Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair
NXT Women’s championship match
Charlotte Flair has been on the main roster for almost five years now. And in that time, she’s done pretty much everything she could do. She’s a nine time champion. The first Women’s champion of the post-Divas era. Main evented WrestleMania. Royal Rumble winner.
It’s that last accolade that brings us to where we are today.
When Charlotte won the Royal Rumble months back, a lot of the reaction was that of being underwhelmed. With her resume, what match could she have for either the Raw or SmackDown title that could actually be fresh?
Becky Lynch holds the Raw Women’s title. They had a very long feud not too long ago. That wasn’t something we were ready for them to come back to as a major program. Bayley holds the SmackDown Women’s title. They too have had their issues in the past. At the same time, Bayley is working heel and Charlotte is not a babyface (at best a tweener, but leans heel) to make that feud work.
That’s why the more obscure third option was the way to go. She ended up challenging Rhea Ripley for the NXT Women’s championships. This accomplishes a couple different things that rerunning another horsewoman feud on Raw or SmackDown just wouldn’t do.
First, it helps elevate the NXT Women’s title in general. It puts that title and that brand on the same level of Raw and SmackDown. The term “main roster” is still used to refer to Raw and SmackDown while NXT is still sometimes considered the “developmental brand.” And there’s still some truth to that. NXT is still the first stop for their newer signees as they learn the ropes of WWE. But it’s also running head to head against AEW live on Wednesday nights so it’s less developmental brand than it used to be.
The most established woman on the main roster challenging for that brands title can help elevate it to the “main roster” level.
The other thing it does is gives them an opportunity to raise Rhea Ripley’s stature in a big way.
NXT clearly looks at Rhea Ripley as a big deal. And understandably so. She’s got a look and persona that screams star. The promotion has already booked her like the top dog in the women’s division. She won a WarGames match on a team down two people. Her team won the Women’s Survivor Series match. She ended Shayna Baszler’s reign of terror.
If she can defeat Charlotte clean at their typically biggest show, that’d be a huge elevation. (The effect of this would have been much stronger if it were in front of 60,000 plus at Raymond James Stadium than it will in an empty Performance Center, but that’s what they’re working with now.) When you have a performer like Charlotte that has so many accolades, that can be used to elevate someone else by beating them. Now, it’s not like Charlotte doesn’t use. She’s taken her share of Ls. But she’s always protected and her clean losses only come to women who are also big deals.
That’s the opportunity here. If Rhea Ripley wins without shenanigans, she’ll be on the same level of women like Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks. That’s what beating such an established wrestler can do for the NXT champ.
The story they’re telling feeds into all of this. Throughout this program, Charlotte has been positioned as the standard bearer, despite not being the one with the title. Rhea Ripley called her out. While the Nightmare has gotten the upper hand in some confrontations, their last confrontation left Ripley clutching her leg after a Charlotte Flair attack down in NXT, Ripley’s home turf.
In the hype package, Ripley discusses being compared to Charlotte and how that was a catalyst to her changing her look to something more true to her.
The story and different status of the women gives WWE an opportunity to use Charlotte’s long resume to help elevate another woman closer to her level. It will all be for naught if Charlotte wins or Ripley’s win is tainted, but a clean victory for Rhea would be a boon for her young career. It’d be the best way to use someone of Charlotte’s stature.
Rhea Ripley will defend her NXT championship against Charlotte Flair either tonight or tomorrow at WrestleMania 36, which will emanate from the WWE Performance Center. Both nights start at 7 PM. Keep it here to CagesideSeats.com for all your WrestleMania needs.