Mark Henry earned his moniker of The World's Strongest Man due to his weightlifting records and that became part of his WWE gimmick throughout his career. Bianca Belair may not have the title of The World's Strongest Woman, but she is arguably the strongest female on the WWE roster and has shown off feats of strength in the ring and in vignettes.
Belair discussed learning about her own strength when she talked to The World's Strongest Man on Busted Open.
"I think sometimes I don't know my own strength and that is something I had to learn when I first got here. I know there's been times I picked girls up and I'll hear, 'Oh my God, she just picked me up and walked around the ring with me. She's crazy.' It's rare to see a girl my size who can lift as much weight as I can, but it surprises some girls that I'm able to pick up and throw around their body weight," said Belair. "But I always say, a lot of the girls I'm in the ring with I can power clean and crisp with your body weight. So, I've been doing this for a while. It helped me in the ring a lot."
Some Superstars try to hard to be loved or hated by the WWE Universe and often times those efforts fall flat. The WWE Universe can see right through what's genuine or not but Belair has just been herself since joining WWE. She talked more about not trying to play into what anybody wants and just being organic with the fans.
"I prefer to honestly be myself. I prefer to just go out there. Especially NXT, I didn't really worry too much about trying to convince people to like me or trying to get people to hate me. I went out there and I tried to just be myself and have fun and amp up who I was to a thousand and just have lots of personalities added to charisma and just be larger than life and have fun with it. I kind of let the fans decide from there, whether they like me or love me," stated Belair.
"I remember thinking about my character and saying I'm going to be the best. What can embody all of this? That's where the EST came from and I walk around calling myself the best and first, I said, 'How many people are really going to like someone just telling them they're better than them?' I was expecting people to hate me, but then, I would have some people say, 'Yeah girl, you tell them you are better than them!' So, it was seeing where some people love me, some people hate me and I use that to my advantage and whatever role I needed to play at the time, I just amped it up."
Belair has portrayed a babyface, a heel and even a tweener in her time in WWE. She was asked which role she likes the most.
"What I prefer is to be the villain; it's more fun to be the villain. To get people to like you is very challenging," admitted Belair. "I think either one worked, but I prefer to be the villain because it is more fun."
Belair spent three-and-a-half years in NXT before being called up to the main roster. While she had many memorable matches over that span, Belair wasn't able to capture a championship while in NXT. Thus, when she was called up to the main roster it would be normal for Belair to feel like she could have accomplished more during her time in developmental. She talked about how she felt leaving NXT and what she's excited about with the main roster.
"I was definitely excited. I felt like I accomplished a lot in NXT. I feel like I also could've stayed in NXT. I had so much more that I could have accomplished, but I was definitely excited. I knew that in my mind, everything was starting over," said Belair. "The fanbase in NXT knew who I was when I moved to RAW. I may start over and reintroduce myself because people might not know who I am and haven't seen me before. I was really excited to be in a new environment, reintroduce myself and start having matches with new girls that were on RAW and same thing with SmackDown. I was super transit on SmackDown because I felt there's so many opportunities for me on SmackDown and it's happening very quickly. I'm excited to start reintroducing myself and showing everybody who the EST is."
Belair's exposure to the wrestling business came via the man who was interviewing her – Mark Henry. He saw her CrossFit profile and reached out to Belair on social media to gauge her interest in pro wrestling. After a couple of tryouts Belair was assigned to the Performance Center and she talked about having a sense of pride of how NXT helped transform her into a Superstar.
"NXT, I had a lot of pride because Mark Henry, he's such a huge part on why I got my foot at the door. I came there and they bred me from someone having zero experience to having TakeOver matches and I definitely felt a family environment because we were grinding day in and day out. We were out there putting matches together, perfecting and honing our craft in the Performance Center," stated Belair.
"For us, it wasn't just showing up for shows and putting on matches. It was showing up for the Performance Center, practicing, grinding, and studying and researching and training and going out there, seeing our hard work unfold in the ring. In NXT, when we first went live on the USA Network, I always had these great moments. I was in the first ever Women's WarGames Match. I was in the first NXT Team at Survivor Series. We just had all of these great experiences and grinding together. So, it's definitely a family environment. We procured grind in just seeing all of our hard work unfolding. I really had a whole lot of pride when it came to NXT."
Belair has even more of a reason to love her time in NXT as she met her husband Montez Ford there. She talked about their relationship and what may make their relationship different than other wrestling couples.
"I don't think we had a great balance at first. I don't think there was bad advice. If anything, I think it made me more aware and careful in picking who I chose to fall in love with. I think we have a great balance and I honestly feel it made things a lot easier just being able to have someone who understands this business, understands the day in and day out that we go through. We understand the frustration, the highs, the lows and he was someone I could lean on a lot especially because he grew up watching wrestling," said Belair.
"A lot of times, i hear couples say when they get home, they don't really talk about wrestling. But wrestling is such a huge part about our life that it's just impossible for us not to talk about wrestling. For one, it was the one thing that bonded us together. We met while we were in NXT. So, we talk about that while we're at home, watch wrestling together, come up with ideas together. We support each other. He's [SmackDown Tag Team] champion and I've never been champion. I'm supporting him. I'm just as happy for him as he is for me. So, I think we have a great balance on and it's fun to be able to share these moments with him.
"We just had our first WrestleMania together that we got to share and it's just been great. Wrestling really tuned my life around. It brought me a whole husband!"
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Busted Open w/Mark Henry with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Mehdy Labriny contributed to this article.