Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Poacher's Delight, Case Number Two: Charlotte Flair

Would Flair be too big to succeed in AEW?
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 With Bryan Danielson, Ruby Soho, and Adam Cole debuting at All Out and more names rumored to be on the way, AEW is well on its way to becoming a legitimate contender to WWE's wrestling hegemony. If you read into the ratings numbers and think Dynamite's larger draw of the much-desired 18-49 male demographic is not an aberration and a sign of a trend to come, then they already are a competitor. Folks who were not around when World Championship Wrestling was in business don't know the excitement of wrestlers who were on one program one week showing up on the other team's programming the next. All in all, that was half the mystique of watching each Monday night between the years of 1996 and 2000.

Again, Kevin Steen and Remi Sebei (Sami Zayn) feel like they're layups to defect from Titan Sports to join their buddies in what basically amounts to MEGA PRO WRESTLING GUERRILLA. I don't want the layups. I want the spicy options. This week's case study might not seem so spicy given that her beau is already there and her daddy might just end up joining him before the month is out. Still, when one thinks about WWE royalty, it's hard not to put her name at the top of the list. She's called The Queen, for crying out loud.

This week, I examine the case of Charlotte Flair.

The Case For: Flair's support structure in WWE has not, nor has it ever been, her Four Horsewoman compatriots. In fact, one might suggest the only real bond among that group exists between Mercedes Varnado and Pamela Martinez, aka Sasha Banks and Bayley. Still, Flair has always felt othered from the group, alienated, put on a pedestal. Flair was always the most protected one after the call-up to main, even after Becky Lynch attained supernova status. When you're lonely at the top, you find comfort in other places than your competition, no matter how much of a sorority your locker room tends to be.

In WWE, Flair had her father, Ric, and a man she started dating after he signed with the company from CMLL, Andrade Cien Almas, later just Andrade. They were always with her, and Flair even started to advocate for her boyfriend when creative foolishly had "nothing for him." How you can have nothing for a guy who oozes charm and can wrestle a broomstick to the tune of at least three Dave Meltzer snowflakes is beyond me, but WWE Creative has wasted more can't-miss wrestlers before Andrade got there, and they'll continue to waste them as long as Vince McMahon or his scions are there with any input.

One might think that Flair, even with the backing of the office behind her, might want to go where the people who listen to her and with whom she has the most rapport also work. It's facile to suggest the only reason Flair would jump to AEW is that her man and her dad are there, but sometimes, you still do want familiarity. Still, it wouldn't be the only reason. For the longest time, WWE was the only big world a woman could conquer in a wrestling ring. That's not true anymore. AEW is now a place with a young, hungry roster in search of a final boss with stature and name recognition beyond what anyone else there has, even Britt Baker. What's more impressive anyway? Having a senile old man say "YEAH, YOU CAN WIN A BELT AS MANY TIMES AS YOUR OLD MAN, FUCK YOU," or going into new territory and proving that you're the woman? Her dad did that for as many times as there were satellite territories in the National Wrestling Alliance. There may only be one other place to prove oneself now, but it's a hell of an opportunity if it comes up.

The Case Against: "Don't shit where you eat." I'm not entirely sure where the etymology of that local idiom was founded, but it basically means "keep your home and work lives separate." Just because Andrade is there and her father is almost guaranteed to show up there doesn't necessarily mean Flair is a gimme, nor should she. There's something to be said about being able to come home from work and talk about your day with someone who isn't in the same workspace.

Besides, why would you want to go to a place where you would be the biggest deal when you're already the biggest deal where you are? It's not like there'd be challenges there for her to conquer. The biggest hurdle she'd have to climb is not having the crowd turn on her because "CHARLOTTE WINZ LOL" is such an overarching meme that you couldn't at all blame Tony Khan for implementing it upon her arrival. If you think the women's division is in a precarious position now, imagine when Flair gets there and her gravity demands wins over Baker, Jade Cargill, Hikaru Shida, Ruby Soho, Kris Statlander, EVERYONE. None of the male signings in AEW so far have had that gravity around them. They didn't sign John Cena or poach Randy Orton. The dynamics are different here, especially given how in-the-beginning-stages the AEW women's division is still in. It's why Soho, a transcendent talent who got over on her own after getting fired by WWE, fit in. She was a star, but one of a similar magnitude now as the ones AEW has. She could also go in the ring.

And therein lies the rub. Would Flair want to go to a company where her workrate would be microanalyzed? Face it; WWE and AEW are different animals when it comes to in-ring ability. No more was this accentuated than when WWE gave up the ghost on Paul Levesque's pipe dream of having his own PWG and retrofitted NXT back to being purely developmental. WWE main has taken some of the most self-indulgent tendencies of indie wrestling of the last two decades to place as tropes on main event-level matches, but you're not seeing workrate bomb-fests even when you get guys who have been in that scene like Kevin Owens. Flair is a WWE main event-hardened wrestler. She never worked SHIMMER, has never been to Japan, and only has lucha experience from whatever her boyfriend has taught her, if anything. Yes, to distill AEW to "workrate" is disingenuous, but there's also a certain expectation of how a match should go in that purview. I'm not sure Flair can hack it, nor would it be offensive if she didn't want to.

The Final Word: Charlotte Flair in AEW is the ultimate wild card. There are myriad reasons why she would work there and just as many why she would be better off staying with WWE. It's almost like she would have to make the jump just to prove hypotheses empirically, but would it be worth it for AEW? Taking on any of the Horsewomen, even Banks or Bayley (no matter how much I think either would fit there), would be a shock even greater than Jon Moxley showing up at the first Double or Nothing or Chris Jericho announcing his signing at the press conference. Would AEW handle it well? I don't know if you can find out without finding out, to be honest.