Charlotte Flair (real name: Ashley Fliehr) is getting used to making history. A few years into her career, the 31-year-old has held championship gold on five separate occasions, come out victorious in a record 16 consecutive pay-per-view contests and fought Sasha Banks in the first-ever women's Hell in a Cell clash. And this Sunday, she'll join friends and foes Becky Lynch, Natalya, Tamina and Carmella as one five participants in another first: an all-female Money in the Bank ladder match.
The winner earns themselves a shot at Naomi's SmackDown division title whenever they see fit, but for Charlotte – who will forever walk a fine line of paying homage to her legendary father Ric Flair while distinguishing her own accomplishments – it's an opportunity to raise the bar while ascending toward that highest rung and snatching the symbolic briefcase.
A couple of days prior to the big event, Rolling Stone caught up with the woman who's already one of wrestling's all-time great second-generation superstars (along with the likes of The Rock, Randy Orton and Bret Hart) about blurring gender lines, getting better acquainted with her character and hoping the Flair legacy carries on for generations.
How does your anticipation for Money in the Bank compare to the buildup for other big PPV matches in your career?
It definitely keeps me on my toes. [Laughs] It's exciting. SmackDown Live! and the women having this opportunity is huge, and it’s another step for the women’s revolution.
Is it a goal for yourself and Natalya in particular to be discussed alongside men like Randy Orton as among the greatest legacy superstars of all time?
Well, I definitely think Natalya is one of the greatest of all time. I've only been around a few years, so it's so hard. When people say that, [I say,] "I haven’t been wrestling long enough. Give me a few years." But it's an amazing time for women's wrestling, and it just happens to be right place, right time.
Are there any SmackDown women you wish could have been in this match?
Our champ, Naomi. Yes, she's our women's champion, but I'm sure there’s a part of her wishing she was in the first-ever Ms. Money in the Bank match. I hope everyone gets this opportunity. That's why I hope we do well on Sunday, so we continue to have these opportunities.
Do you think beforehand about making a classic moment in a match like this, or is something that kind of has to just come together?
Everything has to come together right, but I also think if we stay true to what got us to this moment – the five of us – that's what’s gonna make the iconic moment. Women tend to overthink things. [Laughs] It's a matter of the five of us not overthinking our ability and showcasing what we do best.
Since you came to SmackDown, there’s been more of a focus on women’s factions. Might Sundays match spin off into more individual rivalries?
Whoever wins, our creative is limitless. I think it will help define what’s not defined already. You have the Welcoming Committee, I'm back to being with my best friend Becky Lynch from PCB. Am I still the dirtiest player in the game? There's so many different ways the match can go, especially with storylines.
Are you more comfortable in the babyface role now – even if folks like myself assume it's temporary – then you were a couple years back?
The difference between debuting and where I'm at now is now I know who Charlotte is. But it's a whole new world for me right now. I'm on a different brand, I'm with a different group of girls. Being undefined somewhat makes me nervous, but what I do know is I'm 100 percent confident in who Charlotte is. But how is that gonna work is the part I overthink.
There tends to be a lot of fluidity among the women between fan favorite and antagonist. Do you see that steadying now?
Being a part of SmackDown right now, with Carmella and [James] Ellsworth, Natalya and Tamina and the whole Welcoming Committee and the fans getting behind establishing them as the bad guys, and then loving Becky Lynch being the most endearing babyface… we have the storylines now to back up the fans getting behind the characters and the momentum of that.
And was Charlotte's evolution into the larger-than-life character we're seeing now gradual by design?
Yeah, it was gradually, but what it boils down to is me not being happy with where I was and knowing I have so much more to give. I've only been doing this four and a half years. People forget that. It was a matter of getting into developmental, learning how to wrestle, how I compartmentalize being Ric Flair's daughter. I still deal with that today, mentally. And then debuting and finding out what gear works and [whether] I add a robe. It’s never being satisfied. I hope I continue to evolve. That's what keeps you in the mix.
Isn't it cool to think the ultimate evolution may be your, Natalya's or Tamina's children getting into this and people reflecting on their mothers' legends?
Isn't that so cool? I know, it really is. And to think there's so much history. Carmella's a generational wrestler too, so just to think where Tamina came from and who her dad was and Nattie and her uncle and dad and grandfather, the history is mind blowing.