Talented stars, killer physiques.Read article
Bianca Belair may well be the most competitive WWE superstar on the entire roster. Her record-breaking appearance at the Royal Rumble has thrust her firmly into the spotlight, and this Knoxville native is more than ready for it.
When talking with Belair (born Bianca Blair), you can’t help but find her energy contagious. Belair’s athleticism in WWE at 30 years of age is no doubt owed to a lifetime of pushing the boundaries of her mental and physical limitations.
“I’ve been playing sports and running track since I was four. I was doing gymnastics by the time I was five. I’ve played basketball, soccer, cheerleading and CrossFit,” says Belair.
At the University of Tennessee, Belair picked up All-Sec and All-American honors in track-and-field before entering CrossFit and powerlifting competitions. While she was forced to retire from competing in CrossFit due to suffering with intercostal chondritis (shifting rib syndrome), the WWE would prove to be the perfect outlet for Belair to stay athletic and entertain all at the same time.
Although Belair was not massively familiar with the current era of WWE at the time, she made a spur of the moment decision to apply as a trainee at the group’s Performance Center in Orlando. It was a move that would prove to a life-changing decision when WWE legend and world’s strongest man Mark Henry saw the application and recognized Belair from her days on the CrossFit circuit.
“Mark has been great,” says Belair.
“He said, ‘I might be able to get you a tryout, but it’s all on you. It is you that will have to put the work in.’”
The hard work paid off and Belair had a series of successful tryouts leading to her first WWE contract in 2016. Ever since, Belair has been mastering the craft of pro wrestling at a blazing pace, tweaking her in-ring presentation and developing a memorable character. Belair’s hair, for example, has now become a firm aspect of her persona and is often used to whip opponents into shape.
“I suggested [the hair] to Sara Amato (a Head Coach at the PC), she said let’s try it, and it worked so well. The sound, everything. I guess I am stuck with it now, but I love it,” laughs Belair.
Belair married fellow WWE superstar Montez Ford (of the Street Profits) in 2018, and credits him with influencing the way she thinks about delivering exciting performances to pro wrestling fans. But when it comes to physical strength, Belair is in a league of her own.
The 5-foot-5-inch powerhouse frequently presses her opponents overhead, before dumping them unceremoniously back on to the canvas with a thud.
“I first tried the overhead press in wrestling because of my background in CrossFit,” says Belair.
“It was an idea in my head like, I really want to press a girl! So, I worked on it for about six months, the technique of actually picking a girl up from the floor and then pressing her over my head.”
So how does Belair lift women that often outweigh her?
“My training is basically strength training” says Belair. “I do agility training. I do a lot of CrossFit-type of stuff and we have a great coach at the Performance Center, Sean Hayes, who does all types of powerlifting and just general strength”.
In the WWE Performance Center weight room, Belair has deadlifted 415 pounds. Not content with a traditional military press, she then added her own twist to a pro wrestling maneuver made famous by the likes of Ultimate Warrior and Goldberg.
“Once I figured it out, I turned the move into more of a jerk,” says Belair.
“Adding a jerk made it seem like more than just a press. I used to do a lot of clean and jerking. It took me a while to get the move down… pressing women over my head, but I got it down, and I’ve been doing it ever since!”
Survivor Series 2019 aside, the ‘EST’ (as in greatEST, fastEST, and strongEST) athlete in WWE had been largely seen in NXT until January when Belair made a surprise, history-making entrance at the 2020 Royal Rumble.
Drawing number two, Belair Belair eliminated eight other wrestlers to set a women’s Rumble record, and lasted a whopping 35 minutes and 20 seconds before finally being eliminated. It was a showing that has put her firmly in focus for WWE fans. So, what’s next for the ‘EST’ of WWE, and is Belair daunted by calls for her to be drafted to RAW or SmackDown?
“When you ask for an opportunity, actually I don’t ask for opportunities because I feel like whatever comes my way is what I deserve and I don’t have to ask for it, but I’ve been sitting here proving myself over and over, and I finally got that spotlight.
“A lot of people were like, ‘Who is this girl?’, ‘Where has she been hidden?’ or ‘Oh, she’s so good now’. It’s not now, I’ve always been good, it’s just now you finally know who I am and now you are seeing what I’ve been saying [all along].
For me, pressure is just a part of the game, and part of competition. I’ve been competing since I was a little girl so I am used to it, I’m always ready for whatever comes my way.”
And who would want to get in Belair’s way?
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