It’s always dangerous to try and get inside WWE’s figurative head. But it certainly seems like the company thinks that a valiant-but-losing effort against Charlotte Flair is an important milestone for any woman looking to break into their main event scene in 2020.
Bianca Belair. Rhea Ripley. Mia Yim. And, after the May 4 Raw, Liv Morgan.
My friend Kyle Decker asked this question heading into last week’s NXT, where Flair made Yim tap. It seems worth bringing up again, seeing as the Queen did the same thing to Morgan last night.
At least Liv got this, which is partly just more promotion for Charlotte’s NXT title defense against Io Shirai this Wednesday night, but still...
Two days from facing Io Sharai, and I hadn’t planned on facing Liv...— Ms. WrestleMania (@MsCharlotteWWE) May 5, 2020
Maybe I didn’t take it as seriously as I should have, but Liv made me a believer tonight. So tough.
Io, do not think for a second that I’ll make that same mistake Wednesday.
Beyond that, it does seem, at least to my eyes, that Liv’s loss was more beneficial than Mia’s.
Mostly that’s a function of how they’d been presented coming in. Morgan came in on a winning streak. We haven’t seen her in a bunch of high profile singles matches over the last year (largely because she was off TV for a few months prior to her re-packaging). Yim, on the other hand, has been 50/50 booked in the mid-card. When she gets bigger opportunities, as she has this year in the Royal Rumble and two NXT #1 contender’s bouts, she comes up short.
There’s also a discussion to be had about why Ripley and Morgan are utilized differently than Belair and Yim, but I’m gonna chicken out on that for now.
Liv also got more time last night to establish her recent character reboot. I’ve been critical of her new schtick in the past - and am still perplexed by how, relatable though it might be, “I don’t know who I am” works as a wrestling gimmick, or how the new age-y elements like using “blessed be” as a catchphrase fit into it. But her mic work and body language last night were much improved, and for the first time showed signs of keeping up with the impressive strides she’s made in-ring.
So, if Morgan is in a better spot now than she was before the match, mission accomplished, right? I’m not so sure. Because the person who I think may be hurt the most by last night’s outcome, and last Wednesday’s, and probably this Wednesday’s, is Charlotte Flair.
For one thing, being booked this often, and in this way, is a recipe for fans to hate you. Which would be great if Charlotte or WWE would commit to her a heel. But that’s something neither seems inclined to do. Just look at the tweet above... that’s from a villain? I don’t think so.
More importantly though, this run is exposing the delta between what WWE sees Flair as and what a substantial portion of the audience sees her as. They’ve been successful in making her a well-known name. But the ratings for NXT & Raw say she’s not a transcendent star who gets people to tune in just to see her. And the reaction to these matches - at least anecdotally via online response, since that’s all we have to go on in the empty arena era - point to her not being a big enough star to the point that just hanging with her in the ring gives her opponents some kind of rub.
But that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.
Let us know what you think, Cagesiders.