Back in April, Charlotte Flair controversially defeated Rhea Ripley to become the second two-time NXT Women’s Champion. Her upset win was met with plenty of criticism, but some fans and insiders believed it was a calculated move to promote WWE’s newly-established third brand.
Last night, “The Queen” lost the title after 63 days to Io Shirai in a showstopping main event at NXT TakeOver: In Your House. It was a big night for “The Genius of the Sky.” On the other hand, this begs the question: did Flair’s reign serve its purpose?
Now, this will be a divisive subject for many fans because Charlotte has become such a polarizing figure over the last year or so. Many fans weren’t happy when she was inserted into Ronda Rousey and Becky Lynch‘s feud heading into WrestleMania 35. There were also frustrations around her infamous win over Asuka two weeks prior and her Royal Rumble win earlier this year.
There is a fair argument that Charlotte Flair is the face of this generation of WWE’s women’s wrestlers. So, she will always be in the title picture and she will amass a list of wins and accomplishments that will outweigh your favorites’. After all, we ran an article defending her Royal Rumble win for that very reason.
However, some of her accolades have undeniably come at the expense of another wrestler who was gaining momentum. Sasha Banks immediately comes to mind because she still hasn’t had a meaningful title reign outside of NXT. One could say she stunted Asuka’s progress, as well.
The latest victim of WWE’s booking decisions with Flair is Rhea Ripley. Before WrestleMania, Ripley looked like the next big thing. She had just picked up two of the biggest wins of her career during Survivor Series weekend and she ended Shayna Baszler’s record-setting reign.
So, most of us assumed a win over “The Queen” on “The Grandest Stage of Them All” was the next logical step.
Instead, “The Nightmare” surprisingly tapped out at WrestleMania 36. Then, she disappeared from NXT for weeks. It’s hard to tell how much Ripley has cooled off because she hasn’t performed in front of a live audience lately. Still, she definitely doesn’t have the same mystique she brought to the “black and gold brand” last fall.
At any rate, Ripley took the pin that granted Io Shirai her first WWE title win last night. Considering the fact she hasn’t won a match on TV since February, that seemed like a detrimental finish. Moreover, wouldn’t it have made more sense for Shirai to hand Flair her first definitive loss as champion?
Why did they even make Charlotte the champion of an up-and-coming brand if she wasn’t there to eventually give someone a star-making win? Her win at WrestleMania and her reign certainly didn’t help Ripley and it didn’t do much for Shirai either.
Honestly, she didn’t even elevate any mid-carders on the brand. She didn’t even receive comeuppance because a new protagonist didn’t step up to vanquish her.
So, who was this for? There is quite a bit of evidence that her presence on NXT didn’t boost ratings. In fact, her temporary return to her roots seemed even more counterproductive because she was on both Raw and SmackDown anyway. WWE didn’t give fans something exclusive to NXT. It wasn’t even something new and refreshing.
Admittedly, Charlotte has performed exceptionally well for the last two months and this did help to get her out of the creative rut she was in. It’s hard to understand how this was supposed to help NXT and it’s crowded women’s roster though.
Maybe Rhea Ripley is moving on to one of the other brands. But couldn’t they have accomplished that without Charlotte? Imagine if Io pinned Ripley after she earned a huge win over someone like Flair. That isn’t to downplay the end results, but it’s difficult to ignore the detour taken to get to it.
Incidentally, this situation cemented Flair as the biggest heel in WWE’s women’s division. If the intent was to generate heat, then it worked. Hopefully, that’s what they planned. Otherwise, the company made it hard for even her staunchest supporters to defend this.
Some cynics might conclude that she only won the NXT Women’s Championship so that she could be billed as a 12-time women’s champion. Others might assume it was a way to briefly keep her out of the other title programs. It’s unclear if either of those takes are entirely accurate.
Regardless, NXT’s appeal is largely based on the introduction of new stars on a stripped-down version of WWE’s product. With that in mind, Flair’s inclusion seemed counterintuitive or misguided.
If the biggest takeaway was meant to be that Charlotte Flair is great, we already knew that. This didn’t raise her profile or even paint her in a new light for unappreciative fans. It was just another ill-conceived reign that put the need for controversy over storytelling.
What do you think? Drop a comment below and let us know how you felt about Charlotte Flair’s second NXT Women’s Championship reign.