Ahead of SummerSlam on Saturday, Aug. 21, Sportsnet’s Kevin Michie caught up with SmackDown Women’s Champion Bianca Belair.
Belair shed some light on her upcoming match against Sasha Banks, if she feels pressure to live up to their WrestleMania match, Black representation within WWE, and much more.
Sportsnet: How have you been feeling in the lead-up to SummerSlam? What sort of last-minute preparations are you working on?
Bianca Belair: I’m good, I’m good. Doing my gear for SummerSlam. I’m trying to finish my gear. I’m always doing it last minute for any big event.
SN: Do you make all your own gear?
Belair: Yes, I do everything myself. I like to throw everything I have into what I do. When I think about working hard, I think it’s a variety of things. I work hard in the gym, I work hard in the ring, but I also work hard in my appearance.
I like to do it all myself, because then when I get in the ring I already feel super accomplished, you know, I’m standing in there with gear that I made. When I see my action figure, it’s gear that I made, when I see myself in the video game, it’s gear I made. So it’s just like an extra little ego boost and I enjoy doing it.
SN: How often do you change up your gear?
Belair: Well so far, I’ve actually been wearing different gear every single time I’ve been on SmackDown. For the live events, for the super shows, I rotate gear. But for the most part, I’ve been doing a different gear for every single SmackDown. We’ll see how long I can keep up with that because now I’m on the road so I don’t have as much time to sew.
But for the most part, for my big events, I sew with a purpose of only making and wearing my gear one time for my big PPV’s and big events because I want to be able to look at my gear and know exactly where it came from, and that my gear has a significance to it.
SN: You’ll be taking on Sasha Banks at SummerSlam in a rematch of the main event of night one at WrestleMania this year. Are you feeling any pressure to live up to the expectations of your previous match?
Belair: I mean, there’s differently pressure to live up to it. That match was such a historic moment, monumental moment, us making history as the first two Black females to main event WrestleMania (and) having our fans back. So everything was set in to place to succeed at WrestleMania, so to now follow that up, yeah it’s pressure.
But it’s pressure I think that we both love. We both want to rise to the occasion for it. We already have the history there, and I feel like this time it’s more personal. This time, the only thing that this match is about is the SmackDown Women’s Championship, and that’s what we can focus on. So it’s going to be different, but it’s going to be the same in the sense of we’re going to show up and show out, and do what we always do.
We know that we can do it because we did it at WrestleMania, and so we’re just going to have that faith, and go in there and try to have the match of the night and be the match that everybody’s talking about after SummerSlam.
SN: You mentioned the history-making aspect of your previous match. Have you had time to look back and reflect on what that moment meant to you and what it meant to the Black community?
Belair: Always, I do it every single day. You know people ask, ‘Has the moment hit you yet?’ And it hits me a little bit more and more every single day. Whether I’m doing an interview about it, or if I’m on social media and someone’s making a status about how it inspired them, or I’m meeting someone that’s telling me their story… you know, thinking about in the future when there’s going to be someone that wants to be a WWE Superstar like I was in 2016 when I first came in, didn’t know anything and I started watching different matches, and watching different women and being inspired by them. To think that, they’re going to use Sasha Banks and I’s match as inspiration, that’s amazing to me.
I always understood the significance of it, that’s why I got so emotional in the beginning of the match, and I was so comfortable showing that emotion. I felt it and I didn’t try to suppress it because I wanted to feel that moment, because that’s just how significant it was. Just the fact that Sasha Banks and I could stand there and not even have to touch each other or open our mouths and say anything… just us standing there in that ring, in that moment, was already representation and making history.
It’s so important, and the significance of it is huge, and it hits me every single day, but I think it’s just going to get bigger and bigger and bigger as time goes on, and it’s going to be even bigger later down in history.
SN: Representation matters more than ever in sports and entertainment. What’s it like seeing such strong Black representation in WWE?
Belair: It’s an amazing feeling. It feels seen, and feels, just, important. Representation is important, and it’s needed, and it matters. It’s not a request, it’s a requirement. So being in WWE is amazing because WWE is so diverse and inclusive. And I think what’s amazing about WWE, too, it’s not that they just amplify our presence and our voice in the ring, they also do it outside the ring.
With going to places like, “Rolling Loud” this month, that was so important to me. That was an amazing feeling because I was able to take my culture that I’m so passionate about, and WWE that I’m so passionate about, these two worlds that sometimes don’t seem like they mesh very well and we meshed those two, and we made those two worlds collide. We showed that we have diversity and representation in WWE, and there’s someone here in WWE for everyone. It transcends across all different religions, races, genders; it doesn’t matter. People can look into WWE and see someone that looks like them and be able to relate to them.
To have so much diversity among the Black community, especially in WWE, it’s cool and I just feel blessed to be the person in this position. … And I’m very thankful for the women that came before us, that paved this way because without them putting in that grind and that hard work, this wouldn’t be possible today.
SN: You’ve won the Royal Rumble, you’ve main-evented WrestleMania, and you’re the SmackDown Women’s Champion. Have you reached the pinnacle of your career?
Belair: I don’t think so, as crazy as it might sound to some people. I don’t think so. I think there’s so much more to be done. I feel like I’m just getting started (and) I know I started at a pretty high level. But even the fact that we main-evented WrestleMania, we made history at WrestleMania, but people still are excited about SummerSlam, and looking to see what we’re going to do at SummerSlam and putting on different classic matches. That just shows you far I can keep rising, and rising, and rising.
I always say, I’ve faced Bayley and I’ve faced Sasha, and I feel like paying tribute to the women that came before us, and that’s the Four HorseWomen (Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Bayley). And I feel like until I can conquer all Four HorseWomen, that’s a goal that I have, that I really want to do, is feud with all Four HorseWomen, make magic with them, and eventually try to pin all Four HorseWomen. I think that’s a huge goal that I can have for the future, and also just continue to rise to the occasion.
SN: Speaking of the Four HorseWomen, what do you think of when you hear the name Becky Lynch?
Belair: For me, that’s a dream booking. I would love, love, love to get in the ring with Beck Lynch. Just watching what she’s done as The Man and all the accomplishments that she’s had. You know, for me, I’m an athlete, I’ve been an athlete my whole life, and I understand that to be the best you have to get in the ring with the best, and the best pulls the best out of you.
So I just want to continue to be the absolute best version of myself, and I want to see how far I can go, and getting in the ring with Becky I know that she’s going to pull the best out of me and make me the best competitor that I absolutely can be. That’s a dream booking, not just for me, but for everyone else.
SN: Outside of your match, which other match are you most looking forward to at SummerSlam?
Belair: I think definitely one that everyone’s been talking about mostly is Roman Reigns and John Cena. I’m really excited about that match. I mean, just having John Cena back in general is super exciting. That’s number one on my list, as well, not just to watch it to enjoy it, but also to watch it because I think that’s kind of in the running of everybody expecting, ‘Oh, is that going to be the match of the night? Is Sasha Banks/Bianca Belair going to be the match of the night?’
It’s really exciting to know that Sasha Banks and I are at the level where we can compete and compare to a match like Roman and John Cena and just trying to compete to be the match that’s going to be talked about that night.
SN: Who do you think is going to win the Roman Reigns/John Cena match?
Belair: My husband (WWE Superstar Montez Ford) and I were just talking about this last night. Oh, man… it’s hard. We were literally just talking about this last night. Montez said John Cena. I don’t know, I’m like 50-50. At one point, I could see John Cena, but I could also see Roman Reigns. From the promos that their having, I’m just excited to see them get in the ring and finally throw down together. My husband says John Cena, so I’m just gonna… Yeah John Cena, I’m gonna say John Cena.