Ashley Fliehr isn’t a superhero, but she plays one in the ring.
The Charlotte, N.C., native goes by the stage name Charlotte Flair in her career as a World Wrestling Entertainment wrestler. The 32-year-old is the daughter of wrestling legend Ric Flair.
“Charlotte is the woman you want to become. A strong, groundbreaking, independent female in a male-dominated world,” she told ESPNW in June.
Fliehr will be among the talent Monday at WWE Live at The Broadmoor World Arena. She will be defending her WWE Smackdown Women’s Champion title in a “Four-Way Fatal” match with Becky Lynch, Asuka and Carmella.
“It’ll be all four of us, all together in the ring. There will be no allies. It’ll be every woman for herself,” Fliehr said in a phone interview.
Fliehr estimates she’s on the road 300 days a year, but the heavy workload has paid off.
“This is something that you’re either all in or you’re not. When you put it in perspective, I get to travel the world and perform for audiences all around the world,” she said.
On rare days off, she likes to catch up on her sleep, have dinner with friends and watch re-runs of “Sex and the City” and “Grey’s Anatomy” in her North Carolina home.
Before deciding to pursue wrestling as a career in 2012, Fliehr was a personal trainer. She earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations from North Carolina State, after transferring there from Appalachian State University. At App State, she spent two years on full scholarship as a member of the volleyball team.
“Having experienced that college atmosphere helped in where I am today. It definitely helps when it comes to being a team player,” she said.
At age 26, she decided to start training for the WWE after a friend suggested it while she was attending a Hall of Fame ceremony with her father.
Despite coming from wrestling royalty, Fliehr wasn’t an overnight success.
She debuted with WWE’s developmental brand NXT in 2013 and won the NXT Women’s Championship the next year. Fans booed during her WWE debut in Atlanta in 2015.
“What I learned from that fan reaction was to embrace it,” she says. “It allowed me to become very successful as a bad guy. In order to have your best good guy, you have to be that bad guy.”
Fliehr has played villain and hero, but she’s fighting the good fight.
She’s learned a lot about the business from her father — Fliehr pays tribute to him by using his signature “Woo!” catchphrase — but admits she’s still learning.
“I think the biggest thing with my dad is he just instilled in me the importance of hard work,” she said. “Whether it’s a live event in Colorado Springs or WrestleMania in front of 150,000 people, you give it 100 percent every night. If you believe in yourself, the fans will also believe in you. My dad has never apologized for who he is. He embraces it. I think that’s very important to do.”
Fliehr’s nickname is “The Queen,” and her high-maintenance prep routine and costuming reflects it. She enters the arena to her own theme song, wearing a full-length bedazzled robe, often peacock-themed. In matches, she typically wears rhinestone-embroidered knee-high boots, a bikini-type short and a bustier. A spray tan, full set of nails, extensive makeup and blond hair extensions are all part of the persona.
“All of it is acting. It’s live Broadway,” she said.
Some of it, however, is pure athleticism and hard work. Her body is on display on live television regularly. Being in “the best shape of her life” is a continuous goal.
Fliehr was named to Sports Illustrated’s 50 Most Fit Athletes in Sports 2017 list and recently was featured in ESPN The Magazine’s 2018 Body Issue.
In the ring, she’s known for a move called a corkscrew moonsault, for which she climbs to the ring’s top tier and springs to a back flip, twisting to land (seemingly) atop her opponent.
“One thing that sets me apart is my athletic background,” she said. “The hard part of what we do is trying to make those moves look hard, making them not look choreographed, which is harder than actually doing the moves themselves.”
She works hard to maintain her athletic physique. At 5 feet, 10 inches and 141 pounds, Fliehr adheres to a rigorous training schedule. She lifts weights four to five times a week and for cardio, she “loves” the Stairmaster.
Skipping a workout is not an option.
Despite the glitzy trappings, her message as a role model runs toward the practical.
To the young girls who attend her matches, who cheer and paint signs for “The Queen” and stay afterward for photos with her, Fliehr offers some empowering advice.
“First and foremost, education is the most important thing, to get a degree. Be independent, strong and confident. It’s not about your looks; it’s about being successful in a male-dominated world,” she said.
To that end, Fliehr has her eyes on one prize that puts her on par with the top male wrestlers.
“My main dream is just to main event WrestleMania,” WWE’s flagship pay-per-view event.
It looks as if she’s on her way.
Contact the writer, 476-1602.