Charlotte Flair returned last night (Dec. 30), and in a move that has to at least partially have been designed to troll a portion of the online fanbase, immediately captured her 14th main roster singles championship.
It led to a lot of complaining and/or eye-rolling, and I get that. But me? I was too busy asking myself, “Self, are they really going to try to push Charlotte as a babyface again?”
Then I saw the post-show interview clip with the new SmackDown Women’s champ, and I didn’t even bother answering. Self knew.
But you know what? That’s a pretty good babyface interview. Combine it with the reaction she got in the arena Friday, and it’s enough to make even a long-time Charlotte skeptic like me optimistic.
There are plenty of reasons Char’s past face runs have been met with mixed reactions (at best). The most frequently cited one is that Flairs are meant to be heels. That means both that it’s hard to be play a hero when you’re bragging about how great you are, and that the charisma the Nature Boy and his daughter possess is more comparable to Kim Kardashian’s than Tom Hanks’.
She didn’t say a lot last night, but what she did say was less haughty and entitled-sounding that we’re accustomed to hearing from The Queen. More importantly, Flair’s delivery sounded more natural. It’s not that a babyface can’t have an arrogant streak, but they either have to be really entertaining or somehow relatable. Charlotte will never be The Rock, but there’s a glimpse of a Cody Rhodes-like character in what we got on the last SmackDown of 2022.
But really, the biggest thing working in Flair’s favor this time is who WWE set her against. Fans who would normally be hesitant to cheer Charlotte will do so when she’s feuding with Ronda Rousey. And with Ronda playing her more natural alignment — heel — everyone should be getting the right reaction for however long this chapter of their rivalry goes on.
If that wasn’t just the result of a rushed decision to bring Flair back, it’s a great sign. It means Triple H & team recognize that Charlotte needs some help to get the majority of the audience behind her on a regular basis, at least right now. Eventually, as she grows into this version of her act and she wins over more doubters, it may be feasible to set her opposite a tweener or another face. But at first some of us won’t be cheering for her as much as we’re rooting against her opponent.
And let’s face it, SmackDown needs her in this role. Liv Morgan has her passionate fans, but there need to be more of them before she’s a full-time main eventer. Haitch seems to want people like Raquel Rodriguez and Tegan Nox to get there, and they may — but they’re not there yet. Until a Draft balances out the brands’ women’s divisions, they’re not going to get a bigger star on Fridays, and SmackDown needs a hero.
Will it work? Let’s put a pin in the topic until after Royal Rumble. But if you’re feeling strangely optimistic, you’re not alone.