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Even From Outside the Main-Event Picture, Bianca Belair Continues to Impress

Her rivalry with Becky Lynch is on hold for the moment, but the former SmackDown women’s champion is still one of WWE’s rising stars.

Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks did it again.

Following their history-making clash in the main event of the first night of this year’s WrestleMania, then blazing a new trail for women in professional wrestling by winning ESPY awards, Belair and Banks also combined for an unforgettable moment in Saudi Arabia.

During their Crown Jewel triple-threat match with Becky Lynch last month, Belair hoisted up Banks in a press slam, then showed off a remarkable feat of strength by holding her up with one hand—yes, a one-handed press slam—all while smiling to the camera before dropping Banks onto the mat.

“That moment was to represent women,” Belair says. “We’re just as great as the men. I wanted little girls in Saudi Arabia to see that, and I wanted boys all over the world to see women from that perspective.”

While the moment cemented Belair’s place in a league of her own, she did not create that magic by herself. Initially hesitant to do the maneuver, Belair opted to follow through on it only after receiving an unrelenting push of confidence before the match from Banks.

“I wasn’t sure I could do it,” Belair says. “But there was this voice encouraging me, saying, ‘You have to do this. You need to do this.’ That was Sasha Banks. She said I wasn’t doing the press unless I did the one-hand press. That’s when I stopped doubting myself and went out there and did it.”

In a remarkably short period of time, Belair has added her name to an illustrious list of those who have redefined pro wrestling through its portrayal of women.

“That moment was bigger than me or Sasha or Becky,” Belair says. “It was all about sending a message that women are out there, powerful and strong, sometimes even more so than the men.”

Belair’s in-ring work and presence have grown immensely over the past year, especially after working with each of the vaunted Four Horsewomen: Banks, Lynch, Charlotte Flair and Bayley. Three out of those four stars have headlined a WrestleMania, while the one that has yet to do so (Bayley) helped carry the company during the most challenging stretch of the pandemic.

“When I first started in WWE in 2016, three out of the four were already on SmackDown or Raw,” Belair says. “They were an inspiration to me. I had the chance to see Bayley’s work ethic up close, and I kept telling myself that these women were once where I was in NXT. Now, when I step in the ring with them, it’s proof of how far I’ve come. Every time you wrestle one of them, you have to step up your game.

“If you’re in the ring with Charlotte Flair, you have to bring it. Becky Lynch just had a baby and came back even better. Sasha Banks brings the absolute best out of me, and Bayley is just amazing. They paved the road for so many of us.”

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Belair had the chance to work an extended program with Lynch throughout the second half of the year. While there were some low points—Lynch’s victory over Belair in a squash match at SummerSlam particularly stands out—there has also been plenty to relish.

SummerSlam didn’t go as I would have planned or liked, but it’s created more opportunities for me to get in the ring with Becky Lynch,” Belair says. “Anytime I can get in the ring with Becky, I’m jumping at that opportunity. There’s a reason she’s called ‘The Man.’ She’s done so much and achieved so much. Sharing the ring with her is a chance to show my tenacity. And I took a positive from SummerSlam, which was seeing how so many people were rooting for me. That’s motivation to push me to a whole other level.”

The immediate future for Belair is clear. She appeared to have another title shot against Lynch locked up, but defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory when Doudrop interfered and cost her the match. That allowed Liv Morgan to win and become the new No. 1 contender for Lynch’s Raw women’s championship, a moment that Belair believes is long overdue.

“I’m super excited for Liv Morgan,” says Belair, who defeated Morgan on Sunday’s Tribute to the Troops. “Right now, I’m out of the title picture. When it’s not your time, you should give a round of applause for those who earned that spot. That is what Liv has done, and I can’t wait to watch her against Becky.”

Despite being out of the title picture, Belair still wants to create compelling stories, beginning with a rival in Doudrop.

“It’s going to be a fun rivalry, and I’m excited to see where it goes,” Belair says. “People are going to see a different side of Doudrop, and I want to continue to grow my legacy with everything I do. I want my name to come up in the same way people speak of the Four Horsewomen. Me and Doudrop, we’re going to bring something new to Raw. It’s going to be a different dynamic.”

Belair’s standard of greatness grows in each training session, workout and match. She is not content merely being one of WWE’s top stars, as she intends to be the company’s driving force in 2022 and beyond.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself, especially after WrestleMania,” Belair says. “I want people watching my matches to come away recognizing I am some type of -est, whether that is the strongest or the fastest or the toughest. That’s always been the way I felt, and that mindset has definitely intensified.”

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Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.