Spending time away from the squared circle can damage the career of a professional wrestler, especially when they're at the top of their game, like Bianca Belair. The three-time Women's champion spent two-and-a-half months out of action thanks to a vicious attack by Damage CTRL, but now she's more determined than ever to get back to where she left off.
"For the first time in my career, I feel angry. I was away from the ring for so long, something I'm not used to," Belair told Complex. "I was champion for over a year, and I'm someone who's always working, and I always value myself through my product and my productivity, but being on the shelf really changed me."
Belair is one of the biggest superstars in the WWE today. Her matches and in-ring ability are sights to see, and fans show their appreciation every time the powerhouse hits the ring. "The EST of WWE" is also the longest-reigning Black champion of all time in WWE, male or female.
"Sitting at home for that long was rough," said Belair. "This has been a mental challenge for me. I was coming every Friday, every week, showing up, showing out, you know, booked and busy. That's my lifestyle, that's my mindset."
She continues, "It's been me, myself and I for a very long time, and I stood up to every challenge. But then I ran into a tougher challenge with Damage CTRL, and I'm fighting three people who tried to take me out. Things had to change."
Since her return in October, Belair has been on fire trying to get her hands on Bayley, Iyo Sky, Dakota Kai, and now Kairi Sane, who interfered in the title match at Crown Jewel earlier this month. Each week, Belair faced the group under various circumstances while also creating a team behind the scenes that includes Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, and Shotzi.
With this new team, Belair may finally eradicate Damage CTRL in a women's WarGames match at Survivor Series this Saturday night at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois. Once that's out of the way, she can get back to pursuing her ultimate goal, the WWE Women's Championship.
Bianca Belair spoke more with Complex about her return, how important sitting on the shelf was for her physically and mentally, her pursuit of the Women's Championship, why she feels like J. Cole's song "Middle Child," what the future holds, and more.
You mentioned that you're angry now because of the time you missed, thanks to Damage CTRL. How were you able to tap into that when you've been a person who hasn't really shown that side before?
It happened naturally. When you go from being a champion to sitting on the shelf and watching Smackdown, seeing Damage CTRL do whatever they want, and there's nothing you can do about it, that'll light a fire inside of you. I was rehabbing and working out where my body is stronger, but I just couldn't get my mind to relax.
I've been dealing with Damage CTRL for over a year now, and it just hit me how tired I was of being nice and turning the other cheek. I'm tired of being a nice person, so I came back with a vengeance, and I'm not letting up or missing a step.
With you taking on this new "angry" mindset, are you afraid those feelings will take over and change you into someone else?
No, because I want to tap into that anger. This is a new feeling, but I think at the same time, I still have my integrity. That won't change or make me a different person, but this feeling is justified. Whatever comes out of me at Survivor Series is not on me; that's on Damage CTRL.
Survivor Series is going to be a huge event this year. What makes this WarGames match so special for you on this stage?
I've been dealing with Damage CTRL for over a year at this point, and I've been dealing with Bayley for even longer. Bayley was my first feud when I joined the main roster four years ago. So, I've been fighting them by myself for the most part. It's been me myself and I versus Bayley, Iyo, Dakota and now Kairi.
So I'm excited for Survivor Series because, hopefully, I can use that stage to finally take them on because this has been going on for too long. Survivor Series has always been one of my favorite premium live events, and I'm excited to use that opportunity to finally take Damage CTRL down and get back to business.
The WWE landscape is much different now than in August, with all the new superstars who have joined the company. What are your thoughts about finding your way and fitting in with a new crop of people who are just as hungry as you?
Our division is more stacked than it's ever been, and I feel like J. Cole at this point right now, like I'm the middle child. I'm stuck in between generations. You have the generation that came before me, Bayley, Becky, Charlotte, and Asuka. Then you have the new girls that are coming in, you know, Zoey Stark and Raquel, and then the NXT girls.
So, like, I'm stuck in the middle of two generations, but I still have a place here, so make room because I'm not going anywhere. What's for me will be for me. I was a star when I got on this scene, and I'm going to continue to be a star, so I'm always going to have a place. I'm in my own lane, and nobody can come in my lane. I'm going to go after it, and it's always going to be mine.
In addition to being champion, you've also lost the belt in some memorable moments like losing it in 22 seconds and having a Money in the Bank briefcase cashed in twice against you. How do you explain that ongoing trend?
Every time I have my title, something happens. It's like I'll have it and then I don't have it and then I have it. It's always something but I feel like it doesn't really bother me because that's what keeps me going, you know? And that's just, that's just how life is and I'm showing people that life isn't always going to be great. There's going to be ups, there's going to be downs, but you got to keep moving forward.
At the end of the day, losing the title in those ways just makes me better. People are coming after me, and I have a target on my back when I'm champion. When I don't have it, I'm trying to get that title, and they're just grooming me and making me better.
You've been busy outside of the ring as well. You and your husband, Montez Ford, have a new reality show on the way.
Yes, our show is coming on Hulu on February 2. We filmed on the Road to Wrestlemania last year, which is the busiest and most stressful time for us superstars, so we're very excited to show you guys a look at our lives on the road. People will see who we are outside the ring, who we are at home, and really just trying to navigate the crazy WWE lifestyle while also trying to navigate being husband and wife. I'm nervous about it because I never thought that I would be someone who would do reality TV. I'm a shy person behind the scenes, and Montez is the live-action person, but I think it's a fantastic opportunity.
What does your Road to WrestleMania look like once you wrap things up with Damage CTRL?
I mean, the goal is always just to get to WrestleMania, and at this point, our division is so stacked right now. So I think, for the first time, it's a lot of pressure being felt like, how am I gonna get to WrestleMania? What's my role gonna be at Wrestlemania? How can I get to the title at WrestleMania also, too? I went for the three-peat last year at WrestleMania, so I'm definitely trying to get back there to go for a fourth time to continue my undefeated streak at WrestleMania.
It's no secret that people want to see you cross paths with Jade Cargill. You two are similar in so many ways, and she's told me how she would love to face off with you in the ring. What are your thoughts on that?
I mean, we just have to see what happens. She's made a name for herself without even having a match yet. Her hype is amazing, and I'm looking for her to hit the ground running and not let up as she should be. But we're eventually going to cross paths and run into each other, and it's going to be big.
The best thing about it is it doesn't even have to be us facing each other. We could fight, we could be a team, we could do a promo together, but the point is the bigger picture and the doors we're opening by doing that.
Jade told me a match between you and her can't happen at a regular premium live event. It's WrestleMania or nothing for her when it comes to you.
You know what that tells me about her? She's confident. Coming into WWE, if you're not confident, if you're not gunning for the top, if you're not going for the title, if you're not going for the best, why are you here? The possibility of me and her is going to be fun. I love competition so she can bring it if she wants.
Your ascent to the top of the WWE has been remarkable, and this is the first time we've really seen you climb back up the ladder. If you could describe your journey with one word, what would it be, and why?
That's a tough one, but I would say unprecedented. My journey in WWE happened so fast, and I've accomplished so much. I'm doing things that have never been done before and making history. I'm groundbreaking and a trendsetter. They've never seen anything like me before. A black woman who's strong, powerful, and confident. Some could say it's borderline cockiness, but it's just confidence.