Exclusive interview: Backstage with WWE's broadcasting beauty Renee Young
From famous duos like Mr. McMahon & Jesse Ventura, Gorilla Monsoon & Bobby Heenan and Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler, to sideline reporters like “Mean” Gene Okerlund, Sean Mooney and Todd Pettingill, WWE has had no shortage of notable broadcasting talent. But until now, sports-entertainment has never seen anything quite like Renee Young.
A striking blonde beauty from The Great White North, Renee arrived in WWE after developing a loyal fanbase of wrestling fans in her native Canada. With her, she brought the perfect blend of WWE knowledge, an impressive broadcasting resume and, let’s be honest, a cuter face than Kevin Kelly. WWE.com caught up with Renee to turn the tables and ask her the questions to learn more about what it’s like being the very best backstage interviewer since “Mean” Gene Okerlund.
WWE.COM: Were you a WWE fan growing up?
RENEE YOUNG: I was. I attended a few events and WrestleMania VI. My dad is a concert promoter and he’d get me into the events. I remember being backstage and meeting “Stone Cold” [Steve Austin], Triple H, Chyna and Trish [Stratus] as a kid, so it’s really funny to me that I ended up here. I went on a different path than wanting to become a WWE Superstar. I have a broadcasting and performance background.
WWE.COM: What was that path exactly? Did you go to school for broadcasting?
RENEE: I did not, no. I always wanted to be an actor. Acting is really where everything started for me. As soon as I got out of high school, I went to The Second City and trained in improv comedy. I always wanted to be more of a comedic actress. That was the path I wanted to take. I fled off to Los Angeles at 19 without having worked a day of my life as a performer. I came back to Toronto and auditioned for different films, music videos and commercials. I did a commercial for Oxy, I was in a Tom Green music video, a Kelly Clarkson music video and other film projects. Being in Canada, I got stuck not getting lead role auditions, so I switched gears and got into hosting. I just needed a camera and myself to do that.
WWE.COM: What was your first hosting opportunity?
RENEE: I started producing my own show for a small network in Canada that was a lot of band interviews and stuff about extreme sports. I snowballed that into working for The Score. I basically wanted to be Chelsea Handler. I still want to be Chelsea Handler. The Score did a lot of funny, tongue-in-cheek interviews, so I figured that could be somewhere I would go. That turned into being a national sports broadcaster, which just kind of happened. I played a lot of sports growing up, and it all just came together.
WWE.COM: How did wrestling come into the picture?
RENEE: Within the first three months or so of being at The Score, my boss asked me to do a post-show for Raw. I hadn’t watched WWE since I was kid, but got back into it. As any starving performer knows, you say yes to anything that comes your way. We started doing Right After Wrestling [later called Aftermath], and it turned into a moderate success in Canada. Then we started doing a SmackDown post-show as well with former WWE referee Jimmy Korderas, [wrestling journalist] Arda Ocal and a few people that cycled through. It was fun. We did a live TV show twice a week, recapped everything and interviewed some of the Superstars. Getting to know some of these guys before I came to work at WWE was a big help.
WWE.COM: So it was an easy transition to go from The Score to WWE?
RENEE: I really wanted to come work in America. There are not a lot of places to work in Canada. It’s very, very limiting. My agent in Los Angeles helped get the ball rolling to land somewhere here. I knew WWE was looking for broadcasters. They flew me down. It was a very last-minute thing. I called in sick to work that day, caught a flight to New York, drove to Stamford, flew back home and carried on doing all my daily shows until the paperwork was done and I could come work here.
WWE.COM: What’s the vibe like being a female interviewer in a backstage environment that is predominantly male?
RENEE: I have never really thought of myself that way. Obviously, I think of myself as a woman, but I just try to be like everyone else. I don’t blend in, but I don’t think of myself as a woman in a man’s world. I’ve been a woman working in a man’s world since day one of working as a professional in this field. It works to my advantage, though. It makes people feel comfortable and there’s an ease about it where I’m not just acting as “the pretty girl.” There’s lots of Superstars around here who are massive, large men, and sometimes they get in my face and scream at me — ahem … Paul Heyman — but it’s fun and cool. It hasn’t been done in a long time with someone that has brought in specifically to be a broadcaster rather than having a Diva transitioning into that role. It’s a unique position to be in.
WWE.COM: Who have you been able to learn from since coming here?
RENEE: JBL and Michael Cole have been great with taking me under their wing and teaching me the ropes. I work with “Mean” Gene Okerlund back in the studio in Stamford. To have a bit of insight from “Mean” Gene — who is the best interviewer WWE has ever had — if I can take a small grain of knowledge from what he has been able to do and put it into my work, that would be a step in the right direction.
WWE.COM: What’s it been like transitioning from doing backstage interviewing to doing a bit of commentary?
RENEE: I was doing color commentary down at NXT, and it’s been a really great opportunity for me to tap into my hosting background, using my brain and thinking on my feet. Being clever with it is awesome for me. I love being able to do that. I would love to be the first female to do color commentary for this company. That would be a cool thing to do. I would love to be the girl to take on that role.