KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)- Bianca Crawford, better known as Bianca Belair, is the “EST of WWE.” The rising WWE superstar’s brand reflects her performance in the ring as the toughest, the fiercest and on Sunday, January 31st she was the best.
Belair made her second Royal Rumble appearance entering at number 3 and outlasted 29 other women, to win a record-setting 56-minute match to punch her ticket to WrestleMania 37.
“I am still on cloud nine,” said Belair. “I’m giddy all the time. I was crying every five seconds, now I’m laughing every five seconds. Winning the Women’s Royal Rumble match is a huge accomplishment.”
Her victory not only marked her biggest to date, but she also made WWE history: becoming the first African American woman to win the Royal Rumble.
Belair did not know history was on the line heading into the match. The only thing on her mind going in was to win and achieve her goals. She did just that and more.
“What I pulled from that was that anybody can create history for themselves. You don’t have to go to the history books to find history. Just by staying true to yourself, going after your goals, and accomplishing something in your life; you’re creating history for yourself and you can create and start your own legacy. I hope people see what I’ve done and just use it as motivation for themselves.”WWE Superstar Bianca Belair
Belair set on being the best in April
Belair’s next challenge: deciding who she will face on the grandest stage of them all.
She will get to choice of challenging the champions from SmackDown, RAW and NXT on April 10-11 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, where the Super Bowl was recently played.
Reigning SmackDown champion Sasha Banks is the internet favorite, but Belair has yet to make a decision and says she is getting her emotions in check before making the big decision.
“I don’t want to make an emotional decision. It’s such a huge decision but whatever decision I make it’s going to be a magical two nights and I’m just excited to be in the ring with whoever,” said Belair.
If she chooses Banks to battle with, she says the matchup could represent more than just a great performance.
“It can represent a lot, just with two alpha African American females standing in the ring. It could be a really great moment but we have to see if it’s going to happen.”
WWE has utilized Zoom this season to give fans and the athletes some normalcy. Belair says it has been challenging performing without fans physically present as they are such a vital part to the sport, however virtual fans are better than none.
“When we come out we see the virtual fans’ faces. It gives us an experience as if there are still fans there. It gives the fans an experience as if they’re still there so, WWE has done great with continuing to safely put on a show so we can entertain the world still,” said Belair.
However, fans will be in attendance at WrestleMania 37 including two of her biggest fans; her parents. Her parents have been there to cheer her on for every single big moment, aside from the Royal Rumble due to COVID-19 restrictions, and will now be there for the biggest moment in her career.
“I’m so excited. I can’t wait….It’s going to be magical,” said Belair. “They’re [the fans] going to bring so much energy and life to WrestleMania. It’s going to be my favorite WrestleMania that I’ve attended.”
From hurdles to KOD’s
Belair has run track since she was 5-years-old and has become a part of who she is and helped springboard her professional wrestling career.
“All those years running track have really helped me out being a WWE Wrestler,” said Belair.
Belair credits her standout track career with developing traits that have helped lead to success in her professional wrestling career like being coachable, learning and adapting quickly, working through pain, and says running hurdles helps with her body control and flexibility: all folding into wrestling.
The East Knoxville native was an All-SEC track star for the University of Tennessee. Once her collegiate career came to an end she found herself missing the competitive lifestyle.
She found CrossFit to fill her needs and started posting workout videos sporting custom costumes and showcasing her vivacious personality. That’s when WWE Hall of Famer Mark Henry discovered her and helped get her a tryout with WWE.
“I was actually thinking about entering my information into the system about a month before,” recalled Belair. “In my mind, I was either thinking this is either too good to be true or this is all falling into place for me. I went and had two tryouts and I made it after my second try out.”
Belair does her own her and makeup and creates her own flashy gear, inspired by her mother, Florence Griffith Joyner “Flo-Jo” and Missy Elliot.
“I’m so about being yourself and being who you are and showcasing that and portraying that,” said Belair.
Aside from her gear reflecting her vivacious personality, her long braid stands out when she enters the ring. Belair loves to keep her hair down and her husband, fellow WWE wrestler Montez Ford, convinced her to keep the braid for wrestling to help her stand out.
The iconic braid not only does that, but she uses it to her advantage in a match.
Belair continues to make a name for herself in the World Wrestling Entertainment industry, quickly climbing the ranks to become a standout competitor on the main roster.
As she looks forward to April, she reflects on her journey.
“I would describe my career as wild. In a good way, it’s been wild. Life-changing. Life-altering,” said Belair. “I’ve just evolved so much as a person.”
Belair met her husband wrestling, traveled outside of the country for the first time, has made friends from “around the world” and has evolved as a person during her young WWE career.
She not only gets to represent Knoxville on the big stage but also her parents, who she says have sacrificed a lot to help her get to where she is now.
“A lot of times they’ve given me what they didn’t even have themselves to give. They found it from somewhere and gave it to me and sometimes they were without. And because of that, I’m able to where I’m at right now,” said Belair. “It’s a great feeling that now I can be at this point where I’m at now and share that with them.”
Belair says the support from home has meant the world to her and hopes to bring a title back to Knoxville, Tennessee.
“I’m just so happy I can be at WrestleMania and when I come out they will say Bianca Belair from Knoxville Tennessee. I’ll be able to be built from Knoxville Tennessee on the grandest stage of them all at WrestleMania. I will be from Knoxville, Tennessee and that means the world to me,” said Belair.