Ric Flair and the power of prayer: WWE star Charlotte opens up on wrestling legend dad’s brush with death
WWE SmackDown women’s champion admits she was left ‘speechless’ by outpouring of support from around the world while the professional wrestling icon fought for his life
It was a bittersweet moment for Charlotte Flair when she learned 30 women will compete in a Royal Rumble match for the first time next month at the Wells Fargo Centre in Philadelphia.
As WWE SmackDown women’s champion, she will not be part of the historic over-the-top rope match, which has been a staple for male competitors in World Wrestling Entertainment for 25 years.
Instead, the 31-year-old will face the winner at April’s WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans. To paraphrase her father, the wrestling icon Ric Flair: to be the woman, you gotta beat the woman.
“It’s an honour and a privilege knowing who wins will face me, but that’s where I’m torn, that I’m not gonna be able to run in there at No 6, No 7, or No 22, entering the Rumble,” she said on a conference call. “I still feel part of it, but man, I wanna be the first to win it.
“I would like to go in as number one to show I could outlast everyone,” she added.
Part of the reason Charlotte is so gutted to miss out is because the Flair family and the Royal Rumble match go hand in hand.
“My dad won the Rumble in 1992 and some would say that’s one of his highlight moments in his career,” she said.
“It’s tough knowing I won’t be having that epic entrance like he did, seeing people say ‘Oh, there’s Charlotte, she’s gonna win the Rumble’.”
Ric Flair entered at No 3 in the fifth annual edition of the match and lasted over an hour to win the then-WWF championship.
It helped the 14-time world champion carve out a global legacy – something Charlotte is threatening to emulate in the women’s division.
There was no one prouder than Ric Flair when his daughter claimed her sixth women’s championship last month. The 68-year-old gave her a surprise greeting after the match in front of the crowd, having been left fighting for his life in intensive care in August.
“Up until a few weeks ago, the highlight of my career was WrestleMania 32 facing Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, winning the first ever Raw women’s championship after it was rebranded from the Divas division,” said Charlotte.
“But winning the SmackDown women’s championship in my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina … It had been a hard couple of months for my family.
“Winning with my dad coming out at the end was very emotional and a moment I could have never dreamed of.”
After years of alcohol abuse, Ric Flair had been rushed to hospital with stomach pains and was soon in the early stages of kidney failure and at risk of congestive heart failure, before being placed in a medically-induced coma.
His family were told he had a 20 per cent chance of living, and Charlotte asked fans for their prayers on social media. The response was overwhelming.
“I was blown away, I really was, to know that I had so many people around the world reaching out on Twitter or Facebook, from friends in the industry and outside,” she said.
“It just goes to show the power of prayer and I just … I’m speechless to think of how many people care that much about my dad.
“It really goes to show how much his career had an impact on so many people in the industry and outside it.
“I’m so grateful and I will never forget how many people truly cared about his well-being all over the world.”
Ric Flair had part of his bowel removed and a pacemaker inserted before recovering at a convalescent centre in Atlanta.
The father of four and WWE Hall of Famer vowed to never drink again, and Charlotte is thankful she gets to keep making him proud as she blazes her own trail in professional wrestling.
“I didn’t fall in love with wrestling or this industry until I started, so up until 2012 my biggest moments that I can remember of wrestling are all of my dad’s,” she said.
“I only was involved in this industry because of him. I was very young, but even to this day a lot of people bring that up being such an iconic Royal Rumble in 1992 when he won.
“That is a highlight of my dad’s career, when he made such an impact in what was the WWF at the time and knowing here, 25 years later, I feel even though I’m not in the first women’s Royal Rumble, I’m still a part of why this is happening.
“What’s most important to me is knowing I’ve been a part of so many historic moments that have led us to where we are. Women have been changing the game over the last few years.”