Before SmackDown, Raquel Rodriguez made a bold prediction that Ronda Rousey wouldn’t leave the final SmackDown of 2022 as the SmackDown Women’s Champion, and like a regular WWE Nostradamus, her premonition proved correct… just maybe not in the way she hoped. That’s right, while the former NXT Champion wasn’t able to unseat “The Rowdy One” in their match, as the presence of Shayna Baszler, when coupled with her injured elbow, proved a hurdle too high to overcome.
… but then Charlotte Flair returned to the ring for the first time since May 8th at WWE Backlash, and just like that, a second impromptu championship match graced screens across the WWE Universe. Would Rousey, who just worked a 16-minute match with Rodriguez, be able to overcome the odds and remain on top?
Nope, 40 seconds after the bell rang, Flair became a 14-time WWE World Champion, and both Rousey and Baszler looked shockingly at the camera, wondering what they could have done differently.
So what’s next for Flair and Rousey in the WWE Universe? Will the duo duke it out at the Royal Rumble in pursuit of the top prize on SmackDown? Or will Rousey take a break from in-ring action for a few weeks or even months and return a little closer to WrestleMania in order to challenge for another crown, maybe the Tag Titles with Baszler or even the RAW Women’s Championship against Bianca Belair or maybe even Becky Lynch, who has to be getting antsy for another shot at championship gold? Fortunately, fans will find out at some point in the not-too-distant future.
— WWE (@WWE) December 31, 2022
Charlotte Flair explains her shocking return to WWE.
When Flair made her surprise return to SmackDown, it took the WWE Universe by storm – need proof? Check Twitter – but how did “The Queen” feel to return to the WWE ring for the first time since May? Fortunately, fans didn’t have to wait too long to find out, as Megan Morant went to the back with a camera crew and a microphone in an attempt to find out.
Asked about how it felt to be back in WWE for the final episode of SmackDown, Flair explained how 2022 was the best year of her life, but 2023 is shaping up to be even better.
“I’m a little speechless right now,” Flair said. “2022 has just been the best year of my life. Like, even going back to the beginning, I was able to wrestle in Saudi Arabia for the first time, I beat Ronda Rousey for the first time, which was always a bucket list, and then I got married and traveled the world with my husband and then ending the year where I belong, where I’m home, I mean, it was a picture perfect fairytale.”
“And this is the first time I’ve ever been away since 2015 so, to come back, before my music hit, I was like, ‘do I know how to be that serious?’ Like for eight months, I’ve gotten to, never take off the crown, but I just kinda let it chill, you know what I mean? So I’m just honored to be back and (give) payback to Ronda. Like, I don’t know if she just thought I was going to let the I Quit match go, like, when I got home, I thought to myself, ‘I’m a lot of things to a lot of different people, but the one thing I’m not is a quitter. So I just waited for the right opportunity, for the right time, and then, um, 14 times! It’s crazy.”
Technically speaking, Flair is actually a 16-time WWE World Champion, as she’s held the RAW title six times, the SmackDown title seven, the Divas Championship once, and the NXT Women’s Championship twice as well – plus a single run with the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship – but WWE apparently isn’t counting the NXT runs towards her championship total, so there you go. Still, considering her father, Ric Flair, is recognized as a 16-time champion by the WWE, Charlotte is rapidly approaching “The Nature Boy’s” total, which feels like all but an inevitability at this point. Give Rousey back the belt at Royal Rumble, flip it back to Flair at WrestleMania, who has never had a title run longer than 198 days on the main roster, and who knows, Survivor Series could mark the magical day where Flair matches her father’s total, with WrestleMania marking her coronation as the new all-time winningest Flair in WWE should Triple H flip the belts at every “Big 4 Premium Live Event” over the next year. Give Rousey the strap and Royal Rumble 2023, and suddenly, Flair can headline a night of WrestleMania 40 with for her 17th world championship.
— WWE (@WWE) December 31, 2022