It may sound weird to some that I’m pleasantly surprised Ric Flair’s daughter, Charlotte, has turned into an absolute boss in the ring. Strong bloodlines don’t always equal success in the squared circle. For every Rock or Randy Orton, there are twelve Sim Snukas or Ted DiBiases or David Flairs. Charlotte – at least last night – looks more like an Orton than a DiBiase.
I went into her match at last night’s NXT Takeover firmly in the corner of her opponent. Bayley’s exactly the sort of character a jaded New England asshole like yours truly should hate: a peppy, friendly girl with a huge smile who often would rather give her opponents a hug than fight them. She wears bright, youthful colors and makes her entrance to sugary-sweet music while a quartet of inflatable tube men wave their arms around the ramp. It all works, though, because it’s genuine; the woman behind the Bayley persona is just as happy to be there as her character and it’s obvious she’s having fun with it. The fact that she’s a very good wrestler certainly doesn’t hurt. You root for Bayley because it’s impossible not to, even if, like me, your heart’s crusted with ice and covered in a Yankees Suck bumper sticker. If we could retcon the last six months of WWE programming so Daniel Bryan married Bayley instead, that angle with Stephanie McMahon would be fucking gold.
Anyway, back to Charlotte. I really wanted to see Bayley take down her former best friend and win the championship, but my resolve waivered a bit as soon as Charlotte made her entrance. Flair’s daughter owned that ring the moment her music hit. The announcers constantly billed her as genetically superior and every little thing she did implied that she is and she knows it and she isn’t going to let anyone forget it. That nonchalant gymnastics routine into the ring, which she caps with a melodramatic wink, quickly establishes the character and her athleticism. She plays the part of professional wrestler better than most of WWE’s veterans. She just belongs.
The match itself told a great story. Charlotte stalked around the ring, dictating the pace. Bayley got in the occasional flurry of offense just to get dropped by something big and vicious when Charlotte regained her footing. Although it wasn’t technically perfect (Charlotte notably ruined an otherwise impressive moonsault by landing on her feet before dropping onto her target), they kept the pace moving and the action believable. In the end, after a defiant Bayley kicked out of a moonsault, Charlotte fixed her opponent with one hell of a death stare and put her down with a flipping cutter.
It was a great match, but the pinfall wasn’t the end. Sasha Banks, the woman Charlotte originally turned on Bayley to become friends with, showed up to put the hurt on the fallen Doctor of Huganomics. As Charlotte watched the beatdown on her way up the ramp, there was a distinct moment where her features just softened. She didn’t like what she was looking at, and she reacted realistically rather than in the melodramatic fashion that’s taken over most WWE characters. Her underdog opponent had earned her respect. She strolled purposely into the ring, fought off Sasha Banks, and walked back up the ramp a much more sympathetic, real character.
In wrestling, it’s the little details that really matter. Charlotte nailed them all last night. NXT has done a great job developing the next generation of female WWE wrestlers. Charlotte may be their greatest creation yet.