Zelina Vega was interviewed by TV Insider, discussing her transition to in-ring competition and more.
On her confidence on WWE TV: “It was legit hunger I had because it took me about seven or eight years to get to WWE. It was the constant tryouts, being turned away and being told it wasn’t the right time yet. It was always something. I’m the type of person who doesn’t have thin skin. I just said, ‘Okay, how can I make this better? How can I improve myself?’ Then when they paired me with Andrade, it was like lightning struck. It felt like the perfect timing for me because I felt I’ve worked so hard to get here and prove myself. Then he was hungry because he knew the talent he had. He just needed that extra spice or sizzle to him. We are each other’s yin and yang. It just worked out perfectly. I just felt like for me it’s this constant need to prove myself. Even now where people think I’m just a manager and haven’t been wrestling for 11 years. They haven’t seen what I can do. You can see now two different sides to me where it’s the striking side due to [my husband] Aleister [Black]. Then I get the more lucha side due to Andrade. It’s a nice combination in my arsenal.”
On if she was disappointed to be a manager at first: “Honestly, no. I saw it as another challenge for me. I had the conversation with Hunter [Triple H] too. He said, ‘I know you want to wrestle, but I feel this is a great starting point. If you want to get to wrestling still, we’ll absolutely go there. But if you fall in love with this role, let’s go with it. We see great things for you in this role.’ I feel looking at people like Paul Heyman or Sherri [Martel], even Melina. They really helped shape who I became eventually. I didn’t come out being a manager. I learned to be that way. It’s funny when people ask me to make the face I do when Andrade gets hurt. I can’t because it’s my genuine reaction. It’s all real. I genuinely get scared for him. I care about him like a brother, so I think it just adds an extra layer of authenticity to my character. ”
On if there’s more of a desire to prove herself on Raw: “It was the same with NXT where you have to prove yourself to the audience. They have to know you to form an opinion of you. This is why when I first started wrestling I didn’t want to just jump into doing shows. Once the audience knows you, it’s hard to undo that. For me, I wanted to make sure I was ready and have the audience feel the way I wanted them to feel about me. You just have to prove yourself. Raw is a whole different stage as is SmackDown. It can be Raw and SmackDown versus NXT. You don’t know that until you step out and realize the difference in reaction. Then it becomes, ‘Okay, I have to prove myself to the Raw audience now because this is different.’ Now this is another step where I can prove myself again.”
On how much input she has on her outfits and the similarity to Sensational Sherri: “Thank you. I wanted that. When you think of Sherri they say, ‘When they put her with him, she upped their stock.’ I wanted people to think that way with me. I wanted people to think that if someone was going to be put with me, they’d immediately get put on another level. When it comes to my outfits, I have complete creative control. I kind of know the vibe we are going for. I just play with it, especially if it’s for a pay-per-view or something important. I love bringing my life into it. Vega, I got that last name from Street Fighter because I love him. I got to bring that into my last name. I dressed like him for the Royal Rumble. Then when I wanted to do something more intricate, I did Sombra from Overwatch for SummerSlam. Depending on what I’m going for in the moment and what the story calls for, it decides who I might be bringing into my character that day. Who I’m trying to shed some light on. I always try to be different because I look at the other girls, and nothing I wear looks like anything they wear. I take pride in that because there is something to, ‘Oh, Zelina looks like this.’ Like if Zelina was a doll, what would she look like? Everybody would know exactly what she would look like, and that is important to me.”
On the increase in diversity on WWE TV, particularly among women: “It has always been important to me. I’m Puerto Rican from New York. We’re all very proud of who we are. My family, I’m proud of them and feel like I’m representing them. I’m also representing the culture while I’m doing what I’m doing. I want that to reflect well on all of us as Latinos and Latinas. You think of Eddie [Guerrero] and Rey [Mysterio], but I wanted people to initially, especially in NXT, to think of me. That was a huge thing for us. We really wanted to stand strong with who we were. It’s interesting now because like you said there wasn’t really much when we started. It was really just Rey coming back, Kalisto was coming in. Some of the girls, especially like AJ [Lee] and Bayley. They are Latinas as well. Some people don’t even know that they were and are representing as well. It might not have been in your face, but they were. For me, it was making sure I kept that level of confidence and respect for our culture and bringing that into everything we do.”
On WWE’s stance on third-party platforms: “WWE has always been respectful and encouraging with stuff like that for me. I remember even when I did my cosplay for the Royal Rumble. They thought it was really cool and different. Then Street Fighter tweeted about it. We love working on things like that. We have UpUpDownDown, doing things with Mortal Kombat. They have always been very supportive in that way. I love that I get a chance to do what I do and live my dream, but also I get to live out other dreams like working with Tekken and stuff like that. Never did I think playing Mortal Kombat as a kid that I would be at the Mortal Kombat reveal. It’s definitely a blessing. As much as I’m a fan of them, they’re fans of wrestling and mine. It’s mind-blowing.”