It’s been an incredible 24 hours for WWE superstar Charlotte Flair who not only captured the Smackdown Women’s championship in the city she was named after (her wrestling name), but catapulted herself into a match at Survivor Series.
Charlotte also published an open letter to her father, the legendary Ric Flair, on the Player’s Tribune.
It’s that moment when you appear from behind the curtain.
Every single night, before I perform, I think about what you told me. That the single most important part of any match is when you walk out onto the stage — and the crowd sees you for the first time.
“Whether it’s 50 people in an auditorium or 100,000 in a stadium,” you said. “The instant they see you, they can tell right away whether or not you really believe in yourself.”
I remember my first match, standing in the dark, listening to my heart racing. I knew the crowd was just waiting — not waiting for me, but waiting to judge the next person they saw emerge onto the stage. I knew my peers were watching on the monitor just a few feet away. I felt the walls closing in. I could barely breathe. It was like I had forgotten everything I had learned about wrestling up to that point.
People were going to think I was a fraud — that I was just trying to piggyback a career off of your name. I wasn’t Charlotte Flair yet. I was still just Ric Flair’s daughter. I feared the worst.
I mean, how could I really be prepared? How could anyone live up to the legacy of Ric Flair? The Nature Boy! The limousine-ridin’, jet-flyin’, etc. etc. — Ric Flair! One of the most decorated superstars in the history of sports entertainment. It was an impossible expectation to live up to.
In that moment, I actually feared that I wasn’t made for WWE. Quitting wasn’t an option … but how was I going to commit 100 percent when I was afraid of my own shadow?
I was nervous about the fans in the crowd. I was nervous about the Superstars in the back. But most of all, I was nervous about one very specific thought.
I couldn’t bear the thought of disappointing you.
I remember that first drive to Tampa. Nine hours in my Honda trying to convince myself I was making the right decision. It all happened so fast — I really had no idea what to expect when I signed a developmental contract with WWE. I certainly didn’t consider myself a WWE Superstar at that point.
I had always just been your daughter.
I was your biggest fan, but I never had dreams of having your life. That was your life … and that was Reid’s dream.
Then, over dinner at WrestleMania 28 one night in Miami, Reid convinced me to follow his dream with him.
I didn’t have to ask for your approval — because I already knew exactly how you’d respond. I knew you wouldn’t second-guess me.
As soon as I reported to NXT, though, I started second-guessing myself every step of the way.
“You’re not going to get any handouts for being Ric Flair’s kid.”
“You’re not going to get any handouts for being Ric Flair’s kid,” everyone kept saying before I got to Florida. But the last thing I wanted was to be carried anywhere because of my name.
You know I’ve never once regretted being “Ric Flair’s daughter.” But when you’re in a gym full of your peers … and you realize that some of them have spent their entire lives working for an opportunity to stand in that ring? Well, it doesn’t help if they think you’re only there because of your dad’s legacy.
One thing I always took pride in was being an athlete. And so physically, I felt like I could hold my own in WWE. But I quickly learned that life in WWE was much more than that. I remember those first days trying to figure out who my character was. I felt so out of place, always needing to explain myself, unsure and embarrassed in front of my peers.
Do I “woo” or not “woo”? If yes, how many times? If not, what should I do instead? I knew that I had a lot of work to do in developing this persona, so I used my athleticism to my advantage in the meantime. Every week kept getting more intense. I had to learn the basics very quickly, or else — regardless of what my last name was — I wouldn’t make it anywhere. I’d never been more nervous doing anything in my entire life.
Then one day, in one drill … there was a turning point. The “blow-up” drill. We were competing with the men that morning, and we were about halfway through — when I looked around, and I realized that I was holding my own. Suddenly, I was a little more confident. My athletic ability made up for the lack of belief in myself as a performer. Knowing I was earning respect for my hustle kept me in the game mentally for the moment.
“Okay,” I thought. “I can compete here. I just need to keep doing … that.”
Every day would be a challenge, but I’d always show up determined. Eventually, things started clicking.
All those years making me see a trainer, never missing a practice, and attending camps before summer vacation was paying off. It’s like you were grooming me since day one. I didn’t realize it at the time, but you were there for me every step of the way.
I remember sitting beside you at the first NXT pay-per-view.
It was the first time since Reid had passed that you and I sat in the crowd together. We watched an incredible women’s match and I remember when the camera turned to us, you were holding back tears. We still hadn’t gotten over what happened, but for a moment we realized that WWE was reuniting our family.
It was also the moment I realized I never wanted to be sidelined.
We both had no idea how much the landscape for women in WWE was about to change, but I was determined from that moment to be the best. The Four Horsewomen were about to be born. A name only granted by a Flair.
It wasn’t going to happen overnight — but the locker room began to feel a certain energy. We all wanted to push ourselves, and bring out the best in each other. We worked hard, and then we worked harder. And after a while, people really started to notice the women’s division. We started to steal the show in NXT and became the main event.
A few months later, I faced Natalya at my first-ever NXT pay-per-view. We were both absolutely determined to raise the bar — to show the world what this generation of WWE women were capable of.
Of course you had the best advice — and the hardest to hear: It’s one thing to get to the top, it’s another thing to stay there.
I won my first championship that night.
And of course you had the best advice — and the hardest to hear: It’s one thing to get to the top, it’s another thing to stay there.
I listened, but thought I had it all figured out. I felt like I had learned a lot by then … and by the time that Becky, Sasha and I debuted on Monday Night Raw, I pretty much thought I knew it all.
I should have known better.
The 2015 Survivor Series was in Atlanta — Flair Country, only a few hours from our hometown. I remember stepping out from behind that curtain.
And everyone was booing me.
I looked around the arena — I still remember the faces. They hated me. They hated me. And I had no idea why.
Then I thought about what you said. They can tell right away whether or not you really believe in yourself.
But I did! I believed in myself. I mean, I thought I did.
I finished the match, got back to my hotel … and started to wonder if maybe the company had gone with the wrong girl. I’d had so much success in NXT. How did I lose all of my confidence again overnight? What was different?
I called you to see if you could figure out what was wrong.
“What do you mean?!” You said, in disbelief. “Kid, you did great out there. You’re not doing anything wrong.”
“But didn’t you see the match? Dad — they hate me! They’re booing! I’m supposed to be the good guy! Why can’t the fans see how hard I’ve worked? Do they think I’m not good enough? Not pretty enough? Not … Flair enough?” Finally I had said what I was afraid of, most of all.
I was afraid that I couldn’t carry on our last name.
And that’s when your voice raised, just a little, like you were about to ground me.
“You’re getting a reaction — that’s all that matters.” Click. You hung up because you knew that’s what I needed.
I sat back and I thought about everything. And I realized what you were trying to say: That if the crowd wasn’t going to like me, then I should give them a reason not to like me. That if this was going to be my last name, then I shouldn’t feel anxious about it — I should own it.
And right there, in that hotel room … I think that’s when I realized, for the first time, that I was truly ready. That I was truly my father’s daughter.
If the crowd wasn’t going to like me, then I should give them a reason not to like me.
That I was truly a Flair.
Every night, in that ring, I was going to be Charlotte Flair — and take whatever came with it, from that point forward. Whether I was booed or I was cheered … all I knew was, people were going to react when I was in the ring. And I was never going to doubt myself like that ever again.
Looking back, that phone call with you … it was probably the most important moment of my entire career.
It was the night that I stopped being a rookie — and started becoming the Queen.
So much has happened over the past few years — so much that I would have never thought was possible when I first moved to Florida in that Honda. Or when I first stood behind that curtain, my nerves racing, my mind second-guessing every move my body made. And I’m so glad — I’m so grateful — that you convinced me it was all in my head.
I’ve had the opportunity to hold multiple championships … main event pay-per-views … steal the show in front of 101,000 people … and be a part of the most revolutionary group of women to ever compete in WWE at the same time….
But my favorite part will always be the opportunity that we had to work together. From seeing your tears and your smile when I won my first WWE championship title … to seeing your even bigger smile every time you helped me “cheat” — thanks, dad — to retain the title … to seeing that look in your eyes when we’d walk back to the locker room, win or lose … I can’t think of anything that makes me happier.
It was truly an honor, to be able to work alongside you. It only made me want to work that much harder. To be that much better. And to be able to continue your legacy in the profession that you helped pioneer for almost 50 years.
“Know who you are when you go to bed at night.”
I think about you saying that every day when I’m on the road.
You knew your whole life that you were Ric Flair. That you were the Nature Boy. That you were the limousine-riding, jet-flying so-and-so who would go on to become a 16-time world champion — the only person to enter the WWE Hall of Fame on two separate occasions. Who even now, at the tender age of 68, would rather be standing in a ring than anywhere else on the planet. You knew.
But I never knew — not like you did. I was never quite as confident when I started out … and I was never totally sure, in those first few years, that I was doing the right thing. But no matter what, you were always there to support me. And everywhere we went, I mean everywhere we went — you would always tell people how proud you were that I was your daughter.
It hasn’t always been so easy for the two of us, of course. And at times, the truth is, it’s been very hard. But I’ll always be grateful for how you’ve been there for me, whenever I’ve really needed you. And I hope you know that your love and support has gone a long way toward making me the woman I am today.
As far as my career goes, if you’ve taught me anything, it’s that I’ve barely scratched the surface of what it could be. It’s still early in WWE’s Women’s Evolution — and I mean that in the best way possible. There’s still a lot of work to do. And there’s still a lot of history to make.
And I plan on being the one to make it.
I just hope that, when all is said and done, they say the same thing about me that they say about you:
Nobody could have done it better.
Thank you for everything, Dad. I love you as big as the sky.”