HEYDORN’S TAKE: Charlotte shines when WWE needs her most

BY ZACK HEYDORN, PWTORCH COLUMNIST (@zheydorntorch)

Charlotte Flair (art credit Joel Teach © PWTorch)

SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

Sometimes stars need to be stars. In game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, it was Michael Jordan that stepped up and hit the game-winning basket to complete 3-Peat number two for the Chicago Bulls. Capable role players and very good, Hall Of Fame level teammates surrounded Jordan in that moment, but it was Jordan that took the shot. Everyone knew he would. It’s what stars do.

Since the women’s revolution began in the WWE nearly five years ago, Charlotte Flair has been a fixture of the revitalized booking of the women’s division in WWE. Becky Lynch became the biggest star, but Charlotte has been the trusted star with numerous major moments on her resume, including becoming the transitional champion between the Divas Championship and the Women’s Championship in WWE, the first-ever women’s PPV main event match, a PPV winning streak, multiple talk show appearances in the mainstream media, the first-ever women’s main event at WrestleMania, and more. WWE trusts her because she delivers.

The global pandemic has thrown the world into a state of certain uncertainty. WWE, while not in the stratosphere of essential concern, has been affected in significant ways. The lack of a live crowd has hurt the business in terms of a dried-up revenue stream, but it’s hurt the product, too, as part of the artistic equation of wrestling has gone missing.

On top of that, Becky Lynch, arguably WWE’s most popular attraction, took a leave of absence from the company to have a baby. Lynch’s announcement, while joyful and inspiring, left a deep gap in star power. To fill that void, WWE turned to a comfortable place – the arms of Charlotte Flair.

Walking out of WrestleMania with the NXT Championship on her shoulder rubbed a lot of fans the wrong way and understandably so. Concerns of Charlotte rolling through the stacked women’s division in NXT were valid, but Charlotte poured cold water on that heat and raised the tide of the talented division to a higher level. In particular, Mia Yim and Io Shirai were elevated and both walked out of their dealings with Charlotte brighter and more polished than they were going in. Now, Yim’s anchoring a mid-card blood feud with Candice LaRae while Shirai is at the top of the mountain as the NXT Women’s Champion after a stellar main event match at NXT TakeOver: In Your House last Sunday.

Takeover featured a slate of strong matches without a true main event standout. Charlotte’s involvement and work in the women’s title program nudged it into headline status. She wrestled with fierceness and intensity, carrying the first five minutes of the bout and worked a style that was fast paced but calculated. Her tone set the foundation for her opponents to thrive. The smaller Shirai appeared sympathetic but strong, and the larger Rhea Ripley showed off her power in exchanges with Charlotte that thundered around the empty arena. Charlotte wrestled with Ripley in way that left fans wanting more from them, keeping a hot rematch on the horizon. At the right times, she sold for both Ripley and Shirai, helping crown them as top players to watch in the NXT women’s division.

Charlotte’s had a similar impact on the main roster. Without Becky Lynch, the Raw women’s division has its acts placed out of position on the game board. Asuka, Nia Jax, and Shayna Baszler all have main event level potential, but have been booked as upper mid-card talent. Because of that, they are forced to reach beyond their means and grab roots in the main event picture that the broad audience doesn’t view them as ready for.

Charlotte fixes that problem. Charlotte is the “main eventer” and as such she allows the acts engaging with her to reach for more with a star that can protect them. On Raw this week, Charlotte pulled double duty that included a messy tag team triple threat affair. She then faced Asuka in a 20-minute main event.

Like the night before, Charlotte delivered in a big way. Not only did she thrive in her own right and wrestle a good match, she helped remind the audience who Asuka is as a wrestler. Before being handed the Raw Women’s Championship due to Becky’s departure, Asuka had been defined as a low-card tag team wrestler with some annoying heel comedy as part of her gimmick. On Monday, both women worked stiff and had a match that rivaled the main event just 24 hours earlier in NXT. Ahead of a PPV match at Backlash this Sunday with Nia Jax, this match was important for Asuka, as she needed credibility as a competitor, and she needed to shed the baggage that came with being the annoying heel. Charlotte helped push that narrative and Asuka is as hot as she’s been for some time going into the show on Sunday. Plus, Monday’s match reinvigorated the Charlotte/Asuka feud and WWE now has big business between them to get to when the time is right.

That’s quite a two-night stretch for the Queen. She took on a mountain of responsibility for the company and delivered for the company, her opponents, and herself. WWE has something here, but they need to stay patient and consistent. The money in Charlotte is in this heel role. Time and time again, fans have seen the WWE try to book Flair in a manner that is above the formula of heels and babyfaces and it hasn’t worked. That type of confusing booking hurts the audience’s ability to engage with her, as they don’t know how to feel and react. She’s delivered for WWE when they’ve needed her most and now they need to deliver for her to keep her hot and rising to the next level.

In the empty arena era of wrestling, all the cards need to be on the table. Is Charlotte Flair over exposed? Probably. Given the circumstances, though, it just doesn’t matter. Charlotte, along with WWE Champion Drew McIntyre, seemed to figure out how to work the barren environment in the best way possible. Charlotte has been involved in three of the WWE’s top five empty-arena matches. You don’t hide that success and star power away when you need it most. WWE needed to lean on Flair as a star and she’s delivered as one. Like Jordan, she has taken the shot.

It’s what stars do.


CHECK OUT HEYDORN’S PREVIOUS TAKE: AEW heats up a frigid Chicago with Revolution PPV event

1 Comment on HEYDORN’S TAKE: Charlotte shines when WWE needs her most

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*