WWE superstar Charlotte never dreamed of making a career out of body slams.
Though her father, sports entertainment legend Ric Flair, revolutionized the business during his 40-plus year career, it wasn’t of much interest to the “Nature Boy’s” daughter.
However, Charlotte, born Ashley Fliehr, had a change of heart while attending the 2012 WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Miami. It was there that her younger brother Reid and WWE employee John Laurinaitis began encouraging her to pursue a career in sports entertainment. Two months later, she took their advice and enrolled at a WWE developmental branch in Tampa, which later became WWE NXT.
Perhaps it was fate for the 29-year-old, who was already a lifelong athlete. Standing at 5-foot-10, Charlotte was billed by WWE as being “genetically superior,” which is hardly a gimmick. She quickly gained notoriety in NXT for her strength and unique Figure Eight leg lock, which is an homage to her father’s classic Figure Four submission move.
By July 2015, Charlotte was on the official WWE roster and in September she became WWE Divas (female) Champion, a title she’ll bring to Bridgestone Arena Monday when WWE Raw returns to downtown Nashville.
We talked to Charlotte about her father’s legacy, the Figure Eight leg lock and WWE’s changing landscape for female competitors.
Ric Flair, aka dad, acts as your manager at WWE. What is your relationship like at work?
My dad’s my biggest fan (laughs). It’s a mixed blessing because I don’t look at it like I’m working with dad. It just adds to the pressure. I’m walking onstage with Ric Flair every night. That’s kind of a lot to handle.
Do you feel like you’re living in his shadow because he’s such a legend?
No one will ever replace Ric Flair. I just want my dad to be proud of me, so every time I get the opportunity to step onstage with him, I just want to know that I’ve prepared for that moment and that I’m doing a good job. He’s the greatest of all time in my eyes, and just like any kid, I want to make my dad proud. … I know what he means to this business and now I have to deliver as well.
Who created your Figure Eight submission move?
I was in the ring and my coach, Sara Del Rey, showed me how to put on the Figure Four and she was laughing about it like, “I can’t believe I’m showing Flair’s daughter how to put on the Figure Four.” Then I just wanted to see if I could bridge and I could, so (WWE superstar) Simon Gotch, one of the Vaudevillians, actually came up with the name. He said, “It’s twice as good as your dad’s. Why don’t you call it the Figure Eight?”
The quality of Divas matches have drastically improved in recent years. What has changed at WWE?
I think everything is in waves and right now the audience is looking at females in WWE more as women wrestlers than divas. It’s kind of been the year of women with Ronda Rousey, Serena Williams and the U.S. women’s soccer team. The fans don’t want eye candy. They want athletes. The talent for the last 15 years here has been amazing. I just think there is a greater demand for it now.
Do you think it’s more difficult for a woman to win over a crowd and “get over” in WWE than a male?
I do think a female can have just as much success when given the opportunity, but it is twice as hard. … I think we do have to work harder for our spot and slowly but surely, the more we produce, the more the fans want to see us. The more they react to us, the harder we work, the more they get invested in characters like Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks. … They can relate to us and once you relate, you get invested in the characters. I think the hardest part about being a woman is finding who you are and being able to let the fans in and feel a connection with you. And to do that you need storylines and you need time and that’s what we’re getting right now.