Though Charlotte Flair didn’t make her surprise return to WWE television until the final Smackdown of 2022, besting Ronda Rousey for the SmackDown Women’s Championship in a matter of seconds, not minutes, she actually discussed the prospects of returning a few months prior when she sat down with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin on Broken Skull Sessions to discuss how a former champion can return to the ring after months away. Though Flair didn’t have her entire strategy mapped out just yet, as it was August, not November, one thing Flair didn’t plan on doing was becoming a face, as the “Evil Queen” was just too good at being bad to risk being bad at being good.

“I came back after last year missing Mania with The Opportunity, just changing my clothes, I want my body to look better, I’ve gotten in better shape, changed the hair up a little, what is that next layer?” Flair asked Austin via Fightful. “I can tell you it’s not going to be a good guy [laughs]. What does it look like? Am I darker? At the same time, I’m like, don’t fix something that is not broken, but you always need to evolve somehow, and what does that look like?”

And yet, though the sample size is decidedly small, it’s hard to argue that Flair has been anything but a babyface, as, in the span of two weeks, the 16-time champion has rid SmackDown of its biggest (female) heel, bested a miniboss in Sonya Deville, garnered massive pops from every crowd she’s performed in front of.

Was this the reaction Flair expected? Fortunately, Meghan Morant of the SmackDown LowDown caught up with the second-generation champion to find out just that.

“I might’ve shocked everyone tonight- or, last week – but tonight, everyone shocked me,” Flair said. “Did you hear the ‘Thank you Charlotte’ chants? Like, that’s gonna take, that’s gonna take some time to get used to. Just hearing that, I don’t know, just makes me not feel like I have to be so defensive. For like, the last couple years, I just felt like I always had to wear my armor every time I was in the ring, and, just, the reception is just, I don’t know, it just feels good and makes me wanna, I don’t know, smile while I’m out there. Be a little less, you know, ‘Evil Queen.”

Asked about her in-ring goals in 2023, Flair made a bold declaration about her current run with the SmackDown Women’s Championship.

“Being the most decorated Women’s Champion, I think it’s time to be a fighting champion. That’s what I’m gonna be,” Flair said.

Is Flair going to stick it out as a babyface? Will she work programs with Rousey, Shayna Baszler, Liv Morgan, and maybe even Lacey Evans, depending on how she’s aligned when she returns? Or is this all building towards a bigger swerve down the line, with babyfaces like Emma, Natalya, Raquel Rodriguez, Shotzi, Tegan Nox, or even a returning Naomi on the table? Only time will tell, but as her father, Ric, told Corey Graves on After the Bell, Charlotte is having an absolute blast in her current role.

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Ric Flair is happy to see his daughter succeed in WWE.

With Flair officially back in the ring, Graves called up his old pal Ric to see how he felt about his daughter’s return to WWE, even if he reportedly watched the show from a sports bar in Tampa with members of the Tampa Bay Lightning instead of in the arena.

“I started crying again. I always do,” Flair said via Fightful. “I’m so happy for her. I knew she was coming back. I knew she was coming back, but I assumed the Rumble like everybody else. She doesn’t tell me anything. She says I have a big mouth [laughs]. I’m so proud of her. It’s unbelievable.”

What? Ric Flair has a big mouth? Whoever could imagine such a thing?

“I’m so happy for her,” Flair continued. “[The wedding] happened at a time where she could take a break. The arm thing with Rhonda, and she got hit in the mouth in that same match and had a major issue with her teeth. But it was a well-deserved rest, and sometimes it’s good to walk away from it. There was certainly no loss of respect with Ronda Rousey. I thought they had a hell of a match. It was a good opportunity to get away. She and [Andrade] have had an opportunity to spend a lot of time together. They bought a new home. It’s really been good for her. But at the same time, I know how she bad she wanted to her back in, too. After a while, all that gets old, and now I want back in. She’s doing great. I’ve never seen her this happy, really in a long time.”

Though some fans have understandable issues with Flair and how she’s been booked on the WWE main roster, if the first two editions of SmackDown are of any indication, “The Queen’s” current WWE run appears to have a different energy than her last for all of the right reasons.