As one of the top athletes in WWE, Charlotte Flair has relished the rise of the women’s game in professional wrestling – but issued something a reality check to The Independent by insisting: “the pressure is still on.”
WWE’s sports entertainment brand of wrestling has been a landscape chiefly dominated by men for much of its history.
There has always been a place for women but, much to the detriment of the industry, their role had largely been limited to those of managers, valets or girls throwing themselves around in little more than underwear.
So while it would be wrong to discredit the efforts or work-rate of anyone who has come before them, the current crop of women have certainly blazed a trail.
The likes of Charlotte – daughter to legendary wrestling superstar Ric Flair – and her cohorts now regularly steal the show on weekly television and monthly pay-per-views with stellar storytelling and incredible matches.
A phenomenal athlete in her own right, 31-year-old Charlotte is seen by many as the leader of the women’s wrestling revolution – but the multi-time WWE Women’s Champion is adamant nobody is resting on their laurels.
Rather than springing a surprise by having the match of the night or stealing the show on the microphone, such exploits have become the expected norm for many of these girls – leaving them with the tough task of continually outdoing themselves.
She told The Independent: “The pressure is real!
“You don’t want to get complacent and just accept things – just because we’ve had those moments and we have come so far, you don’t want to ever take that for granted because the moment you do, it can all go away.
“It takes us collectively all staying on our toes and working as hard as we can to continue getting those opportunities, and for me it adds an element of pressure if you’re the main event or if we are headlining a pay-per-view.
“That pressure is still on and you feel it – I know I do, continuously, but it’s a good kind of pressure.”
An accomplished in-ring technician and a classic on-screen villain, Charlotte’s journey has been a long and eventful one.
It’s taken five years for her to reach this stage, with only a couple of those spent on the main rosters of Raw and Smackdown following her call-up from NXT, WWE’S hugely-popular developmental programme.
The rapid pace of that brand’s progress has meant that many other women are swiftly looking to follow in the footsteps of Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Bayley and Becky Lynch.
But in a rush-and-ready society reflected in a non-stop rollercoaster that is WWE, the North Carolina native had a word of guidance for those currently plying their trade in NXT, which itself now has a weekly television show on WWE Network and quarterly special events.
“I started in NXT when we were still FCW in Tampa,” she added.
“Then we crowned the first NXT men and women’s champions and I remember thinking ‘wow, what is this?’
“Then the WWE Network launched and NXT started to travel – I’ve been with it and watched it grow.
“The new talent that comes in now just goes to the WWE Performance Centre with state-of-the-art facilities; they didn’t see what it was like to go from Tampa to that or when we were just doing shows in Florida.
“Now they go all over the country and overseas, so it is a slow progress and when you think you’re ready, you’re not ready – when I got to the main roster I was still learning – and still am.
“So maybe the girls are now impatient but it is a process. They have been able to skip a few steps with how NXT is now and you want to go through it faster and say ‘I’m ready, I’m ready!’
“I see how it’s hard, but it’s a whole different ball game up here.
“I’m sure if the girls are [becoming impatient], someone like Sara Del Ray (NXT Coach) who is the rock for the women down there can talk them through the fact that this is a waiting game.”
Back to the present day and to Smackdown Live, a new home for Charlotte following her move in the recent Superstar Shake-up.
It saw her switch to the blue brand from Monday Night Raw where she’d dominated the women’s landscape with the likes of Banks, capturing multiple championships.
She welcomed the change with open arms as she prepares to do battle with some new faces – and make history all over again.
She admitted: “I’m excited – the first Monday I wasn’t on Raw was a little strange, but not in a bad way.
“The transition is exciting and I am looking forward to seeing what I can do on a different brand.
“Having new opponents re-energises us as talent as we’re not having to make new out of something that’s been the same every week.
“I have been wrestling Sasha Banks and Bayley [on Raw] for a year, especially Sasha – and I would never change those moments because we made magic – but it definitely gives me things to look forward to.
“I’ve never faced Carmella or had a one-on-one match with Tamina, and I recently had my first match ever with Naomi.
“The opportunities to interact are awesome.”
Catch Charlotte and all the WWE superstars on the WWE UK Live Tour this May. Tickets available at: www.bookingsdirect.com.
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