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When you’re the daughter of “The Nature Boy,” living up to your father’s legacy isn’t quite an easy task.
Charlotte Flair has made a name for herself as one of the top names of WWE’s women’s division, having recently won a chance to face off against the current Smackdown Women’s Champion Natalya at Hell in a Cell. But, believe it or not, there was a point where she wasn’t even remotely interested in following in her father’s footsteps.
Charlotte’s career in the WWE is covered in Second Nature: The Legacy of Ric Flair and the Rise of Charlotte, a new book that Charlotte wrote with her dad, the legendary WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair. Flair was in the news a few months ago following an emergency hospital visit where the outcome at one point appeared to be dire—thankfully, “The Nature Boy” has since recovered and is currently undergoing physical therapy.
We talked to Charlotte about the genesis of the book, her willingness to talk about personal struggles, and her dad’s hospitalization.
How was the idea behind the book formed? Did your dad suggest you two write a book together? Was there even an interest in writing a book by yourself? Or, did you always want it to be a collaboration between you and your dad?
The idea came about because they wanted to do another book with my dad, because so much happened in his personal and professional life after his first book, To Be The Man. Then, having the idea that he is now with WWE in a different role, but his role wasn’t the 16-time world champion, it was his daughter’s manager, and how his legacy is being continued.
So, that was the idea of adding me to the second part of the book. When the opportunity was brought to me, and I talked to my dad, obviously everyone knowing how proud my dad is of me, he was like, “Absolutely, we got to do this.”
I know the story alternates narrative between yourself and your father. While I was reading the book, I was surprised to see that your father admits he was reluctant for you to enter wrestling. I saw in a footnote that even Triple H said he was shocked when you called him and said that you wanted to be a wrestler. So, were you aware at the time that not everyone agreed with your decision? If so, was that difficult to deal with?
[Pauses.] I know for my dad, he knew that it was something I was never passionate about. My dad, being a part of the industry, [knew] how much harder it was going to be for me being his daughter. I never thought about that going in, because at that time I really was still naive to how important my dad was to the wrestling world, believe it or not.
With Triple H, obviously he was very close to my father at the time, and probably was shocked because, one, he was doing it for a friend. But, two, knew that there were going to be so many changes in the developmental system going into NXT. Knowing that I had no prior experience, and maybe, not knowing what I was made of, [made him] very reluctant.
I know that you mention in the book the conversation he had resonated with you, during which he said, “You’re starting from the bottom. You won’t be treated any differently because you’re Ric Flair’s daughter. Relationships won’t last.” It really sounded like, while you may have not realized the impact of that conversation at the time, it really ended up ringing true.
Yes, but for most people those difficulties can put them on the wrong path. Being a part of the company ended up being a dream and a passion, and having that stability was exactly what I needed at that time in my life.
So, for some I would say, losing a relationship, or having those pressures might ultimately lead to a downfall. But, for me, it’s where I flourished, and what gave me the confidence, and kind of turned the page for me on my chapter in life.
Along those lines, one of the things that really surprised me while I was reading the book is that you’re very open about being in an abusive relationship with your first husband, Riki, which I imagine must have been extremely difficult to talk about. What made you decide to talk about such a difficult part of your life in such detail?
Well, it took two years to work on the book, and I did a lot of journaling, and it was very therapeutic. There were days that I thought, “Is this a good idea, are people going to look at me differently? I’m opening up about something that I possibly haven’t even processed myself.”
But, I stand here today, where I am with the company, knowing how much I’ve overcome. If I can speak openly to people and save someone’s life, let them know they’re not alone [and] that your past doesn’t define you—and I am living proof—then I want to help as many people as I can, because I have the platform to do so.
Much of the book focuses on your brother, Reid, who tragically passed away a few years ago. Your father admits that he was distraught at the time, and personally isolated himself. Not long after, you actually ended up working in the WWE with him. Do you feel that working together with your dad helped him recover from that dark time in his life?
Whether, it goes unspoken [or not], I truly believe that me wrestling [in the WWE], and when he came to manage me against Nattie with Bret in her corner when I won the NXT championship, and putting my dad back in the wrestling world, regardless of what role he played, really helped him.
So, you’re saying that it got him through, knowing you were successful?
I think it helped him knowing that I was going to be OK, and having something to look forward to as a family.
I do want to briefly talk about your dad’s hospitalization. When that first happened, were you able to see him right away? I know WWE superstars are always on the road.
I found out when I was in Hong Kong about to board a flight to Boston for Smackdown. So, I was supposed to be headed home. Then the minute I landed, which was a 15-and-a-half-hour flight, the office called me and said, “You’re going home.” I landed at eleven o’clock that night, and I was on a flight out of Boston at 6 a.m. to Atlanta, and they got me there right away.
I know when I talked to you a few months ago you mentioned that sticking to a schedule and staying organized helps you get through each day. How were you able to manage with your schedule obviously in disarray during an event like that?
So, that was part of why it felt so good to be back at Smackdown last week, when I became the No.1 contender to face Nattie, because my life does consist of basically doing the same thing every day for work. That’s very important to my mindset. But, having this opportunity with my dad, slowing down, taking the moment to be with him, and my sister, and my brother, meant a lot. It definitely kind of made me refocus on what is important, and I know that’s my dad having to slow down. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
As you mentioned, you’re the No.1 contender for the Women’s Championship match at Hell in a Cell. Do you find it difficult sometimes to focus on your work knowing that your dad is in rehab?
What would have been harder was if I didn’t have my dad to call.
So, a lot of why my dad and I are so close…and he’s very open about this, and so am I. I know, and understand, the choices he made and the sacrifices he made to be the greatest of all time, and I understand why.
I know that my dad knows how passionate I am about wanting to be the best. Wanting to be a part of the Women’s division, wanting to be on the road, and those difficult choices. So, I know he’d rather have me back at that Smackdown while he’s at home doing rehab. Because he knows when I get off, I’m going to come straight to Atlanta for those two days.
The fan reaction and the support for your dad has been absolutely massive. Is that something that you’re grateful for, and has that helped you through this situation?
I’m so blown away. You know, from the fans that don’t know us personally, from my friends inside the company, from the talent, from everyone, the higher-ups, couldn’t have been more open and willing to be there every step of the way for me and my family. I was blown away.
Like, I don’t know…saying thank you to everyone, it just doesn’t do it justice. Like, I never felt alone in the process, even though I’m not someone to text, and I hate asking for help. But, this was…I just couldn’t believe the outpour of support, and love that people showed my dad. I still don’t grasp it. But, just coming back to work knowing that everyone had my back, and had my family’s back, especially so worried about my dad, it was very comforting.
Second Nature is available on Amazon and other bookstores nationwide.