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Bianca Belair: “Bayley brings the best out of me”
This year’s Survivor Series has a new twist.
The event will include two WarGames matches, a creation from the late, great Dusty Rhodes that debuted in 1987 for Jim Crockett Promotions. While it bucks WWE tradition to highlight a concept that was created outside its walls, that mentality has changed under the leadership of Paul “Triple H” Levesque, who is overseeing the company’s creative direction. The decision to run WarGames matches greatly benefits the talent, especially Bianca Belair.
Belair will lead her team of Asuka, Alexa Bliss, Mia Yim and a mystery partner against Bayley, Iyo Sky, Dakota Kai, Nikki Cross and Rhea Ripley in a WarGames match at Survivor Series on Saturday, a perfect setting for her ongoing feud with Bayley.
“Bayley and I have been going at it for two years, and she never goes away,” Belair says. “It’s time to get a little payback, and that’s going to happen at WarGames.”
Belair is flourishing as a babyface, and her work shines even brighter when opposed by a villain as masterful at her craft as Bayley. Despite their on-screen differences, Belair believes Bayley is one of the best wrestlers in the world—and even credits Bayley for helping her reach new heights in WWE.
“When I first started on SmackDown in 2019, my success in WWE wouldn’t have been possible without our work together,” Belair says. “She’s so believable, and she makes me better. Bayley does not get the credit she deserves.”
Bayley is the only member of the revolutionary Four Horsewomen (which also includes Sasha Banks, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch) who has yet to main-event WrestleMania. Yet she is the backbone of the group, a sturdy foundation that has allowed everyone else to thrive.
“She pushes me, she brings the best out of me,” Belair says. “Being able to work with her, she’s taught me so much. Look at what she’s doing now—she’s a true leader. As annoying as Damage-CTRL has been, you have to respect the way she fought to bring Iyo and Dakota with her. Her passion and dedication are amazing, and she’s going to have her WrestleMania moment.”
Belair and husband Montez Ford recently made headlines outside the ring. They will be starring next year on a new television show on Hulu, with an eight-episode first season, already greenlighted, produced by WWE Studios.
“I’m nervous about it,” Belair says. “I never thought we’d do a reality TV type of show. But I get to do it with my husband, which excites me. We’ll pull back the curtain and show who we are, not just inside the ring, but outside of it, too.
“We’re just a husband and wife living our life. We’re very family-oriented, so it’s not all glitz and glam, but we’re excited to share those small, intimate moments. Again, I’m a little nervous, but I’m excited, too. People keep telling me they’re going to watch, and I’m going to hold them to that—we want those ratings.”
The reigning Raw women’s champion, Belair has wrestled in the two most compelling matches in back-to-back years at WrestleMania, and worked an outstanding bout in July at SummerSlam. She is instantly recognizable as one of the signature stars of WWE, fulfilling multiple roles for the company. Her newest is as ambassador for Season 9 of WWE Supercard, a collectible card-battling game.
“I love getting the chance to represent WWE,” Belair says. “I don’t have to do it, I want to do it, and I’m honored to be part of WWE Supercard. There are so many new elements that are part of this season—there are three new tiers, they’re adding commentary with Michael Cole, and there’s also a new game mode with Tables, Ladders, and Chairs. I’m very blessed to do this, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
A former track and field athlete in college, Belair has found success in WWE by relying on her NCAA blueprint. While she competed to win every race, her focus was also being a millisecond better every time she ran in hopes of setting a new personal record.
“In track and field, your biggest competition is yourself,” says Belair, who earned All-SEC and All-America accolades while completing her collegiate career at Tennessee. “You could finish fifth in a race, but as long as you PR, that’s all that matters. That’s a mindset I brought with me to WWE.
WWE Schedule: Touring, TV coverage.
“I’m a competitor. That was instilled in me from a very young age from my parents. My dad was my coach, and he’s an extremely hard-working person. I watched my brother, and he’s the reason why I got into sports. We were taught to go over and beyond. Every time I’m training, I know I need to go harder than everyone else. That goes for the gym, sewing my gear, studying film, everything. I always want to give 110%.”
Dating back to her time in NXT, Belair has history in WarGames, where she wrestled in 2019. This particular card on Saturday will be unique, as the only other WarGames match features the immense star power of Roman Reigns, The Usos, Kevin Owens, Drew McIntyre, Sheamus, and Sami Zayn. But Belair isn’t competing against any of those two stars. Her sole focus is taking another step on the climb toward becoming the best in-ring performer in the industry.
“Your biggest competition is yourself,” Belair says. “That’s why I’m working to be the absolute best version of myself. I’m going to do whatever it takes to be at my best at WarGames.”
The (online) week in wrestling
- The MJF era has officially begun. Who is the right first opponent for him as champ? Eddie Kingston or Bryan Danielson would be a good fit, but first, MJF needs to further cement his place as a top heel by taking out Jon Moxley this week on Dynamite.
- Kevin Owens returned to SmackDown on Friday, becoming the fifth man in the men’s WarGames match against The Bloodline at Survivor Series. Maybe I’ll be surprised, but isn’t it painfully obvious that Ridge Holland is eating the pin in the finish?
- Kenny Omega will be returning to New Japan Pro-Wrestling for Wrestle Kingdom in January in a must-see bout against Will Ospreay.
- Congratulations to Kairi Sane, now wrestling as KAIRI, who became the inaugural IWGP women’s champion by defeating Mayu Iwatani this past weekend in Tokyo at the NJPW/Stardom Historic X-over show.
- Penta brought some great luck to George Kittle last night, as he caught two touchdowns in San Francisco’s victory against Arizona. (Kittle has used Penta’s “Cero Miedo” gesture as a touchdown celebration.)
Bret Hart on Ricky Steamboat’s return to the ring: “I’ll be rooting for him”
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat will make his return to the ring on Sunday.
Steamboat is wrestling in a six-man tag at Big Time Wrestling’s “Return of The Dragon” show, his first match since 2010. His legendary career ran from 1976–94, though he did have an abbreviated run with WWE in 2009 and one indie match in ’10.
Teaming with FTR, Steamboat will lock up against Jay Lethal, a mystery partner, and Brock Anderson, who will have his father/former Steamboat rival, Arn Anderson, in his corner. The past few months have been memorable for Lethal, who wrestled Ric Flair in his final match this summer, battled Sting last weekend on AEW’s Full Gear pay-per-view and now will match up opposite Steamboat.
Even for just one night, the return of Steamboat is significant. It has even caught the attention of fellow legend Bret “The Hitman” Hart, who holds Steamboat in extremely high regard.
“Ricky is one of the greatest,” says Hart. “He’s a phenomenal wrestler. Very few ever did it as well as Ricky.”
While Steamboat and Hart did not wrestle each other often, their time together in the ring stands out. They wrestled a classic in March 1986 at the old Boston Garden. Steamboat advocated behind the scenes for a bout against Hart at the following month’s WrestleMania II, but his opponent was ultimately Hercules.
“I have always had nothing but respect for him,” says Hart, who, at 65, is four years younger than Steamboat. “Inside the ring and outside the ring, he was always a class act and a gentleman. He was a straight shooter, never a guy with an ego or a troublemaker. I’m a big fan of his. He’s just such a great guy. I’m glad that he’s going to have another moment. I think it’s great for anybody that was a big fan of his.”
It is a safe bet that Steamboat will play the greatest hits on Sunday, which isn’t necessarily a negative. Hart thinks the match has the potential to pull at some heartstrings with its nostalgia.
“I’ll be happy if Ricky’s happy,” says Hart. “I don’t know if it will be the greatest match he’s ever had, but it takes a lot of guts and a lot of courage to go in there and do what Ricky’s going to do. I applaud him and wish him good luck. I’ll be rooting for him.”
Tweet of the Week
Hard to disagree with that.
More Wrestling Coverage:
- MJF Earns First AEW Title in Win Over Jon Moxley at ‘Full Gear’
- MJF’s Title Win Reignites an Old Wrestling Debate
- Chris Jericho Shares Pitch for Pro Wrestling As an Olympic Sport
- How a Training Session Laid the Foundation for The Shield
- Bret Hart Reflects on the 25th Anniversary of the ‘Montreal Screwjob’
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.