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An Appreciation of Charlotte Flair’s WWE Career – by Mike Sanchez

Following in the footsteps of a famous parent is nothing new. There have been numerous offspring of successful, high-profile celebrities who have attempted to continue the family legacy. Whether it be in business, media or sports, there are plenty of examples, all with varying degrees of success. In business, the onus can be thrust upon young shoulders when it is assumed one will simply take the mantle and lead from the front when adolescence is a faint memory and a strong adult steps up to the plate. From multinational conglomerates to small mom and pop stores, some children are literally born into the business and it is only natural that they seek nothing more than to emulate their parents and carry on where they leave off.

This sometimes does not take into account the wishes and feelings of said offspring and many continue the family traditions more from obligation than desire. There are those who are thrust into important and senior positions through nepotism, and again with varying degrees of success – however, it is rarely a positive move. As Daniel Alarcon, the Peruvian-American author, wrote; ‘Nepotism is the lowest and least imaginative form of corruption’. Then there are those who willingly want to follow in their parents’ footsteps. Those who wish to live the life and dreams of their mothers and fathers. For those people, the road ahead can be anything but easy. For those individuals, the road can be steeper than most.

I first saw Charlotte Flair on TV when she took part in Ric Flair’s retirement celebration on Monday Night Raw in March 2008. A young Ashley Fliehr accompanied her family down to the ring to wish her father well during the emotional send-off. Four years after that night, she began training with WWE to become a professional wrestler, making her debut in a fledgling NXT in 2013. Since then, she’s become one of the most well-known, successful and high-profile female wrestlers in the world. Her list of accomplishments are astounding: NXT Women’s Champion, WWE Divas Champion (which turned into the Women’s Championship in 2016), Four-time Raw Women’s Champion, Five-time Smackdown Women’s Champion, PWI Rookie of the Year (2014) and PWI Woman of the Year and top female wrestler (both 2016).

 

With all that success, should she not be celebrated? Apparently not, according to some wrestling fans. Some see Charlotte as a wrestler who is continually present in main events and top of the card and I do not agree – hey, everyone has opinions. Some think she’s viewed with favouritism by management or is blessed with the nepotism we spoke of earlier. I agree she is one of the faces of the Women’s Division, but to suggest she’s in high-profile matches and near the main event purely because of her father is grossly unfair and disrespectful. I believe Charlotte is where is she is because of talent, hard work and dedication. Has there been an element of luck? Sure, probably, but doesn’t everyone have some form of good luck at one time or another? The issue isn’t having luck, it’s what you do with it when fortune smiles upon you.

Earlier I mentioned following in famous footsteps. When it comes to a role that is defined by talent; a singer, actor, performer etc. the onus will always be on the child to be as good as, if not better than, the parent. Anything less than that is a failure. Let me give you an example of what I mean. In Italy, there’s a soccer team named AC Milan. Milan (as they’re often called) once had a player named Cesare Maldini. As a player, Maldini won four league titles from 1955 to 1962. He won the European Cup (the highest honor for any club) and also tasted success as a manager in Italy. In 1985, his son, Paulo made his senior debut for Milan. Big things were expected of this young lad with the famous father and there was huge pressure on those young shoulders. Paulo Maldini made 902 appearances for AC Milan, winning 7 league titles, 6 domestic cups, 5 European Cups, 4 UEFA Cups and one World Cup with Italy. The point I’m making is that some youngsters have big shoes to fill, but will go way above and beyond what is expected of them.

Ask any wrestling fan the old ‘Mount Rushmore of wrestling’ question and I guarantee Ric Flair will be on at least 90% of them. Ric Flair is a bonafide legend of professional wrestling. Imagine having to follow him into the business. Charlotte could have dropped the ‘Flair’ name and forged a career without the name, but she didn’t. She could’ve left wrestling for others to pursue, but she didn’t. She could’ve played down the flamboyance and pomp that comes with the Flair name, but she didn’t. Charlotte knew of and had seen other children of legendary wrestlers try to capture the magic and stardom their parents once had; Ted DiBiase Jr couldn’t reach the level of success his father achieved, try as he might. Cody and Dustin Rhodes paid tribute to their legendary dad, the American Dream Dusty Rhodes, and continue to make a mark on the business just like their father did. The Usos have won more titles than their father Rikishi ever did in his career. IRS must look in a mix of bewilderment and pride as his son, Bray Wyatt, holds aloft the Smackdown Championship. Make no mistake that Ric Flair is equally proud of his daughter.

To go into professional wrestling is a tough ask of anyone. The elite are small in number and the chance to capture championships and success if even smaller. To go into pro wrestling is a passion and one must have dedication. To go into pro wrestling with the name Flair carries huge expectations. To build a persona, a move set, a style and body of work with the name Flair is a monumental task and to be successful, one cannot rely on luck, a good relationship with bookers or nepotism. You wear the name Flair on your back, you better show Flair in the ring. Charlotte Flair did not back down from the challenge and has become the female Flair in professional wrestling. She is one of, if not the, most talented female wrestlers in the company. Her matches are always of a high caliber and she is a credible, believable champion and heir to the Flair name.

You may read this with the scowl of a Bayley, or be ready to vent your anger because I didn’t STAN Becky Lynch. You may feel I’m wrong in my thoughts, but hey, it’s just my opinion and you’re welcome to disagree. I just believe that credit should be paid where it’s due, and Charlotte Flair sometimes doesn’t get the credit she so richly deserves. She has had a tumultuous ride to the top and has faced many challenges thrown her way – both inside and outside of the ring. She is rightly positioned as a role model in the company, someone who proves that hard work, dedication, determination and passion can break down any barrier put in your way. She has gone against the very best women in wrestling and was part of the most successful foursome in the modern era. She is a shining, glittering example of what success looks like. Becky Lynch may wear the t-shirt, but she wasn’t even born when the original ‘Man’ was stylin’ and profilin’. Now there’s another Flair on the block and she ain’t going anywhere soon. Bring on more glamour, more fireworks, more overly-exuberant entrances, more glitz, more glamour, cos if you’re gonna do it right, do it with Flair. WOOOOOOOOO!!!

“Why do something unless you’re going to be the best at it?”

“I do want to carry on my dad’s legacy, but I also want to carve out my own path. I have to work harder. I think, just because I do have that last name. I don’t want people to think that’s why I am where I am in this industry. I put in the time, and I want to be just as good as my dad was.’

Charlotte Flair