June 19, 2022

Image via Mimi
 
Words: Andreas Hale

“This is a historic moment,” Michael Cole said. “For the first time ever, two Black women have a title match in the main event at WrestleMania.”

This was Black Excellence. 


Sasha Banks
and Bianca Belair stood across the ring from each other for what felt like an eternity. But the magnitude of the moment simply could not be denied. Sasha Banks had been in this position before where the enormity of the situation weighed on her. Normally, she’d be the one fighting back tears. Instead, she watched as her opponent’s emotions nearly got the best of her.

With one look, she snapped her back into the task at hand. Why? Because she knew that Bianca Belair was the one.

Banks wasn’t wrong and that moment started Belair’s journey to sit atop the #BRP50 with a year that epitomized why Bianca Belair couldn't be denied any longer. 

Sasha Banks dropping the SmackDown Women’s Championship to Bianca Belair in the main event of WrestleMania 37 - Night 1 was like Magic Johnson passing the proverbial torch to Michael Jordan when the Chicago Bulls defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1991 NBA Finals. Magic knew from the first time he saw His Airness that he’d eventually have to concede to him. He wouldn’t fully acknowledge Jordan’s arrival as the new face of the league until a year later at an infamous 1992 Dream Team scrimmage but he already knew before Jordan proclaimed that there was a new sheriff in town. He always knew. It was just a matter of time until Jordan overcame adversity and playoff failures to get there. And once he did, all bets were off.

Jordan being unlike anything we’d ever seen before on a basketball court is exactly what Bianca Belair is to a wrestling ring.  

Just one look at Bianca Belair let you know that the former track and field star was different. She had it all: the physique, the athleticism, the power, the raw talent. But then she gave a little more to make sure you recognized Belair as Black Excellence. The ponytail, the charisma, the self-made ring attire that screamed just how unapologetically Black she was and is.

And then you watch her work between those ropes. Simply undeniable. Belair’s performance at WrestleMania 37 exceeded expectations.

Dave Meltzer gave the match four stars. Sorry, Dave. You sold this one short.

From the moment that Belair caught a diving Banks on the outside, rolled through, gorilla pressed her, carried her opponent up the ring stairs and dumped The Boss back into the ring, any question about her being ready for the moment was answered. 


Kind of like Jordan switching hands mid-air for a layup in Game 2 of the 1991 NBA Finals.

Bianca Belair had arrived.

A year later, Belair defeated Becky Lynch to become the first African American to win a major world title twice at WrestleMania.  

And just think, a decade ago we couldn’t fathom someone like Bianca Belair doing this.

You see, Bianca Belair is more than just a wrestler. She’s a phenom, a trailblazer and the one who defied the odds to break through the glass ceiling placed on both women and Black wrestlers. 


A decade ago, Belair would have been considered a double negative in the WWE. The Divas of the WWE had yet to embark on a revolution that would redefine women’s wrestling and the idea of a Black talent holding a major world title was as far-fetched as an African American placing in the top three at the Daytona 500.

Well, both have happened. And it took a special talent to do it.

What makes Belair ours is that she fully embraces what it means to be Black. There is no shying away from her culture to make white people feel comfortable. She is who she is. From her lipstick and hair to her gear and trademark twirl during her ring entrance. She’s Black History and she made gear to celebrate her culture. She’s Black Love with her marriage to fellow WWE Superstar Montez Ford. And, of course, she’s Black Excellence each and every time she steps into the ring. 


Little Black girls across the globe want to be like Bianca Belair. And parents couldn’t conceive of a better role model for their daughters in professional wrestling.

And then there’s the fact that she’s simply undeniable.

After successfully defending her championship against Bayley in entertaining matches at both WrestleMania Backlash and Hell In A Cell, there would be an unexpected hiccup that disrupted what appeared to be a long championship run.  Belair would lose her title in 26 seconds to a returning Becky Lynch at SummerSlam, which had the eternal optimists saying “let it play out" while the skeptics sniffed out what they thought was Vince McMahon panic booking to put the title back on proven talent. The loss was met with outrage considering how haphazard it was due to Sasha Banks being deemed unable to compete at the last minute.

Was the era of the EST over? Nope. Not by a long shot. Bianca Belair wasn’t going to allow that to happen. 


She remained undeterred as a performer and never missed a beat when the spotlight was on her. If she wasn’t in the WrestleMania 38 Women’s Championship plans before, her subsequent performances following SummerSlam — including overcoming a four-on-one handicap to win for her team at Survivor Series — and the overwhelmingly positive fan reaction forced WWE’s hand to put her back where she always belonged.

She may not have always been the WWE’s first choice, but she has repeatedly exceeded expectations and performed beyond her immense potential.

And she’s unlike any other women’s wrestler on the planet.

"I am the strongEST, the toughEST, the roughEST, the quickEST, the bEST. I am the EST of WWE,” she often says.

But if she continues along this path, it’s going to be hard to deny that she will be the greatEST women’s wrestler of all time.

***

Andreas Hale is the Senior Editor of Combat Sports at The Sporting News. He’s also the co-host of “The Corner Podcast” with ESPN Ringside’s Kel Dansby, an on-air talent on Sirius XM’s Fight Nation and hosts his own show “Fighting Words with Andreas Hale.” Before covering boxing, MMA and pro wrestling, Andreas held senior positions at HipHopDX, BET and Jay-Z’s Life+Times. He’s also the co-creator of the upcoming animated series “Our Heroes Rock” with Ettore “Big E” Ewen and Jonathan Davenport.

2 comments

👏🏽✊🏽

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Absolutely beautiful! Andreas wrote that with his mind and his soul! Bianca is our pride and joy and this article reflects that!

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