Bianca Belair has had a year of firsts.
In addition to winning her first Royal Rumble in January and her first WWE women’s title at WrestleMania 37 in April, the self-proclaimed “EST of WWE” is now readying for another milestone.
She’ll compete in the first women’s triple threat match in Saudi Arabia along with WWE SmackDown women’s champion Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks as part of Crown Jewel in Riyadh on Thursday.
Ahead of the historic bout, Belair admits she hasn’t travelled much internationally, only heading to the UK for the first time recently, but that she’s excited and grateful for the historic opportunity in the kingdom.
“It's an amazing feeling to know that I’m travelling to Saudi Arabia. It’s somewhere that I never thought I would be able to go and I'm able to do that now,” she tells The National.
“I'm excited to make history, I'm excited to be there and to showcase representation and I'm also excited to possibly be walking out as SmackDown champion and to be able to celebrate with all the fans in Saudi Arabia.”
In keeping with Saudi Arabia's culture and traditions, Belair will need to tweak her outfit, which she says is understandable. While she doesn’t reveal exactly what she’ll be wrestling in, she offers a little hint as to what fans can expect.
“I already wear long pants as it is, though we'll definitely be having long sleeves and just making sure that we're within the bounds of everything, but I'm definitely going to still show up and look like the EST that I am,” she says. “We'll definitely customise our gear, but I'm excited for it. It's not something that’s an inconvenience, plus I get a new look.”
In anticipation of Crown Jewel, she also got help from other fellow female wrestlers who have been to the kingdom in the past – including Natalya, who competed in the first female match in Saudi Arabia with Lacey Evans at Crown Jewel in 2019.
“Natty always gives you advice in the locker room. Mostly that it’s an amazing opportunity, soak every moment in, know how important this is,” says Belair. “It's not just that we’re going to have this match, it’s about representation and making real change, not only inside the ring but outside of the ring too.”
Belair says that while there is pressure in being part of such a monumental occasion, she’s also used to it. She’s opened up about how she handles being a newer competitor in the WWE, signing with the company in 2016, as opposed to Banks and Lynch who grew through the ranks together after they signed in 2012 and 2013.
“I’m the newbie coming in, they’ve called me ‘the rookie’ ever since I stepped foot on the scene. And I'm trying to push my way through ... and make room for me. So, I always feel like I have to prove myself,” she says.
However, if Belair's main event match with Banks at WrestleMania 37 was anything to go by, she doesn’t have much to worry about. The bout was a massive hit with fans, with many calling it the match of the night, and even won her and Banks an ESPY award for Best WWE Moment of 2021. It’s one that's special to Belair.
“It wasn’t just about wrestling or the WWE, it was so much bigger than that. Being able to represent and make history as the first two black females in the main event at Wrestlemania and walking out as SmackDown women’s champion – you know, that moment has lived on past that night.”
Looking to add another highlight to a wrestling career that’s already shined bright this year, Belair seeks to continue that trend of putting on great matches while finding herself in the spotlight.
“My whole journey in 2021 has been opportunities presenting themselves to me by the occasion. So I believe that’s kind of my reputation,” she says.
“I want to always have the reputation of showing up and being that common denominator any time you have a big moment that's being talked about. My name is in that conversation; I'm the common denominator.”