In October, WWE issued an edict to its wrestlers stating it would take control of their third party social media accounts including Twitch, with new company-led guidelines being drawn up for future revenue. While the reason was unclear at the time, reports speculated it was due to WWE claiming ownership of wrestler names and likenesses. Many decried the move as unfair, particularly given the status of WWE wrestlers as independent contractors rather than full-time employees. Now, it appears likely this decision may have cost WWE wrestler and manager Zelina Vega her job.
Vega, whose real name is Thea Trinidad Büdgen, is an active Twitch streamer, runs an OnlyFans account for her cosplay and has a Cameo page. Wrestlers were asked to remove these third party accounts within a strict time frame, and it appears Vega did not comply.
According to Wrestling Inc., this caused vocal disagreements with WWE management and led to her eventual release.
The first inkling fans were given about her status was when she tweeted on Saturday about the importance of unions for wrestlers:
I support unionization.
— ???????????????????????? ???????????????? (@Zelina_VegaWWE) November 13, 2020
Wrestling unions have long been spoken about in the wrestling industry to protect the rights of workers who often go without proper healthcare or days off due to their contracts — but efforts to unionise are often met with resistance from management and from top-billed wrestlers like Hulk Hogan in the 1990s.
Ten minutes after posting the tweet supporting unionisation, WWE officially announced Vega's release from the company. At this stage, it appears the tweet was only the tip of the iceberg, with the decision regarding Vega's employment reportedly being made earlier in the week.
While reports are currently unconfirmed, Dave Meltzer claimed via Wrestling Observer Radio Vega was making more money on Twitch than she was with WWE, the likely reason she disagreed with WWE's stance:
"There are a couple of women that are making more money with their social media than they are making with WWE and they are gonna be real interesting and one of those was Zelina Vega."
While the circumstances of her departure are still unclear, she has vowed to continue streaming via her Twitch page. Following the announcement of her release, she took to Twitch to connect with fans and reiterate she was here to stay. She thanked fans for watching and for their ongoing support.
With former U.S. presidential candidate Andrew Yang speaking vocally about WWE's decision to take control of wrestler Twitch accounts and promising he hasn't forgotten about Vince McMahon (WWE's Chairman and CEO) in the weeks since the democrats won the U.S. election, the situation with WWE's Twitch ownership may change in the future.
For now, WWE wrestlers will need to work with the company to maintain their communities and continue building their social media profiles.