With her surprising lethal braid and powerhouse moves, Bianca Belair was a standout competitor in the inaugural Mae Young Classic. Yet, most fans know very little about the “EST of NXT.”

Bianca Belair

Here are five fast facts about Bianca Belair.

5. She’s An Accomplished Track and Field Athlete

Long before stepping inside the squared circle, Bianca Belair – real name Bianca Blair – was a standout collegiate hurdler. However, her path to success was a rocky one.

It took Belair six years and three different universities to complete her college career. She started at the University of South Carolina before transferring to Texas A&M. Then she took a year off from track and field before transferring yet again to the University of Tennessee. It was there that she finally found her footing, earning All-SEC and All-American honors, and being named to the SEC’s academic honor roll in 2011 and 2012. By the end of Belair’s time with the Lady Vols, her coaches were pushing her to go pro – but she felt that track had fully served its purpose:

“I feel [track] got me where it needed to get me to,” Blair said. “It got me a scholarship into college and it took care of college. It just felt like a chapter that I needed to close and move on from there.”

Little did she know at that point that she’d be moving on to WWE.

4. She Was A CrossFit Competitor

Before she dreamed of becoming a wrestler, however, Belair planned for a future in CrossFit. She competed in the regional circuit and was successful enough that she appeared in RX and Femme Rouge magazines, as well as on CrossFit.com – but then an overuse injury cut her career short:

“I have shifting rib syndrome,” said Blair of her injury, formally known as intercostal chondritis, described as inflammation of the cartilage that connects a rib to the breastbone. “There’s no treatment, there’s no surgery, there’s really nothing you can do for it.

Once again, Belair found herself having to start over. But she wouldn’t immediately turn to WWE.

3. She Worked In Sales Before WWE

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Faced with a new reality devoid of both track and CrossFit, Belair resigned herself to the 9-to-5 drudge. Believe it or not, she worked as a sales representative for a flavoring company in Atlanta – and she felt like her life was going nowhere:

“I was just settling,” Blair said. “I was trying to live the life I felt was the hand I was dealt. I thought there would be something bigger, but this is what it is.”

Unsatisfied and craving a return to competition, Belair submitted her info to WWE on a whim. Less than two weeks later, fate intervened.

2. Mark Henry Offered Her A Tryout

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About a week and a half after entering her info into WWE’s prospects database, Belair received a message on social media. It was Mark Henry – and it was pure coincidence.

Henry had found Belair through the CrossFit circuit, not her submission to WWE. He told her that he could get her a tryout, but she would have “to do the rest of the work.” Belair took Henry’s message as a sign that she was destined for wrestling:

 “I just thought this was so ironic,” Blair said. “So many times throughout my life I tried so hard to make things work with track or with CrossFit. All the pieces were just coming together, and I had to go for it. This is for me. This has to be for me. There’s no way that all of this is lining up perfectly.”

After two tryouts, Belair signed with WWE in April 2016. She made her first in-ring appearance at an NXT live event that June, and made her in-ring debut in a losing effort against Aliyah that September.

1. She’s Admittedly Struggled With The Performance Aspect of Wrestling

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Despite being a standout competitor in the inaugural Mae Young Classic, Belair admitted that she’s struggled with the performance aspect of pro wrestling:

“It’s been a challenge finding the groove of being athletic and being a performer but also being entertaining at the same time,” said Blair, who made her first in-ring appearance on Sept. 29 [2016]. “I’ve focused on finding the character that fits me and is natural to me so that I can portray it correctly.”

That character she found is the “EST of NXT” – and she’s determined to prove her worth. “Every single day I’m here to prove [Mark Henry] right and show him that what he saw in me is there,” Belair said. “It’s been a challenge, but I’m extremely grateful to be here and am excited for what’s to come.”

Do you think Bianca Belair has a bright future in NXT/WWE?