We have seen a different side of Charlotte Flair in WWE since her post-WrestleMania return. The Queen took time for some Q&A with The Post’s Joseph Staszewski to talk about what she’s trying to accomplish before her match with Raw women’s champion Rhea Ripley at the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view (7 p.m., Peacock) on Sunday.
(Edited for clarity and length)
Q: What do you want to come across to the audience about you since you’ve returned? It feels like there is a little more of a mean streak or a seriousness or just a feeling of you know what you deserve.
A: (Laughs) I think it’s really just wanting to bring that intensity and frustration to the table. I think it’s the frustration of being misunderstood as a character, wanting more layers, wanting that gear change, wanting to grow even though … people often say, ‘Well you’ve got everything, you’ve got it all.’ But to me, you never want to stop getting better, right? Or evolving? It’s not even a mean streak, it’s just trying to pick a side. Yes, I am the bad guy, not the good guy.
Q: You’re talking about gear changes. One was a Cruella de Vil theme and we see a lot more black and red than we have before. What went into the idea of changing to those two things?
A: I felt like I was in such a box for so many years, especially with the feathers and my dad’s robes. I always said I want this robe to look like this one, I want this one to look like this one. And then now at this point, it’s like hey, the Disney princesses or the evil characters in Marvel or just any character that has stuck out in the past, not specific where it’s Disney, Marvel, DC Comics. I was like, ‘Why don’t I just start taking the bad guys that I kind of looked at quotes from and do my gears off the queens and the princesses and the superheroes?’ That’s all it was. And then Cruella, I just loved the movie so I think I’ll go with that. I have one created for this weekend (at Hell in a Cell) as well. (Laughs) I’m excited. Another surprise.
Q: So we have something to look forward to on Sunday?
A: That’s all it is. It’s just creative inspiration. Because I feel like I can do whatever now.
Q: There is definitely a Disney villain vibe that comes off.
A: Yes. (Laughs) But it’s not, ‘Oh I’m gonna be with Disney.’ It’s just for fun.
Q: How would you compare or characterize this chapter with Rhea compared to what we saw in 2020 for WrestleMania? It’s still you chasing a title, but it feels different because she is more established.
A: I feel like Rhea and I are getting more of an opportunity to highlight a story versus the last time. I felt like the intention was there last time, but it never played out. This is actually getting the platform to play out and we haven’t even gone back to our prior story and what happened at WrestleMania, what happened at NXT and winning the (Royal) Rumble. We haven’t even discussed that in this storyline. I feel like there is so much stuff to pull from.
Q: What has the Nikki Cross wrinkle added to it? It feels like there is this attempt at one-upmanship between you and Rhea that isn’t going particularly the way you would like it to.
A: I love adding wrinkles and I adore Nikki Cross. I have for many years, prior to her being added to this storyline. It just gives it another person who could be in the title picture against Rhea that is a player and see her grow. I’m not sure where it’s gonna go. I think the one-upmanship is I’m saying that Rhea isn’t mature enough and at the same time it’s my own ego that always seems to get in the way. So who really is the mature one? (Laughs).
Q: How tough was it for you to miss WrestleMania this year and, from what you understand, what led to that happening?
A: Oh man, it was really tough. But then again, it’s like when I came back, I came back in the best shape of my career. I came back wanting to even, whether it was changing my curly hair to my straight hair or having fun changing my gear and not needing to feel like, ‘OK I need it to look like this.’ Having a little more fun and wanting to be like full-blown heel, being the bad guy. Saying things people wouldn’t necessarily say, not beating around the bush and having the promo after Mania saying, (I’m) the opportunity.
But I think it was being taken out for COVID and not waiting for if I was going to be OK or not. And it was a perfect opportunity for Rhea. Even though it was really tough for me to miss Mania, I think missing it to come back stronger ultimately turned out to be the best thing for me, even though it was hard.
Q: So in your mind, it was the COVID waiting game that kept you out?
A: Yes, a hundred percent. A hundred percent, yeah.
Q: You mentioned it before, the promo after Mania, that frustration kind of came through. It was a promo that I think caught some people off guard and people thought it was one of the better ones or maybe the best one of your career.
A: (Laughs) I’ve gotten more comfortable on the mic and I’m trying to get better with promos and I think it’s always, ‘Am I the good guy, am I a bad guy?’ Where do I fit in with this story or changing me to be the good guy with this character or a bad guy with a character? This was, ‘No, I’m just coming back full blown bad.’ There’s no question marks and that was the best way to do it.
Q: Does missing WrestleMania make SummerSlam at Allegiant Stadium even more important to you because this is going to be the first time you’re going back in front of a crowd that size?
A: For me, for the fans, yeah because since I debuted in 2015 like I have been a road warrior – live events, pay-per-views, traveling the world for shows. I never missed anything, other than one period of time for like six weeks. So to not be in front of the fans, I feel like it’s so easy to be negative on social media, but I know when I step out of Gorilla (position) in front of audiences all over the world, what it means to perform and the fans and just I miss that. I need that and that is the biggest part of what we do. Not getting to perform in front of them at Mania was … it, excuse my language, but it sucked.
Q: One of the things that has come up in the last week is this debate over whether WWE should be doing another all women’s show. Triple H recently said that they feel like giving the women the platform on the regular shows with the men and getting you big matches and main events are in a way more important to equality. What is your thinking on that?
A: I haven’t, to be honest, heard a lot about it, but I’ve always said this: I want to wrestle on a show with men. I want to be the best of that night, regardless man or woman. So, did I have a blast at Evolution? One hundred percent. Do I think an all-women’s show is great? Yes. Do I think that we need an all-women’s show to have that platform to highlight and showcase what we can do? No. Just go out there on a Raw or a SmackDown or NXT and show that you’re the best no matter gender. Do I think it’s great? Yes. Would it be exciting? Yes. But do I think it’s something that has to be done? No, because I want to be on a card where there are eight, nine, 10 matches with men and women and go, ‘Heh, I’m the best that night.’
The one thing that I did hear about was Triple H saying that WWE has the best women in the world and I saw that it might have upset some people. Do I think there is talent all over the world? Yes. But I do think wherever you are you should say you are the best? That’s like saying you’re going into a company saying, ‘Well, I don’t want to be the champion.’ Like, no, wherever you are you say you’re the best, you believe you’re the best and that’s what you go out and do every night.
Q: What did you get to search for with your dad (Ric Flair) on Sunday’s episode of ‘WWE’s Most Wanted Treasures’ on A&E and what was the experience like going through that with him?
A: (Laughs) Well I was there first hand for all the struggles: ‘Where’s my gear?’ (Laughs) ‘I don’t know, I think Reid’s taking it, dad.’ We were looking for the 1992 butterfly robe.
I guess you never know where life is going to take you. Here I am looking for my dad’s most iconic robe. I had just made my robe this year, I had put butterflies on it just to copy the purple one. But to know it was kind of coming full circle look for the black one, what it meant. I don’t know how to say it. It’s just crazy. You just never know where life’s gonna take you.
Q: Speaking of someone else close to you, what’s it been like watching Andrade start the next chapter of his career elsewhere and probably getting to try some things out that he’s been working on?
A: I’m so inspired and motivated by him. I can’t imagine. To be in WWE was his dream. But he just got there and was like, ‘I want more. I need more. I want to be better. I want to perform to show them who Andrade is.’ And to take that leap of faith and say, ‘I know I can go out there and do it,’ and prove it and show them and reinvent himself and be motivated, I’ve just been so inspired and in awe of him doing that. I know he’s gonna kill it [in AEW.] He’s so young too, like I know this is just the beginning and working on his English. I just support him 100 percent and I’m so proud of him.
Q: Whose idea was it for him to suplex your dad into the pool?
A: OK, that was my dad’s idea. (Laughs). It’s always, always (him). Trust me, my dad wanted to do more. I’m like, ‘OK, no, this is it.’
Q: I was going to ask if that was the only one he did.
A: No, that was the only one. If you can imagine, everyone’s like looking at pool like this is not normal.
Q: He sold it pretty well. If they didn’t see it, they heard it. They heard this man screaming in the pool.
A: Of course he did. (Laughs) I was more worried for Manny (Andrade). I was like, oh my god, what if my dad doesn’t jump? Oh, this is gonna be bad.
Tickets for SummerSlam, Aug. 21 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, go on sale Friday at 1 p.m.