Zelina Vega made her surprise return to the WWE back in the July 2 edition of Friday Night SmackDown, roughly eight months after she had been fired by the company. Vega had been outspoken about WWE's policy regarding its wrestlers working with third-party companies like Twitch and Cameo and had just opened a cosplay-centric OnlyFans account right before being let go. Vega has remained mostly quiet about why she chose to return since then, though her husband Tom Budgen (Malakai Black in AEW) has shed some light on the situation in certain interviews. According to comments he made during a recent Talk Is Jericho interview, part of the reason Vega decided to re-sign was that he was still an active member of the roster.
Unfortunately, on the exact same day she made her return to television, he was suddenly released by WWE due to budget cuts. While describing the circumstances behind his release, Black said (h/t Fightful), "It's no longer relevant. I'm (in AEW) now. Two weeks before I attacked Big E, on the night of the last vignette, I had a sit down with Vince. He was convinced of it and liked it. I wanted to get his thoughts as I hadn't seen him in six months and a lot had happened. I wanted to see how he was doing. We had a normal conversation. We did the attack on Big E and something about it didn't feel right. I told my wife [Zelina Vega] as well. The way he looked, there was a disconnect. Not a disconnect as in, 'I don't get it,' but I felt he made up his mind, even back then. It's his company, it's fine. When (the release) happened, Johnny Ace [John Laurinaitis] called me and even he was confused. My wife was crying because she knew. She was about to come back and one of the main reasons she wanted to come back was because I was there, which was more or less the driving force, other than the promises they made her."
Thanks to a clerical error, Black only had to wait 30 days before he could sign with another major promotion. He arrived in All Elite Wrestling in early June under his new name and immediately started up a feud with Cody Rhodes. He squashed the former TNT champion in less than five minutes on last week's AEW Dynamite.