The night before the Royal Rumble, Bianca Belair had no time to stress about her upcoming performance. Even though she was set to enter third in the 30-woman Rumble match, ensuring a marathon of a night, wrestling was merely a passing thought on Belair’s mind. She needed to focus on the task at hand, patiently and meticulously sewing the gear she would wear at the following night’s show.
Although a bout with Sasha Banks now awaits her, the Rumble victory is the most important moment of Belair’s career thus far. Sunday was full of emotion and intensity, ending with Belair pointing at the WrestleMania sign. But only a few hours before, she was rushing to finish her ring gear.
“The whole entire top of my gear was rhinestoned out, and I stoned the gear with the rhinestones during the two-hour drive on Sunday morning,” Belair says. “My husband [fellow WWE wrestler Montez Ford] drove so carefully to avoid any bumps in the road. I finished as we drove into the parking lot, and the glue had just dried when I put it on at the show.”
The intricate design of Belair’s gear matched the Rumble’s comic book theme, which was fitting as she donned her proverbial cape and played the role of superhero.
“I always make my own gear and my ideas always come to me late, and this idea came to me at about eight on Saturday night,” Belair says. “That’s when I decided I wanted to capture the Rumble’s comic book theme with the lettering on my gear.”
Belair delivered a thrilling 56 minutes in the ring as she captured her first-ever Rumble. The win is meaningful on a number of levels. Not only did it set the stage for a high-profile, main-event match at WrestleMania, the victory also provides WWE with a proud, smart and charismatic lead performer, establishing her as one of the industry’s elite. And while the wrestling industry, WWE included, has long struggled with diversity and the representation of minorities, Belair stands out as an inspiration to those who watch her work.
“Representation is so important,” Belair says. “It really helps people to see someone that looks like them, people that they can relate to doing something they want to do, and it’s important to see people being themselves and doing something great. That’s important to see as you navigate through life.
“I hope my story can impact little girls, boys, adults, everyone. I want people to be happy with themselves. That’s what I am using this platform to show.”
Two moments in the match stood out as particularly memorable. One was when Belair eliminated Bayley, with whom she is still developing a compelling program before Belair transitions to a WrestleMania title program. The other was at the very end. Belair explained that she reached a new level, both physically and mentally, once Charlotte Flair was eliminated, leaving her and Rhea Ripley as the final two competitors in the match.
“That moment felt so real,” Belair says. “I knew we’d made it all the way to that point, and there was no way it wasn’t going to be special. We were there to create magic, there was so much anticipation, and I was so happy to share that moment with Rhea.
“We both came from NXT, and she was my last TakeOver match [in February] before I moved to Raw. She stood tall that night, and I stood tall at the Rumble. We had a moment after the Royal Rumble, and we were so proud to show everyone what the future of WWE looks like.”
One lasting image of Belair’s victory will be her post-match interview, revealing her passion and pride for pro wrestling as she spoke from the heart.
“The whole night, I wasn’t focused on anything except for the match,” Belair says. “Once I got to that interview, that’s when all the emotion came out. I opened myself up, that was raw emotion.”
Despite the fact there were no fans the filling the seats at Tropicana Field, Belair’s celebration was genuine. And even without people at the venue, she felt like the entire world was celebrating with her.
“I would have loved people to be in the crowd, but it didn’t feel odd at all,” Belair says. “I was so in the moment—the pyro, the WrestleMania sign, climbing the ropes—it felt like I was in front of thousands of people.
“Then to go backstage and to hear from the girls I was in the ring with, that was amazing. They were so supportive, and I’m so grateful to have the chance to work with them.”
Next on Belair’s agenda is to set the wrestling world aflame in a match at WrestleMania against Sasha Banks, the reigning SmackDown women’s champion. Belair is beyond thrilled to work with Banks, whose unstoppable, passionate pursuit of excellence has defined the WWE product over the past year.
“The thought that I’m going to WrestleMania still hasn’t hit me,” Belair says. “Sasha Banks, she’s not just a hard worker. It’s not just that she’s talented, and it’s not that she never gives up. So when I think about what I respect most about Sasha Banks, it’s everything.
“Sasha is the standard. She lives up to that standard in the ring, and it’s so cool to see the example she sets in her life, too. She’s been doing this for so long, and she elevates every person she works with, which is amazing. She sets the example for all of us.”
Belair was brilliant at the Royal Rumble, and now has an opportunity to impress on an even bigger stage at WrestleMania. Wrestling immortality is within reach if she can put on a career-defining performance at wrestling’s signature show, especially against a superstar like Banks.
“I’m a little nervous,” Belair admits. “Hopefully I can live up to the high expectations.”