For nearly 30 years, Monday Night Raw has been the WWE’s flagship cable television program. And Raw always feels little more special when it’s held in WWE’s unofficial home arena, Madison Square Garden.
Helping make Raw’s return to the Garden this Monday even more special will be its women’s champion, Bianca Belair. For the second consecutive year, Belair won championship gold at WrestleMania, this year beating Becky Lynch. She’s set to face off with “Big Time Becks” again on July 29 at SummerSlam, which will stream on Peacock.
Ahead of the two big shows, the “EST of WWE” answered some questions from Newsday:
The treatment of women in WWE has been in the news of late. What’s it like to be a woman working in WWE under a lot of male managers?
"I feel like I'm in WWE in an amazing time, when women are really at the forefront of not just the future, but the present. Women are main eventing on a weekly basis on Raw and SmackDown. We're main eventing at premium live events. We’re main eventing and stealing the show at WrestleMania. Most of the women in WWE are trending on a weekly basis. So, I'm just here in an amazing time. And I'm blessed and fortunate to be the Raw Women's Champion and be the face of the women's division on the Raw side . . . It's just a really great time to be a woman in WWE."
You had the best match at WrestleMania in back-to-back years. What’s the secret to stealing wrestling’s biggest show?
"I just always stay ready, so I don't have to get ready. I prepare all year long because, being in WWE, opportunities can really come out of out of nowhere, all of a sudden. So, you have to be able to prepare all year long and not just start preparing when opportunity presents itself. That's really what I live by. And just being able to rise to the occasion, no matter if it's Raw, Smackdown or WrestleMania. I just put the work in and I'm confident in my abilities and knowing that just me showing up is simply enough."
You also won the championship in back-to-back years at WrestleMania. Which one was sweeter: WrestleMania 37 or 38?
"They're each kind of in their own lane. WrestleMania 37, it was a unprecedented moment — being the first black female to main event at WrestleMania. And it was our first time being in front of fans in over a year because of the pandemic. So, it was it was making history. And it was a special moment because it was my first title. Then you have WrestleMania 38, where it was the biggest crowd that I've ever performed in front of. And it was kind of my redemption story — getting the title back from Becky Lynch, who took my title from me in 26 seconds, eight months before. So, it was really just two different WrestleManias with two different feelings. They were both equally important to me."
How different do you think your career would be if you didn’t lose your title to Becky in 26 seconds last year at SummerSlam?
"I really feel like SummerSlam actually propelled me forward, in my own mind and also in the WWE Universe. Sometimes you have setbacks and a lot of people are scared — like, maybe, 'Is this the end of Bianca Belair?' But for me, it just gave me more drive and more determination to crawl my way back to the top. Because it's hard to get to the top, but it's even harder to stay at the top. It also propelled me forward with the WWE Universe. There was a lot of support and backing of me last year at SummerSlam. I felt like my journey became something that wasn't just about me. I felt like the fans had all these emotions that came out of them at SummerSlam last year. They were able to really feel a connection with my journey to get back to the top. And, now it's full circle again, me going against Becky Lynch at SummerSlam this year. And it's really me trying to write that final chapter in a SummerSlam comeback story."
I know you make your own gear. Who — besides you, obviously — has the best gear in WWE?
"I always love when the Miz and Maryse come out together. I love the shiny, over-the-top, rhinestone look they always bring to the table. I think the Street Profits have amazing gear too. I might be a little biased, because I make their gear sometimes." [Belair is married to Street Profits member Montez Ford.]
What are the pros and cons of being on the road with your husband?
"I would say the pros are, I always feel safe and protected. And he always drives, so I never have to drive at 3 o'clock in the morning or drive the five hours to the next city. And, also, I get to just be with my best friend. He makes me laugh even when we're tired or worn down. I don't really know any con, other than my husband's is always turned up. I'm not a morning person. He is up at 7 a.m., and we just got in at 4 o'clock in the morning. He's up singing and ready to work out. So, we're just kind of on two different time schedules all the time."
Could you foresee a dream tag team match between WWE’s two power couples: You and Montez vs. Becky and her husband, Seth Rollins?
"I think the possibilities are endless. Becky and I and Seth are singles competitors. My husband is in a tag team, the Street Profits. So, we have so much further to go with our careers. But I definitely see it in the future. We can definitely have some fun with them. I tend to call them 'Secki.'"
If you can go back in time and have a match against one woman from wrestling history, who would it be and why?
"Beth Phoenix is my dream opponent. She’s the first person, when I got into WWE, that I saw and I related to. She's the “Glamazon.” She embraced her beauty and her femininity, but, also, she embraced her muscles. She was a strong woman. She was lifting two women up at a time."
You're back in the Garden on Monday. I know you were here in the new UBS Arena in Elmont not long ago. And of course, you've worked in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Of those three, which is your favorite?
"Probably Madison Square Garden. There’s so much history in that building. Anytime that you perform Madison Square Garden, you know that it's a big deal. The city always comes out to support us. The atmosphere is just amazing. So, I'm definitely excited about being back in Madison Square Garden on Monday."
The first time you performed at Madison Square Garden was for a track meet. What are your memories about that?
"It was my freshman year. I ran in a track meet when I was going to the University of South Carolina. I didn't really understand or grasp the significance of that moment, just because I was going through so much mentally. And so, it was really cool to be able to relive that moment and have a second chance to redo that moment. That was when WWE went back to Madison Square Garden [July of last year]. I just felt blessed and fortunate that I was able to, not just do it once, but do it again and really understand the significance of performing in a building like Madison Square Garden."