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Charlotte Flair Is Morphing into WWE's Modern-Day John Cena

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistMay 12, 2021

Credit: WWE.com

At the height of his career, John Cena hung around the WWE Championship picture like Spider-Man from a skyscraper. He was always there, a constant as WWE promoted him as the very best in his field.

As he transitioned to Hollywood, it created an opening (and desperation) for the company to promote someone else to that position; someone with credibility, in-ring ability and marketability.

That someone became Charlotte Flair.

And while you might be sick and tired of seeing The Queen hang around the women's title picture on whichever brand she calls home at the time, it is with good reason that she continues to thrive in championship scenarios.

    

Controversy Creates Cash

That frustration you feel whenever Flair is reintroduced to the title picture is the same emotion you likely felt whenever Cena exploded through the curtain, ready to set his sights on his latest world title.

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That the WWE Universe jumps online and voices its frustration over The Queen's latest championship exploits is the very reason WWE continues to put her in that position.

The jeers that greeted Cena previously are not unlike the social media backlash to Flair's constant title opportunities. However, both are exactly what WWE is looking for from its top stars.

The product lives and breathes on the reaction from fans. While it may not always be what management expects or desires, it is far better to have them passionately invested in stars than to not care at all. Cena was blasted in arenas by thunderous choruses of boos from fans who viewed him as WWE's do-gooder golden boy.

Flair has earned the ire of the audience over the (completely false) perception that she has not earned her spot or the opportunities that have come with it.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

Yes, her father, Ric Flair, is one of the most iconic wrestlers of all time and he certainly helped her get her foot in the door, but to suggest she hasn't earned everything she has achieved is ignorant of her ability and her in-ring output.

           

The Quality of Her Performance

For all of the "you can't wrestle" chants that greeted Cena early in his run atop WWE, he was one of the most consistently great in-ring performers of his era. He demonstrated an ability to work with wrestlers of different styles and abilities, all while delivering the quality of match demanded by a star of his caliber.

Like it or not, Flair consistently does the same.

Whether working with one of her fellow Four Horsewomen of NXT, stealing the show with Asuka on The Grandest Stage of Them All, or helping legitimize Carmella during her run as SmackDown women's champion, The Queen has repeatedly delivered when lights were brightest and the situation demanded it.

Some will point to Sasha Banks, Bayley or Becky Lynch as the measuring stick for women's wrestling in WWE, but it is difficult to argue against Flair, who has constantly delivered on the biggest stages—just as Cena did before her.

That reliability in big spots is a huge reason why WWE feels comfortable going back to Flair time and time again. She has the credibility of her family name, yes, but she has also earned her reputation as one of the very best in her field.

Just six years after being called up to the main roster, there is a strong argument to be made that she is among the greatest to ever lace a pair of boots for WWE, standing right alongside Trish Stratus, Bull Nakano, Lita and Molly Holly in that regard. 

No matter how overpushed or overexposed fans deem someone to be, if their work constantly backs up the creative support of the company, it is nearly impossible to argue against it.

With that said, there is one major issue with having a performer as good as a Cena or Flair.

          

It's Lonely at the Top

It took WWE a full decade to find someone who could one day supplant Cena as its top star. Even then, Roman Reigns wasn't ready for that position.

Cena had crafted such a legacy for himself as the undisputed guy in WWE that it made it extremely difficult for the company to find someone who would believably stand alongside and eventually replace him.

In Flair's case, it was a solid four years before WWE felt comfortable enough to pull the trigger on Lynch and present her on the level of Flair. Before that, it took a UFC Hall of Famer in Ronda Rousey to come through and be perceived as The Queen's equal.

Presenting a star of that magnitude, who always wins and is always a threat to lift any title they challenge for, is always problematic.

Suddenly, there are few who can measure up. It becomes difficult to create new stars because the shadow of the established looms large. And, as WWE has proved countless times over the years, it doesn't just hand out wins against industry giants like candy.

Hulk Hogan's loss to The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI is such a big deal because people didn't beat Hogan. Cena's losses were treated as special because he was the living legend that he was. Though she's not a star the magnitude of those pop culture phenomenons, when people beat Flair in a high-profile match, it matters because it doesn't happen often. 

Yes, it's lonely at the top for Flair, if only because few can consistently touch her greatness. As was the case with Cena, when you have been involved in the title picture and excelled in that spot for so long, it is extremely difficult to come up with quality stories that do not somehow feel like a step down for the performer involved.

Someone will come along one day and knock her off her pedestal in the same way Reigns did to Cena but until that happens, The Queen will continue to stick around the title scene because she has earned the right and WWE trusts her in that position.

It is an opportunity afforded to the best and until she stops being that, Flair will reign.

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