From the moment her theme song hit at WWE’s TLC 2020, signaling her triumphant return after a six-month absence until now, Charlotte Flair has been on another level. With her name constantly being brought up, good or bad, Charlotte Flair has been a part of the conversation the entire year of 2021. Through amazing matches, some of the best promos of her career, and a physique like we’ve never seen, Charlotte took 2021 by storm. Dubbing herself The Opportunity, The Star Maker, and my personal favorite, Queen—No matter what you call her, in 2021, the one thing you can’t call her is insignificant. Having two matches on WWE’s Top Ten Matches of The Year list, even after missing WrestleMania 37, is just the tip of the iceberg for the work Charlotte produced this year. In this exclusive candid interview, TV Source was able to catch up with the thirteen-time Women’s World champion to discuss her whirlwind year.
Extremely radiant and inexplicably energetic, given her schedule, we poked fun at how resilient Charlotte is. Speaking to her from her car while she drove to her next show in Baltimore, Maryland, I teased that I thought my schedule was busy, but hers is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. She provided a detailed account when asked what a typical day looks like. “Usually it’s fly out Thursday, show on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Fly home on Monday.” We were amazed as she further elaborated. “I’m usually exhausted, but it’s my free day. I tend to enjoy my cheat snacks like Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and sushi with my fiancé, sort of like a date night, while on Tuesday, I try to get stuff done. Also, on Wednesdays, I try to get stuff done, whether it’s media, photoshoots, press over the phone, or just trying to hang out with friends or to try to do everyday life. When Thursday rolls around, and I wake up, workout, pack my bags and fly out.”
Despite her busy schedule, Charlotte loves the feel of being in the arena with fans. She admitted that it’s so different from the atmosphere online. “I’m the person that makes the crowd want to cheer for the other person to win. I love that. I love the energy.” Sometimes, when wrestlers are on social media, the negativity can be consuming, but the events allow them to feel all the fans’ love, respect, and support. It helps to distract from the toxic environment, so many of us read on social media. Social media is not always indicative of genuine reactions when it comes to the fans’ reception to her. She’s always been a talent that transcends what the media has to say. As a person who frequently attends WWE events, there has never been a crowd that didn’t show a lot of appreciation for her performances. I quickly pointed out that there has been a shift in the live crowds lately – no matter how mean or vindictive she is, people find this overwhelming need to cheer for her; the crowds have been split, but she’s the bad guy they love to root for.
Beginning her return, this character shift was different from how she’d left. There were mixed reactions to face Charlotte versus Evil Queen, but during that time, she secured her rightful place as Grand slam Champion and won her first tag team title with longtime rival Asuka. The reign was short-lived, and the alliance, and another questionable feud emerged with Lacey Evans and, surprisingly, Charlotte’s father. Earning a chuckle, I informed Charlotte that this would be the only time we mentioned her father, sixteen-time World Champion, and Hall of Famer, Ric Flair, in the interview. We adore him, but this is the queen’s time. But to round out the feud with her father and Lacey, Charlotte delivered the first of many promos that made even some of her skeptics admit that she was doing fantastic work. When asked how she felt about the negative versus the positive, she wasn’t shy. “I feel like it’s the cool thing not to like me. Whether good or bad, it’s always a positive to be in the conversation.”
As one of the top stars in WWE, it is no surprise that Charlotte is the topic of discussion among sites that cover sports and backstage gossip, also known as the Dirt Sheets. She has frequently been the subject of articles that attack her personally and professionally. “I laugh at a lot of them. There are reports of me being backstage for events that I’ve never gone to, there are so-called sources that exist for these articles, but they never called me. I ignore most of these things because I don’t believe in giving them life. Silence is the best way to deal with them.”
Comments about her physical appearance were a huge hot button subject on social media and in several articles. Waving it off, the champ didn’t dwell on the negative attention. “I try to rise above it.” Charlotte came back in the best physical shape she’s ever been, and judging from her social media posts, fitness is a serious priority. She eats healthier and trains constantly. Her routine has more than likely been a huge factor in her success and one of the reasons she rarely has injuries.
After missing WrestleMania 37 (consider it WWE’s version of the SuperBowl), upon her return the night after, the audience was introduced to a different kind of Charlotte. Her look was edgier, her robes were villainous, and her promos cut much deeper. They were a reflection of the queen digging her heels in and deciding to never apologize for who she was and what she’d accomplished. It was evident that something shifted character-wise. “I just wanted to come back unapologetic. I just couldn’t keep apologizing for what I’ve accomplished. If someone else was in my spot, they wouldn’t apologize for being there. I realized I’m damned if I do [and] damned if I don’t. I just had to own it. I will never understand why people think I should be content with what I’ve done. I don’t want to be that person that just feels like I’ve peaked. I always come back hungry because there is so much more that I can do. Do men’s careers end after five years? They don’t get criticized for wanting to do more and be better. You don’t tell the men that they have an expiration date on their careers. No woman should have an expiration date.”
Regardless of what’s said about her in a negative sense, Charlotte always has an abundance of praise to heap on her fellow athletes. There are rivalries she would love to revisit or continue, and one immediately came to mind, as well as a few that she hopes to engage in. She knows she is different as a competitor, and so are her counterparts. “I’ve never had a full feud with Naomi. I would love to face her again. I want to do a full program with Shayna Baszler; I admire her and her background. I also think that Bianca and I will need to have a full program at some point. I had a taste of what we could do on Raw, and I would like to go back to that and have a full program. She’s so athletic and powerful, and I need more time with her. Rhea also definitely has unfinished business with me. I would love to share more moments with her. I really want to fight everyone.” She laughed. “I’m a different performer now, and I guess I have unfinished business with everyone.”
Being the competitive athlete that she is, Charlotte has a bit of an aggressive side in her matches. Some people can bring that out more than others. Charlotte had her thoughts about who could provoke that side of the Mad Queen. “I would say, Ronda, right?” The kendo stick and savage beating Ronda Rousey, former UFC fighter turned WWE champion, suffered at the hands of the queen at Survivor Series 2018, came to mind, and I couldn’t help but agree as she continued. “I mean, that’s kinda when they let me turn it on. I’ve always had it in me. When do I get to be that Killer Queen? I love Killer Queen. I also get very aggressive with Asuka.” Sasha was also mentioned as a person who brings out aggression in the queen. “Sasha and I haven’t had a program on TV in five years, but when we cross paths again on TV, I believe it will be what everyone expects and more.”
Returning to SmackDown after a two-year absence was special and exciting for the queen and fans alike. This put Charlotte on a brand where long-time rival Sasha Banks, for the first time in five years, as well as many talents she had yet to have matches or feuds with. We wanted to know what goes into her process of preparing for new opponents. “I watch their matches on Youtube. I asked both Shotzi Blackheart and Toni Storm what their favorite matches were of theirs, and I watched them to study their move sets to try to work around that.” And when incorporating the opponent’s moves, she does admit that being the bad guy helps because she gets to be aggressive. “Like, for instance, if I’m in a program with someone like Shayna Baszler, I’d change my style more for that. Shayna is a tough competitor with a background as a UFC fighter, and I have to up my game when I’m in the ring with her.”
Adding to the style changes, Charlotte has also adapted a few move changes of her own that we needed a little clarity on— What’s the deal with stepping on people so often? “It’s demeaning; it’s one of the most demeaning things you can do to a person. Just those little gestures add so much to the Evil Queen character. I feel like when you step through that curtain, it’s your job to make those people believe what they are supposed to. To elicit those reactions from the audience feels good. That is my job as a performer. The most important thing to me is entertainment when it comes to the fans.”
With Royal Rumble on the horizon, there is much anticipation as it is Charlotte’s third year of participation, and the first time a women’s Champion has been an entrant. “So for Rumble, my top three— Shayna Baszler, Alexa Bliss, and wow, I don’t know—” With a chuckle, I reminded her to pick herself as one of the top three. “Yeah, me,” she added, seemingly still floored at having the chance to compete as a champion. Now that Charlotte has the opportunity to enter the Rumble and possibly win for a second time and choose her opponent for WrestleMania, her goal for main eventing again seems closer than ever.
We have all heard the beautiful reason Charlotte began her journey in wrestling, and over the years, there have been so many triumphs as well as setbacks for her, and one of my burning questions was what keeps her going. Tearfully she provided her motivation. “I constantly surprise myself. That’s really it. Sometimes I drive down the road, and I look at my life, and I’m like, how the hell did I get here? I hadn’t found my purpose or passion yet in my twenties. When my brother passed away, my life changed and put me on the path to where I am today. If I can go this far, how much further can I go?”
Even with everything she has achieved, Charlotte has so much more she still wants to do. “I want another storyline that catches fire, I want to main event Mania, and I want to do an action movie. I feel like I grow into more of myself every year.” Charlotte has also never done an Elimination Chamber match, and the subject of infiltrating the men’s Royal Rumble also came up. “I don’t want to do the Men’s Rumble, but if the opportunity for Elimination Chamber presented itself, definitely.”
Her career started because of dedication to her brother, and he was not able to be a part of her rise to the top, but there are moments she’s dedicated to him. “When I won the Diva’s Title, I feel like that was for him. Now I just think to myself that he would never believe what I’ve become. I’m the most decorated woman in sports-entertainment history, and he never saw a second of it. This was his dream.” Even with success, there are sometimes regrets, but as far as Charlotte is concerned, she has none. “Are there things I would do differently? Yeah, probably, but regrets, no. I’m here now. I’m where I am.”
While I had her on the ropes, we talked about a moment in 2021 that, for me, dispelled the rumors of selfishness and difficulty. Money in the Bank 2021, while Charlotte faced Rhea Ripley, there was a moment where the crowd started to cheer for an opponent that was neither active nor in the match. In my opinion, Rhea appeared to be a bit dejected, but as the veteran, and in one of the most genuine moments, Charlotte saw this and took charge. Flipping off, the crowd seemed to do the job of stopping the chatter, and we, as a crowd, were able to refocus on the match about to begin in front of us.
The match went on to make the top ten matches of the year and also took that same crowd from cheering for someone else to chanting this is awesome where we, once again, saw the tough armor around the queen drop to give us a glimpse of her taking it all in. My question was, where does Charlotte end and Ashley begin in those moments. “I would do it again. I love that girl. I love Rhea. She has grown on me, and I feel like I’ve grown on her. She deserves so much. She is such a great kid, such a hard worker. She has this amazing presence. She picks up things so fast. She is amazing. I believe Rhea and Bianca are the future. They are both incredible talents.”
After such an intriguing talk, it was hard to wrap up, but there was one last question for the queen. While she already has a collection of tattoos, there is usually meaning for each of them. Her fans were buzzing about her new ink on her forearm, the word worthy, and what it meant to her. “I have learned a lot since my debut in 2015. I have grown every year, and a part of that growth is also learning how to deal with the pressure and criticism, whether it’s good or bad. I am so invested in my career and character, but being in the public eye is sometimes challenging. It’s remembering that there is a difference between what people say about the character Charlotte versus the person Ashley. It symbolizes remembering and knowing that and striving to stay true to yourself. It’s also about knowing you’re worthy and believing that every day.”
As always, it was such an amazing experience to dish with the queen and share a few laughs as she headed into her next day of events. After being thanked for sharing her time, she simply responded, “It was my pleasure.”
“There are levels to this.” As Charlotte once expressed in a promo, there definitely are levels. To be the best athlete, the best performer, the best talent, there are levels you must pass. Charlotte Flair is a level all her own. When you think of presence, star power, talent, and hunger, Charlotte is the level most people should aspire to achieve as an athlete. The person behind the character is also top tier as a human being who is compassionate and, above all else, humble.