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Bianca Belair Meets an Old Foe at ‘Hell in a Cell’

Two months after their ‘WrestleMania’ classic, the reigning SmackDown women’s champion faces Becky Lynch in a triple-threat match.

Bianca Belair defeated Sasha Banks at WrestleMania 37.

She beat Becky Lynch a year later at WrestleMania 38.

What could she possibly have in store next?

“I feel like I’m on my way to becoming Mrs. WrestleMania,” Belair says. “It’s funny, after the match at this year’s WrestleMania against Becky, people were teasing me backstage, saying, ‘You’re about to become Mrs. WrestleMania.’ That’s been put out in the atmosphere, and it’s a really cool goal to try to achieve.”

Belair worked a maddening match with Lynch last August at SummerSlam, losing the title she had won from Banks in a mere 26 seconds to the returning Lynch. In that moment, it felt like a legitimate blow to everything she had accomplished. Yet the story came full circle this April, reaching its zenith when Belair finished Lynch with a KOD.

“Hitting that KOD, it was a huge sigh of relief,” Belair says. “It was a long road from SummerSlam to WrestleMania. There were times when I didn’t know if we’d be able to bring this full circle and get there, but we did. It was an amazing journey, not just for me, but for the fans. It’s the fans that made the match. It was a match from the only two women to win the main event at WrestleMania, and we could hear the passion from the crowd. That emotion came out in the match.”

Before last summer, Belair did not have much of a relationship, personal or professional, with Lynch. That changed considerably, peaking at WrestleMania.

“My respect for Becky Lynch grew at WrestleMania, but my respect grew even more during the process and the journey to get there,” Belair says. “I really hadn’t even met Becky until SummerSlam. Seeing the way she advocates and fights for women’s wrestling is inspiring. She makes sure women’s matches are highlighted on shows. She makes sure that the women are represented.

“I learned a lot about Becky over the past few months. She doesn’t only advocate for herself; she also advocates for the women she’s in the ring with and the women she’s in the locker room with. I can’t wait to pay my respect forward.”

In terms of ring psychology, storytelling and athleticism, their match belongs among the greatest in WrestleMania history. It was spectacular, exceeding already high expectations. In addition to a callback in the opening moments from their match at SummerSlam, this was a well-crafted narrative of Lynch’s seasoning, antagonism and aggression against Belair’s perseverance and tenacity. And it meant a whole lot—this served as Lynch’s first pay-per-view loss in nearly three years, and it was done perfectly, elevating Belair to an even higher tier of stardom.

But the win didn’t come without a cost. Belair took a kick to the face, leaving her with a swollen eye and plenty of time left remaining in the match.

“As soon as I took that boot, I thought, ‘Dang, that hit me straight in the eye,’” Belair says. “Initially, I felt it, and it hurt, but I never had a second thought of stopping or even possibly stopping. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, that hurt. But now it’s time to keep going.’ I even forgot about it during the match.

“When I got to the back, my husband [Montez Ford] was looking at me kind of funny. I asked him, ‘Is something wrong? Was the match O.K.?’ And he said, ‘Of course it was, but it’s your eye.’ And I was like, ‘That’s right!’ That’s when I remembered, and all the pain came back. The next morning, it was swollen shut. But I’m proud of it. Becky Lynch gave me everything she had, and I fought through it all, even with one eye.”

Once again champion, Belair now carries WWE gold as the Raw women’s champ. She will defend it Sunday at Hell in a Cell in a triple-threat match against Lynch and Asuka. Yet the bigger story is whom she isn’t wrestling.

Belair was originally slated to defend her title at Hell in a Cell against Naomi. That was scrapped two weeks ago on Raw when Naomi and Sasha Banks walked out, effectively exiting the company for the foreseeable future. Naomi and Banks left behind their tag team titles, the ones they won at this year’s WrestleMania—and posed with in a backstage celebratory photo beside Belair.

In prior interviews, specifically with Sports Illustrated, Belair has held Banks in extremely high regard. She spoke of the brilliance of their WrestleMania 37 encounter, when Banks capped off the most impressive year of her career by highlighting Belair, as well as their captivating moment during a triple threat with Lynch at Crown Jewel last October when Belair mesmerized the crowd with a one-handed slam on Banks—a move Banks encouraged her to do.

Asked her opinion on Banks’s and Naomi’s decision to walk out of the company, Belair noted it is not her story to share.

“I’ve shared some amazing moments with them both, and I’d rather not speak on it,” Belair says. “That’s their story to share, and they should be the first ones to speak on it.”

The fast-moving pace of pro wrestling rarely has time to stand still. As soon as Banks and Naomi exited, a new match was quickly set for Hell in a Cell. Belair now has the chance to create even more magic with Lynch, in addition to working with Asuka, one of the more underrated talents in all of WWE.

“I’m really excited that this gets to be a triple threat,” Belair says. “I’m following Becky Lynch as champion, and those are big shoes to fill so I want the biggest challenges. I get to step back in the ring with Becky after overcoming her at WrestleMania, and I want to do that again at Hell in a Cell. Now you add Asuka; she adds even more excitement. Asuka is one of the best competitors in WWE. I got to have a match with her on Raw last week, and that was a taste of what to expect. The three of us are so different. We’re going to have a dynamic in this match that people aren’t used to seeing.”

Steadily becoming the face of WWE, Belair continues to enhance her work in the ring with each passing year. Now only two months into her current title reign, she would like to build a memorable run over the course of a lengthy stretch with the belt. There are plenty of opponents she would like to wrestle, including the great Bayley, once she returns to the active roster. Belair’s focus is controlling what she can control, which is delivering the best match on the card every time she steps in the ring—and the most compelling story on the show every single moment she appears on-screen.

“I have a lot to prove, and I want to keep proving who I am,” Belair says. “I’m an overachiever, and I am always striving to be the best version of myself. I want my reputation to be that every time I step in the ring; it’s going to be a great match.

“I still have a long way to go. The next step is beating Becky and Asuka at Hell in a Cell. I want to carry this all the way to WrestleMania next year, where I can hopefully take down Charlotte [Flair], the fourth Four Horsewoman. I’m trying to go all the way with this. I want to be known as one of the greatest.’”

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