CLEVELAND -- WWE Diva’s Champion Charlotte Flair grew up around the sport of professional wrestling, but never did she think that one day, there would be a chance for her to win title belts inside the squared circle.
While watching her father, Ric Flair and his famed stable, the Four Horsemen, get inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2012, Flair was approached by WWE front-office member John Laurinaitis, and the rest, as they say, is history.
“It kind of just happened,” Flair recalled ahead of WWE Fastlane at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. “As I was sitting at dinner with my dad, my brother and Johnny Laurinaitis, and Johnny, in his raspy voice, was like, ‘Why aren’t you doing this, kid?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know. I’ve never really thought about it.’ I was just personal training at the time in Charlotte, and I started three months later.”
Growing up, Flair was always involved in athletics.
Whether it was as a gymnast, competitive cheerleader, volleyball player or track athlete, Flair used her father’s encouragement to pursue athletics beyond the high-school level. Flair turned her passion into a college volleyball career at Appalachian State University.
“(My dad) was so into sports, and especially volleyball, he never mentioned getting into wrestling,” Flair said. “My brothers obviously wanted to be wrestlers, but for me, it was sports, sports, sports.
“I never pictured myself as a diva because I remember sitting front row in Charlotte and Torrie and Sable did the body-paint bikinis, and I was like, ‘Oh, they are so beautiful.’ I just never pictured myself as a diva or wanting to be. It was different then.”
The role of women within WWE certainly has changed, particularly in recent years.
When Flair elected to get into the family business, she reported to Florida Championship Wrestling, where she met fellow WWE Diva Sasha Banks. The two worked together closely, and then, when the WWE developmental shifted to NXT, Flair and Banks met up with Becky Lynch and Baylee.
Together, Flair, Banks, Lynch and Baylee redefined women’s wrestling, and often had more popular matches on the NXT cards than the men. The group of up-and-coming women’s wrestlers were dubbed “The Four Horsewomen of Wrestling.”
Three of the four, Flair, Banks and Lynch, have been promoted to the WWE main roster and Baylee currently holds the NXT Women’s Championship. Coupled with the efforts of former Diva’s Champion Paige, “The Four Horsewomen” have championed the “Divas Revolution.”
“I think now, the need for women’s wrestling is more a focus to the fans, so we’re getting more time, more storylines,” Flair said. “The women have always been athletic, but now, there’s more of a focus on what we can do in the ring instead of just being a pretty face, that we’re not just divas, that we’re superstars as well.
“NXT homegrown. We’ve been through everything together, ups, downs, watching both of them and Baylee soon living their dreams and having success. Starting out in NXT, or FCW where Sasha and I started in Tampa, it’s been amazing and the four of us get along so well because we respect each other and we all want to work together. We know how much each of us sacrificed to make it.
“I guess it’s hard for me to say I’ve changed something just because when you’re in it, you don’t really realize what’s happening, but I do hope that I stand for something for women to look at, that being a diva is not just a pretty face or a model, that it takes athleticism and strength. I hope that’s what I represent, that we’re just as good as the men.”
Motivated by representing a culture change, as well as the adrenaline that courses through her veins just as she walks through the curtain for a match, Flair is looking to retain the Diva’s Championship and head into WrestleMania 32 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, as the top women’s wrestler in the company.
And at “The Show of Shows,” Flair hopes to build onto the family legacy.
“For something like having my first WrestleMania, you really have to picture yourself there,” Flair said. “Sometimes, I’ll be working out and I picture what it’s going to be like, how it’s going to feel, what I’m wearing, and to have a goal that some would say is unattainable, I kind of visualize it, so I’m getting goosebumps now just thinking about it because it seems so far away, but it’s not, and until that day comes, I won’t believe that it’s really happening.
“The fact that my dad spent 40 years creating his legacy and now, I’m an extension of his legacy, it means a lot. I want to do it justice and make him proud. My dad always wanted to be the best, and his passion for the business alone and his fans, that’s what I want to carry on. When people see and watch me, I just want to know that they never left a show unhappy.”