Creating a genuinely beloved and successful babyface champion is no easy task in the current pro wrestling climate. So far, the nascent decade of the 2020s has seen the heralded rise and ignominious flame-outs of the respective championship reigns of New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s Kota Ibushi and WWE’s Big E. Both were fan favorites whose actual reigns failed to meet expectations, through no fault of their own. However, in latter 2020 and 2021, WWE managed to capture genuine lightning in a bottle with former NXT ingenue Bianca Belair, who captured the Friday Night SmackDown women’s title in a historic bout at 2021’s WrestleMania 37. Although her fortunes seemed on the wane prior to the ‘road to WrestleMania’, Bianca Belair’s WrestleMania Saturday over Becky Lynch proved to be the culmination of one of WWE’s most surprisingly effective narratives of recent memory.
Looking Back on Bianca Belair’s WrestleMania Victory
SummerSlam 2021 and the Aftermath
Heading into 2021’s installment of SummerSlam, Belair was fresh off a string of pay-per-view victories in her SmackDown feud with Bayley. She faced the former SmackDown women’s champion at WrestleMania: Backlash in May 2021, and retained the “blue brand”’s title. Bayley and Belair closed out the ThunderDome era of WWE PPVs the following month at June’s Hell in a Cell. It was another victory for Belair. She was set to face Sasha Banks at SummerSlam, but as Banks was a no-show Carmella was tapped in as Belair’s challenger.
However, Carmella was merely a stalking horse. Becky Lynch returned after an absence of over a year from WWE, and captured the SmackDown title from Belair in mere seconds. What followed was a rapid transformation for Lynch, as her antihero persona “The Man” evolved into the grandiose heel “Big Time Becks”. Following the autumn 2021 draft, Lynch swapped titles with then Monday Night Raw women’s champion Charlotte Flair, and both she and Belair decamped to Raw’s women’s division. Belair’s attempt to capture the Raw title from Lynch was booked as a loss, igniting genuine shock and consternation.
Lynch and Belair’s Paths Diverge
As 2021 drew to a close, Lynch dug deeper into her divisive heel persona, entering into a feud with the perpetual scrappy challenger, Liv Morgan. Belair’s stock seemed to dip on the Raw roster. Her midcard feud with Doudrop was admirably executed by both superstars, but midcard all the same. As the Royal Rumble drew closer, speculation grew that Belair would be the last woman standing at 2022’s event as she had been at 2021’s; Ronda Rousey’s victory dashed these hopes. Lynch’s and Belair’s paths seems to have diverged, with Lynch as an unassailable heel champion, and Belair languishing on Raw’s midcard. Both turns of events drew criticism-Lynch’s beloved tweener persona, and Belair’s rising star, both seemed to have fallen victim to WWE’s questionable booking.
The Road to WrestleMania
However, as 2022’s ‘Road to WrestleMania’ transpired, the narrative began to take shape. Belair outlasted Nikki A.S.H., Doudrop, Liv Morgan, Rhea Ripley, and Alexa Bliss in the women’s Elimination Chamber match on February 19 to win a Raw women’s title match at WrestleMania 38.
From there, the tension between Belair and Lynch intensified into a litany of attacks and grievances.
The roles they were cast as opposite each other were now clear. Lynch’s portrayal of a cocky heel took a while to find its feet, but as usual her inherent intensity came to her aid in creating a character with megalomaniacal shades akin to Seth Rollins’s “Visionary” and Roman Reigns’s “Tribal Chief.” To take on this new persona, Lynch had a difficult task-to murder the one that came before it, the character that made her a generational star. No vestiges of “The Man”, with that character’s resilient and amoral simplicity, remained in the flashy, vicious “Big Time Becks.”
Bianca Belair’s WrestleMania Victory – In Conclusion
While Belair’s early losses to Lynch seemed to indicate that her 2020-2021 push was a thing of the past, the opposite was the case. Her narrative had remained, as it always was, one of meeting her adversary’s aggression with determination. In Lynch, Belair found an adversary who turned up the pressure and sent her on a hero’s journey to regroup and come back stronger. WWE’s audiences watched Lynch become ever more villainous, and Belair claw her way back to her former glory. In a challenging ballet of wills between champion and challenger on April 2, WrestleMania Saturday, Belair claimed the Raw women’s title. Thanks to WWE’s carefully laid narrative, of Lynch’s metamorphosis and Belair’s resilience, her second WrestleMania victory felt not just deserved but genuinely triumphant.
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