Interviews

Interview With . . . Bianca Belair

Bianca Belair

Bianca Belair has taken WWE by storm in 2020. From being one of the stars of NXT and earning a last-minute appearance in the Royal Rumble, to cutting her teeth on RAW before switching to SmackDown and having a standout performance at Survivor Series, the EST of WWE has definite proven herself as one of the breakout stars this year.

In an exclusive interview with Kenny McIntosh of Inside The Ropes and SPORF, Belair opened up about her monumental year, and just what we can expect going forward.

You have just been causing a storm in 2020. It’s been such a crazy year for you, right? Because if we go back to the beginning, you’re basically all over the NXT Women’s title picture, you’ve got the match with Rhea Ripley in Portland, and then COVID happens, and you debut at WrestleMania on the RAW brand with The Street Profits. That’s a lot to happen at the beginning of the year. Can you talk us through how that all kind of came about?

Yeah, so when I was in NXT, I had my title match at TakeOver in Portland with Rhea, and that’s when I found out that was going to be my last TakeOver in NXT, I found out that I was going to actually be debuting the RAW after WrestleMania – which I was very, very excited about, because, you know, if you want to debut, you want to debut on the RAW after WrestleMania. It’s the biggest RAW of all time. So I was super, super-excited about that. And then it kind of switched to, “Well, you might be debuting at WrestleMania.” So I was really on a high like “OK, this is all coming together and I’m going to finally get my moment.”

And then the strange year happened and I found out, “OK, you’re still going to debut at WrestleMania…but inside the Performance Center and it’ll be alongside The Street Profits.” So much has happened. It’s been a very strange year, but I’ve had a very good year when you think about this whole entire year. It started with Royal Rumble to all the different Takeovers, to TakeOver Portland, debuted at WrestleMania alongside my husband – and being able to share that moment with him, to being drafted to RAW, to being drafted to SmackDown, to being a part of a Survivor Series team with Team SmackDown… I’ve had had a very great year.

Even though it’s been kind of crazy and it’s just everything has just been thrown at last minute, you just kind of have to learn how to adapt to everything. And that’s how you have to be here. You have to always stay ready because stuff is always going to be thrown at you. I feel like I’ve always just been on my toes ever since all this strange stuff has happened with COVID and it’s just… It’s been a crazy ride, but I always try to focus on the things that I can control. And right now, I’m on SmackDown and it’s the land of opportunities. I think that everything’s been going on a roll ever since I’ve been on Smackdown.

So it’s interesting that you say, you know, you found out at TakeOver Portland that you’re going to be debuting at WrestleMania. And I know Drew McIntyre said in interviews that he was thinking he was going to a stadium to face Brock Lesnar and then his WrestleMania… You and him had similar scenarios of this big moment and then it drastically changes. How do you, as a performer, deal with that process and then adapt to these completely new surroundings?

Yeah, I was super excited, especially because my family was even going to come down and be able to see me debut at WrestleMania and then to go from that to debuting at the Performance Center with no fans, it’s very mentally challenging, it’s very mentally hard to wrap your mind around, especially because it’s such a huge event.

It’s something that… It’s hard to even put it into words. Of course, you’re like, “OK, I would have loved and preferred to debut in front of thousands of people.” But I will say as a performer, you really just learn to roll with the punches. You learn to not really focus on… Well, for me, I learned to not focus on the negative so much and really focus on what what you can control. Otherwise, I’ll drive myself crazy. So it was very hard to wrap my mind around, but it was something that you just have to roll with the punches and go out there and do. And what’s crazy is that when WrestleMania aired, I was really, really excited. I knew I was going to be excited, but it was just the intro that they had and I was really excited to really sit down beside my husband and watch us in that moment – and we were able to share that moment.

But I will also say, with it being in the Performance Center, coming from NXT – so, like, I had transitioned very shortly after, we had done so many matches in the Performance Center with barely anybody. So, I really just kind of treated it as if I was still doing a match inside the Performance Center or training inside the Performance Center and just tried to wrap my head around that of not hearing fans and really just focus in on what you’re doing in the ring and not so much the outside noise.

Yeah, for sure. Then, like you said, you were on RAW and you got drafted to SmackDown. For people who weren’t watching you on NXT, first of all, why not? But secondly, being the EST of WWE, you have a very clearly defined character that just speaks to people and it’s very easy to get behind you.

How did you come up with that character and be able to refine it to the point where it’s just so fun to watch?

Well, when I was in NXT, and I was new, I remember Mark Henry coming down to NXT, to the Performance Center and asking me, “Who do you want to be? What do you want people to see and think of when they see you? And you want it to be so easy that people already know who you are, what you’re about without you even having to open your mouth.” And so I was sitting there trying to figure out who I want to be, “I know I’m strong, I know I’m fast, I know I’m tough and I’m all these things, I feel like I’m a hybrid.” But it was just all over the place and I couldn’t break it down to simplify it so that people could very easily understand it.

I remember being like, “OK, I have to pick one thing and focus on one thing so it’s very simple.” And so I remember I was talking one day, and I was like, “Yeah. you know, I’m just the strongest and I’m the fastest, and I’m the roughest, I’m the toughest, I’m the quickest, I’m the greatest, I’m the prettiest, I’m the best. I’m just… I’m the est. I’m the est. The E-S-T. And I’m in NXT. EST rhymes with NXT. Simple.”

And that’s really how all the thoughts in my head and how it all just came together to be the EST of NXT at the time. And I was like, “I could put EST on my clothing,” and, you know, I go in there and it’s very just very simple. I wear the long signature braid so that people see me, even if they see me for the very first time and they might not catch my name the very first time. They always go, “The girl with the braid,” you know, so I always stand out. And that’s really just how my character all just came together to being the EST.

And, you know, you had such a good showing at Survivor Series for Team SmackDown. So I need to ask you, in your sort of ideal scenario, what is Bianca Belair doing next year’s WrestleMania? What is the match that you want to have that show? Because, you know, everybody starts talking about WrestleMania around this time – just after Survivor Series.

I would love, at WrestleMania, to be facing Sasha Banks.

Or I would love to also get my revenge and face Charlotte. One of those two.

I’m guessing maybe win the Royal Rumble to get there, that could be a way to do it.

Last year, the Royal Rumble kind of came out of nowhere. I found out the night before that I was going to be a part of it, and I went and had this great moment there. So I’m very excited about this year because I’m fully expecting to be in the Royal Rumble, and I can prepare for it and so I’m just super excited about this being an even bigger Royal Rumble. And now I can be prepared to actually win it and that be my path to WrestleMania.

We’ve got a couple of questions we want to ask for Christmas. One thing we wanted to ask you was, what do you think is the best WWE theme song ever?

Ever? For a wrestler? I would say… I have to just stick with the theme right now, because it just gives you chills when you hear it, I have to say The Undertaker. Just because when you hear it, you just know exactly – and for me, because I didn’t watch wrestling growing up but, when I think about my childhood, if I heard The Undertaker’s theme, I knew exactly what it was.

Regardless if you watch wrestling or not, you know exactly who that theme belongs to, for sure.

Just the last thing. What is the best Christmas present you’ve ever received?

The best Christmas person I have ever received would be, when I was about 10 years old, I got a Yorkie. But I will say now, looking back, being a grown-up, you don’t realise it – the best Christmas present that you ever get, especially as a kid, is batteries, because you get all these toys and most of them don’t come with batteries. Unless you get batteries, you can’t play with any of your toys.

I never understood my grandmother used to send a big, huge pack of batteries. And as a kid, I used to open them up and be like, “Uh, OK,” but now, thinking back, I would I would have never been able to play with my toys if I didn’t have batteries.

Thanks to Bianca Belair for taking the time! You can follow Bianca Belair here, or watch the EST of WWE every Friday on SmackDown at 1am via BT Sports 1 HD.