WWE’s Mae Young Classic dropped on the WWE Network last week, with rounds 2 and 3 coming a week later. Great things were expected from big names like Toni Storm and Kairi Sane — many of the competitors in the first-ever all-women tournament in WWE history had worked for years in their respective country’s independent scene before finally getting the chance to show their skills to the world stage of WWE.
Bianca Belair was not one of those names. The NXT rookie has less than a year of experience and has appeared on NXT television only a handful of times, mostly as enhancement talent. Usually, when lower-card NXT names populate a tournament like this, it’s to make the bigger names look good while at the same time getting a green wrestler some experience in front of a hot crowd. You’re forgiven if you looked at the initial bracketology and thought nothing of Belair’s inclusion.
But ever since qualifying for the Mae Young Classic, a different side of the self-proclaimed EST (baddEST, fastEST, strongEST, etc.) has come out. Her qualifying match against Aliyah was a surprisingly fun one, and Bianca was able to showcase more of her cocksure persona. It was her surprise win against ten year veteran Sage Beckett in the first round, though, that caused people to stand up and take notice.
Bianca Belair has a confidence and presence wrestlers with quadruple her experience don’t have — that intangible “it” factor you either have or you don’t, Bianca has in spades. From the moment she makes her way to the ring, it’s obvious she believes she deserves to be there and have all eyes on her. And in the world of professional wrestling, that’s half the battle. Her mannerisms, her poise and the confidence exuding out of her every move make her a name to watch in the years to come. Make no mistake, she is not a perfect wrestler. Transitions can be awkward here and there and her selling needs work. But technical proficiency can be learned — this kind of swagger cannot. She’s reminiscent of a younger Sasha Banks in the way she presents herself and interacts with the crowd, who is already starting to back the 28 year old rookie.
In 2016, Bianca started on her WWE journey after her CrossFit career was unexpectedly cut short due to intercostal chondritis. WWE Legend “The World’s Strongest Man” Mark Henry discovered her profile on the CrossFit circuit and offered to get her a tryout with WWE. After being signed following just two tryouts, she has since completely dedicated herself to the craft of professional wrestling, and it shows. Her athleticism is expected: a tall, physically dominant hurdler, track and field star and powerlifter, there is no questioning her physical acumen. What’s most surprising about her transition to the world of sports entertainment, though, is how quickly she’s picked up the “entertainment” part.
It’s mind-boggling that Bianca’s signature braid whip, wherein she simply grabs her own long braid and, well, whips her opponent with it, hasn’t been done before, but it fits her aggressive, arrogant character perfectly and sets Belair apart from the rest (it’s also kind of mind-boggling that it’s considered legal, but that’s another debate). Belair fought Kairi Sane in a losing effort in the second round of the Mae Young Classic, but she looked excellent in her defeat, keeping up with the world renowned Sane and providing one of the most memorable moments of the tournament so far. Bianca hit a particularly vicious sounding braid whip on the kawaii, lovable Kairi, which sent the Full Sail crowd into a type of frenzy you’d expect to see in archival footage of an opponent running down Jerry Lawler in Memphis. That type of genuine emotion is hard to come by in modern-day WWE, and Belair managed to elicit it, seemingly with ease. Throw in a picture-perfect 450 splash out of nowhere and you have yourself a memorable match from someone who probably wasn’t supposed to amount to much in this tournament.
Biana has eleven months of in-ring experience(!), has been on television for under three, and has already made her mark in the world of WWE. Bianca Belair will become a WWE Women’s Champion and become one of the hottest acts of the division in short order, mark my words. The Queens, Goddesses and Bosses of the main roster best watch the throne — the EST is coming to snatch it up.