Note: Because of the uniqueness of this event I felt it was best to get a woman’s perspective so this piece is authored by a guest writer, Tonya Rodgers. You can find her on Twitter at @TheWitchMilitia.
I have been a wrestling fan for as long as I can remember. As a little girl in the late 80s, I gravitated to bright, loud, and boisterous personalities that I could relate to how I wanted to be. But the older I got, I began to realize that all my idols were people who did not look like me. So although I admired these wrestlers, I couldn’t see myself in them. It didn’t exactly feel like a place that I could belong. Any Black wrestling fan is very familiar with the lack of representation in the sport of professional wrestling. And most girls and women have their reasons for feeling left out for years as well, so imagine being a BLACK GIRL growing up as a fan.
Of course the mid to late 90s saw Miss Jacqueline show up and show out in what limited roles she was give, and later on Jazz and Awesome Kong were forces to be reckoned with. But even as the Women’s Revolution came to fruition, it never really felt like a major wrestling promotion really got it, or saw us (Black women) as an important enough part of the fanbase to book a Black woman as a star out of the gate. Sasha Banks was BEGGING to be announced as the One, but because of how good she was, was asked to build others and ‘wait her turn’.
Naomi had to ‘wait her turn’ for so long and was overshadowed when she finally got a title reign. Banks, with her acclaimed resume, is just NOW being treated truly as a star, and one has to question if outside forces are not partly responsible for that. With Black women’s wrestlers, it was always ‘wait your turn’ before ultimately getting passed over.
Bianca Belair debuted on NXT and there was a familiar feeling of ‘wait your turn’. Despite her picking up wrestling on a level not seen since Kurt Angle, having a relatable gimmick, and acing her character work, every excuse was given why she never won a big match. Her performance in the last Rumble further drove home the point that she is a star and should be treated as such. I am proud to say that in this year’s Royal Rumble Bianca received the star treatment she deserves. Being the first Black woman to win the Rumble is a tremendous honor but I am hopeful that the manner in which she did, being Iron Woman and having the most eliminations, means that it’s not just a token moment to dangle in front of a long suffering portion of the WWE audience. My hope is that Bianca is the first of many Black women who get their flowers when they’re in the business and stop telling them and their fans to ‘wait their turn’.
Bianca winning the 2021 Royal Rumble makes 10 year old me so happy. That little girl that wondered when all the women who look like me are when they watch. It makes 36 year old me feel like I am valued as a fan after all. This should be just the tip of the iceberg for what we see from Ms. Belair and I for one, cannot wait to see what she does with her turn.