This wasn’t the reason Charlotte Flair envisioned taking time off from WWE.
She found herself traveling to an Atlanta area hospital in late August to join her family while her dad, wrestling legend Ric Flair, fights for his life.
After learning how bad the situation was — Ric was put in a medically induced comma — Charlotte Flair (real name Ashley Fliehr) tried processing what was happening to the person she considers not only her father, but her “best friend.”
“I just kept thinking, who am I going to call and complain to about work,” Charlotte told The Post in a phone interview. “Who am I going to call for advice? I run everything by my dad. … Just the thought of him not being there, when he’s been there every single day, it scared me.”
Before her dad is taken into surgery to remove part of his bowel, the doctors tell her and her half-sister Megan and half-brother David to say goodbye to him. They aren’t sure he was going to make it through the procedure.
“Me, my sister and my brother, we are just looking at each other, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ” Charlotte said. “And when we were sent to say goodbye, he was already on a machine, so it wasn’t even like we were having someone there to say goodbye to. So it was just a matter or processing it, not really accepting what was happening.”
In Flair’s new book written with Brian Shields, “Second Nature: The Legacy of Ric Flair and the Rise of Charlotte,” readers are told about the events that shaped their relationship and the path each takes to finding a better understanding of who they are.
Ric, 68, struggles to separate Ric Flair from Richard Fliehr, the man and father, with his in-ring career winding down. Charlotte tries to find true happiness after her parents’ divorce, the domestic violence that plagued her first marriage and the death of her brother Reid.
It is the first time Charlotte publicly opens up about these difficult times. You don’t have to be a wrestling fan to understand her personal struggles. Charlotte said it wasn’t an easy decision for her to “lift the curtain,” but called the process “therapeutic.”
“I realized maybe by me letting my guard down, not only is it a wrestling book, but also hopefully I can help someone else that has the opportunity to hear my story and just the message that your past doesn’t have to define you,” she said.
Charlotte provides the reader a deep, detailed look into her past and rise in WWE. Amid the perks of being Ric Flair’s daughter, there are stories of her grandmother’s famous “pana cakes,” life lessons learned from competing with elite sports teams and her athletic prowess getting her called “Beast” in middle school.
There are numerous turning points in her story from quitting cheerleading for volleyball, her parents divorce, Reid’s death and her decision to give up her Division I volleyball scholarship to move in with her abusive husband Riki — who she says pulled a gun on her and punched her. Each major event is reflected on honestly and openly.
“I didn’t want to hurt my parents’ feeling about how hard certain things were in my 20s, how hard it was when my dad left my senior year before I went to college,” Charlotte said. “Obviously I’m 31 now and it was years ago, ‘No, Dad I’m fine. Mom, I’m fine.’ It was probably the first time they have heard the stuff that I had talked about.”
Ric’s portion, which is about a third of the book, gives glimpses into his soul and plenty of wrestling stories. He expresses his concerns over the type of father he was, the difficulty dealing with the end of in-ring career and questioning what he could have done better to save Reid prior to his death from a drug overdose in 2013 at the age of 25.
“During the last few years I realized that life doesn’t stop because you’re no longer in the main event or the world champion,” Ric writes in the book. “You have to make adjustments. I’m still making adjustments.”
Ric describes his bond with Charlotte as “a special connection” and mentions how alike they are.
She believes her dad is too critical of the job he did raising her. He provided for the family, often brought her lunch to school and built a relationship with her that many kids don’t get with their parents.
“I know some kids their parents have nothing in common and don’t ever talk,” Charlotte said. “I can call my dad at 3 o’clock in the morning and I know he is going to answer.”
Still, she did not get a formal education in the wrestling business growing up, just glimpses during family trips to live events and witnessing her dad’s WWE retirement match and Hall of Fame inductions.
It was her brother Reid who engrossed himself in the business. It was Reid who pushed Charlotte to begin training with WWE in 2012. She was still with Riki and overworking herself as a personal trainer to avoid the situation at home.
Wrestling was the turning point in her life.
“[Reid] opened the door for me to see that I could be a part of this industry and in WWE,” Charlotte said. “I spent so many years trying to save my brother’s life and ultimately he saved mine.”
Once in the ring, Charlotte, a future NXT and WWE women’s champion, was determined to show she was more than just a last name. She drew motivation from fans’ negative perception of her 5-foot-10 frame and lack of the glamorous look they associated with WWE divas at the time.
“I wasn’t used to people critiquing how I looked,” Charlotte said. “And then always hearing, ‘God she looks like Ric Flair.’ Yes, he’s my dad. Who am I supposed to look like? I took it so serious and to heart.”
While she now uses her dad’s signature “WOOOOO!,” strut and a modified figure four leg lock (the figure eight), Charlotte doesn’t concern herself with living up to his legacy. Instead, she said she tries to embody his work ethic and drive while helping to spearhead the WWE women’s revolution.
“Why do something unless you are going to be the best at it?” she said.
Ric, who was her manager during her initial run on WWE’s main roster, couldn’t be prouder.
“She took the torch from me and ran as fast and as far as she could with it,” he writes
Back in Atlanta, Charlotte’s goodbye to her dad turns into a hello to a new reality. He survived surgery, but still has a long road back. Her father may have “nine lives” — having also survived a plane crash and lighting bolt — but he is growing older.
“For someone who doesn’t slow down it’s hard for me to see my dad as you know … he’s been unbreakable my whole life,” Charlotte said. “It was a different light to see him in a horrible situation because he has always been the toughest person I know.”
Their relationship and their lives were never perfect, but their bond will always be close in their eyes.
“With my dad being going and being who he is, I turned out OK,” Charlotte said. “In terms of him being my best friend, I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
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