if I get all these opportunities because of my dad or the McMahons (founders, owners and promoters of WWE) love me because of my dad. I feel it’s just never enough. But at the same time, because it’s never enough, it makes me work that much harder. And I do well under pressure. And I don’t want people to think I am mad or upset or disappointed. I want to continue my father’s legacy and being a woman continuing his legacy means the world to me.
How did you deal with the pressure of being a woman wrestler in a male-dominated sporting event?
My dad was always pushing me to be competitive when I started wrestling. I had no idea how hard it was for women. I didn’t realise. I knew that they were mostly looked at as eye candy or secondary storylines. But when I started, I was like, well, I’m just as good as he is. I never felt that I am just a female and that I’m not going to get these opportunities. I thought of where I was headed, and where I wanted to go was because I never thought that I couldn’t do it. Like, it didn’t matter that I was a woman. I knew I am a woman, but I believed I am better than him. It was just a matter of, ‘Okay, I’m wrestling. I’m figuring out the industry. I’m learning how to wrestle a wrestler. I’m trying to find a character. But I always believed in my athletic ability and as an athlete, I never thought a man is a better athlete than me. That’s something that I have always relied on. And I think that’s what’s gotten me so far. I have never thought, he’s a boy, he’s better than me.
What are you usually thinking just before a match? What goes on behind the scenes?
It just really depends on the storyline, the match or the talent that I am facing. I think about where I need to be emotionally and mentally, whether I’m the bad guy or the good guy. But what’s most important for me is, how am I going to walk out of the curtain and be the Queen. And I still have to think about that every time.
Your long-standing rivalry with Sasha Banks gave the WWE audience one of the most brutal matches during RAW 2016. Do you ever think about the matches that you have lost?
I wish I could go back and redo them because I am such a better talent now. I know so much more now. Those matches were good, but it could have been so much better. I hope I get to redo them.
OUTSIDE THE RING
Does Charlotte ever meet her competitors for a drink after the matches? “You don’t have to be friends,” she begins, adding, “But you have to respect each other because it takes two or three wrestlers to perform, depending on how many are in the match. You’re not friends with everyone, but our business is built on respect. Well, Becky (Lynch) has been my best friend. We had such a heated storyline but we have been tagging together. I remember the first time I met Ronda Rousey and then the first time I got to wrestle with her... you just need to respect others.”
How do you deal with injuries?
I don’t get injured. I am genetically superior (laughs). It’s a joke, my character says that. Honestly, I’ve been very lucky where I have not been seriously injured. I think, all the training that I have done all my life has helped me. I am not injury prone.
What goes into your training? What’s your secret?
My secret right now is that Andrade (WWE wrestler, NXT Champion) is my trainer. I used to Olympic lift for about three years. Then last year, I completely changed my routine. I try not to focus on this idea of being lean or to have abs all the time. Your body is unique to you and moderation is the key. I have learned to enjoy life. Back in 2016, I was so worried and kept thinking, ‘Oh, I gotta have a six-pack.’ Now, I am in my 30s and I am in the best shape ever. I think it’s just more about my mental state. Now I follow the routine of working on legs one day, shoulders on another day, chest, biceps, back and triceps on a different day, and cardio on other days. I usually don’t go more than an-hourand-a-half in a day and the trick to eating healthier while I am on the road is to go 12 hours without food and then eat for the
next 12 hours.
How do you break up your meals? What’s on your plate?
Because we travel so much, I don’t get to cook. Usually, every morning, I have egg white bites from Starbucks and oatmeal with cinnamon powder. I prefer Starbucks because it’s everywhere. Then, my next meal depends on my workout regimen that particular day. If I am lifting that day, I will always have a vegetable, a protein and either a carb or something with fat. I try to keep my carbs later in the day now, and it’s mostly sweet potato, oatmeal, or a little bit of rice with vegetables like asparagus and broccoli. There’s a company called Trifecta that sends me meals at home, and you can opt for hot or cold food, but it can’t be frozen for more than two days. So that’s really the trick. It’s the same thing I follow with consistency. During holidays, it doesn’t look like this! My man cooks for me, he makes quesadillas and homemade guacamole. I love sushi and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.
What do you do during your downtime?
I sleep most of the time (laughs). But yes, I enjoy going to the movies and for dinner if there’s a new restaurant. Andrade and I go to this one place that has tapas and we like it a lot. But really it’s just resting time and trying to catch up on day-to-day things like paying your bills, getting laundry and your nails done.
This is your second visit to India and from your social media feed, it seems like you are enjoying your time here. Did you also learn a few Bollywood dance steps from Varun Dhawan?
I met him for the first time and he is fantastic. He is a huge fan of WWE, so I said, I hope you come to WrestleMania. But, he has to wear my shirt when he comes. And unlike last time in India, I am enjoying the food here. I love the spices. I ate a pot pie, the chef told me he took a long time to prepare with the crust on top, spices, vegetables and meat, it was so good!
What next for Charlotte? Would you start your own company or maybe act in films, a Bollywood movie?
I haven’t figured out exactly what I’m so passionate about other than wrestling. I love gym clothes, but I haven’t thought of starting a clothing line. Right now, my focus is on wrestling. I haven’t really decided what that next transition is, maybe it’s a Bollywood movie. I have watched Slumdog Millionaire and I am very close to Jinder Mahal (Yuvraj Singh Dhesi, Canadian professional wrestler signed to WWE). So, being around him on the main roster, I’ve watched Bollywood films. I can’t say I am a fan, but I appreciate the films. I was telling Varun that I really do love the music.
Andrade and you are known as the power couple. What’s next for you both?
I just want him to focus on his career and be where he should be. I think, he’s going to be a top star one day.
The girl gang of WWE
Last October, WWE held its first-ever all-women’s pay-perview event titled Evolution. But, how did that come about? Charlotte gives us the lowdown. “It was a group of women who work together who took it upon themselves and said, ‘Hey, we want the same opportunities. We want to be as good as the men, we want to wrestle like men.’ It’s not just one person, there are multiple women working together to create these incredible stories, she explains, adding, “We girls said, ‘Okay, we’re going to change the game. We’re going to put on these incredible matches where people are chanting—‘This is awesome’. And we’re going to bring that to the main roster. We just wouldn’t take a no for an answer.’”
WWE Superstars you need to know
Sasha Banks, 27:
Mercedes Justine Kaestner-Varnado known as Sasha Banks was the first woman along with Charlotte Flair to headline WWE pay-per-view event in 2016.
Becky Lynch, 32:
The current Raw Women’s Champion, Rebecca Quin aka Becky Lynch is a four-time women’s champion at WWE.
Trish Stratus, 43:
One of the legendary Women Superstars of WWE, Patricia Anne Stratigeas recently returned for a face-off against Charlotte at SummerSlam 2019
Ronda Rousey, 32:
A mixed martial arts athlete-turned-actress, Ronda is known for her films like The Expendables 3, Furious 7 and Mile 22. Ronda is the only woman champion at the UFC and WWE.
Kanako Urai, winner of the women’s Royal Rumble 2018, is a Japanese professional wrestler signed with the WWE.
WWE is airedlive and exclusive in India on Sony Ten 1 and Sony Ten 3