Charlotte Flair had never experienced anything like this.
The 10-plus-year WWE veteran made her surprise return after an eight-month absence in Tampa three weeks ago and beat Ronda Rousey for the SmackDown Women’s Title to become a 14-time world champion in the company. .
But something unexpected happened when Flair, who has been booed for most of her career, walked her down the aisle and pinned the former UFC women’s bantamweight champion’s shoulders. on the carpet. She was applauded. Loudly. Flair, 36, said she ‘didn’t know how to act’ when she heard it because she ‘shot the mean Charlotte character down’.
It was different.
“I was very upset,” Flair told The Post in a Zoom interview. “For me to be overwhelmed there, I’m usually in control of the emotions and the pace and where I’m at. I was just like, I never had that moment back. I never had this feeling of well-being [moment]. Maybe when I won [at] WrestleMania 32, but that was no surprise. It was a great moment in my career, but no one ever missed me. I’m still there.
She said only four other people besides herself knew she was coming back and that she feels really bad for not even telling her dad, Ric – who left the show before it was released. Flair even posted a photo of her and her husband, wrestler Andrade, on a boat in Venice just hours before her TV appearance.
After delivering the real surprise, she almost couldn’t believe it when the referee told her to go celebrate in the crowd – a practice usually reserved for super babyfaces such as Becky Lynch, Bayley early in her career and Bianca Belair . The natural energy made her the most comfortable she had ever had in the role of babyface, and it changed her initial plans for her comeback.
“I was so touched, like it really, really changed the direction I wanted to go when I came back,” she said. “OK, let your guard down, lower your chin a bit. What I mean is let people in and try to get where it’s going.
Initially, Flair wasn’t supposed to be gone as long as she was. She was written off WWE television with an injury angle after dropping the SmackDown Women’s Title to Rousey in an “I Quit” match at WrestleMania Backlash last May so she could get married. But Flair has had dental issues dating back to childhood, including needing surgery in 2018 after having his teeth knocked out during a game on a European tour.
She ran into issues that needed immediate attention again. So after her honeymoon, Flair underwent several dental procedures after which she couldn’t risk being punched in the face for weeks at a time. Flair said she probably could have been back for SummerSlam at the end of July, but stayed longer knowing she still had procedure to follow.
“I had to do it,” she said. “I had no choice but to deal with these issues.”
The extended time ended up being a blessing in many ways. As newlyweds, she and Andrade spent more time together and traveled, including a week-long trip to Italy. Although Flair said she’s been to the country before with WWE, she’s never really been able to go to the Colosseum, the Vatican, the museums and enjoy the food and culture. She said it was “so special” to see her and her family – “just two different worlds coming together” to celebrate “two people in love” at their wedding in her hometown of Lerdo, Mexico. Through it all, she tried not to follow the wrestling world and disconnect in a way she never had before.
“Usually I think, even if I go to the beach while I’m working, I might go on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, but I think, ‘what am I doing on TV on Friday, where are my live events?’ ” she says. “Being completely offline and in the moment was so nice and having that one-on-one with Manny [Andrade] which I have never had before, it was priceless.
Flair returned with WWE set to host its annual Royal Rumble pay-per-view at the Alamodome on Saturday (8 p.m., Peacock). Although her status for the series is unknown, she is currently embroiled in a feud with established heel Sonya Deville, who acted out trying to secure a rematch for the championship. Flair praised Deville for making his game easier.
“She does such a fantastic job, and she’s the perfect person to be the opposite,” Flair said. “She’s great on the mic and that definitely makes it easier as a face. She really comes into her own and that helps a lot.
While she’s busy with Deville now, Flair knows that perhaps the most intriguing feud for her is with Belair, the current Raw Women’s Champion. Belair, who is now one of WWE’s biggest stars, has made no secret that she wants to become the first person to defeat all of WWE’s Four Horsewomen and Flair is the last she hasn’t. pinned or submitted. Given their position in the company, Flair agrees the clash should be built for a WrestleMania or a SummerSlam.
“It’s the two alphas and Bianca gets that goal she considered beating all the Horsewomen and me being last because she saw herself in me the most because of our [athletic] context,” Flair said. “It’s definitely a scenario I would never want to rush because there’s so much competitiveness, alpha, athleticism and drive.”
Until then, Flair will work on becoming a babyface role. She must have caught herself falling back into her heels at some point. After defeating Deville on SmackDown earlier this month, she snatched her championship from referee Jessika Carr before quickly apologizing with a “thank you.” Flair said she had to remember that people were happy to see her win and to accept it. She hopes it won’t happen again.
“I just got into a mode and I was like, ‘Ah wait, why did I do that? “said Flair. “I almost kissed her too. What made it worse was that she was a woman I was kind of disrespectful to.
She asked for a change since her return and it was her entrance music. Flair said WWE reached out to her before her return and felt it was time to change the tune that defined her in WWE. She warned them that she was “not really good at change”.
She felt great with the initial adjustments, but felt very different walking for her return to Tampa. It was “far too slow” and she feared the public would “think my dad was going out”. What’s used now is more like a remix of her original song with the words “All Hail the Queen”.
“My last music hit with the guitar right off the bat,” she said. “I’m such a fan of EDM, techno and house music. It was the vibe I wanted. I was like, ‘this needs to come out strong.’ At first, when I first heard it, I was like “oh, that’s cool”, but when it played out the night I came back, I was like, “Oh no, we have to go back to the writing board.”
A few other things have changed in WWE since Flair was last there. Vince McMahon retired and later didn’t retire and Triple H is now the creative helm, although Flair has said in her short time that she hasn’t noticed any real change. in the process. She also doesn’t focus on what might change if McMahon decides to sell WWE.
“As a performer, it’s just my job to go to work, show up, do my best and make the creativity proud and entertain the fans,” she said. “So I really don’t think about it. And two, if a sale were to happen, it takes months, so I’m not actively thinking about it. It doesn’t change what I’m doing or what I’ve done.
What Flair needs to do now is make the most of his babyface run for as long as the public wants.
“See the reaction again, as it continues. I’m just like, ‘go for it,'” Flair said. “Don’t force anything. It’s the first time that I really feel good in the role of the good guy. I’m not saying how long it will last, but it feels right now.