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Bigger Missed Opportunity?
These two were the prime candidates by WWE officials to be the next big thing in the post-Fab Four era of WWE. But, due to a myriad of mishaps, it never came to light. Who was the bigger missed opportunity for the women's division: Lana or Eva Marie?
Rumors circulated in 2015 that WWE was looking to position Eva Marie and/or Lana as future stars in the women's division in the coming years. After husband Rusev's initial push for the United States Championship had dissipated at WrestleMania 31, Lana's character would become more of a focal point in the summer that followed, as she was paired with Dolph Ziggler and turned babyface. The plan was for Lana to be 'Americanized' and be known as "CJ"; a hot, blonde bombshell character. A big blow-off/coming out party for Lana was planned at SummerSlam 2015 between her and Dolph against Rusev and Summer Rae would be cancelled after Lana sustained an injury in training and (allegedly) contacted TMZ in regards to her and Rusev's in-real life engagement, which irritated officials and ultimately led to Lana being placed back with Rusev again. She has intermittently flirted with active in-ring competition since then, even competing for the SmackDown Women's Championship and in the Money in the Bank Ladder match in consecutive years, but no real overtures have been made since in regards to positioning her any higher or making her an act separate from Rusev.
Alternatively, Eva Marie was sent back down to WWE's developmental territory, NXT, following WrestleMania 31 and two seasons of featuring on E!'s Total Divas. Enlisting the likes of Brian Kendrick for private training (which was ultimately brought up as a focal point of the Total Divas arc in Season 4), Eva Marie returned to NXT ready to wow... but, she didn't. Instead, a unique archetype was re-introduced in which her mere appearance created controversy-- a beautiful woman with a lot of corporate backing, but little physical ability. This gimmick parlayed her into a Women's Championship match on NXT TV and a lot of hype for a main roster transition of the gimmick following the brand extension of 2016, which inevitably wouldn't happen due to a Wellness policy violation and an irate husband-ger leading her every move.
With the backing of The Rock and Henry Cavill's management company, Eva left the WWE to pursue a career in film, or in fashion, or in modeling, or in makeup, or in YouTube, or in podcasting, or in motivational speaking, or in psuedo-celebrity status, or in having a different hair color. Whichever came first. Meanwhile, Lana holds the fort down as a part of Rusev's "Rusev Day" act, the peak of her husband's marketability within their collective tenure in WWE.
With all things considered and their respective appeals, who was the bigger loss for the company? Does Lana still have a chance to reach a bigger peak within the women's division?
Zelina Vega on Chasing Glory
By Ninja Balenciaga
Still listening, will update.
- Has known Lilian for years. Told a story about how Lilian told her to slip a bit of Spanish into her promo when she was doing a tryout.
- The WWE is helping her to become fluent in Spanish. Andrade is also helping her with her Spanish and she's helping him get better with English.
- Was a huge Hardy Boyz fan. Had a crush on Jeff. Got to know them over the years. Was a huge fan of Lita & Trish too. Talks about becoming friendly with Trish and how much they look alike.
- Ran away from home at 18 to live with her boyfriend and train at wrestling. Eventually went back a few years later to stay with her aunt a bit.
- Got into a really bad motorcycle accident with a boyfriend. Doctor's told her that they were surprised she survived. She credits her guardian angels watching over her and knowing how to take flip bumps for her not being very hurt. Zelina dumped her boyfriend shortly afterwards.
- Doesn't have a ton of close friends in the locker room yet, but that's a work in progress. Feels like she didn't have much in common with them, but then started seeing that they did. Bonded with Becky over their love of Pearl Jam. Started riding with Lana a bit and they started opening up to each other. Known Naomi for years going back to FCW. She was in FCW for a tryout and did a tag match with Naomi in front of Dusty Rhodes. Recently got to be in the ring with Naomi at a live event and was excited as it was 8 years since they got to wrestle each other.
- Remembers turning on the TV and thinking what was happening on the screen was a movie, but it was 9/11. Her parents were separated at the time. Her father was on his cell phone with her mother while he was in the second World Trade Center tower on the 103rd floor. He realized during the course of the phone call that he probably wasn't going to survive it. Watched the second tower go down live on TV. Was surprised that they were able to send his remains to the family. In the following time, would still back her bag as if she was going to spend time with him and her mom eventually had to snap her out of that.
- She used to cut herself to feel something as she felt so numb. Also developed bulimia. Turned to wrestling at 17 as that was something that her & her father bonded over and that pulled her out of that dark space.
- None of the 9/11 charity songs did anything for her. But Jeff Hardy's song September Day and Lilian's post-9/11 rendition of the anthem helped her cope. This really hits Lilian and she starts to cry.
- Her & Lilian bond over being able to hear & talk to their father's now and getting signs from them. Tells a story about the first time she spoke with the Rock. It was backstage at Barclays. They bumped into each other and just said hi & introduced themselves. Zelina felt her father telling her to go back up to him, so she did while Rock was talking with Rusev & Lana. She told him all about her story and her late father and how big of a Rock fan he was. Rock texted her a month later and said he looked up more information about her father and said that made his conversation with her that month earlier so much more special. He's become a mentor to her since.
- Fighting with My Family is set to come out in March 2019. Was at a point where she wanted to quit wrestling. WWE wouldn't hire her after doing 7 tryouts and she didn't want to go back to TNA. The night of Takeover, she got a call from William Regal to see if wanted to come in and got a call from Rock telling her about the Fighting with my Family movie & that she would be playing AJ Lee.
- Managers that she looks up to and molds herself after: Stephanie McMahon, Melina, Sensational Sherri & Paul Heyman
- Has become close with Rock's daughter Simone. Revealed that Simone does train at the PC sometimes. Said Simone got inspired to start training after she watched Zelina vs. Tessa as AJ vs. Paige.
- When she eventually got hired by WWE, the idea was already in WWE's mind to put her with Andrade Almas. She says they aren't romantic, it's more of a brother/sister type of relationship outside of the ring.
Zelina Vega On Her Pairing With Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas
By Ninja Balenciaga
The pairing of Zelina Vega and Andrade ‘Cien‘ Almas hasn’t just been a hit with wrestling fans, it’s also been a hit with Zelina herself — as the wrestler says Andrade is a huge help to her.
The duo were interviewed by the guys at Busted Open and in a video clip released online Vega gushes about what Almas has done to advance her in-ring skills.
“He’s helped me with — we talked about psychology and picking your spots and making things make sense,” she explained. “Especially for my size. I thought at some points, ‘Well, I can’t do any power moves. How can I do this?’ And he instantly comes up with, ‘Ok, let’s try this. Let’s use this to your advantage. Let’s not look at it as a disadvantage. Let’s look at it as an advantage and how we can use it against people.'”
Zelina and Andrade were first paired together on NXT in June ’17. Cien went on to win the NXT Championship afterward and ultimately get called up during the Superstar Shakeup.