While a creative concept for a WWE book, this is less than the sum of its parts.
Second Nature effectively combines two autobiographies – covering Ric Flair’s final run in WWE and retirement and Charlotte’s entry into the business – neither of which would provide enough material for a full-length book in themselves. They join together almost too seamlessly, drawing attention to the way that the ghostwriting doesn’t really feel like the natural, individual voice of either wrestler. Indeed, WWE speak plagues the book, with some particularly awkward mentions of “championship” that make no contextual sense when describing the physical belt. There’s also a jarring reference to “WWE” not being an NWA member.
The strong points of the book certainly work well, with Ric detailing the adjustment to being out of the business, including some surprisingly positive mentions of how he was treated in TNA. Charlotte gives a heart-breaking account of her close relationship with brother Reid and the tragedy of bereavement. There’s also some surprising revelations about professional jealousy between Charlotte and Sasha Banks, while her recollection of an abusive relationship with a former husband provides the emotional meat of the book.
The problem is that even with the two-in-one approach, there’s still far too much padding. Ric’s section includes what feels like a blow-by-blow account of his 75-minute Hall of Fame acceptance speech (complete with the ludicrous claim that he wrestled Ricky Steamboat three thousand times.) Meanwhile nearly 100 pages of the Charlotte section covers her childhood, which pretty much comes down to her having a comfortable upbringing and having fun. At times we get lists of seemingly every film or song she enjoyed, while other sections have the feel of a junior school essay: “Practice was two hours. We’d drive home, and I’d go straight to bed after dinner. Our games were on weekends. Once tournaments began, our team spent a lot of time out of state.
Style choices aside, the real limitation of the book is simply that while WWE may feel there’s an audience for Charlotte’s life story, her career path has been too short and too straightforward to justify a book at this point, even with the inclusion of the Ric section. Indeed, one downside of the NXT/Performance Center setup is that while it has an impressive potential to create WWE Superstars from scratch, the process won’t necessary produce too many fascinating stories along the way.
(This review originally appeared in Fighting Spirit Magazine.)