Bianca Belair made a strong showing in the 2020 Royal Rumble, lasting an impressive 35 minutes. It turns out the EST of WWE was just getting started. What followed was a banner year for the former track and field athlete, with a move to the SmackDown roster and babyface momentum when she was cast as a foil to heel Bayley. 2021 seems to be going Bianca’s way, as well. Her recent episode of WWE Chronicle is receiving acclaim for the Superstar’s candid revelation of her past struggles with an eating disorder and mental health, and she is poised as a favorite to win the 2021 Royal Rumble on January 31. Belair is close enough to WrestlemMania 37 to taste it, and on the January 29 broadcast of SmackDown she picked up a win over Bayley to cap off her recent successes.
The preceding week, she accepted Bayley’s challenge to compete in the Ultimate Athlete Obstacle Course, and executed it flawlessly. The Role Model flew into a jealous rage, and savagely rammed Bianca’s shoulder into a steel basketball fixture. The damage to her shoulder couldn’t keep Bianca down, however, and she was in rare form when the two met again on the 29th. Perhaps as a little payback for the violent ending of the obstacle course, early in the match, Bianca drove Bayley aggressively into the post. Bayley kicked free, and began punishing Bianca’s arm in a targeted lock. The wily and athletic Bianca was able to power out of it, and in an impressive display of strength lifted Bayley. Bayley, never easy to overwhelm, hit Bianca with a barrage of punches as she liberated herself from her grasp, and then kicked Bianca hard. She caught Bianca with a sliding clothesline, and covered the EST, who kicked out before Bayley could win by pinfall.
Although Bianca issued a belly to belly throw, Bayley was not phased and got a cover on Bianca. Bianca kicked out, and the two athletes were back on their feet. Bayley pulled Bianca’s signature ponytail, which brought out the beast in the EST. She found a new well of aggression and came back hard and relentlessly at Bayley. She issued a dropkick and moonsault, and covered Bayley. Bayley not only kicked out, but fled the ring. Bianca urged her opponent to come back to the canvas.
The two traded hard hitting maneuvers, ending up in the corner by the post. Bayley sat upon the ropes, and brough her and Bianca down as she executed a fly with Bianca’s arm in a punishing lock. She got a cover, but again Bianca escaped and stayed alive in the match. She rolled through with Bayley shoulders down, but Bayley’s bid for freedom was a knee strike to Bianca’s jaw. She followed this up by again targeting Bianca’s arm, and then issuing a flying shoulder strike between her shoulder blades. Bayley has a deep arsenal, and typically pulls out some lethal moves if a match isn’t going her way. However, Bianca’s endurance is more than a match for Bayley, and the two traded shoulders down covers on each other, both nearly getting the better of the other.
Bayley held Bianca in a tabletop cover, but Bianca bridged out powerfully and issued her new finisher, the Kiss of Death. She covered Bayley, and the match was hers.
It was an exhilarating victory for Belair, who is heading into the Royal Rumble with the confidence boost of having gotten the better of the Role Model, who has dominated all three WWE brands and earned the top accolades of the women’s division. Bianca’s athleticism, creativity, endurance, confidence, and sheer strength make her a favorite to take the day on the 31, at the Royal Rumble. If she does, the path trod before her by greats like Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch lies before her, that to the Grandest Stage of Them All, WrestleMania.
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