The first time I ever watched NXT was December 4, 2014. I was admittedly late to the NXT party, but I was hooked by the 3:30 mark. That was when Sasha Banks walked out, wearing Charlotte’s shirt, to cut a promo after Charlotte defeated Mia Yim in short order. Sasha exclaimed that she had more flair than Charlotte and her little daddy combined. Then, for the first time, I saw Sasha mock Ric Flair’s Woo! and strut. She then kicked Bayley off of her crutch followed by a kick to her injured knee. The segment ended with The Boss holding the NXT Women’s Title around her waist in advance of their match at TakeOver: R Evolution. A lot has changed since then.
Since that day we’ve seen Sasha hold the NXT Women’s Championship in an epic seven month reign before leaving NXT for good. We’ve seen Charlotte become the Divas Champion and Women’s Champion on the main roster. Even Mia Yim has gone on to become Jade, TNA’s current Knockouts Champion. I’ve written numerous columns in my time at TJR Wrestling dedicated to my admiration for Sasha Banks. I’ve compared her to Shawn Michaels, I’ve talked about how her character speaks to parts of my own personality and I’ve assigned her as the leader in the true women’s wrestling revolution. In our yearly predictions column I even predicted she’d main event a PPV in 2016. Being that she’s pretty much been off TV for over a month now, I’m sort of regretting that prediction. While I still expect and want big moments for Sasha before the year is out, another change is my feeling toward Charlotte.
I consider myself a pretty evolved guy, but like everyone, I’m prone to prejudice in some ways. In my case, that first episode of NXT I watched, I saw Charlotte as no more than Ric’s daughter. Sure she was a good athlete and an unparalleled physical specimen. But when I heard her on the microphone and saw her interactions with Sasha, it didn’t move the needle for me. When I watched their match at TakeOver a week later, and it was spectacular, I assumed Charlotte was just going to be the John Cena of women’s wrestling. Two months later Sasha dethroned Charlotte as NXT Women’s Champion and defeated her in a rematch. I don’t know if this is just tunnel vision for me, but from that point on in NXT, I don’t really remember Charlotte doing anything all that impactful. The two things I remember most were her tagging with Sasha against Emma and Dana Brooke and losing to Bayley on her road to TakeOver: Brooklyn. Then came the call-ups and the start of the Divas Revolution.
On that fateful Raw on July 13 Sasha, Charlotte and Becky were placed on Divas teams, a storyline that couldn’t end fast enough but dragged on way too long. As a devout member of the Sasha Krew, it was apparent that Charlotte was indeed being pushed to the front of the line. Fans weren’t responding to her and she wasn’t getting over, but since when has that ever stopped WWE? I resented it when Team B.A.D. was out of their SummerSlam match almost as soon as it started. I resented it when Charlotte was anointed the next Divas Champion. And part of me even resented it at WrestleMania when I felt it was Sasha’s time. But by that point, my feelings had already begun changing.
Somewhere around the time of the Royal Rumble, Charlotte started really finding her legs as a heel. She was actually beginning to outshine Ric and push him to the background. While she was always great in the sense of physical ability, that by itself is never enough. Charlotte started to become a great character, a character that was fun to watch, a character that elicited an almost unanimous reaction from crowds in every city. Her tone on the microphone became very aggressive and condescending. Her mannerisms and facial expressions matched her words. She hurled insults at her opponents with the best of them. One of the greatest aspects of this evolution was watching Ric stand at her side and basically mark out over everything she said or did. Even at the Hall Of Fame, where fans seem to want to cheer for any and everything, she drew an impressive round of boos. And to be clear, this isn’t Roman Reigns boos she’s drawing, it is genuine heel heat.
On the subject of WrestleMania, I wrote a column devoted solely to the Women’s Championship match. I spoke glowingly of the performance of all three women, but allotted most of my time to praising Sasha. But I do need to point out that Charlotte was incredible in that match. Her physicality, her aggression, her mean streak and her freakish athleticism and flexibility were all prominently on display. Her moonsault from the top rope to the floor on top of Becky and Sasha was a thing of beauty. She has an ability to almost hang in the air above her downed opponent before crashing upon them. It is honestly among the better moonsaults anyone is doing today, male or female. Her great work didn’t end at WrestleMania either.
In the face of an overly hostile Raw after Mania crowd, she simultaneously gave both a wonderful speech praising the women that have helped her raise the bar for women’s wrestling and cut a demeaning heel promo on those same women. From that point on she reignited her feud with Natalya which lead to another very good match at Payback. I thought the finish was odd and out of place, but it actually led to the next chapter in their story. Charles Robinson has been known for years to idolize Ric Flair and he did a solid for his hero’s daughter. I loved Charlotte, with Robinson in the ring to explain his stoppage of the match, telling a booing crowd to be quiet when the queen is talking. The story has now played out that Charlotte will face Nattie in a Submission Match at Extreme Rules with Ric banned from ringside. Shane McMahon told them it was so she could prove she can stand on her own two feet. I believe this will ultimately show Charlotte as an even stronger champion heading toward SummerSlam.
Perhaps more than anything else, listening to Charlotte on Chris Jericho’s podcast made me appreciate her like I never had before. After hearing her talk about her journey to pro wrestling, her dedication to her brother Reid’s memory, her development in NXT and most of all, her realization of the need to keep evolving, growing and introducing herself to a new crowd on the main roster really opened my eyes. While I viewed her relationship to Ric as her big advantage, it proved to be at best a wash. Being Ric’s daughter and carrying his name and legacy comes with an incredible amount of pressure and expectation. Even Ric himself said on Table For 3 that Arn Anderson almost completely avoided her so no one would think she was receiving favorable treatment. She also seems genuinely humble and grateful for the opportunities she’s been given and has clearly fallen in love with the business. It shows in her work and her incredible improvement over the past six months.
While Sasha Banks will always be The Boss, The Baddest and my personal favorite, Charlotte truly is genetically superior. I’ve never seen a woman physically able to do the things she can do. And she does it while living up to a standard of arguably the greatest of all time. I believe Sasha will go down as the greatest women’s wrestler of all time, but Charlotte will continue making her own case and do it with flair.