Charlotte is the best wrestler on WWE’s women’s roster. There, I said it.
After hours of delicately crafting one ambiguous sentence after another; a mindful (and ultimately futile) attempt to avoid immediate backlash, I came to the conclusion that this position would best be explained with simple and direct language. So there it is, as simple and direct as I can be; Charlotte is the best female wrestler currently employed by WWE.
It feels good to get that off my chest. I’ve been keeping it bottled up for quite some time now; afraid to accept the truth let alone admit it to anyone else. As long as I’m getting things off my chest allow me to take the sentiment one step further. Not only is Charlotte the best female talent on WWE’s payroll, but she is currently among the top tier of talent, regardless of gender, within the promotion as a whole. Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, John Cena….and yes, Charlotte.
This is not a hot take; not a strategically placed polarizing statement to draw attention to myself; quite the opposite really. I’ve spent the better part of 2016 looking for ways to discredit this notion that refused to dissipate from my mind. Continuing to ignore what is right in front of my face on a weekly basis is a foolish endeavor.
NXT TakeOver: R-Evolution served as my introduction to Charlotte (and to the NXT product as a whole). Looking back on that night in December of 2014, the writing was already on the wall, I just didn’t see it.
Charlotte defended her NXT Women’s title against Sasha Banks that night. Like many, it was Banks, not Charlotte, that immediately caught my eye; her confident swagger, unique persona and crisp athletic ability demanded my attention. Not since since Bull Nakano’s all too brief run in 1994 has a female performer caught my attention in such a way. Over the course of the next year I, like everyone else, was completely invested in the story between Banks and Bayley that ultimately culminated in the 30-minute Iron Man Match, the main event of TakeOver: Respect in October of 2015. After that historic night, Charlotte was the furthest thing from my mind. My, how times have changed.
Let me be clear, this declaration of Charlotte’s excellence is not a condemnation of other female talent. Since joining the main roster Banks has established herself as the clear fan favorite regardless of the creative material associated with her character. Her recent performances against Charlotte have only furthered that emotional investment from the audience. Likewise, the current stable of female talent performing on SmackDown Live, led by Becky Lynch, has far exceeded initial expectations immediately following the brand split in July.
Each of the Four Horsewomen now enjoying main roster jobs possess a unique set of talents that set them apart from their counterparts; each debuted on the main roster as characters largely defined by their time in NXT and each were forced to overcome creative malpractices committed against their characters in a trial by fire introduction to the major leagues. To that end, Charlotte’s rise to the top of the division (and beyond) is that much more impressive; she has surpassed each of her contemporaries in most every measurable facet of the business and an objective analysis of the facts makes that inescapable truth clear.
We live in an era where most every word spoken into a WWE microphone is meticulously drafted, focus- grouped by an audience of one (Vince) and revised accordingly before being provided to the talent, often at the eleventh hour, to recite verbatim. Judging the merits of a performer’s promo skills these days is less about content and more about performance; can the performer make someone else’s material their own?
The answer for Charlotte is an unequivocal, yes.
Charlotte’s command of the microphone has proven to be among one of her biggest assets in creating a compelling persona. She speaks with a conviction and a confidence that allows the audience to believe every word that comes from her mouth, whether it’s a traditional promo or a backstage segment. No other female performer has shown the ability to convey their persona through promos as well as Charlotte, quite the opposite really. Banks’ promos, for example, have been largely dry, monotone and lacking the discernible personality of her heel Boss character for the better part of the last three months. Other characters, like Bayley and Lynch, evolve their personas through story advancement and not strong promos.
Charlotte’s abilities go well beyond delivery of a script. The transition from performing in front of modest crowds like the ones at Full Sail to large arena crowds like the ones at Raw or network specials is no small order. Everything from body language to the volume of one’s voice can affect how a performer is viewed. Charlotte understands how to play to the proverbial back of the room, while still maintaining a necessary subtlety to prevent from coming off over the top or insincere to the audience viewing at home with the benefit of an up close and personal view of the action. When Charlotte is on the screen she demands your attention, maintaining a sharp control that a performer of her experience level often lacks. These skills allowed her to generate real heat during her initial heel run with Ric Flair as her manager. The audience desperately wanted to cheer the legend, but Charlotte’s command of her character expertly prevented it from occurring – no small task. Since her heel turn few characters have earned the consistent heat that Charlotte has generated; a refreshing throw back during a time when the audience independently makes the distinction between a heel character and the talented performer playing the role.
In the ring Charlotte is no more talented than many of the current performers on the women’s roster. She has, however, proven the superior ability to grasp the importance of an economic move set, especially for a heel. Charlotte does not perform moves, she does not transition from one athletic high spot to another – at least not in a transparent manner – but instead tells a story, whether she’s dishing out a beating or selling one. Her use of psychology is second to none in the women’s division. Work rate is not about how many incredible moves you can execute in one match, but rather how you construct simulated combat to appear real while supporting a greater narrative; telling a story through actions rather than words. The proof is in the pudding, or more accurately on WWE Network. Brilliant matches like the one against Nikki Bella at the 2015 Night of Champions, or the match against Natalya at Roadblock in in February of this year (my personal favorite women’s match of the year), or the Triple Threat at WrestleMania against her NXT rivals, or the recent matches against Banks on Raw outline Charlotte’s consistent work in the ring.
Consistency is perhaps Charlotte’s greatest attribute; her uninterpreted presence on screen has allowed the creative direction of her character to maintain important stability. While many in the division have been sidelined by injury, forcing an unnatural ebb and flow to their respective stories through no fault of their own, Charlotte has proven capable of handling the arduous schedule of a main roster performer; she’s always there and showing up is half the battle. Reliability is an absolute must and no female performer has shown WWE’s fickle impresario that they can be trusted more than Charlotte.
WWE’s increased focus on the women’s division since WrestleMania 32 has produced largely positive results for all involved, the Four Horsewomen especially (though admittedly Bayley’s current position is still in its infancy stage). Charlotte’s role in this important development cannot be understated…well, it has to date, but that should no longer be the case. She is as much the queen of the women’s division in reality as she is within the framework of WWE’s fictional universe and it’s high time she received the proper recognition deserved.