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Can Anything Save the Rhea Ripley-Charlotte Flair Feud?

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJuly 11, 2021

Credit: WWE.com

From a fan perspective, there have been plenty of reasons in recent months to slam WWE.

The Rhea Ripley-Charlotte Flair feud might top the list.

The feud has been, in a word, awful. There are layers to it, of course, but the general vibe from the whole thing has been one of downright boredom.

To keep it simple, the high mark of the feud so far has been Ripley and Flair facing off at the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view in June, only for the match to have an abrupt ending when Ripley hit Flair with part of a table, getting herself disqualified but still retaining the title (this, on a night where the main event ended in a roll-up, by the way).

That's a pretty good example of how things have gone before and after that match. Flair would later demand a rematch, simply get it and even later come out on an episode of Raw feigning an injury on a crutch. So...Ripley did the same thing, limping to the ring on a crutch before engaging Flair in a sword battle—with crutches.

Which leads us to July 18, where the two will have yet another match at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view. Except the build has been miserable at best and it feels like nothing is at stake.

And look, WWE throwing out a boring feud is par for the course, to use a cliche. That's what WWE just seems to do right now while it remains in a holding pattern. It's not like Raw's main event scene is lighting the wrestling world on fire.

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But what really stings about this feud is the booking seems to once again miss the obvious. It's not like there isn't epic potential for a Ripley-Flair feud. The leader of the next generation of women's wrestling had her NXT title yanked from her by Flair last year, so it's an awesome story that she went and yanked the Raw title from the future Hall of Famer. There's a lot of bad blood here because the modern legend was infringing on the fast riser's career and vice versa.

Instead, fans get hardly a mention of anything like that and get silly disqualifications and crutch fights.

To make it even worse, the way this feud has been structured makes Ripley just feel like a placeholder. Actually watching this programming makes it pretty clear—despite being champion—that she's just here to react to whatever Flair does. There's no effort to make her stand out, tell her side of the story or get fans behind her. This is all aimed at getting a heel Flair back in the good graces of fans for another title run. So for the fans who are tired of the usual suspects holding back younger stars, this stinks.

We could keep going, too. Part of the problem is Flair, harsh as it might seem. Her character hasn't changed for what feels like five years or more, which is only amplified by oversaturation because WWE hasn't built the women's division properly. It's the same old thing, and WWE has to even work like this to build her back up because it has randomly thrown her into matches and spotlights she doesn't need to be in at the cost of others like Ripley.

Some of that isn't Flair's fault, by the way. The booking and just poor luck have ruined her year. She started it as a tag champion, had a weird feud with Lacey Evans involving a strange Ric Flair angle, her fiance Andrade got released, she missed WrestleMania 37 and tested positive for COVID-19, all before this botched return as a heel contender.

If there's one thing that can save the feud, it's another Superstar cashing in the Money in the Bank briefcase to spice up the main event scene.

The problem with that, of course, is that there needs to be a credible challenger. And it sure doesn't feel like WWE has worked this hard to build Flair back up just to sacrifice her in the name of a briefcase cash-in that helps out an up-and-coming star.

But for conversation's sake, Becky Lynch could always come back, and the adoration from fans would drown out anything else. Otherwise, Asuka has been oddly handled for years, Alexa Bliss is off in la-la land and the rest of the roster just isn't ready.

In past Flair feuds, this is where we'd recommend someone like Ripley coming up to the main roster to take over. Yet, funnily enough, fans who have ever only seen Ripley on the main roster probably wouldn't like her very much, and this spat with Flair isn't helping. It's another possible major setback for an NXT call-up who should be the next big thing.

In most cases, one can fantasy-book their way out of bad feuds like this and generate some excitement in the process. But here, there's just nothing. Barring a complete shocker, this stands as one of the worst feuds of the last year, if not significantly longer. The endgame is clearly Flair back as champion, and Ripley is not the babyface WWE seemingly hoped she would be. But her trying to stoop to Flair's level has resulted in silliness, not wow-worthy all-heel throwdowns.

Like the men's main event scene on Raw, this could probably learn a thing or two from what's going down on SmackDown, where Bianca Belair and others are putting on great matches and feuds.

As always, WWE and Superstars as talented as Ripley and Flair have a chance to make magic and turn this thing for the better. But it's going to need to happen now before we have to start talking about permanent damage to Ripley.

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