WWE returns to Atlantic City for the first time in more than two years.
On Aug. 20, WWE Live will be at the Mark Etess Arena inside the recently-opened Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City for a non-televised live event featuring members of the SmackDown Live roster. It's the first Live Event in the city since Boardwalk Hall held a show March 12, 2016, in which Kevin Owens and A.J. Styles main-evented with a 30-minute Iron Man match for the Intercontinental Championship.
Expect to see superstars such as WWE Champion A.J. Styles, United States Champion Shinsuke Nakamura, Samoa Joe, SmackDown Women’s Champion Carmella, The Miz, Randy Orton and Asuka. The card is subject to change and the event is scheduled to begin 7:30 p.m.
Robed like her father, Charlotte Flair has transformed into one of the biggest stars in all of WWE.
She’s more than just pedigree being the daughter of Ric Flair. She considers herself the best, and she hopes to prove that once against at SummerSlam on Aug. 19 in Brooklyn when she and fellow challenger Becky Lynch fight Carmella in a triple threat match for the SmackDown Women’s Championship.
Charlotte spoke with Write Russo Write over the phone Thursday, a little more than a week from her title shot. Here’s a look at what she had to say about her opportunity, an all-women’s pay per view and the potential for women’s tag titles.
Write Russo Write: How does it feel to be back after taking some time off?
Charlotte Flair: “I feel better being back. I was going stir crazy having to watch from the sidelines at home. But fortunately I had a few really cool appearances. I got to go to the Special Olympic Games in Seattle and the ESPYs. I stayed busy, but I’d rather be in the squared-circle. It’s great to be back.”
You’re already back in the title picture and facing Carmella and Becky Lynch at SummerSlam for the SmackDown Women’s Championship. Does it feel like you haven’t even missed a step?
“Yeah! The match Tuesday (with Becky Lynch) against the IIconics, I really felt in my groove. I think I wasn’t expecting to be in the title picture for SummerSlam. I think having the opportunity, and then also facing Carmella and getting her back because she beat me twice, and then obviously facing my best friend friend (Lynch). Whether she wins or I win, I always like being in the ring with her. She always makes me raise my game. So yeah, I’m just so focused on SummerSlam. It’s a short time before the event so I just want to make sure I’m back in shape.
“I missed SummerSlam last year so it’s just crazy to think that it’s been a year since then. My dad got sick last year and then just making it back in time. I’m excited, especially with SummerSlam. It’s a mini WreslteMania. To be on the card is an honor. Had I not won the match (against Carmella) I would have been so disappointed.”
I was just going to say that this is considered WrestleMania light to a lot of fans. It’s a very big show. Do you feel there is more energy and focus when you head into a show this big?
“Oh, 100 percent. I mean I’m going a week ahead of time just for appearances. We have appearances and signings all week with (NXT) Takeover Brooklyn (on Aug. 18), with SummerSlam and on Raw (Aug. 20) and SmackDown (Aug. 21). I definitely feel it’s just as important now as WrestleMania. That’s how it felt two years ago with Sasha (Banks) when I wrestled for the Raw title. It’s a week-long event.”
On Oct. 28, you and the rest of the women’s division will compete in another big show. What are your thoughts on WWE Evolution being the first all-women’s pay per view in WWE history?
“I know! For me it’s so hard to take the time and sit and really think about how much the entire women’s division has evolved. I think most importantly to think that there is an opportunity to highlight the past, the present and the future all on one pay per view. The Mae Young Classic last year was a huge hit. Me going down there and seeing all these hungry women from all over the world want to be where you are definitely makes you have a sense of urgency. Not that anyone is complacent, but I think competition is good. And then with WWE now putting an all-women’s pay per view on the (WWE) Network on a different scale than the Mae Young Classic and with past legends coming back, it’s exciting.
“To think of all the girls who I know on the roster who grew up idolizing certain women that they have the opportunity to face them; and then those women who, especially the ones in the Royal Rumble just thinking they never got the opportunity back then that the women get today. To know they get to come back today and finally get the opportunity they deserve because the women are getting more of a shine, it’s amazing.
“For me, the biggest takeaway from this pay per view is I want men all over the world to sit and watch and think they have to up their game and see what we’re capable of.”
I feel like they have to. It started in NXT. You saw the whole roster itself want to up its game from what the Four Horsewomen did, not just women in general. I feel what NXT was able to do, that whole roster has upped the game. We’re seeing some of the best wrestling in WWE history these past few years.
“I actually talked with someone about that the other day, thinking of the roster who went on the first NXT route to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. We did San Jose before WrestleMania and that roster was just so hungry and so talented.
“And never do I think the men don’t support us. That’s not what I’m saying. It’s one of those things that I remember after my match with Asuka (at WrestleMania 34), a couple of the boys came up to me and were like, ‘just helluva match.’ There is nothing more satisfying than hearing that from a man. I’m not taking away from a girl saying it either, but it’s just like, ‘heck yea, I’m doing it,’ you know? For them to appreciate your athleticism, your work, your effort, your story-telling because they really are… There’s nothing better.”
How special will it be to be a part of such a monumental moment in history?
(*Takes a breath*) “I’m… I’m just excited to see what obviously is so special, and I think being able to be a part of something with the women in NXT as well… It’s so hard to say, ‘there’s another first, there’s another first, there’s another first.’ But I’m just really excited to see the possible matchups and who is going to main event and who’s coming back. You just don’t know and I think that’s what’s exciting. You don’t know who is going to face who. Like, will I be wrestling Beth Phoenix? Who knows? That’s what’s exciting about it, because you might actually be seeing your dream matches that you never thought was possible.”
Was the roster aware something like this was bound to happen or did it take you all by surprise when the announcement happened?
“I think it took us by surprise. I don’t think we didn’t think it would happen one day but I think the timing and the announcement with Vince (McMahon) and Stephanie (McMahon) and Hunter (Triple H) being in the ring, and the men coming out and making it such a big deal, I think that’s what made it so special. They were happy to make this moment for us and that’s what means a lot.”
Did you guys know ahead of time?
“I heard rumors. You never know what’s going to happen. I hear things all the time that never come to light. I just gotta go, the best advice is to focus on your tunnel vision. Just keep moving forward. Don’t expect things. Just keep working. I knew if we kept working as hard as we did something like this would happen.
“And also too, I think it takes for the first time we have the depth to have an all-women’s pay per view. That’s what matters most is that we have that many women that are that talented.”
I think you first saw that with the Royal Rumble that you had the depth, and the battle royal at WrestleMania.
What’s next for the women to accomplish?
“Well I want to main-event WrestleMania. Every interview; I’m not shy about it. I say it to everyone. I will main-event WrestleMania one day. I will not stop working until that happens.”
How about a tag team division? I know that’s the next rumor you guys are hearing.
(*Laughs*) “I want to tag with Becky! We’re Tea-Generation X! I think that would be awesome. And that’s another thing. Everyone talks about the tag titles. I just wasn’t sure, you know, that we had to have the right amount of women. And depending if that happens one day that would be so much fun.”
What if it was a finals match and they had a tournament and it was the Four Horsewomen: you and Becky against Sasha and Bayley?
“That would be pretty awesome. That or we get to do that four-way again.”
Lastly, WWE is coming to Atlantic City the night after SummerSlam. Any memories from the city you’re fond of?
“I don’t, but I keep seeing pictures of the new Sugar Factory that opened (inside Hard Rock). Oh my God, I would love to go there after the show. But I’m excited, especially maybe new champions will be crowned. Who knows the outcome of SummerSlam and that first Live Event after SummerSlam. A lot can change or little can change. It’ll be exciting and I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully I’ll be walking in as a six-time Women’s Champion.”