Backstage drama in professional wrestling is part of the charm, given that it usually finds its way into their on-screen storytelling. Reading about rumors and whispers in the business becomes a major staple for a lot of fans. But still, like sports, when things from backstage and in the locker room get consistently into the bloodstream, you sort of wonder if there isn’t some agenda. And from whom.
The past week has seen something of an avalanche fall upon the head of Charlotte Flair, who can’t really argue she didn’t cause at least some of it. It started last Friday, when the closing segment of SmackDown was a title-switch between her and Becky Lynch, as they were both the respective champions of Raw (Flair) and SmackDown (Lynch), but were also both swapping shows. No question the “belt-swap” angle was categorically stupid, but this would hardly be the first time either performer had to carry out braindead angles and stories from their bosses.
Still, depending on what you believe and what you read, Charlotte somewhat shit on that angle on live TV, dropping her title on the ground for Lynch to pick up. You can tell by the look on Sonya Deville’s face that this wasn’t exactly the plan.
After that, reportedly, Becky and Charlotte had words backstage, or Sonya and Charlotte did, or all of it. Charlotte was removed from the building while Lynch was working a dark match so as to avoid further conflict, and on it went.
More stories dropped over the week that most of Charlotte’s coworkers don’t like her, don’t want to work with her, and she has an ego the size of the Goodyear blimp. That ran alongside that Charlotte had been bitching about her booking and storylines, centered on her last match with Bianca Belair before Crown Jewel. Some reports said she thought she should lose to Bianca, which makes a lot of sense given she was switching shows and would avoid the dumbass title-switch segment.
Others dispute that Charlotte was down with losing the title. Again, backstage conjecture is part of the mystery and fascination, but when you get this amount of buzz, something is up.
What seems to connect all of this is other reports that whatever Charlotte might think of herself, she is also under the impression that WWE can’t do much about it. That she is indispensable to the company. And the thing is...she’s right.
Charlotte’s performances can waver greatly, as anyone who watched the bilge she was putting out with Nia Jax a few weeks ago can attest to. You can always bet on Charlotte to put a great match together on the big occasions. You can’t count on her to do it every night. Any fan can recall matches on Raw or lower-tier PPVs that Charlotte seemingly sleepwalked through, and made her opponent look worse for it. She has been labeled a poor- or no-seller at times, not doing her best to make whomever she’s in the ring with look as good as can be, while also, possibly, trying to make herself look better.
A demonstration of this sort of attitude was the uncomfortable sight of Charlotte slapping a clearly concussed Kairi Sane during a tag match at the TLC PPV of December 2019, when Charlotte didn’t think Sane was up to the level she should be. It made for a direct opposite of Becky Lynch later guiding Sane under the ring to keep her out of harm’s way for the rest of the match.
But, aside from maybe Lynch, there is no bigger-ticket item on WWE’s women’s roster, and few names on the whole roster would eclipse her either. She draws fans, and feuds, and stories with Charlotte still stamp others out as important. Her booking may make her inevitable, which annoys fans at times, but she’s also a name worthy of the Cena-like booking.
The intrigue is whether Charlotte is testing just how much WWE will put up with, and just how much patience they can show. Because everyone knows that her fiance, Andrade El Idolo, is at AEW. If Charlotte really was that much of a problem child, and if WWE had really had enough, it would be all of four and a half minutes before Twitter would be littered with the official “Charlotte Flair is #AllElite” graphics. And AEW most certainly needs someone like her.
Even if half of this is true, Charlotte would hardly be the first unpleasant personality that WWE had. And she would certainly have a case that a lot of WWE’s booking is asinine. While Lynch, Sasha Banks, and Belair are three of the company’s biggest stars, losing Flair would be a massive hit for the company. They haven’t pushed anyone else to near the level of those four, or of Bayley, whenever she returns from injury.
The women’s division would look awfully threadbare without her, which she seems to know, and that’s also the fault of WWE for not putting more women at the top of the card.
The intrigue is if Flair is bellyaching on purpose to get herself to where her future husband is. All of the push and pull of talent between the two companies has been on the men’s side, save Ruby Soho. And as great as Soho is, she’s not the draw that Charlotte is. There’s a reason Fox was pushing to get her switched to SmackDown. Flair reportedly still has years left on her WWE deal, so she’s really going to have to work at it to get out of it early. Though you could argue she’s already started that process.