There were plenty of Latine stars who made appearances Saturday night at WWE Backlash in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but none of them made the emotional impact that Zelina Vega made when she stepped out for her fight against Rhea Ripley for the SmackDown Women’s Championship.
Vega, who is of Puerto Rican descent, received the first of multiple standing ovations as she strolled to the ring wearing an outfit to show off her Boricua pride. She also held up a large Puerto Rico flag behind her like a cape, which led to the first standing ovation of the night for Vega.
The love was so intense that Vega even got a little emotional.
What made the night even more special is that her family was there ringside. This included her mother who apparently at one point in the match, handed her daughter a blue chancla to use as a weapon against Ripley. Vega struck her opponent with it when she threw it at her from outside the ring.
Although Vega came up short in the end, her hometown crowd didn’t let her leave the ring in defeat. They gave her another standing ovation as she stood at the center of the ring and took in all the love. They even chanted, “Yo soy Boricua, pa’que tu lo sepas” (“I’m Puerto Rican, just so you know”).
Vega started her wrestling career in 2010 and signed her first contract with the WWE in 2017. Three years later, the Queens native was released by the WWE on the same day she tweeted support for unionization in pro wrestling. Reports later indicated that she was released because of her opposition to the WWE policy that prohibits its talent from using third-party social media platforms like Twitch and Cameo without the WWE’s involvement. Vega returned to the WWE in 2021. She is currently a member of the Legado Del Fantasma and the Latino World Order.
After the match, Vega went to Instagram to show her appreciation to the fans and community that came to support her in Puerto Rico. “I wish I could hug every. single. one of you in the audience and everyone sending their love from home. You have NO IDEA how much this meant to me. This weekend.. my life changed forever. I’m so honored.. so grateful and feel incredibly blessed to have had the support I had last night.”
Watch the full match between Zelina Vega and Rhea Ripley below.