Exclusive: Zelina Vega Talks About Representing Her Culture In LWO And Working With Rey Mysterio

The WWE career of Zelina Vega doesn’t feel like it makes a whole lot of sense. At present, the first ever Queen’s Crown winner is a major part of one of the hottest acts on the promotion’s roster. But less than three years ago, this present day reality felt like it was a million miles away.

Cast your minds back to November 2020. The world is knee deep in the COVID-19 pandemic and WWE’s weekly programming has taken place inside an empty, repurposed gym, a slightly less empty repurposed gym, and something called a ‘THUNDERDOME’. And during this period, Zelina Vega was not far removed from her most promising run on the main roster with ‘El Idolo’ Andrade Almas.

Then, the 32-year-old was released from her contract. Then she posted a (very good) tweet in support of unionisation within professional wrestling. Oh and then she also acknowledged having a “powerful” conversation with SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television & Radio Artists).

What came next doesn’t make a whole lot of sense because, well, wrestlers publicly calling for unionisation is, unfortunately, not really the done thing, historically.

Making Up For Lost Time

Almost eight months after her release, Zelina was suddenly back under WWE contract and entering the women’s Money In The Bank ladder match. This was followed by her victory in the company’s inaugural (and much maligned for the lack of match time it received) Queen’s Crown tournament, a rebranding as Queen Zelina and a four-month Women’s Tag Team Title reign with Carmella.

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Fast forward another few injury ridden months and the former tag champ had shed the monarchy gimmick and was siding with Legado Del Fantasma, a one-time NXT act, headed up by Santos Escobar and soon dramatically aligning themselves with Lucha Libre royalty, Rey Mysterio, becoming the second incarnation of the Latino World Order (LWO) on the eve of WrestleMania 39 and Rey’s induction into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Vega, a New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent, was not only thrust into a marquee position, she was done so in a way that allowed her to be herself, representing her people and her culture. Nowhere was this more evident than at Backlash on May 7th of this year, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

With more than 17,000 ferociously passionate Boricuas roaring her on inside the sold out Coliseo de Puerto Rico José Miguel Agrelot, Vega, draped in the island’s flag, may have come up short in her quest for Women’s World Championship gold against champion Rhea Ripley, but the ovation she received both during her match and later when the LWO ran-in during Bad Bunny’s San Juan streetfight against Damian Priest, will live long in the memory of WWE fans everywhere.

Puerto Rican Pride. Image: WWE

“My goodness, I never thought this would be my life,” Zelina begins during an exclusive chat with SPORF during Money In The Bank weekend in London earlier this year.

“To be in the position that I am to represent my culture, my heritage and be able to say ‘I’m a Puerto Rican girl from Queens, New York and this is who I am in the LWO with Rey Mysterio, a Hall of Famer. You have different people who you can look up to and for me, I just want to be what Rey Mysterio was for me growing up, for somebody else.

“It’s incredible, it’s an honour, it’s something I take responsibility on with pride for sure.”

Legendary Lessons

And Vega has certainly been maximising her minutes with her idol, the multiple time World Champion Mysterio. Because, if you’re spending an inordinate amount of time with the master of the 619, of course you’re going to do your best to score some trade secrets from him.

“Never did I think that I was going to learn how to do the 619 from Rey Mysterio,” Vega laughed as she shared her recent experience of evolving under Mysterio’s tutelage, “Because you can do it but now, especially in the last month he’s given me a little extra as far as tips go. So if you were wondering why it’s been so snappy recently it’s because I’ve been working with Rey. It’s so crazy to say that I get to do that on a weekly basis. It’s crazy.”

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Crazy seems to be an apt word for the former Impact Wrestling star, who has overcome questionable booking, being released and a long-term injury layoff to cement herself as an integral part of one of the hottest acts during one of the hottest periods in WWE history.

It is safe to say at the back end of 2020, very few if any wrestling fans were predicting this sort of meteoric rise for Zelina Vega. Given how naturally the one-time Queen has settled into her role with the LWO, and how much she is learning from her heroic mentor, hopefully the title matches and the momentous ovations are a long way from merely being a memory. Viva Vega.

All of Zelina Vega and the LWO’s greatest hits can be streamed on Peacock and the WWE Network, which is celebrating Hispanic Heritage month throughout September

Featured Image Credit: WWE