Bianca Belair's journey to WrestleMania 37 in her own words
By Ryan Satin
FOX Sports WWE Analyst
Preparing for one of the biggest moments of your life is something every person can relate to.
The fear of the unknown. Butterflies exploding out of your stomach. Nerves tingling through every inch of your body as you wonder how things will play out.
Now imagine the stress that gets added when millions of people are watching that big moment of yours for their personal entertainment. Family. Friends. Enemies. People you’ve never met. Children. Internet trolls. Die-hard fans. The list goes on.
No second takes. No do-overs. All live.
That kind of pressure can feel insurmountable and is almost impossible to grasp without living it – or hearing firsthand about the experience of those who have.
Bianca Belair has been learning that since January, when she outlasted 29 other Superstars in the Royal Rumble to earn a title opportunity in her first singles match at WrestleMania — against Sasha Banks for the SmackDown Women’s Championship, no less.
Fans have watched their story play out on TV over the past few weeks on Friday Night SmackDown, but what they haven’t seen or heard is everything else happening in Bianca’s life as she prepares for this momentous affair.
That is, until now.
Over the past month, "The EST of WWE" gave FOX Sports a personal, firsthand account of her final weeks leading to WrestleMania and all the pressures that go with it.
The responsibility she has on her shoulders to outperform everyone else on the roster should she and Sasha close Night One.
The injuries she has suffered while training.
The frustration of designing her own gear.
All while trying to deal with things in her everyday life, such as paying bills, getting her house in order for a possible birthday party and a pet emergency caused by a damn toad.
Instead of wondering what her intense preparation for a match on "The Grandest Stage of Them All" might be like, Belair will take you along for the ride, week-to-week, as you read the WWE Superstar's progressing thoughts, emotions and opinions in her very own words.
This is as close as you can get to being on the Road to WrestleMania without taking the journey yourself.
So buckle up! Because from here on out, the words you read will be solely from Bianca herself.
March 12, 2021: 29 Days from WrestleMania
"I’m trying to not self-sabotage myself. Because I know that this is a really big match that I’m having, but every week it seems to be something.
"This week, I was in the gym. My thing is, I want to go to WrestleMania in tip-top shape. I call myself the strongest, but I want to look like the strongest. My physique is so much a part of who I am.
"So I’m in the gym, and my husband’s doing a bench press, and I’m just running my mouth. ‘What about WrestleMania this, WrestleMania that. I need to do this, I need to do that.’ All this time I’m talking, he has a 25-pound weight, a 45-pound weight and a little, bitty 5-pound weight on the outside.
"So I grab the 45-pound plate, forgetting about the 5-pound weight, and I’m just running my mouth, ‘WrestleMania this, WrestleMania that, WrestleMania this.’ I pull it off – and the 5-pound weight fell right onto my big toe.
"So right now, I have a match tonight, and I have a bruised, blue and purple, swollen big toe. And I’m just like, ‘I’m not gonna make it to Mania.’ I’m so anxious right now. I’m freaking out of my head. ...
"My husband texted me last night actually while I was watching my television shows, trying to get my mind off of WrestleMania. He texted me, ‘WrestleMania week is going to be crazy,’ and he had the calendar of NXT, the two Takeovers, then SmackDown and WrestleMania.
"I was like, ‘Oh, man. I forgot about SmackDown!’
"We have to do SmackDown before WrestleMania, and that’s my birthday. It’s great because I get to do what I love on my birthday, but I forgot we have SmackDown before WrestleMania, along with the press, along with everything else, like my family coming in town. They’re gonna want to see me.
"I’m just like, ‘Y’all are gonna have to wait until after WrestleMania. I’m gonna be stressed out.' I’m gonna be exhausted. ...
"I’m excited about WrestleMania because my parents actually just got vaccinated. And my brother’s a teacher, his wife’s a teacher, they’re getting vaccinated this week. So everybody’ll be vaccinated.
"They’re getting their one dose, and my parents got their second dose in enough time before WrestleMania. So I can relax a little bit and not have to worry about them. Everybody can have a good time. That actually happened this week.
"So it’s been a good week, other than dropping a weight on my toe."
March 19, 2021: 22 Days from WrestleMania
"Things can get tough when I’m trying to balance life and trying to get prepared for WrestleMania because WrestleMania is my life right now, but at the same time, I’m also an adult, and I have bills to pay.
"My husband — I think he’s secretly trying to plan me a surprise birthday party for after 'Mania' because I said that I’ve never had a surprise birthday party, so I kinda asked for a surprise birthday party.
"So I’m kind of getting my house prepared for my surprise birthday party after Mania.
"This week, seeing the WrestleMania poster come out, and I’m on it — I know that it’s me, but also, you’ve seen WrestleMania posters with legends like Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold and The Rock.
"You’ve seen them on these grand stages, and to see me on the poster, I’m like, ‘OK, I know that’s the WrestleMania poster, and I know they’re on the WrestleMania poster, but is this, like, the same WrestleMania that I’m a part of now?’
"It’s like, ‘Oh, I’m on the same stage that they — OK! This is crazy.’ So, I’m happy for the moment when I’m on posters or I’m in a video game, and I’m like, 'OK, this is real. This is happening.' It’s crazy. It’s a weird feeling, but a weird good feeling.
"I think sometimes I’m living out of my body. ...
"I remember last year right before WrestleMania, we were all so excited about it. Just thinking about going to Tampa Bay and how we were gonna be in Raymond James Stadium, and WrestleMania’s gonna be this huge event. I didn’t know what was going to be happening for me. I didn’t know.
"I was getting word I was either gonna debut at WrestleMania or I was gonna debut the RAW after WrestleMania. So it’s this huge exciting moment.
"Then COVID happened.
"We still had Mania and still were able to adapt – but this year, it’s like that buildup again, and I feel like I’m the type of person where I get so scared to get excited about things because I don’t want to get so excited and then I’m let down.
"I felt like that’s kind of like what happened a little bit last year. We still made it work, but this year I’m so excited."
March 26, 2021: 15 days from WrestleMania
"Things happening inside of the ring, outside of the ring, inside of Tropicana and at home. So I would say this week was an unpredictable, chaotic mess.
"I guess I can start with inside of Tropicana, inside the ring, Sasha Banks, first and foremost, putting the five fingers to the face. I kinda just stayed off social media and Twitter this week because seeing the clip, replaying it over and over, I was like, ‘OK, I don’t like that.’ You know?
"That moment took me back to when I was a little girl, and it was my first lesson of learning to stand up for myself.
"I had a basketball game, and me and this girl were fighting over the ball. It was a jump ball. The referee blew the whistle, and we were still fighting over the ball, and she slapped me out of nowhere. Five-fingers-to-the-face slapped me.
"I remember being in that moment and pausing. My dad then pulled me aside and told me, ‘Look, I raised you not to bully anyone. You don’t start nothing with nobody. But if somebody starts something with you, you better finish it.’
"That was my first lesson of learning to stick up for myself.
"Coach put me back in the game, and yeah, me and my daddy got thrown out of the basketball game. ...
"Another story I have this week is that the night before [Fastlane], I was sewing my gear, and my dog starts freaking out. He was, like, foaming at the mouth and weak and trembling. He’ll be 14 this year, so I thought it was the time. He was vocalizing and was so disoriented. So I’m, like, freaking out.
"I’m telling my husband, 'I think it’s happening.' I’m, like, hysterical, and he keeps bumping into walls, just, like, lethargic.
"It’s like 3 o’clock in the morning, and for about two hours, he was doing this. There was no 24-hour vet around us within 45 minutes because they all shut down because of COVID, for some reason, and I was calling all of them, but he finally fell asleep and woke up the next morning completely fine.
"It was so traumatic for me the night before my match. I thought my dog was dying. I came to the arena the next day before the match, and I was kinda breaking down because it was traumatic. I thought my dog was dying in front of me. I was telling the girls and one of them was like, 'Did he lick a toad?'
"I was like, 'What do you mean did he lick a toad?!'
"Come to find out, Florida has these bufo or cane toads that if dogs sniff them, the toads spray them, and they’re toxic. It causes the dogs to hallucinate, and it can kill the dog! So I looked up all the symptoms, and come to find out, my dog, I think he licked a toad the night before the tag title match. ...
"As for all the support online this week, it’s been amazing seeing that everyone is pushing for Sasha and I to have the main event.
"It’s going to be a historic match and a historic night, and it’s just crazy to think that with being on SmackDown less than a year, it’ll be six years that I’ll have been in WWE, that I’m having a title match at WrestleMania.
"Now possibly a main event match, and I can come out on SmackDown as Women’s Champion. It’s just crazy.
"Being in WWE, your dream is to go to WrestleMania. Some people have careers here where they never even get to make it to WrestleMania sometimes – let alone a main event match – it’s very hard for me to wrap my mind around it.
"It’s an honor if we end up being the main event, but I do think we should be the main event. I agree 100 percent with the fans and everyone creating that hashtag.
"If we get the chance to be main event at WrestleMania, we will 100 percent live up to the opportunity."
April 1, 2021: 9 days before WrestleMania
"I feel like we went from the Royal Rumble, and all of a sudden now we’re like a week out from Mania, and it happened very quickly.
"I’m freaking out trying to do extra pushups and trying to work out harder, watch more film and stuff all this stuff in this week.
"I don’t want to just be prepared. I want to be overly prepared for WrestleMania, but I feel like I’m not ever going to feel like I’m as prepared as I should be. Because, you know, it’s WrestleMania. You want to be over-prepared. ...
"I watched some of my stuff back, too, because I feel like sometimes I forget what I do. I need to have in my mind every single thing that I do because to take Sasha Banks down I’m going to have to use every single one of my EST-isms.
"I’m going to have to be the strongest and the fastest, the roughest, the toughest, the quickest. Literally, I’m going to have to be the greatest in order to beat Sasha Banks.
"My gear is in the same spot in the room that it was last week. I'm so intimidated by this gear, and I'm scared of trying to do it and failing miserably.
"I’m also afraid of sewing my gear and putting it on, and it’s not as grand and elaborate as it should be and not knowing what I’m going to do.
"I started it. I have this idea of what I want to do, but I can’t figure out how to do it. So I keep putting it off. The next couple of days, I’m just going all-in, and what’s going to happen is going to happen.
"If I have to come out there in my bed sheet and some cowboy boots, then that’s just what it’s going to have to be. Y’all are going to have to accept what I give y’all because at this point, I’ve gotta start focusing on my match. ...
"What I’m most excited about for WrestleMania ... there’s not one thing I can pick.
"I’m excited about my family finally getting to be there. My family hasn’t been able to come to any of my matches, and it’s been tough because my family is my support system. My mom and my daddy are my support system. So being able to have my family there.
"My stepkids are going to be there. To know my stepdaughter is going to be there physically, seeing that, seeing me in the ring, that there is something that is going to be a moment for me and touches me.
"I’m looking forward to the fans being there. I've been on Raw, SmackDown and last WrestleMania with no fans, and it's been tough trying to reintroduce myself.
"When you get the news you’re going to Raw or SmackDown, you’re like, 'Oh, it’s going to be bigger.' It’s going to be a bigger crowd, a bigger audience, a bigger stage, and then I get here – and there’s no one there.
"I’m having to connect with people through a TV screen. So to have the fans there, to finally see their faces, I’m excited about that.
"I’m mostly excited about just having this match with Sasha.
"Imagining myself on Raw and SmackDown, that was, like, so far away from me because I didn’t know anything, and thinking about how those women were in NXT, they were here. Right here. They had a locker just like me in this same locker room; now they’re on Raw and SmackDown and WrestleMania doing these big things.
"In my mind, I was like, ‘When I can finally have a match with one of them one day, that’s when I know I’m there.’ But at that moment, it just seemed so far away. ...
"I want to take advantage of this opportunity. There’s so many women who came before me.
"I think about Naomi. Sometimes I think, like, gosh, she’s been here for, like, 10 years, and she’s done so much like other people before me, yet it’s me. I’m the person that’s in this position creating this history, and sometimes I think, like, should it be them instead of me?
"Knowing that I’m the person in this spot and knowing that people have dreamed about being in this spot since they were kids, and I just found this five years ago.
"I want to show everyone how blessed I feel and how lucky I know that I am and how much this means to me.
"That’s what I’m excited about doing. Going out there and putting it all out there. I just want to put it all out there for everybody to see. This isn’t just for me. This isn’t just about winning a title.
"This is for my family. This is for the fans that finally get to be there for the first time in over a year. This is for everyone who hasn’t been able to do their normal stuff because of COVID.
"This is for all the women that have come before me and that could be in this position – and I honestly feel deserve to be in this position. I’m here representing for them.
"I’m doing this for everybody.
"Not just for me."
Watch Bianca Belair challenge Sasha Banks for the SmackDown Women’s Championship LIVE from Raymond James Stadium on Saturday during Night One of WrestleMania.
Additional matches scheduled to take place this weekend include:
- WWE Champion Bobby Lashley vs. Drew McIntyre
- The Fiend vs. Randy Orton
- Raw Women’s Champion Asuka vs. Rhea Ripley
- Platinum recording artist Bad Bunny and Damian Priest vs. The Miz and John Morrison
- Sami Zayn (with Logan Paul) vs. Kevin Owens
- IC champ Big E vs. Apollo Crews in a Nigerian Drum Fight
- Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler vs. the winner of a Tag Team Turmoil match on night one of the show
And much more!
WrestleMania 37 begins at 8 p.m. ET on Peacock in the United States and internationally on WWE Network.
Ryan Satin is a WWE analyst for FOX Sports. Satin previously appeared on FS1's "WWE Backstage" and founded Pro Wrestling Sheet, where he broke countless news stories as editor-in-chief.