Cheap Heat: Dropping the “Nature Girl”
By Jacob Fox
My enthusiasm for the WWE main Diva roster was intensified when finally, after suffering for a year with one of the worst women wrestlers in the world on top, Charlotte finally came to the main roster and won the Diva’s Championship. Charlotte’s wrestling talent alone makes her a much better representative for women’s wrestling than Nikki Bella could have ever aspired to be. Now, for the champion to truly establish herself as one of the great female wrestlers ever, she only needs to do one thing: stop trying to be her father.
The last thing I would ever do is disparage Ric Flair. In my view, he is still the unquestioned greatest professional wrestler in history. Although Flair hung on a lot longer in the ring than he should have, he proved as he went along that he could still put on an excellent match when he needed to. He also successfully adapted his “Nature Boy” persona to have a much more comical style while still being able to sell it to the audience. But even when Flair was not doing well, I have always been happy to see Ric Flair simply because he is Ric Flair.
Charlotte, on the other hand, is not Ric Flair. She is an immensely talented wrestler with a style that is barely reminiscent of her father. The elder Flair made a career out of selling his opponent’s moves to perfection.. Flair could wrestle a crash test dummy and make it look like world champion material. Charlotte has not really demonstrated that ability. Charlotte demonstrates a more offensive style of grappling that makes her look good. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that either, it’s just different than Ric. Yes, she uses the fabled Flair chop and her submission move is the Figure Eight, but Dad would have never executed a move that was anything like Natural Selection. Nor could he have done cartwheels around the ring.
The wrestling style is irrelevant though. What keeps holding Charlotte back is the constant association with her father through her gimmick. Her entrance music contains parts of “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” Flair’s long time ring theme. She also almost always ends her interviews with a spirited “wooo.” And of course, she has told us that to be the woman, you have to beat the woman. It is as if WWE is telling us that she would not be anything without her father and that is utterly ridiculous.
As we all know, Charlotte is hardly the first of Flair’s children to try her hand in her daddy’s business. Both of Flair’s sons, David and the late Reid were both wrestlers who met extremely minimal success in the ring. Charlotte, on the other hand, has quickly catapulted herself to the top of the Diva division; most recently ending Nikki Bella’s record setting title reign. She is already undoubtedly the most successful Flair not named “Ric.”
So, why would I question what WWE is doing with Charlotte? If it’s not broke, do not fix it, right?
Well the problem with Charlotte pursuing this “Nature Girl” persona is twofold. Firstly, Charlotte is a talented performer who really does not need to be riding her father’s coattails. She is a strong and skilled technician who moves flawlessly around the ring and can absolutely overpower and outwrestle her opponents. Her skill can easily speak for itself.
The more compelling reason for Charlotte to quit copying her father is, put simply, she’s just not very good at it. While she is vastly talented and may be charismatic, she is not as the “Nature Girl.” Her attempts at emulating her dad in her interviews are cringe worthy. She does not have the right amount of cockiness that Ric had throughout his career and you have to have that if you are imitating arguably the cockiest persona in wrestling history. In his heyday, Flair did not have a modest bone in his body and Charlotte has plenty of them. Worst of all, whenever Charlotte lets forth a “wooo!” it does not do her daddy any justice and it makes me, a huge Charlotte fan, shudder.
In the WWE, women’s wrestling has been pretty bad over the past few years. There have been some standouts and some good matches, but the main roster has been sorely lacking in creating interest. The top women keep on leaving or retiring. Trish Straus, Beth Phoenix. Lita and even AJ Lee retired from competition at really young ages. Awesome Kong was not able to get her Kharma character off the ground due to medical reasons and WWE has not tried to bring her back. Even the recent Diva’s Revolution, which I was excited about when it was originally announced, has just devolved into a series of six diva tag matches that are played over and over again ad infinitum.
However, as I stated earlier in the year, women’s wrestling can be strong. A fan does not have to look any further from the WWE than NXT to see that this is true. Several times over the past year, women’s matches have been the main event even at Takeover events. Just recently Sasha Banks and Bayley put on two amazing matches that the men have not been able to touch.
History has shown that second generation wrestlers achieve more success when they assert their independence. Plenty of male wrestlers have had minimal success when they are trying to ride their father’s coattails to stardom. However, when they broke away from their fathers, they achieved success in their autonomy. Dustin Rhodes was forgettable until he became Goldust. On the same page, Cody Rhodes never really wowed anyone until he turned heel and broke the association with his father. Randy Orton has never tried to be anything like his father. And more than anyone else, it was not until Rocky Maivia stopped emulating his father and grandfather and became the Rock that he skyrocketed to stardom that is practically unparalleled.
By keeping Charlotte in this persona which is an extension of her father, it is no doing any good for either her or women’s wrestling. It almost seems as if WWE does not think she can make it as herself. Hell, even her ring name is based off the city her father has hailed from practically his entire professional life. She is already heads and shoulders above most of the other women wrestlers in the world. If WWE lets her be her own person and not just her father’s daughter, there is no telling the peaks that this amazing woman can achieve.
— Jacob Fox