Renee Young has gone from backstage interviewer to Raw color commentator to now being the host of WWE Backstage on FS1. This is the type of role that Young always wanted and she talked about not enjoying her commentary role in an interview with Sports Illustrated Media Podcast.
“I never felt comfortable doing the job. It was a very stressful year to be quite honest. You look at that situation, I’m here in WWE, kind of like the first female to come into that role, and obviously, that role has grown exponentially since with so many women we have backstage doing shows and hosting shows etc. But at the time I had kind of done everything so I thought to myself, what is it that I need to do? I need to do something else. I can’t just sit back here and do these backstage interviews any more I need something else to chew on,” said Young.
“So one week Michael Cole and Triple H pulled me aside and said that I am going to be doing commentary on Monday Night Raw next week. I was like, what? Why? Whose idea was this? With anything, you’re like, alright, this opportunity is in front of me I am going to try and figure this out. I consider myself really talented in being able to talk. I know the ins and outs of the wrestling business; this should work. I am sure I can make something work of this. To go out there and call three hours of wrestling… coming from my background I am a host. I like to be able to have more of a bubbly personality, which is what fans were more drawn to, or they’re drawing to my sarcastic side where I can be a smart ass. It is really hard to do that on commentary, especially when you have Corey Graves who is great at that but also stepping in as that third person. I am used to being that A-person. I am used to driving that ship.
“So, to have Michael Cole and Corey Graves in their rhythm I’m trying to jump in there and everything has already been said, so it was odd. I tried to come at it from a standpoint but then that doesn’t always work because that doesn’t always seem to be necessarily what they want you to be saying or doing so I just always felt a little misdirection of what my purpose was out there. And on top of that, trying to call my husband’s matches when he was still with WWE, so there is a lot of different weird factors. I’m not trying to make any excuses but it just wasn’t the right gig for me. People that excel at that, it is a tough job, man. To be out there and talking with soundbites, you have to talk specific points in the match, whether you are talking about somebody’s comeback or someone’s heat, that for me to try to get in a bit of information just in somebody’s entrance where it felt like a normal time for me to talk. We’ve got promo segments; it was a doozy.”
Young was the first full-time female commentator and she was asked if she felt obligated to undertake that role.
“It was definitely a cool feather to put in my cap but I’m not one to back away from something. I really, truly wanted it to work. I wanted to excel at that. Not being good at something is a tough pill to swallow for me,” admitted Young. “I wanted to be able to make that spot work and it just wasn’t, it just wasn’t really working and I don’t think it was what everybody wanted in that spot.”
When you go from doing backstage interviews to doing three hours of commentary every week, you are opening yourself up to more criticism. Young talked about handling the critics who became louder and louder just as she started getting comfortable with the role.
“Once that crack of insecurities start to happen, it’s one thing to shrug and laugh it off and say that it’s fine where you’re like crying through your laughter; you can only take so much of that,” stated Young. “It went in ebb and flow because the first time I stepped out there to do commentary during the first show I was so confident going out there where it’s like, hey, whatever I have to do. So, I went out and did it and felt really good about it. It was around the time that everyone was like, oh my God, we finally have a woman out here doing it. Everyone is rooting for you and it’s great, but then couple of weeks go by and then the fans start complaining about them not liking the sound of a woman’s voice, with different opinions here and there.
“So yeah, it’s hard to keep some of those insecurities in check sometimes; everyone just wants to be good. Whatever someone is doing they want to be good at it and when there’s a misstep or not so sure about what you are doing there is a slippery slope in there for sure.”
After about one year on the Raw commentary desk, WWE Backstage was created and Young was chosen to be a host. She said as soon as plans for the show were announced, she had no doubt in her mind that she was going to get the gig.
“I think a lot of things were falling into place together. I think as soon as the partnership with WWE and Fox came to fruition knowing and hearing these rumblings of this new show coming out, I think it was sort of a no-brainer that I was going to step in there and do that. I think I made the most sense to go in there and host it,” stated Young. “I think it’s kind of as simple as that.
“I think with doing commentary I was just sort of waiting and thinking, okay, can I do this? Am I ready to go now? Let me go, please, for the love of God! Once that time started to tick down we knew too once the changes were going to happen with Raw being strictly Raw and SmackDown roster was going to stick with SmackDown, knowing that big changes were going to happen that seemed like obviously the transition of the commentators changing and everyone was going to be brand-specific. So yeah, it was the perfect time where everything happened all at once.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Sports Illustrated Media Podcast with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.