As the opening sequence of WrestleMania 37’s Night 1 main-event match pitting Sasha Banks against Bianca Belair was about to begin, the crowd lit up at the mere sight of the two stars in the ring. Raw emotion seized control of Belair’s steel nerves, serving as an intense reminder of the enormity of the moment—both for her as well as wrestling fans around the world.
“It all hit me again right then,” Belair says. “I’m in the ring with Sasha Banks, in the main event of WrestleMania, making history. My family was there, fans were there for the first time in over a year, and it all sunk in. I became overwhelmed with the significance of the moment.”
The match was a physical and captivating presentation of the art form, with Belair hitting Banks with a K.O.D. just over 17 minutes into the bout, which led to her winning pinfall. It also marked the first time two Black women had headlined WrestleMania—an important moment of representation in an industry that has all too often lacked proper diversity. It was a flash in time that stood for far more than a wrestling match. And as much as she relished the chance to hold the championship belt in her hands, the most unforgettable part of the night was the opening moment in the ring across from Banks.
“That was my favorite part, soaking up that moment,” Belair says. “I was happy, I was nervous, I felt blessed to be there. I wanted to stay in that moment forever.
“But I was also in the ring with Sasha Banks. When you’re in the ring with Sasha Banks, there is no chance to sit back. You need to be at your best, so I knew it was time to go.”
Showing the poise of a seasoned performer, Belair—the 32-year-old Bianca Crawford—dazzled in her WrestleMania debut, and in the main event, no less.
Pro wrestling is an industry that needs rivalries and chemistry between larger-than-life personalities. That was clearly visible with Belair squaring off against Banks, whose current level of brilliance is rarely reached by any talent.
“It takes two people to make this special, and I’m so honored to be able to stand across from Sasha Banks and be the one to end her title run,” Belair says. “Inside the ring, outside the ring, Sasha is the standard, the blueprint. I needed to prove myself against her.
“She elevates every person she comes in contact with, and that’s what she did for me. For what Sasha did for me, I’ll be forever grateful to her.”
Before the match, mere minutes before ascending to a new level of stardom in WWE, amid such thick tension awaiting their cue, Banks and Belair shared a moment of solidarity together behind the curtain.
“Right before we went out, we were in Gorilla together,” Belair says. “We both looked at each other and said, ‘This moment is ours; let’s do this.’ ”
Banks and Belair owned the moment. Now comes the exciting prospect of the unknown, as Belair seeks to create a title run that elevates herself and the SmackDown women’s championship to new heights.
“I’m representing the whole company, the whole women’s locker room,” Belair says. “I look at the way Sasha did it. She modeled the way. I need to represent. This is my moment, and I want to inspire people and make an impact. That’s really what this is about, and I’m honored to be in this position to make a difference around the globe.”
In order to reach that elusive next level, Belair has two opponents in mind: Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch.
“I had a feud with Bayley right before the Royal Rumble and I pinned Bayley, and now I beat Sasha,” Belair says. “Now I want to go after the other two [in the] Four Horsewomen. I want to be the one to beat all of them, and prove I am the EST of WWE. I want to represent the new generation of WWE and show that we’re coming.”
Wrestling has found its next effervescent personality, one who is overflowing with charisma and an unrelenting work ethic. The Bianca Belair era has officially begun, infusing the industry with legitimate joy.
“I’m here to show that the best gift you can give to the world is yourself,” Belair says. “It’s all about finding your superpower, not dimming your light for anyone, staying true to who you are and shining bright.”
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.