Banks Vs Belair Black Wrestling History. 1st Black Women Wrestlemania main event EVER
April 10, 2021 will go down in Pro Wrestling history for a couple of different reasons. It was Night one of the annual WWE event Wrestlemania in Tampa Florida. The excitement has been building for months. Wrestling fans have been clamoring for Pro Wrestling for more than a year with last years event being shut off to fans due to Covid 19 and the pandemic. This was set to be the first WWE event with fans present at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa with around 25,000 fans set to be in attendance. The main event of Night One set to be a history making monumental match between the Smackdown Women’s champion Sasha Banks and the winner of the 2021 Royal Rumble and the number one contender Bianca Belair but let’s talk a bit about how we got here.
If you follow along with anything that I do, specifically my Twitter account @righteousreg, you would know how I feel about the WWE superstar known as Sasha Banks. I think she is the greatest WWE women’s wrestler OF ALL TIME bar NONE. The legacy she has created for herself in these last 9 years is so important and she’s worked just about as hard as anyone in the WWE locker room to get where she is. Banks is 6 time women’s champion. She has pioneered so many matches in WWE where women were never involved before and she has been in MANY first. For my money, not many women’s wrestlers in WWE work the style that Banks does. One of the biggest differences between Banks and others is the way she goes about a match, which I think can be attributed to the training she does down at House Of Glory wrestling with one of my favorite pro wrestlers of all time Amazing Red. Banks is constantly working on her craft while at the same time maintaining the schedule of being one of the most popular wrestlers on the entire WWE roster. Up until this point Banks is 0-5 in Wrestlemania matches. Wins and losses are not the most important thing in Pro Wrestling and just for her to have the opportunity to be in Five Wrestlemania matches is great but I was thinking going into the show that it’s time for her to get that win and have that Wrestlemania moment. She’s carried the torch(along side Bayley) for a while on Smackdown and in her mind the biggest deal for her was main eventing Wrestlemania as champion and April 10th she would do just that.
Bank’s opponent was Bianca Belair. FAST rising former college athlete out of NXT. From the absolute beginning we knew that Bianca was destined for greatness and some feel like Wrestlemania 37 might be too early for her crowning achievement. Hard work, talent, will, and just being humble and ready for the moment are what propelled Belair to this point so in her mind she’s ready for it ALL. Belair came to the main roster from NXT with A LOT of people talking highly of her. Her potential was higher than just about anybody on the roster at the time. If you had seen her in NXT you already know the things she was capable of. She had already shined in a couple of moments at NXT takeovers, getting a couple of NXT women’s championship matches but in the end coming up short. She had some interactions with Charlotte Flair that had people very intrigued to what she would do on the main roster with the other very talented women of WWE. Coming to the main roster she was built up with some videos and vignettes describing her athletic background, what she had done and why she was the EST of NXT and soon to be WWE. The videos did not do Belair justice though as she really shines live and in front of that camera. Belair was present at Wrestlemania last year but not in a super prominent match and with no fans in attendance it was much different. Throughout much of last year she was seen as one of the next big superstars of the WWE and was booked fairly strong throughout the year. No super definitive wins though just most showing what she could be. One night one Smackdown she was in a little feud with Bayley where Bayley pitched that the both of them should do an obstacle race to see who the most athletic person is. If you saw that vignettes you know Bianca was made for this. At one point Bayley kind of goes through the whole not very quickly and you know Belair is about to smoke her. Bayley added a special element where Bianca had to carry Otis for a length at the end of the obstacle which Belair achieved. That moment right there is where I think in fans minds it clicked that Belair was something else and one they needed to pay attention to. Getting a win over Bayley in the feud also helped greatly in the grand scheme of things. Bianca was in a prime position going into the 2021 Royal Rumble. She was one of the most favored wrestlers entering the Royal Rumble. Fans alike(specifically myself😂) were speculating the potential showdown at Mania between Banks and Belair but being disappointed by these types of things before I didn’t get my hopes up too much.
January 31, 2021 , The 2021 Royal Rumble took place at Tropicana Field in Florida. Banks was set to defend her Smackdown women’s championship against Carmella. She had been in a feud with Carmella who though she should be in Banks’ position and on her way to wrestlemania. Banks knew that destiny awaited in Tampa so she pulled out the victory over Carmella. Half of the Mania main event was set, Banks was heading into Wrestlemania as the Smackdown Women’s champ, which is an incredible feet in itself. Later in the night the Women’s over the top 30 person Royal Rumble began and Belair was out EARLY as number THREE. Super tough spot for Belair. Rumbles aren’t typically won from that position so it was going to be a tough night for Belair. But like Belair had said, and the videos early into her main roster run, Belair was the EST, the Greatest, the Toughest, the baddest, the meanest, woman in WWE and NOTHING we going to stop her from achieving her dream. To not very many peoples surprise Belair had an incredible showing in the Royal Rumble eliminating four people. The final two competitors of the match came down to Belair and another favorite from NXY Rhea Ripley. Through some back and fourth and a very critical moment where both women almost went out of the ring at the same time Bianca through sheer will and motivation eliminated Ripley to win the Royal Rumble and become the first Black woman in WWE history to win the Royal Rumble. This win was so important to Black wrestling fans all around SPECIFICALLY those little Black girls I see cosplaying as Bianca Belair. She achieved something that many young Black kids don’t even really believe is possible. For someone that looks like them(or that they WANT to look like) to be in the WWE getting this opportunities and winning in important moments like this is HUGE. There is a new role model for all those kids to look up to and Bianca is the perfect person for the role. The women’s Royal rumble isn’t that old of a concept with there only have been about 4 or 5 of them in history. But to know that someone like Belair could do what she does and go and win this is motivation for many all over. All we needed now was for Belair to declare who she was going to face at Wrestlemania to really set it in stone the host you that would be made. After a few weeks of teasing and some discussion between Belair and Banks of a few episodes of Smackdown we got the answer to the question we were all asking, Bianca Belair was going to challenge Sasha Banks for the Smackdown women’s championship at Wrestlemania 37. The FIRST time EVER two Black women would face off in a match for a championship at Wrestlemania. Banks took to Twitter to let everyone know that if she’s on a show she’s the main event and that if her and Belair were wrestling it need to be the last match and main event the show. The hashtag #BanksVsBelairmainevent was created and fans were on the train. Speculation had began as to would they actually main event the show as Wrestlemania would again for the second year be a two night event for the showcase of the immortals. Banks and Belair had both discussed the potential on different interviews and podcast. Main wrestling personalities and journalists were talking about if they would main event. Most on my timeline wanted it to happened because we knew the importance of this match. I myself had just watched the incredible documentary called Lady Wrestler about a number of Black Women wrestlers who wrestled in the 50s and 60s. In the documentary women pioneers like Ethel Johnson, Babs Wingo, Ramona Isbell and Marva Scott discuss the hardships they faced as women wrestlers when women’s wrestling was frowned upon and not seen as the same as the men. On top of that they were wrestling in a time where the Civil rights movement was going on in America. They couldn’t do some shows in some towns. They would have to have separate shows with white and Black talents as they couldn’t be in the same building at some shows. Madison square garden the worlds most famous arena straight up BANNED women’s wrestling from the market when Ethel Johnson and co were set to square off so they never got the opportunity. Those women paved the way for what was to come April 10. To go from not being allowed to enter the building where this event Wrestlemania was created in 1985 to being the main event of that long time famous show just shows how far we have come. For a Black wrestling fan like me who has seen the highs and lows of what it is to be a Black Wrestler this is one of the most important Black wrestling moments of all time. A week or so prior is was finally confirmed! Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair would MAIN EVENT night one of Wrestlemania and HISTORY would be made. The first time in history two Black women would be in the main event of a Wrestlemania for a major women’s championship. We have come so far from those segregated days. There were so talking points mostly on social media about how the build to the match was lackluster for some. Bianca winning the Royal rumble and saying she wants to prove why she’s the EST to the greatest of all time Sasha Banks wasn’t enough for some. To me it’s a simple story. You don’t have to tell too much because the match will do everything that it needs to do. Story development is something to get into long form at some point but this to me was fine because I KNEW what was coming.
April 10th finally arrives and I somehow have made it to Tampa because there was no way in hell I was going to miss this history being made. Something as important as this has to be seen in person and LIVED with the rest of my very excited Black wrestling Brothers and Sisters. A few hours before the show though something happens that hasn’t happened to a Wrestlemania in many many years possibly never. Raymond James Stadium is a stadium with no dome or roof and Tampa Florida decides to have a thunderstorm just a few hours before doors open and the show kicks off. It’s a very stressful situation for everyone involved. Some fans have entered the arena but the city issues a weather warning forcing everyone to evacuate the arena and get somewhere safe so no one is accidentally electrocuted. There were a few hours were we were glued to our phones expecting the worst, would Wrestlemania be canceled or postponed for the first time in history? After two or three evaluations it sure did feel like it. They ended up pushing the show back and hour or two later but luckily the major rain had stopped by that time. I get in, get to my seat and mania is underway. Night one of mania was a pretty spectacular show started with the WWE champion Bobby Lashley successfully defending his WWE championship against Drew McIntyre and being the the first Black man to ever walk in an out as champion. That’s another story for another day I know🤣. Some other very tremendous moments happened but the real magic to be had was in the main event.
A video package plays before the match which was produced pretty great and got everyone very excited and into the match. The buzz around the arena was building. We were about to witness a very important moment. One that was more than 50 years in the making. I had a moment thinking back to the lady wrestler documentary and the things that Ethel Johnson stated, it was enough to make anyone emotional. “IM ON MY OWN” blares over the speaker and young rising star Bianca Belair enters the arena. She’s smiling, she’s fitted and she’s confident. She’s gliding to the ring, you can feel her energy and know that she’s ready for this. That famous Sasha Banks music that we’ve heard for 7 years now hits and the reigning Smackdown women’s champ and I must reiterate the GREATEST WWE WOMENS WRESTLER OF ALL TIME, Sasha Banks is here in ALL HER GLORY. She takes her time to the ring. She takes in the moment. She knows the importance. It’s time to make history. In the middle of the ring during the introduction both women take the moment in and get a bit emotional. Long time WWE employee and commentator Michael Cole says over commentary “For the first time in HISTORY two Black Women will headline Wrestlemania for the Smackdown Women’s championship”. To hear it and to see it is everything. The emotions turn into intensity and the women prepare to square off. The bell rings and history is MADE. This match was based of counters. You know that both these women spent an incredible amount of time studying her opponent. The wrestling in the match showed just that. In an incredible feet of strength and the exact moment I myself knew that this match would be on fire and one of the greatest of all time, Sasha Banks attempts at dive, Belair rolls out, lifts Sasha up from the GROUND, into a gorilla press position, WALKS up the steel steps with Sasha in tow and tosses Banks down into the wrong from the apron. Incredible showing and from jump these two are goin AT IT. Banks is focusing her counters on using Bianca’s braid, which is becoming annoying and a distraction for Belair. Banks is trying to find many ways to meteora Belair into next week but she keeps missing this knees. Like I stated earlier, this match was about counters. Felt like each opponent knew exactly what was coming next. Banks is dominant at some points showing why she’s the veteran that she is BUT Belair is relentless. Everytime Banks gets the upper hand Belair would counter her into something. Banks is putting the boots to Belair and Belair catches one STRAIGHT in the grill. Belair catches banks out of the corner with a very hard spinebuster. Belair is trying for a 450 one move we’ve seen her bust out in big matches but Banks is ready. Banks is back on the braid and this time is using it to add some intensity to the Bank Statement which she has locked it. Belair reverses the bank statement which Sasha tried to use her rope flip back into it but Belair countered the counter to escape!! Banks eventually gets Belair tied up in the corner but misses the meteora from the top. Belair finally hits the 450 for a near fall!! Bianca is distraught! What can she do to beat banks. Both wrestlers are down but not out! They are goin back and fourth counter for counter trying to finish their opponent when Belair gets the upper hand and catches Banks with the KOD and the WIN to become Smackdown women’s champion. HUGE pop from the crowd. Belair is EMOTIONAL. All that hard work. All the bullshit you have to go through to become a WWE superstar. She was probably told she might not make it. Through everything, She was one half of the first EVER Black women Wrestlemania Main even and now she is a CHAMPION. Banks put on ANOTHER classic performance. Bout to start calling her Mrs. Wrestlemania. Sasha banks is 0-6 at Mania but it takes two to tango. That was one of the greatest main events in Wrestlemania history. Banks and Belair made history and this match will inspired an entire generation I have the feeling that this is only the beginning of what will come of Belair and Banks. We might be seeing this main event for years and years to come. But for now let’s congratulate Bianca Belair on becoming the New Smackdown Women’s champion. It was an amazing moment. It was history and we all got to witness it.
Im Righteous Reg, This is Black Wrecellence