Cathy Kelley further opens up about 2020 WWE departure & burning herself out, how 2016 debut loomed over first run

Originally published at Cathy Kelley further opens up about 2020 WWE departure & burning herself out, how 2016 debut loomed over first run

She spoke candidly about her first go-around with the company. 

Joining Ryan Satin on his Out of Character podcast was WWE backstage correspondent and interviewer, Cathy Kelley. In 2020, Kelley departed WWE following NXT TakeOver: Portland. She would return to the company two years later

Cathy is on record speaking about her decision to leave WWE and she further dove into that in the new interview. She started off by talking about her debut for the company on the weekend of WrestleMania 32 in 2016. She does not think she was ready for it. That weekend, Kelley also had hosting duties for TakeOver and the Hall of Fame ceremony. 

There was one point during the Hall of Fame red carpet that she was fed the wrong information and then she messed up when sharing information as the broadcast was live. Cathy said that weekend loomed over her entire first run in WWE. 

First day on the job — I mean I was really thrown into it. I don’t know if you remember but when I (was) hired, I moved to Stamford, Connecticut and they kind of kept me in the studio not doing anything for a month and then had my big debut at WrestleMania (32). Real sink or swim moment. I don’t know if anyone remembers, I sunk (she laughed). But yeah, it was something that actually I feel loomed over me for the next several years… I had never done live television before. As you know, doing a podcast, that is live. It’s very different than trying to hit your marks on things, toss to someone. You can have a little bit more of a conversation in this capacity and so I was thrown into WrestleMania weekend in Dallas and I was so grateful for the opportunity. This was my dream at that point and yeah, I don’t think I was ready. I don’t know whose idea that was but it was definitely — I was not ready for that opportunity and I was doing that weekend, NXT TakeOver, I was doing the Hall of Fame red carpet. There were so many live hits that I had to navigate through and someone that’s never been on TV before and never done live television before… I made it through but barely survived. 

And I think I made it through in some capacity but especially on the red carpet for the Hall of Fame. If you’ve ever had an ear prompter, I was fed one wrong piece of information and didn’t know how to recover and then I flubbed a piece of information and didn’t know how to recover. So, those two things I think really just set the tone for the rest of the time there. 

Oh absolutely (that weekend loomed over me throughout my first go-around with WWE). I think you’re going to remember your mistakes more than anyone else but that weekend for sure, I remember four years into my career doing two paragraphs of live hits on NXT every single week, being told that I wasn’t able to do live television. 

Kelley continued speaking about that weekend and said she did not know anyone. Michael Cole told her not to go into it as a fan. Cathy ended up working an assignment with Cody and Brandi Rhodes and they eased her nerves. 

There’s also no other way to learn. You have to learn on the job. Obviously, you can set yourself up in a better way to do it but, it was super intimidating. We had that first week, I knew no one. So I went in and I was told, ‘Don’t go in as a fan’ by Michael Cole. I was nervous of, you know how you’re supposed to shake everyone’s hand, you wanna be respectful. I wanted to do that and I was second-guessing everything. I was just so in my head and I remember Cody Rhodes and Brandi at the time, they kind of helped me in that capacity because one of my first assignments was with them and they’re like, ‘Hey, go in the locker room, shake everyone’s hand. No one knows who you are, it’s all good,’ and that really stuck with me, especially in retrospect, knowing what they were going through personally that weekend. That was when they decided to leave so…

Her decision to leave was delved into and Cathy opened up about the depression she’s dealt with. She felt like she was not moving up in the company and there was a time when she was told that would not be happening for her. 

She would go on to change her appearance because she was told there were too many women with the same hair color. For the backend of Cathy’s first run with WWE, she cried every day. It was relayed to her that she would have a job with the company through her 80s if she wanted it, but she ended up burning herself out trying to prove she was the right person for a spot on the main roster. 

It was really challenging (leaving WWE). I think at the time, I said it was for reasons of to pursue other things and I still believe I could have pursued all of those things within WWE. But, I felt at the time, I really needed to step away. My mental health had really declined. I’ve struggled with depression and panic attacks, anxiety, basically from high school-on, on and off and it was really tough. Like I said, I felt like the initial week of messing up on live TV kind of loomed over me for a while. But, I struggled to try to get to that place that I wanted to be at which is being the backstage interviewer on one of the main shows. I was told that I was too tall, I was told that I had brown hair and they had too many girls with brown hair so I dyed my hair blonde. There were so many things that I tried to do, whether that was creating shows that were live for the digital aspect of things so I could prove that I could do live so it was this constant battle of trying to prove myself and it felt like I had hit that point where it just wasn’t gonna happen. I remember having a conversation with Michael Cole who wasn’t even my boss at the time. But after having done all these live hits with NXT being told that-that wasn’t gonna happen and it was really defeating. I remember the last few months, I was crying every single day. My close friends, my family knew that and I smiled through it at work most of the time. I think there are like one or two times that I broke (she laughed), being in the locker room but yeah, it felt like the dream that I had — and whether that was promised or not at the beginning — it wasn’t gonna happen there so, I could have probably stayed and I was told at the time that I would have a job there until I’m 87 if I wanted it. So I could have coasted in that doing a lot of the digital stuff and producing and creating content. But that ultimately wasn’t my goal so… 

It really is such a defeating thing of when you have this goal that you wanna accomplish and I would be written into a script and they would tell me that-that segment wasn’t actually gonna happen on the pay-per-view or whatever it is and then you would see someone else in that position and so it gets really discouraging after a while. I ended up burning myself out towards the end as well of I was trying to prove myself, prove that I was the right option to be in that position and I was not just going to NXT, not just doing the in-studio stuff in Stamford, not just going to the main roster shows and the pay-per-views at the time but, coming up with other concepts and you end up burning out. That’s really what it is. 

Cathy started off her return to WWE on Monday Night Raw and present day, she is a part of the Friday Night SmackDown broadcast team along with Kayla Braxton. 

If the quotes in this article are used, please credit Out of Character with Ryan Satin with an H/T to POST Wrestling for the transcriptions.