If any of the quotes from this article are used, please credit the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast with an H/T to POST Wrestling for the transcription.
Former WWE host, correspondent and backstage interviewer Renee Paquette, also known as Renee Young joined the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast for her first post-WWE interview. Renee dove into why she departed from the sports-entertainment company, some of the pitches she made in the final stages of her time there, if WWE was pleased with her sharing her COVID-19 diagnosis among many other topics during the extensive discussion.
** Renee discusses what led to her leaving WWE/says she will continue working with FOX:
“So, I don’t know that there was like a definitive, ‘I’m leaving now.’ I think when Backstage got cancelled, that was really the moment for me. Backstage got cancelled, I got COVID, a lot of sh*t just happened but the COVID thing aside, that was just sort of the icing on the cake. I’m at home, I get my diagnosis. That same day I find out that Backstage gets cancelled but it was really with that with Backstage being cancelled that I was like, ‘What am I doing? Like I’m not really doing anything anymore’ and my skill set of being a host, there’s just nowhere for me to do it anymore. Even with Talking Smack coming back and I had heard the rumblings that Talking Smack was making its way back and I was planning on perhaps maybe doing that, but I was like, ‘You know what? I’m just feeling like I’m taking steps backwards. I’m sort of spinning my wheels.’ To go back and do a show, to not be doing it with who’s also no longer with WWE, but that was sort of the magic of what that show was to me. It’s doing its own cool thing right now. Kudos to Big E, Miz and Kayla Braxton with everything that they’ve been doing but, it was all that stuff kinda happening at once and just being like, ‘What am I doing here? I’ve checked off all the things I’ve been able to do, stepping away from doing commentary’ which ultimately kind of left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. So going and working for FOX was incredible and I’ll still be doing stuff for FOX as we’re kind of figuring out what that looks like with WWE and FOX but I’m still gonna be working with them on that side of things so that’s cool but, it’s just not really having any platforms within WWE and just spinning my wheels and I’m turning 35. It’s kinda, ‘Should I get off the boat?’ It’s time to start making some other moves, other-wise I’m just gonna stay here forever and not really be proud of my accomplishments anymore.”
** Renee reflects on the WWE Backstage program/explains that she wanted to address more controversial topics:
“I think it was just some of the controversial stuff. I mean anytime you have Punk on the show too, it’s a little like, ‘Eh, are you gonna say something that’s gonna upset people and ruffle the feathers?’ Where that’s not even the case of what we’re trying to do but you’re trying to do a show where you can be authentic and talk about stuff. Even if you want to bury something so-to-speak, it just would feel like it was becoming a little bit sensitive to talk about things. It felt like we just had to put everything over that was good or kinda skirt over stuff that was bad and have that omitted from the show.”
** Renee talks about communicating to Michael Cole about her intentions to depart WWE/the company offering her the chance to work through the Payback pay-per-view:
“So I’d been talking to Michael Cole. He is essentially like the point-person for the whole broadcast division of WWE. He’s also a great friend of mine so it was interesting sort of balancing the conversation between, ‘Hey, I’m talking to you as my boss but also as my friend, what’s your advice?’ He was actually really helpful wearing both of those hats and the thing that’s funny too is I think everyone understood that there was nobody that I talked to that I was like, ‘Hey guys, I’m gonna bow out now. It seems like the time is perfect. I wanna wrap up at SummerSlam.’ Booker T and I hosted a ‘Best of SummerSlam Moments’ thing that was on FOX, so I wanted to go in and do that, I wanted to end at SummerSlam. They’re like, ‘Hey, why don’t you come and do Payback and be done after that.’ I’m like, ‘No, no, no. I wanna leave at one of the major pay-per-views’ even though Payback was a great pay-per-view. But yeah, nobody really tried to talk me out of it. I think everyone seen the frustration sort of build for me over the years and going back to live TVs and having to be in Florida every week, that was something I was just like, ‘I don’t wanna do that anymore.’ To do what? To show up on SmackDown and do some random backstage interviews? Like again, it was just a step back where I kept feeling I was being promised coming off of commentary and RAW and SmackDown splitting the way that they were between FOX and USA and me being billed as a ‘special contributor,’ and that just never turned into anything. I kept trying to make different pitches for different ways to use me to make it feel special and unique and change up the way — just from a broadcast standpoint and I think that’s something that FOX wanted too was just changing up the feel and the vibe of it but…”
** WWE not being happy with Renee sharing her COVID-19 diagnosis:
“Yeah, yeah. You know it’s funny because… I generally just like to be transparent about everything. I like to just be honest. There’s no shame in having got it. Again, we don’t know what’s going on with anything. We’re all trying to figure it out so, I didn’t even think. When I tweeted that I had it, I wasn’t doing it as a, ‘I got COVID!’ That was not my M.O. when I tweeted it. It was mostly just like, ‘Hey, I have it.’ Also, in case there are people that could’ve been around me and maybe seen that I had it, I felt a responsibility to make sure people knew that I was sick. But yeah, it was not well received.”
** Renee says there have been no conversations between herself and AEW/says that WWE wouldn’t allow her to tweet about Jon Moxley for a period of time:
“Again, I have not a clue where they stand on any of that and I never say never to anything. I do have a non-compete that’s for quite a while, so if anyone’s expecting me to show up in 90 days, they’re gonna be waiting a bit longer than that. So yeah, I think everything they’re doing there is great. I think there could be a ton of spots I could step in and work and do some stuff there. One of the things that I did find a bit difficult in the past year or so was not working with Jon, for us to be in different places and it’s not even the fact of not working together, it was the almost pretending he didn’t exist. That’s hard. I found that to be a little bit like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t even tweet about him…’ Yeah… I don’t know, whatever. At a certain point, it just gets a little too nitpick-y with stuff where you gotta take a bit of a step back.”