Bianca Belair’s Time is Now
By Ryan Satin
FOX Sports WWE Analyst
After winning the 2021 Women's Royal Rumble, Bianca Belair says she’s ready to continue making history at WrestleMania.
31-year-old Belair, real name Bianca Crawford, became the first African-American woman to win the Royal Rumble over the weekend, and only the second African-American Superstar besides The Rock to win the annual match altogether.
Anyone who has been watching her work, though, has known it was only a matter of time before she made it to the top of WWE.
Much like The Rock, "The EST of WWE" seemed liked a special, one-of-a-kind talent from the moment we were introduced to her on WWE TV in the Mae Young Classic in 2017.
Now, only a few years later, Bianca is on her way to WrestleMania with a title opportunity in hand and it seems more obvious than ever that she’s destined to become one of WWE’s top stars.
Before that happens, however, the WWE Superstar joined me this week via Zoom to reflect on her big Rumble moment and talk about how she’s feeling after a career-changing week.
Belair also reveals some of what Triple H told her after the match, the deeper meaning behind her Rumble moment with Naomi, and what she thinks about potentially wrestling Sasha Banks or Asuka at WrestleMania.
Watch the interview or scroll below for the full transcript.
RS: First and foremost, how are you feeling after winning the Royal Rumble? You’ve gotta be on cloud nine still.
BIANCA: I’m definitely on cloud nine.
I’m still trying to sort through my emotions. I’ve been crying and laughing off and on since Sunday. It’s like, crying and laughing is part of my daily, regular routine. It’s just random moments I start thinking about it and I get overcome with happiness. I’m just trying to figure out my emotions at this point, but I’m definitely happy.
RS: I think that the video WWE put out of you this week says it all, where you didn’t know they were still filming and just became so overcome with emotion in the moment. It clearly shows that you were going through a wide range of feelings after winning.
BIANCA: Yeah, I definitely did not know that they were still recording because I heard, "We’re all clear." But, I guess I should expect that there should always be cameras around.
But, yeah, I didn’t know they were still recording and I couldn’t find my words and I just didn’t know what to do. I’m like, "Am I suppose to go eat dinner right now? What do I do? I’m the Women’s Royal Rumble winner."
I just didn’t know what to do, so I just felt like screaming. I just needed to do something to get it out and they’re like, ‘Yeah go for it,’ cause they probably knew the camera was recording.
I had a little break down and they caught it on camera, of course.
But, those were the raw emotions in those moments where you really get to see how much it means to me, when it just sinks in and what it really just means. It means just so much and I’m so happy.
RS: I watched your recent WWE Chronicle and in it you talked about how important it is for you to represent for your community.
So, with that, how does it feel to be the first Black woman to win the Women’s Royal Rumble? And the second Black Superstar, besides the Rock, to win the match altogether?
BIANCA: Yeah, so, I didn’t know.
I had no idea until I came backstage and Kayla actually pulled me aside and told me. And, for one, I am definitely 110% honored.
It’s such an honor. I’m always talking about how representation is such an important thing – it’s not just a request, it’s a requirement – it needs to happen. So, to be a part of representation and to go down in the history books as the first African-American woman to win, and the second African-American to win the Royal Rumble is an honor.
But, through that, I feel like I really realized that I had no idea that I was going after that accomplishment and just by being myself, and being unapologetically who I am, and going after my goals and trying to accomplish something that meant so much to me, I created history.
I feel like, what I pulled from that was, I just want that to be motivation for other people and hopefully others can see that sometimes we feel that we have to go through history books to find history, or find Black history, when you can create it yourself just by being true to who you are and going after your own goals and accomplishing what you want to accomplish.
You are history.
You create history within yourself. You create history within your own family. You create your own legacy. Because I create history without even trying to and that’s when the best parts of history are created.
So, anybody who’s watching, I just hope you’re inspired by that. Just go create your own history. You don’t have to look for it in history books. Create it within your own family and within your own life.
RS: I love that so much. It’s so true.
On that same topic, I know you can’t tell me who you’re going to challenge at WrestleMania for the title, but what do you think a match between you and Sasha Banks would mean for the young African-American female base?
BIANCA: A match between Sasha Banks and I would be very special. I don’t know who I’m going to challenge yet, I’m emotional right now. It’s a huge decision. I think it would create magic either way.
But, I’m so emotional right now, I want to wait until I get my emotions in check and weigh my options.
I see the tweets online about Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks at WrestleMania, and it would be a great match.
It’s more than just the match. Just us standing in the ring together. You have these two alpha females who represent women empowerment. It’s just a message that can really be, just us standing in the ring without us even doing anything or saying anything.
It could really just push a message that anyone could relate to and can be inspired by.
But, with that being said, a match against Asuka or Io, I don’t know. I have no idea yet. I’m too emotional. I need to get my emotions in check before – not just before WrestleMania, being on the’ Grandest Stage of Them All’ – but, before Smackdown.
Smackdown is Friday and I don’t know what’s going to happen. So, I need to get my emotions in check first before I make any decisions.
RS: Since you mentioned Asuka … I was looking this up before we spoke, and thought it was crazy that the two of you haven’t had a singles match since, like, early in your career in 2017 in NXT.
BIANCA: I remember it was a live event in NXT where it was a battle royal and the winner got to face the NXT Women’s Champion for a title opportunity and it was against Asuka.
I was very, very, very new and when I won the battle royal that night, I was so excited. I went in there and I faced Asuka and I feel like I always – you know, every time I get in the ring with someone with that caliber like Asuka, they’re my measuring stick.
So, if I can hang with them, "Oh, okay. I’m getting there."
I feel like I was able to hang with her that night and I remember my husband was the first person behind the curtain that night at a live event in front of, maybe, 150 people and I was so excited and crying and like, "Okay, I think I’m good at this. I was hanging with Asuka."
So, to have that memory in my head of the last time I was in the ring with Asuka and now I thinking about how I could possibly, maybe, be in the ring with her going for the title again at WrestleMania? April 10th or 11th in Tampa Bay? That’s crazy, too.
It’s so much to think about and the possibilities are endless and I feel like magic can be created with whatever decision I make.
RS: Talking about being in the ring with someone who is like a measuring stick, did you kinda feel that same way beating Bayley recently as well?
BIANCA: Definitely. You know, Bayley goes around calling herself the Role Model, right? Which everybody’s like, "Oh, okay," you know, whatever.
But, no seriously, when I first found out that I was going to get to wrestle Bayley, I was so excited. Bayley is amazing. I was in NXT when they did the draft and they drafted up, I believe, Carmella and Nia [Jax] and at that point everybody she came in with had already gotten drafted to RAW or Smackdown and she was kinda left in NXT.
So, I’ve seen Bayley revamp herself and be able to adjust and keep her name in the conversation and now she went on to be Smackdown Women’s Champion for 380 days.
Like, to be able to get into the ring with someone like that and be able to learn from them, when she calls herself a role model, I’m like, "Yeah. I can learn so much from you."
Who else better to prove myself against, getting on Smackdown automatically getting to be in a feud with Bayley and having to prove myself against her.
I definitely feel like she was my measuring stick and getting that win over Bayley was like the biggest win of my career and using that momentum to go on to the Royal Rumble match, it just boosted my confidence.
So, I can, in a way, say like, "Thank you, Bayley, for giving me that confidence."
RS: Back to the Royal Rumble match, outside of winning the Rumble, what was your personal favorite moment that you were involved in during the actual match?
BIANCA: Outside of winning and being in the ring with Rhea and Charlotte, outside of that moment, I would say when I was in there with Naomi.
I got to be in the ring with Naomi last year for the Royal Rumble for a very short time period of time. But, this year, we got to go in there and showcase our athleticism together.
Naomi is so talented. She’s so athletic.
She’s so captivating and so to get in there … I was so grateful to get in there and share the ring with her and be able to showcase my athleticism along with her, and then the moment we had where we were both about to be eliminated, she pulled my braids to get herself back up and then we’re fighting each other.
I love that moment so much, because I feel like we were able to send a message out to the world of like, "Women, sometimes we fight each other, we’re catty. We realized we are either both going to get eliminated and fail because we’re fighting each other. Or we can use each other, uplift each other and empower each other and save ourselves."
And so, in that moment, I feel like we noticed that, we saw each other, and we used each other so we could save each other.
That was one of my favorite moments of the whole entire Royal Rumble. To just share the ring with Naomi, but also put a message and a purpose with our time in the ring together.
RS: I love that you have deeper meaning to that moment. Not only was it cool visually, but the fact that it had a deeper meaning to you is so cool to me. Who pitched that?
BIANCA: That was just something when we’re thinking about what we’re doing, we want to create magic, and for me I always want to find a why and I want to find a purpose.
Because I don’t want to be frustrated or upset or angry or bitter when I’m working or doing what I’m doing. I want to be happy. I want to enjoy it. So, I always want to find a why and a purpose with what I’m doing.
Even with my gear. There’s always a message behind it. There’s always a purpose behind it and anything I do in the ring.
I think that Naomi and I share that, even with her being the Glow, "Feel the Glow," it’s a message behind it. It just brings so much happiness and purpose with what you’re doing and we both share that.
I think that we were both able to use that because we’re so common in that area and we were both able to use that to push a message out there and showcase our athleticism at the same time.
RS: Out of everyone who congratulated you after you won, whether it was backstage or over the phone, social media – which one felt the most surreal to you?
BIANCA: I mean, I’m a little bias, but my husband.
RS: That’s fair.
BIANCA: I’m just so blessed to be able to do what I love alongside the person I love and to be able to have him as the first person that I saw when I came through the curtain and be able to hug him.
Because, in that moment, I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t find my words. I remember just looking at him like, "I don’t know." The first thing that came to my mind was, "Can we pray?" He literally prayed for me and he prayed over me in that moment. It was just amazing to be able to share that moment with him.
But, honestly, every single person backstage that was there, they supported me. They were happy for me. I guess that was what made the moment so much better.
The moment wasn’t just about me, it was about everyone and I feel like everyone felt like they were part of the moment and having that support from the backstage, it’s amazing and it makes me feel at home.
I’ve always felt welcomed and I’m always having words with Triple H, especially. He was there for me after the Mae Young Classic and he was there during all my Takeovers.
To have him there after I won the Royal Rumble match, and I finally got my picture with him. I’ve always wanted that. You know that picture that you get in NXT? I always wanted my picture and I finally got my picture with him.
RS: You never got the pointing picture when you were in NXT?
BIANCA: No. I never got it!
So, to have him there at that moment and be able to get that picture and get those words from him as well, everything was just picture perfect that night. It really, really was.
RS: Is there any specific advice he gave you, since he has been at many a WrestleMania? Like, did he give you any advice after on what to prepare yourself for the next few months?
BIANCA: I mean, I’ve always gotten a lot of different words from him and some of them I always want to keep for me and for myself.
But, the one thing that really stuck with me from that night was, he just commented on everything that I’ve been through from the very beginning and said he always believed in me, and the one thing that stuck with me was, I won the Royal Rumble and I’m about to go to WrestleMania, but I haven’t even scratched the surface yet.
That’s the one thing I’m like, "Okay. You’re right."
Because, you know, you win the Royal Rumble, and you’re going to WrestleMania and everybody in WWE wants to go to WrestleMania. That’s your dream.
But, winning the Royal Rumble, hearing him say that you haven’t even scratched the surface yet, lets me know, "Don’t get complacent. You won the Royal Rumble, but don’t get complacent."
So, lets me know, "Get your emotions in check. Don’t just be happy with the Royal Rumble win. You gotta go to WrestleMania and you still have something else to prove. And even after WrestleMania, whatever happens, you still have a long career to go from there."
RS: There are a lot of people who were sad they weren’t able to be there for your big Rumble moment.
Sorta like with Drew McIntyre and other past winners, when you watch a Royal Rumble in person and someone like you gets the win, you feel like you’re part of their journey with them.
Are you excited about a fan presence coming back for WrestleMania for your big moment there at least?
BIANCA: Oh, yeah. Like, the fans are so much a part of what we do. Our whole purpose is to put smiles on the fan’s faces and to connect with fans and make them feel something.
That’s the whole point of what we do.
The Thunderdome has really been great. We can’t see the fans faces physically, but we can see the fans faces virtually and it really gives us – we have the pyro, and the fireworks, and the music – it gives us the experience as if they’re still there and gives them that experience as if they’re still there.
But, nothing can top the fans being there physically.
So, I think we’ve all been waiting for us to all get back together so it can feel like a huge family reunion at WrestleMania. Coming out, being able to see everyone’s faces and hear the noise actually coming out of their mouths. It’s going to be amazing.
It’s going to be two magical nights, April 10th and 11th in Tampa Bay. I cannot wait.
I’m especially excited for my parents to be there because they’re my biggest fans. They’ve been at every single huge moment, and haven’t been able to be there physically. So, I’m just so excited and I can’t wait.
To think about how I debuted at WrestleMania last year, to now come back and debut at WrestleMania when we’re finally getting fans back, it’s just picture perfect.
It’s all making a lot of sense. Especially since you can’t spell WrestleMania without E-S-T. You know? It’s making too much sense to where it’s kind of scary.
RS: It’s great how that worked out for your with your nickname. When you started saying it, I was like, "Oh, yeah. That’s a good point."
BIANCA: Right? It’s making too much sense here.
RS: That video of your parents watching you win is adorable. So, I’m excited to see their reactions of you at WrestleMania.
BIANCA: Yeah, they’re amazing. I can’t wait for them to be there physically again. They’ve always been to every single match, like Takeover matches, and I’ve always felt bad because they get so excited and I never come out on top.
This time I actually won, out of all the thirty women from NXT, RAW, Smackdown, legends.and they’re not there.
But to be able to still see their reaction, that right there … like, a lot of things bring tears to my eyes, I’m an emotional person … but, that right there really gets me every single time I watch it.
RS: Bad Bunny is the latest pop culture artist to get some air time in WWE. Is there anyone in pop culture who you’d like to have a program with one day?
BIANCA: Oh, I mean, yeah. The list goes on. I mean, you know, I saw Cardi B. tweeting everybody and I was like, "Ooh, okay." Like, Cardi B. is one. Beyonce is queen. Whoo.
RS: Of course.
BIANCA: But, no. I have so many different… I have Sweet Tee, Kash Doll, Dreezy. I have all the female rappers that are out right now that are amazing. I would love to have just some type of anything with them. They’re amazing.
I feel so bad because I feel like I’m leaving people out. Nicki Minaj. I’ve been listening to Nicki Minaj since high school. Like, mix tape Nicki Minaj. Like, the mix tape, you know, 2006/2007. Huge fan of her.
Just anybody in the hip hop community, I’m a huge fan. Even just not in hip hop. I don’t know, I don’t want to leave anybody out.
RS: I mean, Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, and Beyonce are definitely three good choices right there.
RS: Alright, my last question in these interviews now is a three part question regarding each superstar’s finishing moves.
So, for you, obviously, that’s the K.O.D.
First, what’s the best K.O.D. you ever delivered?
BIANCA: I think the best K.O.D. I have ever delivered is probably on Dakota Kai. Dakota Kai took a K.O.D., I think, at Takeover: Chicago. It was on NXT TV.
I was worried for her. I was like, "Is she gonna get up? I meant to beat her, but I didn’t mean to end her career." It looked crazy. But, that’s to a single person.
The best K.O.D. I’ve ever, ever, ever given, and I don’t think anybody can argue with me on this one, was Takeover: New York when I gave it to two people – Kairi Sane and Io Shirai. I mean, I gave the K.O.D. to two people, you know?
RS: That has to be the best one for sure. It’s kind of hard to top doing it to two people.
It almost makes it so you had to top yourself with Otis, because you had already done the two person K.O.D.
BIANCA: Maybe I should’ve just K.O.D'ed Otis at the end. You know?
RS: Next time.
Second: Who takes the K.O.D. the best?
BIANCA: I would say Dakota Kai and Rhea Ripley.
Dakota Kai, man. If you watch how she moves and how she works … watching her, I could watch her all day work – the way she just moves and her body control and how she just makes everything look so amazing. Dakota Kai is amazing.
RS: Lastly, what’s one K.O.D. you wish you could take back for whatever reason? Whether it didn’t go right, whether you wish you could do it again, or anything along those lines.
BIANCA: I would say the K.O.D. I gave to Shayna Baszler at Takeover: Phoenix, because the ref didn’t see it! I did it and I had her pinned for like five seconds and the ref didn’t see it.
So, you might as well take it back, it didn’t count anyway.
RS: Well, I know you’ve got a lot to do today, so I won’t take any more of your time. But, really, congratulations, I’m so happy for you and I can’t wait to see your match at WrestleMania.
BIANCA: Thank you so much, I’m so excited.
Watch Bianca Belair on Friday Night SmackDown this week LIVE on FOX at 8pm Eastern.