Bianca Belair Talks WWE Success & Paying ‘Tribute to the Troops’
Bianca Belair has much to be thankful for in 2021. The self-proclaimed “EST of WWE” won the Royal Rumble, and then followed that up by becoming SmackDown women’s champion, defeating Sasha Banks in a landmark, ESPY Award-winning WrestleMania main event. Belair’s successes ranked her No. 1 on Pro Wrestling Illustrated “Women’s 150” for the year.
Accolades are appreciated, but it’s the impact the highly athletic superstar is making that means most of all. And shows like Tribute to the Troops really drive that home for her. The special honoring brave men and women of the military and their families first became a holiday tradition in 2003. Ahead of the 19th installment, we caught up with the high-flying Belair.
What does it mean to you to be performing on Tribute to the Troops?
Bianca Belair: This is my second year — the first year being part of it in front of fans. I’m grateful to be part of a company that has a real commitment to the military. Also, my husband, Montez Ford, one-half of the Street Profits, is a veteran; he’s a Marine. To be part of Tribute to the Troops and feeling like I’m doing it as an ode to him was an amazing feeling. To be out there against Liv Morgan — it’s going to be an outstanding, competitive match.
You’ve had a string of stellar matches recently. How do you feel you’ve acclimated to Raw?
We just had an incredible five-way for the opportunity to face Becky Lynch, who is the Raw women’s champion. I would’ve loved to have won, but I’m super excited for Liv Morgan. She has put in the time and work and is really someone you want to cheer for. It’s her time right now. There are so many talented women in our locker room. I’m heading into a feud with Doudrop, which will feel fresh. I want to be known as a great performer, a great competitor, and know when you turn on the TV screen and see Bianca Belair that you know it’s going to be good.
You’ve been on this whirlwind where you’ve been tested on various fronts. What would you say you’ve learned about yourself through all the craziness?
That I can trust myself. In WWE things come at you very quickly, so you have to capitalize on those opportunities. I’ve learned to really be comfortable being uncomfortable sometimes. That whatever opportunity I’m in I’m going to push through and show up and show out. Having confidence in myself. Being able to ignore the negativity and not let things get to me. Trust everything is going to be great. And know that I’m good at what I do and that’s going to shine through.
During Halloween, little girls dressed up like you. #BlackWrestlingDraws has become a popular hashtag. Many big steps have been taken forward toward true diversity.
It’s an amazing time for WWE right now for women and people of color. I started with WWE in 2016. My husband and I would have conversations about representing. My main goal of how I wanted to be represented was to be unapologetically me and let people who look like me know that there are people in WWE that look like them. For Halloween, it wasn’t just little girls. It was also grown women. I even see little boys look up to me and are inspired by me. That is what this is all about. It’s an amazing moment for representation. I’ll always go back to when I was a little girl. I think about how my role models have impacted me and showed me the possibilities in life for me. I want to do the same for others.
I’ve spoken to wrestlers and fans who teared up watching your WrestleMania match with Sasha Banks. Have you watched it back yet?
I haven’t watched it a lot since because it is draining to watch it back emotionally. I had to prepare myself. That is one I can’t just sit and watch because it brings emotions out of me. Even when I’m on social media and see clips I get goosebumps. It was a special moment. Everything I’ve wanted to do since the day I stepped foot into WWE was all unfolding at WrestleMania. I was super blessed to be that woman who was standing in the ring across from Sasha Banks. It could have been any of us. That moment will go down in history. The thing that is most inspiring to me is to think there are going to be other girls in the future that are aspiring WWE superstars. It keeps continuing to thrive in history.
What’s the feeling in the locker room right now?
We’re forever in this ever-evolving space. There are a lot of new faces coming into the locker room. I for one am excited about it because the competition in me loves when there are new kids on the block. I was the new kid on the block a year ago. Technically, I still am. I have a soft spot for them because I know how it is. Competition makes you better. The thing I like the most is introducing new faces and putting them on the big stage. Bayley did that for me, and you see where it has taken me. I can’t wait to do that for other women.
NXT gave you the platform to really hone your skills. What are your thoughts on NXT 2.0?
I’ve always been a fan of Raquel González. I love Dakota. I love what Mandy Rose is doing. She went back there and is elevating the division along with the faction Toxic Attraction. It’s amazing to see the new faces. Hopefully, we’ll see them on Raw and SmackDown in the next couple of months or years.
WrestleMania 38 tickets are now on sale. It’s being billed as the “most stupendous two-night WrestleMania in history.” What are your thoughts on the company’s decision expand beyond one night?
I love the concept of a two-night WrestleMania. It just gives more opportunity. There are so many amazing and talented people on the WWE roster. We are stacked. One night does not do our roster justice. Having two nights gives more people the chance to be spotlighted. It makes WrestleMania even bigger than what it is, which you would think would be impossible. It makes this a real family affair to make it a weekend.
We’re also heading into Survivor Series. You’re a big part of Team Raw. How do you feel about your team?
I think I am the first person to ever have been a part of every single brand’s Survivor Series teams. I’ve actually also been on the winning team before, so I know what that is like. Our team, with Liv Morgan, Rhea Ripley, Carmella, Zelina Vega — we have an amazing team. Each brings something new to the table. We have every reason to walk out the winners that night.
‘WWE Tribute to the Troops,’ November 14, Fox (check local listings for time)