Early Friday night, WWE announced the release of Zelina Vega.
Last month, Vega was considered one of the rising stars of the WWE. She is fighting Asuka for the Women’s Championship in Clash of champions at the end of September, losing the match but attacking the champion later, he finally got a chance to show his worth in the ring as a wrestler, having worked mainly as a manager.
Vega (29-year-old Tea Trinidad) has proven to be one of WWE’s most talented and versatile performers since the summer of 2017, especially in the coming months. WrestleMania 36. But its value to the company did not free it from the controversial new company-wide decree issued by CEO Vince McMahon earlier this fall, banning contractors from using platforms like Twitch and Cameo to supplement their revenue. McMahon threatened that those who did not comply with the new restrictions would be fined, suspended or fired, and Trinidad was the first victim.
So how did we get to the point where Trinidad, which was considered a valuable part of both the present and the future of the WWE, is no longer part of the company?
More than just a mismatch with the new company policy, Trinidad directly challenged WWE earlier this month by opening an account at OnlyFans, a site that allows talent to interact directly with its fans. Trinidad̵
WWE, in particular McMahon, considered this a breach of contract and responded by terminating Trinidad’s contract. Sources close to WWE informed Sports Illustrated that after discussions about Twitch, senior management felt that Trinidad had put them in a difficult situation by opening an OnlyFans account. As unpopular as this new talent policy may be, Trinidad’s dismissal serves as a sobering reminder that the new policy will be strictly enforced.
Trinidad is also an active streamer on Twitch, another site on WWE’s list of banned third-party platforms. Many active WWE stars attended Twitch, including AJ Styles and Cesaro. One way for talent to stay on sites like Twitch is to share their account with WWE and make only a small portion of the profits, earning a significant portion. Not surprisingly, this is not a well-accepted option.
For WWE, this is a chance to better monetize the world of streaming, as well as profit from stars created in WWE. But for Trinidad, as well as the personality of WWE Page (Saraya-Jade Bevis), who is also extremely vocal for the independent maintenance of their Twitch account, this impairs their ability to make money on a platform built outside the WWE.
WWE confirmed on Sports Illustrated that Trinidad was terminated for breach of contract. Following its termination, Trinidad made headlines on Friday with a tweet that reads, “I support unification,” joining Bevis to enable work to be organized. WWE performers are independent performers, although this classification has been the subject of considerable criticism and is not protected by union.
The new restrictions on additional income flows have irritated several members of the list. Last month, a group of fighters, excluding Trinidad, met with McMahon at WWE headquarters in Connecticut to express dissatisfaction with Twitch’s ban, but to no avail.
Trinidad’s dismissal also raises questions about her husband’s future with the WWE. She is married to Alistair Black (35-year-old Tom Budgen) and the two have built Twitch followers. Black is also an extremely talented wrestler, but has not been present weekly in WWE programming since the October 9 issue of Cruel, where he lost in a competitive match to Kevin Owens and was announced to move Breaking as part of the WWE project. WWE sources confirmed Sports Illustrated that Black remains under contract and he remains part of Breaking brand.
WWE has the deepest supply of talent in the whole fight and the company will continue to thrive even without the hero of Zelina Vega. However, this does not change the fact that Trinidad is an extremely talented manager and fighter. If she had stayed in the company, Trinidad had unlimited potential, especially at a time when big stars like Becky Lynch and Charlotte Fleur were missing from the WWE. Trinidad will continue to succeed in the fight, but will no longer take place on the WWE wide stage.
Justin Barasso can be found at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.