When Bianca Belair found out NXT was going live Wednesday nights on USA Network, it was hard for the superstar to contain her excitement. The blood, sweat and tears poured into WWE’s yellow brand has created a buzz among fans. Although the “EST of NXT” a proud member of the locker room for three-and-half years, she is grateful to those who came before her to lay the foundation.
“I’m reaping the benefits of what they did,” Belair said. “Combine that with all the work we put in, and it’s all paying off now. I’m very anxious. We just want to go out there and show the world what NXT is.”
Ahead of the show’s debut, the track and field hurdler turned grappler expresses what this move from WWE Network means to her and the rest of the hungry roster.
How do you think the environment will be different on this bigger platform? You’re used to the live atmosphere of NXT TakeOver events, but this is regularly on a cable television.
Bianca Belair: I don’t think there has been much that is different than before. Although NXT was known as a developmental brand. The main goal before was to get to Raw and SmackDown, so the whole point of getting to NXT was to prepare us. The call could come at any time. The term we used to use was “getting called up.” That phone call could have happened at any time. So, the whole point here was to always be ready. We’re ready. We’ve been preparing for this since day one. Now that NXT is the third brand and not the developmental brand, we are a brand that can stand on its own. We’re ready and will keep doing what we’ve always been doing.
You mentioned being in WWE for the more than three years. You didn’t start working on the independent wrestling scene. You do have your athletic background and natural ability. What has it been like to grow as a performer? You have this confident persona that has resonated with fans between the music, the look and the hair and other elements.
When I first walked into the Performance Center, I had no idea what to expect. I had never been inside a ring other than my two tryouts that I had. I didn’t even know how to do a lockup, headlock, wrist-lock. I didn’t know how to do any of that. Not only that, I didn’t know the business and the history of the business. I didn’t watch wrestling growing up a whole lot. I got a really late start and really behind. I knew that. The thing about me is any time I get an opportunity; I’m going to go full force into it.
Since day one, I just been trying to hone my craft and researching and studying and learning the moves and storytelling and the art behind WWE and sports entertainment. I’m not going to say it was hard because it’s supposed to be hard. It was challenging starting from absolutely nothing. Before I played sports and been able to pull from that. With one sport I’d be able to pull some elements from that into another sport. Other than being athletic and coachable, I haven’t been able to pull from much else here. I think for me it was about being humble and open and willing to learn to adjust. That’s is how I’ve gotten to where I am now.
One of the things I respect about you is your work ethic. On top of everything with your WWE career, you recently finished school. Why was this important to you?
My major is in sociology with my minor in business. I have to say my family who motivates me. My mom is an alum of the University of Tennessee. It was important for me to get my degree from the University of Tennessee. My brother just recently completed his master’s a few months ago. I have a great family and support system and great examples. I’m blessed to have those role models in my life. They pushed me and always made that important. Being in sports entertainment, you’re always an injury away or something bad that can end your career at any time. You need a backup plan, so my dad and mom just always taught me while I ran track in college is that my education was always number one. Everything followed that because no matter what nobody can take away your education from you. That was a big deal to me because those are the things that matter.
You got married last year. When you see Montez [Ford] on Raw, you have to be proud. There are a lot of couples in WWE right now. How does having a partner that knows the grind and someone to bounce ideas off of help get you through?
My husband is great. The thing is when he succeeds, I succeed. And when I succeed, he succeeds. I know that sounds cliché, but that’s really how we operate. It’s great to have someone in this business who understands it and I can vent to sometimes. He is the one who encouraged me to wear the braid, which has become a huge part of me. We just really support each other.
I’m honestly more nervous when he is out there. Like with his first TakeOver match, I get more nervous about his matches than I do my own. I think I can say the same for him. I’m blessed to have someone I’m in love with and enjoy being around because being in the same business, we’re around each other a lot. We’re around each other at home. We’re around each other at work. I’m blessed to have someone like him. He helps me out so much. He helps me with life in general and sports entertainment.
What’s the feeling right now with the women’s division? You have this fatal four-way match on the premiere episode where members of the audience are getting a first impression who you are and what the brand represents. Do you feel the added pressure?
I feel like there are so many women on this roster that deserve to be showcased. We all bring something to the table. We’re all unique. We all work within ourselves. I see this opportunity to be on USA Network live every week for us to show the world who we are and what we do. We have so many who can bring so much. I’m excited because we are going to get introduced to the world.
I’m going to show who Bianca Belair is. And I feel like I’m going to leave a pretty great impression. I want to be the one everyone tunes in to see. I think we’re so excited because we can show that we are a brand that can stand on its own. The fans have been demanding it. We have been showing up and showing out whenever we had TV tapings or a TakeOver. I think NXT is very special. I can’t wait for everyone to see it. I think we are going to be great and show that NXT is not a third brand, we are THE brand, and everyone is going to have to figure out how to deal with that.”
NXT airs live starting September 18 at 8/7c on USA Network