Charlotte looks to establish WWE legacy well beyond being Ric Flair's daughter

Charlotte had a combined reign of 309 days between the Divas championship and the new WWE women's championship before losing the title to Sasha Banks in late July. Brandon Wade/AP Images for WWE

Considered by many to be the greatest professional wrestler in history, Ric Flair has a hot take to share with you regarding his daughter, former NXT and WWE women's champion Charlotte.

"I think she's the greatest female [wrestler] of all time right now, and I don't think that's being biased," Flair told ESPN.com. "I don't know what the argument would be for anyone else."

If you think the 16-time world champion's opinion is compromised by his beaming pride as a father, you would be correct. But take a moment and think about what he's actually saying -- because he may not be wrong.

Charlotte, born Ashley Fliehr in the "Queen city" in North Carolina that her character was named for, is the closest thing to a natural that pro wrestling has seen in years -- helped by her meteoric four-year rise from a novice to the undisputed face of the WWE's women's revolution.

At 5-foot-10, Charlotte has the size and strength alone to convincingly dominate the division -- and that's exactly what she has done, holding the Divas and rebranded WWE's women's championship for a combined 309 days before losing to Sasha Banks on July 25, which sets up Sunday's return match at SummerSlam. It's ultimately her athleticism, including a breathtaking moonsault from the top rope, that sets the 30-year-old apart.

"I think if you take Ashley's height, weight and athletic skills, I think she's the best athlete -- man or woman -- in the company," Flair said. "I would pretty much put her in a footrace or a high jump [against anyone]. How do you want to measure? She could have been a Division I athlete in four different sports and chose volleyball."

Flair says his daughter received 104 college scholarship offers, including 39 for volleyball -- a sport she didn't begin playing until her freshman year at Providence High School in Charlotte. She turned down multiple offers in the Big 10 to stay close to home at Appalachian State University (before transferring to North Carolina State, from which she graduated in 2010).

The idea of following in her father's footsteps never appeared to be in the cards, especially with her success after college as a personal trainer. Flair knew she had it in her, but greatly questioned whether she would enjoy the hard lifestyle and travel demands.

It would take a pair of life-changing events to alter her path.

In March 2012, she attended WrestleMania weekend in Miami as Flair, the WWE's only two-time Hall of Famer, was inducted a second time as a member of The Four Horsemen. Backstage, Charlotte was approached by John Laurinaitis, then the WWE's on-screen general manager of Raw, who asked her why she wasn't wrestling.

If the seeds for pro wrestling greatness were planted deep within her from the beginning, it would take the timing of Laurinaitis' words to water them.

"She looked at me and I knew right away," Flair said. Six weeks later, she signed a developmental contract with the WWE and packed her bags for Florida as she headed down to NXT.

But it would take the loss of her younger brother Reid -- an aspiring pro wrestler in his own right who was found dead in March 2013 at the age of 25 following a battle with substance abuse -- to provide Charlotte with the motivation to be great.

"I think she dedicated herself to being what Reid dreamed he would always be," Flair said. "She has just taken it to another level."

Four months after her brother's death, Charlotte made her television debut with NXT. Nearly two years to the day, in July 2015, she was called up to the WWE main roster.

Admittedly, the physical part of the job came easy to the accomplished athlete. It was the evolution of her character, particularly on the microphone, that became her biggest challenge.

"When I was a baby face it was like, 'How do I pretend just to be me?'" Charlotte said. "Because I'm kind of goofy, so just walking out there, the more nervous I get, I go into that dominant, can't-be-touched, superior mode. That's like me just covering up being nervous."

Charlotte credits an eventual heel turn with allowing her character to be free, claiming it was easier to play a character so far removed from her true self.

"It really gave me an opportunity to have some personality," Charlotte said. "For me, being a heel comes more natural because Charlotte's character was created upon being genetically superior, which is hard to tell people as a baby face and come across endearing."

For the majority of her main-roster run, Charlotte had her father by her side as a heel manager, routinely helping her character cheat to win. Flair called it the most rewarding time of his career and his "crowning achievement," even if it was difficult at times.

"She's pretty bossy," Flair said, before letting out a huge chuckle. "She's so full of herself sometimes and would just tell me off, [saying], 'Dad, I don't want you doing this.' But I've known her and she knows how good she is, which is really important. You can tell by talking to her, she doesn't like being No. 2."

For Charlotte, the pairing was very much a double-edged sword.

In one sense, travelling the world together allowed her a special glimpse at what her father's life had been like all those years. At the same time, she was already dealing with the pressure that comes with being Ric Flair's daughter, using it as a chip on her shoulder to work that much harder. Now, the comparisons were unavoidable.

"Professionally it was hard because in my mind I'm thinking, 'Oh my gosh, I'm walking through the curtain with Ric Flair.' Not, 'Hey my dad is walking beside me,'" Charlotte said. "And No. 2, I want to be booed but my dad is cheered. Am I ever going to be taken serious with him beside me?"

Charlotte ultimately saw it as a challenge she would take head-on.

"I looked at it as like, 'No, these people are going to pay attention to me no matter if he's beside me or not,'" she said. "Because I know that I'm capable of being great one day. So I looked at it as, 'OK, he's beside me. You have to get their attention on your own.'"

When the WWE made the call to break them apart, Charlotte would ultimately get plenty of attention for the manner in which it was executed. During an episode of Raw on May 23, she fired Flair and reduced him to tears by scolding him for being an absent father during her youth.

The speech felt so real that it was uncomfortable to watch, with many fans at home believing it was a shoot, or at least a version of the truth.

It wasn't. Not only is Charlotte quick to point out just how much her dad actually was there during her youth (he attended all of her college volleyball games), the fact that she elicited such an authentic response let her know she had done her job.

But what about those tears from "The Nature Boy," you might be asking?

"He was looking up at me with tears of joy," Charlotte said. "He was just so proud of me, that I was owning the moment."

Flair considers it a turning point in Charlotte's progression -- the night she found a whole new level of comfort with her character.

"I was just thinking how proud I was," Flair said. "Everybody thought I was upset. It's amazing. It was probably one of the best promos they have had on TV in a long time. It was just tears of joy for her. She has been through a lot. We, as a family, have been through a lot."

If Flair sees flashes of himself in Charlotte, it's reduced to their shared mannerisms or equal penchant for "looking like a million bucks" on screen (which he made a point of explaining to Charlotte, so that she could write it off). In fact, he routinely adds an asterisk when talking about her success, saying, "it has nothing to do with me" -- adding that Charlotte is 10 times the athlete he ever was.

It's clear they share the same passion to be the very best, not just within their division or era, but in the scope of wrestling history.

Charlotte has said multiple times over the past year she wants to become the first woman to headline a WWE pay-per-view. With the momentum she's currently riding, which includes her standing as a first-round pick by Raw in last month's brand-split draft, it's something that doesn't feel far off from where her potential might ultimately lead her.

The next step comes Sunday at SummerSlam against Sasha Banks, the most recent culmination in a rivalry that began in NXT, escalated with a landscape-shifting four-way match with Banks, Becky Lynch and Bayley at an NXT TakeOver card, continued through a show-stealing triple-threat match Banks and Lynch at WrestleMania 32 and reached another level with Banks' win on Raw.

"I think the match she had with Sasha on Raw is the greatest women's match I've ever seen," Flair said. "I don't have a problem saying this, and I have seen some good ones, certainly Trish [Stratus] and Amy ['Lita' Dumas] had some great matches. But you would be hard-pressed to say that anything was ever better.

"That's what's unique about [Charlotte]. All she could think about is, 'Dad, we didn't have time to really put it together.' I said, 'Nobody knows that but you. Wait until SummerSlam, wait until SummerSlam!' But she has been like that her whole life. She just can't stand being second. I couldn't stand it either."