When Charlotte Flair took the ring for a pre-WrestleMania 39 promo on SmackDown, the reaction she received from the crowd was classic Charlotte Flair.
She received “what?” chants, she got booed, and through it all, the SmackDown Women's Champion was largely unflappable, talking about her dad, talking about her legacy, and, most importantly of all, talking up her match against Rhea Ripley, which is widely expected to headline Day 1 of WrestleMania 39.
The only problem? This isn't supposed to be a classic Charlotte Flair run.
Heading into WrestleMania 39 in the midst of her 14th world championship reign, Flair is supposed to be a babyface capable of capturing the heart and soul of the WWE Universe as the dastardly Ripley attempts to steal away her title and bring it back to The Judgement Day.
Speaking on this very topic as a guest on Wrestlerant Radio with Graham “GSM” Matthews, Flair discussed how some fans believe that she isn't a natural babyface, asserting that people refuse to look past her character to see the person beneath it.
“It's affected me my whole career, I think,” Flair said via Bleacher Report. “I'm like, why am I the one character no one can disconnect from and see that there's a person there? Like I'm in charge of my storylines? My biological father is Ric Flair, so I think that's hard for them to push aside as well and a lot of assumption, being the bad guy for so many years.”
While fans can be cruel in the arena, booing her in the middle of a babyface promo and “woo”-ing her at any mention of her father, paying customers have nothing on social media users, who have no issue telling Flair that her current run just isn't working.
“I try really hard not to read online because maybe I'll open my Twitter and I'm like, ‘I'm putting that down! They're saying I'm doing a bad job being a good guy!'” Flair added. “And then I go to these [house] shows or even SmackDown and I'm like, ‘Hey, are you guys hearing what I'm hearing?' I wish I hadn't let it affect me so much through the years. … I don't think I've had an opportunity on screen to really let this phase of my career being the good guy let all of the pieces fall into place.
“I know people will say, ‘She doesn't feel natural. No, that's just me being me out there. Right now, I'm just me for the most part. Amped up, obviously, but Charlotte Flair is not good or bad. She's just entertaining.”
Can Flair get fans back on her side heading into WrestleMania 39? Potentially so; there's still one more SmackDown before Mania, and if Paul “Triple H” Levesque wants to go all-in on making Flair look sympathetic, there are multiple arrows in his quiver to do just that. Whether he pulls the trigger on those options, and fans ultimately accept it, however, remains to be seen.
Charlotte Flair is ready to wrestle Rhea Ripley in front of fans.
Discussing the prospects of wrestling Ripley once more in an interview with the Daily Mail, Flair noted that if her match with no fans at WrestleMania 36 is of any indication, fans should be in for a treat.
“I'm excited. WrestleMania 36 exceeded expectations, and that was just scratching the surface. That was literally, we found out we were first, we put the match together in three hours, maybe even two, then we had the match in front of no fans, and it was awesome, and we beat the bloody hell out of each other,” Flair said via Fightful. “Then, you fast forward to Money in the Bank, which I think people maybe don’t talk about as much because it wasn’t one of the big four, but that match was a top eight or ten match, in my opinion without really a story. At least the NXT match had a story, that match didn’t necessarily have one. I think me, her and Asuka had that triple threat with no fans and then went to that Money in the Bank. With her growth and platform and new level of confidence, you're just going to see two titans going at it.”
For fans who can remember back a few years, Flair's assertion is 100 percent correct; she and Ripley really did turn in a fantastic effort despite a lack of fans or extensive build-up, and the match is now looked at as one of the best efforts of the entire event. If that can happen again at WrestleMania 39, few will complain that Flair-Ripley is most likely the main event of Day 1.