The World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) announced the company had parted ways with rising women’s star Zelina Vega on Friday shortly after she expressed support for organized labor on social media.
Vega, whose real name is Thea Megan Trinidad Budgen, had been with the promotion since 2017 and has recently performed on the internationally televised Monday Night Raw and Friday Night Smackdown shows.
“WWE has come to terms with the release of Zelina Vega,” the organization said in a brief, two-sentence statement released on Friday afternoon. “We wish her all the best in her future endeavors.”
WWE has come to terms on the release of Zelina Vega. We wish her all the best in her future endeavors.https://t.co/RUebMGwBTA
— WWE (@WWE) November 13, 2020
A WWE official told TheWrap that Budgen’s exit is unrelated to a tweet she had posted just ten minutes earlier that said, “I support unionization.” The outlet reported that she “was let go” because of a previous, unspecified contract violation.
I support unionization.
— 𝓩𝖊𝖑𝖎𝖓𝖆 𝓥𝖊𝖌𝖆 (@Zelina_VegaWWE) November 13, 2020
“I want to say thank you all very much for the last 3-4 years @WWEUniverse, it was incredible,” Budgen tweeted after being released. “I would never have been able to say ‘this is for you dad’ if certain people did not believe in me. I love you all and I couldn’t have done it without your support.”
10 minutes. Jesus. pic.twitter.com/7VqaliUOWc
— Jordan W S (@jordanw_s) November 13, 2020
It’s unclear what prompted Budgen to tweet in support of unions. WWE remains a non-union entity. During an appearance on Steve Austin’s podcast in 2016, Jesse Ventura said he attempted to convince his WWE (the-WWF) co-stars to unionize in 1986, only to find himself almost fired by WWE CEO Vince McMahon within hours. Years later, Ventura said he learned during his ultimately successful unpaid royalties lawsuit against the wrestling organization that he’d been snitched on by Hulk Hogan.
Former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang lashed out at WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon on CNN in September, accusing the wrestling mogul of misclassifying wrestlers as independent contractors. WWE does not provide health insurance to its in-ring talent, according to Stephanie McMahon, Vince’s daughter, who serves as the company’s chief brand officer. However, she said WWE pays the medical expenses related to any injuries sustained while performing.
Yang’s allegations came after WWE reportedly told its superstars that they would no longer be permitted to use third-party platforms, such as Twitch, Cameo, TikTok, under their stage names. According to Deadspin, “McMahon and WWE claimed they even owned performers’ real names” initially, but they backed down after immediate backlash.
Come on Vince – you’ve already deprived the folks breaking their backs for you of healthcare, security, recovery time, retirement benefits and fair treatment re: licenses and royalties. At least let them make a living off their own names. Many of them need it.
— Andrew Yang🧢🇺🇸 (@AndrewYang) September 5, 2020
“I grew up a wrestling fan and it’s been sad to see so many of my childhood heroes pass away early,” Yang wrote on Twitter. “For all of the wrestlers who know that you’re being misclassified but are reliant on staying on Vince’s good side – even because WWE might hire you – I get it. Our job is to make it easier for you to get what you deserve without risking your career.”
I haven’t forgotten about Vince McMahon. https://t.co/m2BGJMhqXv
— Andrew Yang🧢🇺🇸 (@AndrewYang) November 14, 2020
After the news of Budgen’s release broke on Friday, Yang tweeted, “I haven’t forgotten about Vince McMahon.”
Budgen used her Twitch live-streaming platform that night to discuss the break up with thousands of her fans.
“If I go down as someone who stood up for themselves, then so be it,” she said. “I’m not angry. I’m just heartbroken because being a wrestler is all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
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