Black Wrestler Of The Month Vol. 3: Bianca Belair
I’m a wrestling fan. I’m Black. This presents a conflict: Wrestling is massively racist and always has been. The older I get and the more I understand this, the more I appreciate the Black talent that persevered despite the obstacles in their way. These are the people who captured my imagination and made me fall in love with the genre; their accomplishments are only amplified by what it took for them to succeed. Sadly, the same things that held them back also often lessened their respective impacts — so I want to give these Black wrestlers their flowers.
The Royal Rumble has been an annual WWE staple for more than 30 years. The match traditionally featured 30 men entering the ring, each being eliminated via being tossed off the top rope until one is left standing as the winner. In the past few years, a the event has included an all-women’s Rumble event with the same rule. There have been nearly 40 Rumble events in total. The Rock’s (disputed) win in 2000 was the only time a Black person won the event.
Until last night.
Bianca Belair won the 2021 women’s Royal Rumble in one of the more emotional victories we’ve seen in the event’s history. She has garnered a passionate fan base mostly based around her authenticity and refusal to quiet any part of her Blackness while dodging Vince McMahon’s propensity to saddle Black folks with stereotypes and lowest common denominator tropes.
Belair is one of the most athletic superstars to come through the WWE Performance Center smoking everyone else in all of the fitness tests, earning her the name the ‘EST” of WWE because she legitimately clocked in as the fastest and strongest person on the roster. The former collegiate track and field star and Crossfit competitor’s athleticism jumps off the screen. But it’s her charisma — complete with a signature bounce to the ring, a three-foot long ponytail that she’s used to whip opponents and interviews that pop off the screen — have made her the company’s surest star they’ve had in ages.
All signs lead to Belair challenging Sasha Banks at WrestleMania, which would be the first time two Black wrestlers main events the show. Belair has already made Black history in an industry that makes such things so difficult to achieve and it will be a landmark moment if she and Sasha stand across the ring from one another at the biggest show of the year.
Salute to Belair — this might be the last time you hear about her before she reaches the inevitability of being a household name.