Charlotte Flair has no WrestleMania opponent yet, but she has a challenge from a champion.
NXT defending champion Rhea Ripley appeared on Monday Night Raw and dared to select Flair, the ten-time female winner, for a match at WrestleMania 36 on April 5 in Tampa. After winning the Royal Rumble, Flair can choose any champion for WWE's largest pay-per-view.
The Queen noticed and was also reminded by Ripley in her promo that she had beaten Raw defending champion Becky Lynch and SmackDown defending champion Bayley, who appears on a collision course with Naomi, several times during her career. Ripley has never seen Flair in a single match. The crowd sang Ripley's name before they even entered.
However, Ripley captured Flair in a three-threat match en route from SmackDown to the Survivor series. The 23-year-old Australian is in the middle of a big WWE venture after leading Sasha Banks to victory in the Survivor Series and finishing two-time NXT champion Shayna Baszler's 416-day run as NXT champion. Ronda Rousey recently exposed Ripley as someone she would like to meet. With flair, it would create an exciting and fresh matchup and a win for both participants.
While the angle after Flair's Royal Rumble victory was rumored, it makes a lot more sense for Ripley to face Raw to challenge her than the former NXT and Divas champion, who drives to Full Sail University, to Ripley for her match without choosing real provocation.
WWE provides a credible reason for the match, bringing Ripley and NXT closer to a larger audience, and giving the yellow brand a potential boost in ratings as Flair has announced it will appear on Ripley's challenge on Wednesday. If Flair accepts this, it would be the opposite. The first time that an active member of the NXT list appears on WrestleMania.
It's a thing to reassure an upstart like Ripley, but it still needs to be explained why Flair wants to win a title that isn't on the main list and what she plans to do if she wins. She would be able to assert herself in dream fights against talented NXT women like Candice LeRae, Io Shirai, Mercedes Martinez and Mia Yim.
All of this also gives WWE the opportunity to give history another twist. Ripley still has to defend her championship against Bianca Belair at NXT TakeOver Portland on February 16. Belair, who should face Ripley on Wednesday, will be Flair's WrestleMania opponent, or this won't stretch to a triple threat match. Why give a NXT star the flair friction when you can give two of them?
In addition, Flair praised Belair as "the future" and as a "real stud" and informed the Post in October 2018 that Belair "wears like a star" and "only exudes confidence". Belair was heavily booked in the Royal Rumble and eliminated eight other women before Flair eliminated them. So there is already a story to tell.
Despite all the clearly positive aspects of this perspective, the fact that WWE has to go to NXT to find a suitable WrestleMania opponent for Flair is an indication of the status of the women's division on the main list. The Four Riders still dominate the division and no new stars have been built.
Since the division of the titles in 2016, only Alexa Bliss and Naomi have held one of the belts several times outside the Four Horsewomen (Flair, Banks, Bayley and Lynch). Injuries to Bliss, Ember Moon, Nia Jax and Ruby Riott certainly didn't help during this time, but everyone except Moon and Jax returned on Monday.
Lacey Evan's recent move failed to win a title, and Asuka only has a solid 100-day reign as SmackDown champion in her ledger. The return of Riott Monday and Liv Morgan in a new outfit gives reason to hope to win new opponents. At the moment, however, WWE has played through the rest of the squad and its four-rider matchups, which has led to the extremely talented NXT women being classified. WWE could easily do it again when Baszler faces Lynch for the Raw championship at WrestleMania.
While the Ripley move can only be seen as a trick to winning the Wednesday rating war with AEW with Raw and SmackDown talents – something that worked but didn't last during the build of the Survivor series -, overall business is really good.
Knowing that a crossover with Raw and SmackDown stars is possible – we've even seen Angel Garza seamlessly stood up for the blocked Andrade on the side of men on Monday – should drive the NXT talent and potentially attract more viewers , While it may feel daunting at first, knowing that your competition has just grown should motivate women on the main list even more to strive for a breakthrough.
Although flair against the NXT champion is not a perfect angle, it is far better than the alternatives.