Exclusive: Bianca Belair on SmackDown, WWE Survivor Series, Sasha Banks and More

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistNovember 12, 2020

Exclusive: Bianca Belair on SmackDown, WWE Survivor Series, Sasha Banks and More

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    Bianca Belair is already off to a strong start on WWE SmackDown.
    Bianca Belair is already off to a strong start on WWE SmackDown.Credit: WWE.com

    Whether fans know it or not, WWE's next breakout star is about to be Bianca Belair, and she's rapidly on the rise on Friday Night SmackDown.

    In just under one year, Belair has competed on all three of the company's biggest brands and dominated everywhere she's been. She started 2020 with a strong showing in the women's Royal Rumble match and challenging for the NXT Women's Championship before moving to Raw and now SmackDown.

    The former Mae Young Classic competitor was arguably one of the blue brand's most promising pickups in the 2020 WWE draft. Having recently qualified for SmackDown's women's team at Survivor Series, she's ready to prove to the world why she's The EST of WWE.

    For the 31-year-old, the "un-de-feat-ed" mindset has already paid dividends. Although she has yet to hold gold of any kind, it's merely a matter of time now that she's fighting on Friday nights and has her sights set on securing the SmackDown Women's Championship before long.

    This past week, Belair took the time to talk with Bleacher Report over the phone about her upcoming opportunity at Survivor Series, her goals going forward, wanting to wrestle Sasha Banks, debuting on the main roster alongside her husband, and much more.

    Click through to catch the highlights and listen to the full interview at the end.

Belair's Experience on SmackDown so Far

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    Considering she was a second-round draft pick on Night 1 of the 2020 WWE draft, it's safe to say the sky is the limit for Belair on SmackDown.

    A vignette hyping her debut on the blue brand aired on the October 16 episode, and the very next week, she wrestled her first match as a member of the roster and decisively defeated Zelina Vega. She then went on to qualify for SmackDown's women's Survivor Series team with a Triple Threat win over Billie Kay and Natalya the week after that.

    It's no secret that the company is high on her potential—and rightfully so. She shined at Survivor Series in 2019 and this year should be no different, except for the fact that she'll be representing SmackDown instead of NXT.

    "It's been great. I am super-excited about being on Team SmackDown," Belair said. "They say that SmackDown is the land of opportunity, and I feel like that's exactly what's happening with me.

    "I debuted a few weeks ago, and I just qualified first for Team SmackDown at Survivor Series. I feel like it's showing that I belong here and that I'm not going anywhere any time soon. I'm super-excited for all the possibilities and opportunities that are going to come about on SmackDown."

    Luckily for Belair, her husband, Montez Ford, also found himself on the blue brand coming out of the draft. The two are big believers in celebrating all of their accomplishments, regardless of how small or big they may be, and that included making their SmackDown debuts.

    "For me, these were big accomplishments," she said. "In this business, everything happens so fast and sometimes you can get a little bit numb to things, but I always try to keep everything in perspective and know that my life has completely changed since I came to WWE.

    "I always try to reflect back on what I was doing before now and how different it is now and how blessed I am. I always try to remember to be thankful and to be happy and celebrate everything. I've been waiting for that spotlight to shine and I'm finally getting that spotlight."

Never Winning the NXT Women's Champion and Why She Misses the Brand

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    Since signing with WWE in 2016, Belair has already accomplished quite a bit. She's participated in the Mae Young Classic, the WrestleMania Women's Battle Royal and the Royal Rumble, in addition to winning at Survivor Series 2019 as part of the NXT women's team.

    She also embarked on an impressive undefeated streak on the black-and-gold brand that was eventually snapped by Shayna Baszler. Despite her many achievements, she failed to capture the NXT Women's Championship, including at TakeOver: Portland against Rhea Ripley in February.

    Although The EST of WWE never had the chance to compete for the Raw Women's Championship while a member of the red brand, she feels her shortcomings have given her even more things to continue to strive for. Thus, a return to NXT so she can claim its women's title is not out of the question.

    "I always try to make the most of any opportunity that's handed to me, but the thing I love about my journey, even from NXT, is that I've been on all three brands in a very short amount of time," she said.

    "The thing about my journey from NXT that I love is that with every brand I've been on, I've always left still having something to do. If it came down to it and I had to go back to NXT, I still never got the NXT Women's Championship. I'll always have something to do if I go back to NXT.

    "If I ever go back to Raw, I'll always have more to accomplish. I always want to have something more that I can do because that's what keeps me driven and motivated. I barely got my foot in the door at Raw, but that just means I always have something I can go back to and more things I can accomplish."

    On the subject of NXT, Belair loved her time there and the bonds she formed with the women in the locker room. She also noted how she came into the company with zero wrestling experience and was essentially built from the ground up thanks to the coaches at the Performance Center.

    It's an environment she'll miss, but that doesn't mean she hasn't been paying attention to the greatness the girls of NXT have been a part of in her absence.

    "Of course, I have so many ties to NXT and I loved that locker room. I loved all the girls. I do miss it, but I'm happy for them because they're still doing it right now," Belair said. "They're having all these great matches. I'm not surprised because they always put on those types of matches.

    "I do miss it, but I am excited to be on SmackDown now and accomplish new things and now join this locker room and get in the ring with these women on SmackDown. I want to have great matches with them and create magic with them and have these moments with them because that's what my journey in WWE is about."

Finding out About Her WrestleMania Debut

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    Anyone who had been following Belair and her trajectory coming into 2020 knew she was long overdue for a move to the main roster. Following her failure to win the NXT Women's Championship from Rhea Ripley, it became clear she was bound for SmackDown or Raw coming out of WrestleMania 36.

    Of course, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic threw everything into disarray and then it became a question of whether she would still debut even without a crowd in attendance.

    Sure enough, she made her first official appearance as a member of the Raw roster at WrestleMania 36, helping The Street Profits fend off the trio of Angel Garza, Austin Theory and Zelina Vega.

    Belair admits that although her post-WrestleMania Raw debut had been in the works for a while, the decision to bump it up by one night to The Show of Shows itself wasn't made until the day of the event.

    "I knew about debuting with The Street Profits at WrestleMania that morning," she said. "I knew about the possibility of debuting at Raw after WrestleMania. I knew they were going to give me this big, huge debut and there's no better time to debut than WrestleMania or the Raw after WrestleMania. That was the plan, and then things got a little crazy with what's been going on. It kind of went up in the air, and I didn't really know what was going to happen."

    A quick phone call the morning of 'Mania changed everything, and what made the moment even more special was that it was with her husband Montez Ford, one-half of the then-Raw tag team champions.

    "I believe it was that morning I got a phone call saying, 'Hey, you're needed.' 'For WrestleMania?' 'Yes. You're debuting with The Street Profits.' 'Oh, OK. Cool, great,'" she said.  

    "That's the thing about this business: You always got to stay ready. That's how you get ahead. If you aren't ready, then you might miss out on the opportunity. I was ready for whatever and it came about, and I was happy about it because I got to share my very first WrestleMania with my husband."

Her Run on Raw and Bringing Back Her "Undefeated" Catchphrase

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    Belair arrived on Raw with a ton of momentum coming out of WrestleMania 36 and was the breath of fresh air the brand's women's division desperately needed at that point.

    Outside of a few dominant victories in April, though, she quietly disappeared from the show until the summer when she resurfaced for a rivalry with Zelina Vega.

    During her absence from the red brand, Belair was relegated to Main Event most weeks, where she racked up wins over Ruby Riott and The IIconics. She emerged from every outing looking impressive, but it was frustrating for fans to not see her featured more prominently on Monday nights.

    However, Belair knew her time would come eventually, and she is happy to focus on what she can control and do whatever's asked of her to the best of her ability.

    "I'm the type of person where I have no problem clapping for the people when it's their turn and not my turn," she said. "I have to be happy for the people when it's finally their turn and be happy for them because one day it's going to be my turn, and I'd love for them to be happy for me.

    "It's a thing of being patient and not being complacent and knowing what will be for you will be for you, and all you can do is do what you're supposed to do. That's what I've been doing since Day 1."

    It is worth noting that since debuting on Raw earlier this year, Belair has yet to be pinned or submitted in one-on-one competition. In other words, she's slowly embarking on another undefeated streak similar to her run in NXT, meaning the return of her signature "un-de-feat-ed" catchphrase is inevitable.

    "I'm just waiting to get on a roll and win a few more matches and then that whole 'un-de-feat-ed' is definitely coming back," she said. "I was sad to lose my undefeated streak in NXT and it's starting over right now on SmackDown, and I'm just waiting for the right opportunity to bring it back. I'm definitely looking forward to bringing back the 'un-de-feat-ed.'"

How Vignettes Have Helped Belair Develop Her Character on Raw and SmackDown

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    It's rare for newcomers from NXT to receive vignettes leading up to their main roster debut, and while it didn't happen for Belair right off the bat, they have done wonders for her in recent weeks on Raw and SmackDown.

    The video packages highlighting her quickness, strength and smarts aired on Raw for a few weeks before her move to SmackDown. A minute-long vignette then aired on the blue brand telling fans everything they needed to know about her.

    Belair established an identity for herself while in NXT, but Raw and SmackDown have a significantly different fanbase. All of the video packages she's had up to this point have helped viewers gotten to know her better and increased her chances of getting over with the audience.

    "The way that I looked at it was, yes, a lot of people who watched me in NXT know about my athleticism and know I'm the strongest, I'm the fastest, I'm the smartest, and I'm the toughest," she said. "They know that, but there might be some people who don't know exactly who I am or who haven't seen me as much as the NXT fanbase.

    "I looked at it as I'm starting all the way over, and I need to reintroduce myself. I didn't want to walk into a situation thinking, 'OK, everybody already knows who I am.' I need to reintroduce myself and show everyone exactly who I am."

    The EST of WWE initially struggled to find her footing on Raw due to not being given the chance to cut promos. She always stood out as special during her matches, but she subscribes to the theory that it takes more than being an above-average wrestler for fans to get invested in characters such as hers.

    "The best way for me to introduce myself to the new crowd and the biggest fanbase is through these vignettes, showing things I can't necessarily show in the ring sometimes," she said. "To me, in-ring stuff is important, but out-of-the-ring stuff is just as important and that's like your character and your personality and your charisma and getting that over with the audience.

    "The whole idea behind the vignettes was to show, yes, I can be an in-ring performer, yes, I am an athlete, but I'm also entertaining and I also have charisma. There's other things about the character you can get out through these vignettes that can be entertaining."

Future Opponents and Potentially Teaming with Naomi

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    During her time on Raw, Belair didn't face too many people aside from Zelina Vega and The IIconics. Being on SmackDown now provides her a fresh batch of opponents to work with, most notably Sasha Banks and Bayley.

    The Boss is the new SmackDown women's champion coming off her victory over Bayley at the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view. Chasing the title and giving fans that dream match are among Belair's top goals on SmackDown at the moment, but battling equally decorated Superstars such as Bayley and Natalya would be surreal to her as well.

    "I'm super-excited to face Bayley for one, because she was already trolling me on Twitter, so I definitely want to fight her," she said. "Now Sasha is the SmackDown women's champion, so I definitely want to fight her. That's a dream match for me. I think it's a dream match for everyone else from the feedback I've been seeing. The two people I definitely want to fight on SmackDown are Sasha and Bayley.

    "They've done so much for the women's division from NXT all the way through Hell in a Cell where they put on an amazing match," she continued. "I want to get in the ring with them because in order to prove you're the best, you have to get in the ring with other great competitors.

    "Sasha can call herself The Boss because she's the best of the best, so I'm trying to get in the ring with her because you can only push me to my limit and help me be the best as well."

    Belair has also expressed interest in forming a partnership with Naomi and entering the women's tag team ranks. The two aren't currently on the same show, but their combined athleticism would make them a force to be reckoned if and when the day comes that they join forces. 

    "I think it's something that's definitely going to happen before the end of both of our careers, and I think it's something that has to happen," she said. "I think it's a given. It's going to happen. She got drafted to Raw right before I got drafted to SmackDown. There was a moment when she got drafted to Raw where I thought, 'Oh, is this going to happen?' And then I got drafted to SmackDown. I just think we're at two different times in our career right now.

    "I'm just getting my foot in the door, and maybe after I get on the road and figure out who exactly Bianca Belair is, definitely I think later down the line it's something that's going to naturally happen," she added.

    "When it does happen, it's going to be fun, it's going to be great, and it would be a really, really great accomplishment as far as Naomi and I teaming and becoming the tag team champions one day in the future."

Who Has Contributed Most to Her Progress as a Performer?

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    By her own admission, Belair is a product of the Performance Center. She didn't cut her teeth on the independent scene before joining WWE in 2016 and instead learned everything she now knows while with the company.

    Everyone there played a part in making her the star she is today, but the one coach she feels contributed the most to her progress as a performer is Sara Amato.

    The former Sara Del Rey has had a huge influence on the women of WWE since being brought in as a trainer in 2012, and Belair is one of the many success stories she had a role in creating.

    Montez Ford, her husband and real-life tag team partner, is another individual she credits for helping her out tremendously throughout her journey. 

    "Sara Amato was my coach in NXT and taught me everything I know. She taught me how to do a headlock, she told me how to do a wrist-lock. She taught me everything," Belair said.

    "Also, my husband's been such a huge part of my career. He watched wrestling growing up. When I came home, when I left the PC, it didn't stop there. We're a couple that wrestling is such a huge part of our lives and it's impossible to turn it off when we get home and say, 'OK, we're not going to talk about wrestling.' That's not who we are.

    "When we get home, we research it, we watch wrestling," she added. "He was the first person to tell me to watch this person and that person. He was the person who really helped me come up with the idea for the braid and wearing the braid in the ring. We always lean on each other for advice, and he's always there when I need to vent or want to celebrate something. He's just been a huge part of my journey in WWE."

    Belair noted she would team with her husband in a heartbeat if Mixed Match Challenge ever returned for a third season. Until then, expect big things from her on the blue brand as a singles star, specifically in the SmackDown Women's Championship picture in the remainder of 2020 and beyond.

            

    Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.