Bianca Belair

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Bianca Belair
Bianca Belair (cropped).jpg
Belair in 2018
Birth nameBianca Nicole Blair[1][2][3]
Born (1989-04-09) April 9, 1989 (age 33)[1]
Knoxville, Tennessee, United States[1]
Spouse(s)
(m. 2018)
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s)Bianca Belair[4]
Bianca Blair[5]
Binky Blair[6]
Billed height5 ft 7 in (170 cm)[4]
Billed fromKnoxville, Tennessee[4]
Trained bySara Del Rey[5]
WWE Performance Center[7]
DebutSeptember 26, 2016 (2016-09-26)[5]

Bianca Blair Crawford[8][9] (born Bianca Nicole Blair; April 9, 1989) is an American professional wrestler. She is currently signed to WWE, where she performs on the Raw brand under the ring name Bianca Belair, and is the current Raw Women's Champion in her first reign.

A former track and field athlete, Belair made her professional wrestling debut in NXT, where she competed for the NXT Women's Championship on multiple occasions. After being drafted to SmackDown, she won the 2021 Women's Royal Rumble match, becoming the second African-American superstar after The Rock to win a Royal Rumble match. She successfully challenged for the SmackDown Women's Championship against Sasha Banks at WrestleMania 37, during a match which marked the second time women main-evented WrestleMania.[10][11] In 2021, she was ranked No. 1 of the top 150 female wrestlers by Pro Wrestling Illustrated (PWI).[12]

Early life[edit]

Blair attended Austin-East Magnet High School in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she succeeded in many sports such as track. Blair was a track and field athlete, who competed in the hurdles. She had what ESPN writer Sean Hurd called "a volatile six-year track career" that saw her attend three universities.[13] She first attended the University of South Carolina and then Texas A&M University, and later did not compete at all for a year, before completing her college career at the University of Tennessee, where she became All-SEC and All-American as well as being named to the SEC's academic honor roll in 2011 and 2012.[14][13] She was also a CrossFit competitor and powerlifter, having appeared in RX magazine, Femme Rouge magazine, and CrossFit.com. Blair was forced to abandon her CrossFit career due to intercostal chondritis, also known as shifting rib syndrome.[13]

Professional wrestling career[edit]

WWE[edit]

NXT (2016–2020)[edit]

Blair entered her information into the WWE prospects database shortly after the premature end of her CrossFit career "more on a whim than with an actual plan", according to Hurd.[13] Less than two weeks later, she received a social media message from 20-year WWE veteran Mark Henry, who had come across Blair's profile on the CrossFit circuit, saying he could get her a tryout, but emphasized that she had to do the work.[13]

After two official tryouts,[13] Blair signed a contract with WWE on April 12, 2016, and was assigned to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida.[2] Blair made her first appearance during an in–ring segment at an NXT live event on June 25 as "Binky Blair", where she proclaimed to be the "EST of NXT... prettiest, baddest, strongest."[15] She made her in–ring debut in September, losing to Aliyah.[16] On the May 3, 2017, episode of NXT, Blair made her television debut under the ring name Bianca Belair, taking part in a battle royal to determine the number one contender for the NXT Women's Championship, where she was eliminated by Billie Kay and Peyton Royce.[17] Belair participated in the Mae Young Classic,[18] where she defeated Sage Beckett in the first round,[19] but was eliminated in the second round by the eventual tournament winner Kairi Sane.[20][21]

Belair (fourth from the left) at WrestleMania 34

Starting on the January 24, 2018, episode of NXT, Belair began an undefeated streak by defeating various competitors[22][23] such as Lacey Evans,[24] Candice LeRae,[25] Aliyah,[26] Dakota Kai[27] and Deonna Purrazzo.[28] On April 8, Belair made her WrestleMania debut by participating in the WrestleMania Women's Battle Royal at WrestleMania 34 alongside other women from the NXT roster, but was eliminated by Becky Lynch.[29] Throughout the rest of the year, Belair started a short feud with Nikki Cross, which led to two different matches between the two – one that ended in a double count–out[30] and one that ended in a no contest after Aleister Black interrupted the match due to Cross' involvement in a storyline that involved him.[31] On the January 9, 2019, episode of NXT, Belair defeated Cross in what was Cross' final match as part of the brand before moving to the main roster.[32] On January 26, 2019, at TakeOver: Phoenix, Belair had her first title match when she faced Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women's Championship, but was defeated after multiple interferences by Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir, ending her undefeated streak at 367 days.[33] She would have another title match at TakeOver: New York on April 5, where Baszler once again retained her title as she submitted Belair.[34]

On the May 1 episode of NXT, Belair started a feud with Mia Yim after confronting Yim at the WWE Performance Center.[35] The next week, they had a match which Belair won.[36] They had a rematch on the May 29 episode of NXT, which Yim won, giving Belair her first pinfall loss in NXT.[37] A third match was scheduled for the June 5 episode of NXT, which Yim won.[38] A "relentless and aggressive" Belair would return to NXT television the following month, squashing both Priscilla Zuniga[39][40] and Xia Li[41] in less than three minutes. After that match, a triple threat match between Belair, Yim, and Io Shirai to determine the number 1 contender for the NXT Women's Championship was announced.[42] A week later, Candice LeRae would be added to the match, making it a fatal 4-way match. The match would be the first match on the debut episode of NXT on the USA Network, where LeRae emerged victorious.[43][44] After defeating Dakota Kai on the October 9 episode of NXT, Belair challenged NXT Women's Championship contender Rhea Ripley to a match[45] which took place two weeks later; Ripley gained the victory despite outside interference from Shirai and LeRae.[46]

At TakeOver: WarGames on November 23, Belair and Team Baszler (NXT Women's Champion Shayna Baszler, Io Shirai, and NXT UK Women's Champion Kay Lee Ray) faced Team Ripley (Rhea Ripley, Candice LeRae, Dakota Kai, and Tegan Nox) in the first ever women's WarGames match, where Ripley gave her team the victory by pinning Baszler.[47] The following night, she participated at Survivor Series, where the three brands (Raw, SmackDown and NXT) faced each other in several matches; she was part of Team NXT, who defeated Team Raw and Team SmackDown in a 5-on-5-on-5 women's elimination match.[48][49] Belair also took part in the 2020 Royal Rumble on January 26, where she entered her first Women's Royal Rumble match at #2, eliminating a record 8 other superstars (tied with Baszler), before she was eliminated by eventual winner Charlotte Flair after lasting 33 minutes and 20 seconds.[50] At TakeOver: Portland on February 16, Belair was defeated by the NXT Women's Champion Rhea Ripley in another title match.[51] On the February 19 episode of NXT, she competed in her final match in NXT, losing to the Royal Rumble winner Charlotte Flair.[52][53]

Championship reigns (2020–present)[edit]

On the Raw following WrestleMania 36, Belair made her main roster debut by saving The Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins and her husband Montez Ford) from Zelina Vega, Angel Garza, and Austin Theory, establishing herself as a member of the Raw roster, and was paired with The Street Profits, turning face in the process.[54] However, the alliance was dropped soon after. As part of the 2020 Draft in October, Belair was drafted to the SmackDown brand.[55]

On January 31, 2021, at the Royal Rumble, Belair won the Royal Rumble match by last eliminating Rhea Ripley, thus becoming the second-ever Black superstar to achieve this feat in WWE history, after The Rock. She was in the match for over 56 minutes, a record for a participant in the Women's Royal Rumble match, having entered at #3.[56] On the February 26 episode of SmackDown, Belair officially challenged SmackDown Women's Champion Sasha Banks to a title match at WrestleMania 37.[57] Five days prior, at Elimination Chamber, she and Banks failed to win the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship from Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax.[58] They also failed to win the titles at Fastlane on March 21.[59] On the first night of WrestleMania on April 10, Belair defeated Banks in the main event to win the SmackDown Women's Championship, marking her first title in her career.[60] She then retained the title against Bayley at WrestleMania Backlash on May 16,[61] and at Hell in a Cell on June 20, inside the namesake structure.[62] Belair was scheduled to defend the title against Bayley in an "I Quit" match at Money in the Bank on July 18,[63] but the match was cancelled due to Bayley suffering a torn ACL while training at the WWE Performance Center.[64]

At SummerSlam on August 21, Belair was scheduled to defend her title against Sasha Banks,[65] but during the event, it was announced that Banks could not compete.[66] She was seemingly replaced by Carmella, who was then attacked by a returning Becky Lynch, who challenged Belair for the title. Belair accepted and lost the title in 26 seconds after two moves by Lynch, ending her reign at 133 days.[67] At Extreme Rules, Belair defeated Lynch by disqualification due to interference by a returning Sasha Banks, thus not earning the title.[68] As part of the 2021 Draft, Belair was drafted to the Raw brand.[69] At Crown Jewel, Belair was unsuccessful in regaining the title in a triple threat match against champion Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks.[70] On the November 1 episode of Raw, she was unable to capture the Raw Women's Championship from Lynch.[71] At Survivor Series, Belair made history by becoming the first person to overcome a four-on-one handicap to win the event's traditional five-on-five elimination match.[72]

At the Royal Rumble on January 29, 2022, Belair entered at #8, lasting 47 minutes before she was eliminated by Charlotte Flair.[73] At Elimination Chamber on February 19, Belair won the Elimination Chamber match to become the number one contender for the Raw Women's Championship at WrestleMania, thus reigniting her feud with Lynch.[74] The rivalry between the two heightened and on the March 28 episode of Raw, Lynch appeared and attempted to cut Belair's hair with a pair of scissors in revenge for being scarred from a ponytail whip from Belair, however, she attacked Lynch with a KOD and chopped off her hair instead.[75] On the first night of WrestleMania 38 on April 2, Belair defeated Lynch to win the Raw Women's Championship.[76]

Belair then began a feud with WWE official Sonya Deville, who attacked her on the April 11 episode of Raw.[77] She successfully retained her championship against Deville on the April 25 episode of Raw, despite interference from Carmella and Queen Zelina.[78] Belair then defended her title against Asuka and Lynch in a triple threat match at Hell in a Cell on June 5.[79] At Money in the Bank on July 2, Belair retained the title by defeating Carmella.[80] A rematch for the title was set for the July 11 episode of Raw, which Belair lost by countout due to interference from Lynch, but retained the title.[81] Another rematch for the title was set the following week, which saw Belair retain.[82] She then successfully defended her title against Lynch at SummerSlam on July 30, and after the match, they would embrace each other, ending their feud. However, they were confronted by the returning Bayley and her new allies Dakota Kai and Iyo Sky, reigniting their feud.[83] On the August 8 episode of Raw, they challenged Belair, Alexa Bliss, and Asuka to a six-woman tag team match at Clash at the Castle on September 3, which they accepted.[84][85] At the event, they were defeated by Damage Control when Bayley pinned her.[citation needed]

Other media[edit]

Blair made her video game debut as a playable character in WWE 2K19.[86] She is also featured in WWE 2K20[87] and WWE 2K22.[88] In late January 2020, WWE.com revealed Blair's first action figure debuting in Mattel's Basic Series 107.[89][90]

Personal life[edit]

On June 9, 2017, Blair announced that she was engaged to fellow professional wrestler Kenneth Crawford, better known as Montez Ford.[91] The couple married on June 23, 2018. Blair is the stepmother to Crawford's two children from a previous relationship.[92] Blair has been open about her struggles with disordered eating, crediting a past track coach at Texas A&M University with helping her to prioritize her mental health and move onto recovery from the disorder.[93]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Preceded by Women's Royal Rumble winner
2021
Succeeded by