Bianca Belair’s title run as SmackDown women’s champion is still in its infancy, but it is off to an encouraging start. She is establishing herself as the top of the division in a program with Bayley, who belongs on a short list of best heels in the entire industry. And as WWE continues to announce tour stops for its return to the road, it is impossible not to think of what would be a monumental match in front of a live crowd: a rematch pitting Belair against Sasha Banks.
Following their iconic match at WrestleMania 37—the first WrestleMania singles match featuring two Black women—the thought of a sequel has certainly crossed Belair’s mind. And she is very much looking forward to making more magic with Banks.
“That night at WrestleMania, our match was about so much more than winning the title,” Belair says. “We made history. And I’m fully expecting a rematch.”
Following a year of empty-arena shows, both at the WWE Performance Center and the ThunderDome, the environment was incredibly dynamic in front of a crowd at WrestleMania. Belair and Banks worked the main event for the opening night of the two-day affair, creating a match filled with intensity and overflowing with passion.
“That moment was bigger than us,” Belair says. “Even though I won the title, no one lost that night. That’s why there are videos of Sasha smiling at the end. She had so much fulfillment from what came out of that match. Now, when she comes back and the title is on the line, we’ll see who walks out as champion.”
Belair celebrated her birthday the day before that match. Turning 32 was especially sweet because her family was present, having already arrived in Florida to watch her match. And, of course, the specter of a main event at WrestleMania loomed. Yet even with an abundance of excitement filling the heavy Florida air, she made sure not to stray too far from her rituals and routines.
“The night before a match is always a weird night,” Belair says. “I want to get a good night’s sleep, but I’m also anxious. When I get nervous, I think about my dad, who would always tell me, ‘When you’re nervous, it means you care.’ So I embrace it. That reminds me I’m ready. And I’m usually making gear the night before. That keeps my mind occupied and ready and calm, especially with my husband right beside me.”
Another signature element of Belair’s routine the night before her pay-per-view matches is ordering a pizza.
“People do their cheat meals after their matches, but I have pizza the night before,” Belair says, adding that the topping is usually pepperoni or, sometimes, pineapple. “That always helps relax me. Before the Royal Rumble, I picked up a pizza and stayed up all night and worked on my gear.
“Since the night before WrestleMania was my birthday, it was the best birthday ever. I don’t know how I’ll ever top it. I saw all my family at the hotel, and my mom brought pizza. My gear took forever for WrestleMania, so I was working on that all night, and I ate some pizza and opened a few gifts.”
A day later, Belair and Banks created a piece of work in the ring with no expiration date, delivering a match that made a permanent imprint on the industry. Now, in the early days of her title reign, Belair is seeking to add even more meaning to her title reign. With live events soon taking place again, she is eager to share her WWE title with the world.
“Everyone is part of this,” Belair says. “It’s more than just me, and this is my chance to share it. I’ve found myself very vulnerable in some of my moments, but that’s because I’m opening up to invite people to come on this journey. When I hold the title up in the air, I want everyone to know this is theirs, too.”
With WWE back on the road, Belair says that people should not be alarmed if they happen to see her traveling with an exceptionally large suitcase. Her luggage includes her own sewing machine, which was a Christmas gift four years ago from her husband, fellow WWE wrestler Montez Ford.
“I tote around that big ol’ sewing machine with me everywhere I go,” Belair says. “I love to sew in the hotel room. I even sew in the locker room sometimes. And now that we’re finally back on the road with live shows, it’s the first time I’ll be traveling with the title, too. I’m looking forward to showing that off to, and I finally get to show it off on the road.”
Belair’s passion and excitement is always visible in her work, and she is determined to bring that same joy to those watching her in the ring.
“I’m here to motivate people and touch them in a positive way,” Belair says. “You don’t know how long your time is here, but people never forget the way you feel. I want my time in WWE to be remembered about how I make people feel. That’s what matters most to me.”
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.