Charlotte Flair had by no means skilled something prefer it.
The now 10-plus-year veteran in WWE made her shock return after an eight-month absence in Tampa three weeks in the past and defeated Ronda Rousey for the SmackDown ladies’s title to change into a 14-time world champion within the firm.
But an sudden factor occurred as Flair, who has been booed as a heel most of her profession, made her stroll down the aisle and pinned the previous UFC ladies’s bantamweight champion’s shoulders to the mat. She bought cheered. Loudly. The 36-year-old Flair mentioned she “didn’t know how to act” when she heard it as a result of she’s “got the bad guy Charlotte character down.”
This was completely different.
“I was very overwhelmed,” Flair advised The Post in a Zoom interview. “For me to get overwhelmed out there, I’m usually controlling the emotions and the pace and where I’m at. I was just like, I had never had that comeback moment. I never had that feel-good [moment]. Maybe when I won [at] WrestleMania 32, but it wasn’t a surprise. It was a big moment in my career, but no one’s ever missed me. I’m always there.”
She mentioned solely 4 different folks exterior of herself knew she was returning and he or she feels actually dangerous about not even telling her dad, Ric — who left the present earlier than she got here out. Flair even posted a photograph of her and her husband, fellow wrestler Andrade, on a ship in Venice simply hours earlier than she appeared on TV.
After delivering the real shock, she nearly couldn’t consider it when the referee advised her to go have a good time within the crowd — a observe often saved for uber babyfaces equivalent to Becky Lynch, Bayley early in her profession and Bianca Belair. The pure vitality has her probably the most comfy she ever has been embracing the babyface position, and it’s altered her authentic plans for her return.
“I was so touched, like it really, really changed the direction that I wanted to go when I came back,” she mentioned. “OK, let the guard down, let the chin down a little bit. What I mean is let people in and try to go where this is going.”
Flair initially wasn’t speculated to be gone so long as she was. She was written off WWE tv with an harm angle after dropping the SmackDown ladies’s title to Rousey in an “I Quit” match at WrestleMania Backlash final May so she may married. But Flair has had dental points courting again to childhood, together with needing to have surgical procedure in 2018 after getting tooth knocked out throughout a match on a European tour.
She skilled points that once more wanted speedy consideration. So after her honeymoon, Flair underwent a number of dental procedures after which she couldn’t danger being hit within the face for weeks at a time. Flair mentioned she in all probability may have been again for SummerSlam in late July, however stayed out longer realizing she nonetheless had another process to get by.
“I had to,” she mentioned. “I didn’t have a choice but to take care of these issues.”
The prolonged time away ended up being a blessing in some ways. As newlyweds, she and Andrade bought extra time collectively and traveled — together with a weeklong journey to Italy. Though Flair mentioned she had been to the nation earlier than with WWE, she by no means actually bought to go to the Coliseum, the Vatican, the museums and benefit from the meals and the tradition. She mentioned it was “so special” to see her household and his — “just two different worlds come together” to have a good time “two people in love” at their wedding ceremony in his hometown of Lerdo, Mexico. Through all of it she tried to not observe the wrestling enterprise and simply disconnect in a approach she hasn’t earlier than.
“Usually I’m thinking, even if I do go to the beach while I’m working I could go for a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, but I’m thinking, ‘what am I doing on TV Friday, where are my live events?’ ” she mentioned. “To completely be disconnected and in the moment was so nice and getting that one-on-one time with M anny [Andrade] that I never have had before, it was priceless.”
Flair returned with WWE set to placed on its annual Royal Rumble pay-per-view on the Alamodome on Saturday (8 p.m., Peacock). While her standing for the present is unknown, she is at present embroiled in an feud with established heel Sonya Deville, who’s been appearing entitled making an attempt to get a championship rematch. Flair praised Deville for making it simple to play off her.
“She is doing such a fantastic job, and she’s the perfect person to be opposite of,” Flair mentioned. “She’s great on the mic and that definitely makes it easier as a face. She’s really coming into her own and it’s helping a lot.”
While she’s busy with Deville now, Flair is aware of possibly probably the most intriguing feud on the market for her is with Belair, the present Raw ladies’s champion. Belair, who’s now certainly one of WWE’s greatest stars, has made it no secret she is curious about changing into the primary particular person to defeat the entire WWE’s Four Horsewomen and Flair is the final one she has not pinned or submitted. Given their standing within the firm, Flair agrees that conflict would have to be constructed for a WrestleMania or SummerSlam.
“It’s the two alphas and Bianca obtaining that goal that she has envisioned of beating all the Horsewomen and me being the last because she saw herself the most in me because of our [athletic] background,” Flair mentioned. “This is definitely a storyline that I would never want rushed because there is so much competitiveness and alpha and athleticism and drive.”
Until then, Flair will work on rising right into a babyface position. She needed to catch herself slipping again into her heel methods at one level. After defeating Deville on SmackDown earlier this month, she snatched her championship away from referee Jessika Carr earlier than rapidly apologizing with a “thank you.” Flair mentioned she want to recollect individuals are joyful to see her win and to embrace it. She hopes it doesn’t occur once more.
“I just get in a mode and I was like, ‘Ah, wait, why did I do that?’ ” Flair mentioned. “I almost hugged her too. What made it worse was that was a woman who I was like being disrespectful to.”
She has requested for one change since coming again and that was to her entrance music. Flair mentioned WWE contacted her previous to her return and felt it was time to make a change to the tune that got here to outline her in WWE. She warned them she’s “not really good with change.”
She felt OK in regards to the preliminary tweaks however felt very completely different strolling out to it for her return in Tampa. It felt “way too slow” and he or she apprehensive the viewers would “think my dad was coming out.” What’s getting used now feels extra like a remix of her authentic music with the phrases “All Hail the Queen” labored in.
“My last music hit with the guitar off the bat,” she mentioned. “I’m such an EDM, techno, house-music person. That was the vibe that I wanted. I was like, ‘this needs to come out strong.’ At first, when I first heard it, I was ‘oh this is cool,’ but when it played out on the night I came back I was like, ‘Oh no, we got to go back to the writing board.’”
Just a few different issues have modified in WWE since Flair was final there. Vince McMahon retired and later unretired and Triple H is now head of artistic, although Flair in her quick time again mentioned she hasn’t observed an actual change within the course of. She can also be not specializing in what else may change ought to McMahon determine to promote WWE.
“As a performer, it’s just my job to go to work, show up, do my best and make creative proud and entertain the fans,” she mentioned. “So I really don’t think about it. And two, if say a sale was to happen, that takes months, so I don’t actively think about it. That doesn’t change what I do or what I have done.”
What Flair must do now could be profit from her babyface run for so long as the viewers desires it.
“Seeing the reaction still, as it continues. I’m just like, ‘go with it,’” Flair mentioned. “Don’t force anything. This is the first time that I genuinely feel right in the good-guy role. I’m not saying how long that will last, but it feels right right now.”