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MGP: Dissecting the WrestleMania ripple effect of Charlotte Flair’s injury

Merry Christmas everyone and welcome to the final Monday Gorilla Position of 2023! Yes, I realize it’s Tuesday, but sometimes things come along that don’t allow you to make your deadline.

Like whatever stomach bug suddenly decided to wreck my life over the last 24-36 hours.

But as they say in sports entertainment, the show must go on...

The Queen is set to miss all of WrestleMania season and beyond

As we found out this past Friday on SmackDown, Charlotte Flair is going to miss a significant amount of time after suffering a knee injury in her match against Asuka the week prior. WWE announced that the Queen is set to miss up to nine months of action.

WWE has been known to kayfabe recovery timelines in the past, in order to surprise the fans with a quicker return. Unfortunately, not only is that not the case here, it turns out that a nine month recovery could be a bit optimistic.

According to multiple outlets, Flair tore her ACL, MCL and her meniscus. She is set to undergo surgery shortly, if she hasn’t already.

What we know for sure, is that Charlotte is going to be on the shelf until, at least, mid to late September of 2024. Devastating news to both the Queen and the build to WrestleMania 40.

There’s no doubt that Flair was set for a large role at next year’s Showcase of the Immortals.

Even though they were buddy-buddy at the time of her injury, a match against Bianca Belair seemed most likely. Maybe with the WWE Women’s Championship on the line as both Charlotte and Bianca had recently announced their intentions of challenging IYO SKY for the gold.

First things first, we here at Cageside Seats wish Charlotte all the best in her recovery and look forward to seeing her back in the ring late next year.

Secondly, the ripple effect her injury has on the WrestleMania 40 card is going to be fascinating to see play out.

Bianca Belair’s impressive streak is now somewhat in question

The E-S-T of W-W-E is on quite the run when it comes to the company’s biggest show of the year. Bianca Belair has competed in three consecutive one-on-one Championship matches at WrestleMania.

She’s won them all. Against three of the best female competitors to ever lace up a pair of boots for WWE in Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and Asuka.

Belair has made it known that she wants to be the first woman to pin all four members of the Four Horsewomen, and so far, only Charlotte has been able to escape the K-O-D and the 1-2-3.

It would have been a very simple story to build a program around, and with two performers with the profiles and pedigrees of Bianca Belair and Charlotte Flair, it’s a match that would not have needed a Championship to garner a big fight feel.

However, with the Queen no longer being able to compete at next years show, Belair’s path to WrestleMania has clouded up a bit. There’s just not an obvious replacement opponent waiting in the wings.

That doesn’t mean that WWE doesn’t have ample enough time to build or find one, but as of this moment, options are limited.

As previously mentioned, Belair currently has her sights set on the WWE Women’s Championship. Triple H could ultimately choose to extend that program out until April, but that would mean adding an additional four months onto a rivalry that is well over a year old.

Bianca Belair has been feuding with Damage CTRL, literally, since the group’s inception. I know I’m not alone in feeling like these two need a break from one another.

WWE could book Belair to win the championship from IYO at the Royal Rumble. That would solidify the E-S-T’s spot on the ‘Mania card, but then who would be her challenger? A rematch against IYO? Or Asuka? Perhaps a healthy Dakota Kai?

As much as I love Bayley, it’s been done... to death. Bianca and Bayley have wrestled each other 55 times since the Role Model made her return from injury last summer. Many times with the title on the line.

If IYO SKY is still the WWE Women’s Champion heading into Philadelphia, she should be defending the gold against Bayley. That’s the story that’s been building for months now. And if WWE stays the course there, it’s very possible that Belair is left standing at the ball without a dance partner.

Rhea Ripley would be a slam dunk, no brainer choice for an opponent, but smart money is on Mami defending her Women’s World Heavyweight Championship against Becky Lynch.

Would Triple H pivot, have Bianca win the Rumble and then challenge Rhea? Maybe, but I wouldn’t put money on it.

With Lynch’s contract up in the summer of next year, it would be wise for WWE to book her and Rhea while it’s still a guarantee they are both full-time active members of the roster.

This is not a prediction that The Man would be willing to walk away from a potential lucrative extension, as she has to be a priority for WWE to lock up long term, but there’s only so long she can put off those long rumored offers from Hollywood.

So if neither World Title is the best option for Belair this year, is it time for E-S-T fans to hit the panic button? No, not at all. Like it said, it’s December. There’s still plenty of time to figure something out. You never know who could catch fire and emerge as a credible opponent, especially with Triple H making a point to build up the depth of his Women’s Division.

There’s no question though, as of this moment, the loss of Charlotte Flair creates a huge void on the SmackDown side of things. Especially when it comes to top level babyfaces on the Blue Brand.

You know that scene in the movie where the bomb squad technician is trying to defuse the explosive device and they clip the wrong wire by mistake, and then the timer starts ticking twice as fast?

We’ve now reached that point in the long teased break-up of Damage CTRL. Babyface Bayley is needed now more than ever. She’s done her job as the group’s leader. She’s helped build up IYO into the central figure and credible World Champion and the stage has been set for Dakota to take over as master manipulator and mouth piece.

With the Kabuki Warriors now officially back in the tag division, all the group needs are new rivals. And that starts with Bayley taking the role that’s currently being held down by Bianca Belair — as the main protagonist.

Could Jade Cargill be the answer to the Bianca Belair question?

The short answer, only if she’s ready.

WWE realizes the presence and star power that Jade Cargill already possesses. They played up her arrival like the big deal it was and piqued the interest of the fanbase in the process.

Now the company is putting in the work to make sure when Cargill does step into a WWE ring for the first time, she puts on a star making performance.

“I have no less belief in her now than I did then [when she signed with WWE],” Triple H said when asked about Cargill’s status at the Survivor Series press conference. “It’s interesting when she came in, we talked about her development and where she would land. But where the development was, I wanna make sure that no matter what is thrown at Jade Cargill, she’s ready, and at no fault of her own, I think that she was limited in that.”

It’s clear that Jade’s development is a top priority for the company and that should not be rushed under any circumstances.

Jade Cargill vs. Bianca Belair is a match up that had many wrestling fans salivating at the mere thought of it when Jade signed with WWE. But it’s a match that would be so much bigger, and potentially better, once the former AEW TBS Champion has had a chance to establish herself with the WWE audience and build up a resume of victories within her new place of employment.

I suspect we’ll see Jade Cargill make her WWE debut at the Royal Rumble in Tampa. It’s a big time match where she can look dominate, put on a show, and not have any flaws in her game exposed. It’s also a match she can lose without being quote unquote... buried.

Anyone can get dumped over the top rope folks.

Where Cargill goes from there, is probably an extended stay in NXT to further cut her teeth alongside a number of hungry, talented up-and-comers.

Although, the idea of Jade Cargill vs. Bianca Belair has to be tempting if nothing more than for the marquee alone.

Due to the above-mentioned bug, I have not had the chance to watch last night’s episode of Monday Night Raw, but I did want to take the opportunity to congratulate Kayden Carter and Katana Chance on capturing the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships.

The party girls are an extremely talented tag team with an innovative move set and tremendous chemistry with one another. Chemistry that’s been building since Katana still wrestled as Kacy Catanzaro.

It was baffling to me that WWE would finally draft one of their most tenured women’s tag teams to the main roster and then park them on the bench, but that’s exactly what the creative decided to do. After a brief run on Raw over the summer, Kayden and Katana were sparingly used in the weeks and months that followed.

Anyone who watches WWE on a regular basis has noticed major changes to the on-screen product, almost across the board, since Vince McMahon took a step back from creative in October.

I can’t say with 100% certainty that the recent effort to build up the Women’s Tag Team Division is a direct result of Triple H taking back the reigns, but the timeline certainly matches up.

Kacy and Katana deserve this opportunity and I’m really looking forward to watching the continued growth of this division behind new teams like Natalya & Tegan Nox and Shayna Baszler & Zoey Stark, and also the returning Kabuki Warriors.

Still waiting for Alba Fyre and Isla Dawn to make their return to television, but the good news is... SPOILER ALERT... we’re not going to have to wait much longer.

But maybe we’ll talk about that more in the new year.

You can follow Rick Ucchino on Twitter and stay tuned for more in depth interviews with WWE and AEW talent here on Cageside Seats.

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