The famed Raw after ‘Mania is always full of big surprises and of late, game-changing call-ups. And while the fans weren’t there to pop for her music, WWE still delivered on a huge moment when former NXT superstar Bianca Belair showed up for the second night in a row to assist the Street Profits against Zelina Vega‘s clients, Angel Garza and Austin Theory. Belair’s WrestleMania arrival was surprising in its own right, but on Monday, Bianca Belair made her Raw debut and shortly after confirmed that she was there to stay. WWE confirmed the move as well, moving Belair’s superstar profile page from the NXT section to the Raw section, where she now joins husband Montez Ford and his tag team partner Angelo Dawkins.
— Bianca Belair (@BiancaBelairWWE) April 7, 2020
Belair’s Raw debut went much the same way her WrestleMania, or if you ask her, WrESTleMania appearance went, with a lot of beating up of Zelina Vega. Following the Street Profits retaining their tag team titles at WrestleMania, Vega joined Theory in Garza in assaulting the duo. They held the numbers advantage until Bianca Belair showed up unexpectedly to protect her man. On Monday, the same thing happened as Belair once again showed up to even the odds after the Raw tag title match resulted in a no-contest. Only this time, she cut a promo and received not one, but two matches out of it. Belair and Vega initially went one-on-one but after a DQ, Ford challenged Vega’s family to a match against his. A six-man tag ensued and the Street Profits and Bianca Belair were victorious after Belair got the pinfall on Vega to win for their team.
Achieving victory on her first night on Raw was a great moment for the 30-year-old superstar, but nothing she is unaccustomed to as Belair’s career has been one of success.
A former track and field hurdles star in both high school and college, Bianca Belair was destined for CrossFit fame before an injury led to a premature end to her budding career. Not sure what to do next, Belair came across the WWE prospects database. She was about to put her name in, but before she found WWE and her destiny, they found her. Having seen her perform at a CrossFit event in 2015, Mark Henry approached Bianca Belair about considering a wrestling career and when she said she was interested, he helped her get a tryout at a WWE event at the 2015 Arnold Sports Festival. Belair wouldn’t be the first wrestler Henry has vouched for, but she’s certainly been one of his standouts. As he noted in an interview with The Undefeated about Belair’s rise in the industry, “she just had something extra and brought so much attention…in a room full of people from different sports, ethnicities, social backgrounds, you name it, she shined over everybody.”
She received her second tryout match shortly after and following just those two matches, Bianca Belair had impressed enough that she was offered a WWE contract, which she signed almost four years ago to the day. Putting that into perspective, Belair made her Raw debut just four years after she wrestled her first match. Much like Charlotte Flair before her, Belair entered the Performance Center with a sports background but no wrestling training. She never went to a school to learn how to take bumps and she never wrestled a single match on the independent scene. In just four years, Bianca Belair went from no wrestling experience to becoming a Raw superstar, who was considered by many to be everything she claimed to be, the bEST in NXT.
It took just five months for Bianca Belair to go from tryout to her first-ever match, but prior to that, she had the opportunity to cut a promo in the ring and much like her ring work, she was a natural. “Regardless of Bianca Blair (real name) or Bianca Belair, it’s the same person, essentially: talented, hardworking, athletic, a powerhouse and the best at everything that I do,” Belair said in an interview featured on The Undefeated. That, in an essence, was who Belair’s character would become in NXT. Showcasing a natural self-confidence and swagger, in her first live in-ring promo, Belair declared herself the “EST of NXT…prettiest, baddest, strongest.”
The mantra struck as Bianca Belair embodied it every time she stepped into the ring or held a mic in her hand. She possessed the natural athleticism and charisma that just made her a fit with her new profession. She was able to adapt impeccably well to ring work and character work, showcasing big moves and her big personality every chance she got. Belair rapidly rose through NXT’s ranks, making her NXT televised debut on May 3rd, 2017, just over a year after she first arrived at the Performance Center for training.
It takes a lot to make a successful wrestler but from those who knew her best in the Performance Center, Bianca Belair had all of the attributes. She had “it,” that inherent, indescribable, and sometimes unexplainable quality that just makes one a star. And not just among her female competitors either as at the Performance Center Combine held to showcase NXT talents, Belair outshined everyone in the athletic competition, including with a 400-pound deadlift which she executed three times. The EST of NXT had gotten another nickname as a result, “the genetic beast” of the Performance Center. It was clear that WWE was putting the machine behind Belair, a decision that proved fruitful come the Mae Young Classic.
By the time Bianca Belair had her qualifying match for a spot in the event, she had wrestled a grand total of 30 matches in her short wrestling career and had won just a handful of them. Her singles record was 2-8, with her biggest win to that point coming in a battle royal which granted her a title match against NXT Women’s Champion Asuka. Belair lost, but the match marked just the beginning of her launching pad as the rocket was about to take off. Belair defeated Aliyah to qualify for the MYC and won her first match against Sage Beckett. This booked Belair a second-round match against Kairi Sane, who would eventually go on to win the tournament. Sane was thought of very highly by WWE but so was Belair. And as a result of that match, a new star was born. Just like that, Bianca Belair knew wrestling wasn’t just something she could do, it was something she loved and was incredibly good at. It was her destiny and she became a sponge, absorbing everything about the business she possibly could.
“I tried to take everything in. But, learning about the history of the business, what really stuck with me was the storytelling,” Bianca Belair said in an interview with Newsweek. “Watching the matches from the past, there’s always a backstory. And I found myself getting emotionally connected to these characters that I didn’t really know at the time. Getting emotionally involved and having that feeling of not knowing who was going to win the match and that was what really stuck to me.”
By the start of 2018, Bianca Belair began appearing regularly on NXT TV, where she began an undefeated streak starting on January 4th and lasting 367 days. It started with her getting the squash treatment, a sign that WWE was building her up to some big matches. Those came by April, shortly after Belair debuted at WrestleMania 34 in the first-ever women’s battle royal. Following this appearance, Belair picked up wins over other highly touted prospects, Candice LeRae, Dakota Kai, Deonna Purrazzo, Nikki Cross and Mia Yim. On November 28th, she won her second #1 contendership match by defeating Yim, Lacey Evans and Io Shirai. But this one felt different than the first.
Nearly a year removed from facing Asuka at a live event, Belair’s story was built as one of a legitimate threat to Shayna Baszler‘s own streak of sheer dominance. The irresistible force met the unmovable object at TakeOver: Phoenix when Baszler defeated Belair by way of referee’s decision after interference from both Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir. It was a brilliant call. Not only did Belair have the match won before a ref bump, but she also looked strong and resilient in fighting off the 3-on-1 odds. Most importantly though, she never tapped. Of all of Baszler’s victims, Belair looked the best in defeat, never giving up until her body did for her.
Bianca Belair began working Baszler in title matches on the live event circuit, continuing to impress and dazzle her way into the NXT Universe’s collective heart and into a top spot in company brass’ eyes. Within a short period of time, Belair received title opportunities for both the NXT and NXT UK women’s belts and won the Worlds Collide: Brands Collide battle royal. Shortly after, she entered into a feud with Yim, which saw Belair drop her first match on NXT TV. While she picked up losses here and there, Belair continued to mainly win on NXT.
At Survivor Series, Bianca Belair made her in-ring debut on a WWE PPV as Team NXT picked up the victory in the women’s elimination match. In January on NXT TV, Belair won yet another #1 contenders battle royal, this time earning her a shot to challenge Rhea Ripley for the title at TakeOver: Portland. Belair fell short in yet another valiant effort, but in many ways, it didn’t matter as she had made her name a few weeks prior when she took part in and dominated the women’s royal rumble.
Entering at the second spot, Bianca Belair spent the longest time in the match, topping out at over 33 minutes. She also tied fellow NXT superstar, Shayna Baszler with a high of eight eliminations taking out Alexa Bliss, Nikki Cross, Molly Holly, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, Candice LeRae, Dana Brooke and Tamina. In February 2020, Belair then went on to face Charlotte Flair, her athletic counterpart and someone who noted her respect for Belair as someone on the NXT roster she’d love to face, and the two put on a great match in front of the NXT crowd. As it would turn out, that may have been Belair’s last match for the black-and-yellow brand as she is now firmly a member of the Raw roster.
Four years ago, Belair was transitioning from one career from the next. She didn’t even know if she wanted to be a wrestler, let alone if she would be good at it. But she found a passion for wrestling and discovered not only was she good, she really was the best. And now on Raw, she’ll continue to have a chance to prove it.
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