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WWE's 'Friday Night Smackdown' returns to Madison Square Garden

Women's champion Bianca Belair will lead the return

Women's champion Bianca Belair will lead the return of WWE's "Friday Night Smackdown" to the Madison Square Garden on Sept. 10. Credit: WWE

After a nearly two-year hiatus, WWE is bringing its hybrid of sports and theater back to New York, and will have one of the most talented athletes in its history as one of its top attractions.

Women’s champion Bianca Belair will lead the stars of WWE as they return to Madison Square Garden on Sept. 10 for "Friday Night Smackdown." Tickets for the event, which will air live on Fox, go on sale Friday. MSG will require everyone over 16 to show proof that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

WWE is returning to the road with a series of live events this summer. The organization spent most of the pandemic putting on shows in its "Thunderdome" series — arenas in three Florida cities that were fitted with hundreds of LED screens displaying fans watching from home.

In an interview, Belair, who debuted on "Smackdown" during the pandemic, said that, although performing in front of a virtual audience helped her sharpen some of her wrestling skills, she’s looking forward to connecting with her fans in real life.

"There’s nothing like having them there physically and actually being able to hear that immediate response coming from them, whether it’s a boo or a cheer," said Belair, who won her title in the main event of April’s WrestleMania in Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium — the lone live event that WWE has held during the pandemic. "Hopefully I get some cheers."

Although she’s never toured with WWE before, it won’t be Belair's first time performing in Madison Square Garden, as she took part in a track and field competition there as a college athlete.

The decorated gymnast, track runner and cross fit trainer said that "in a different reality," she’d be gearing up to compete in the Tokyo Summer Olympics right about now.

"When I was a little girl, I wanted to be an Olympic sprinter like Flo Jo," Belair said. "But I feel like everything works out the way it’s supposed to work out . . . I feel like this is the perfect story for me."

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