When the WWE’s top Divas square off Sunday night in Arlington, Texas, much of the focus will be on Charlotte.
The wrestler, not the city.
WWE Divas champion Charlotte will defend her title against Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch in a triple threat contest at AT&T Stadium as part of WrestleMania 32; at an annual event long dominated by men, this bout is considered to be one of the best on the card.
If you’re not familiar with Charlotte (nee Ashley Fliehr), then perhaps you’re familiar with her father: 16-time world champion/WWE Hall of Famer/former longtime Charlotte resident Ric Flair.
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Since 2013 – after years of working as a personal trainer in Ballantyne – Flair’s daughter has been carrying on her father’s legacy and honoring her city’s namesake. She started in Florida Championship Wrestling, which became WWE NXT, a developmental branch of the WWE; she was named Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s 2014 Rookie of the Year.
“This is my life,” said Charlotte, 29, in a phone interview from her home in Orlando. “I started late in the game, but I have found where I belong.”
Friends and family still call her “Ashley,” except for her famous father – he calls her by her stage name (and is involved with training her, too). Charlotte’s mom, meanwhile, likes to be in the background. (“My mom will be at WrestleMania,” she said. “She watches me in everything, but she takes it hard when fans don’t like Charlotte.”)
As for her hometown, Ashley said: “I really miss it. My whole life is in Charlotte. It will always be home.”
And as for her out-of-the-ring personality, the former Providence High School volleyball star is polite, articulate and soft-spoken. “I always hated public speaking. I’m shy, and I’d get stage fright.”
In other words, she’s nothing like the wrestling persona she’s adopted.
“Charlotte is catty, self-centered and plays mind games with people,” she said of her alter ego.
What Charlotte and Ashley do have in common is an uncommon level of physical fitness.
It’s just that Charlotte and Ashley have different ways of talking about that fitness. Charlotte has long proclaimed to be a “genetically superior athlete”; Ashley, on the other hand, said, “I’m just lucky to be athletic.”
But there’s one thing that they both can agree on: “I’ve never worked as hard as I do now.”
Charlotte (the wrestler whose real name is Ashley Fliehr) makes her WrestleMania debut at 7 p.m. Sunday on the WWE network. Her goal in the Divas championship triple threat match? “To steal the show.”