While growing up in Toronto, Renee Young aka Renee Paquette was a wrestling fan and even attended WrestleMania VI. However, when she joined WWE over 20 years later, Renee wasn’t as up-to-date on the world of pro wrestling and she came from a broadcasting background.
Renee was asked if she was in tune with the current product at the time of her debut during an interview with Chris Van Vliet.
“No, I wasn’t. My first interview with them was with John Cena. At that time, I did not understand what that gravity meant. At the time, Brooke Hogan was doing her music career or reality show. So, I was going to talk to him about that,” recalled Renee. “I remember standing on our marks. They were counting down the PR guy who was with Cena at the time and they’re like, ‘We’re actually not going to do this interview.’ I was trying too hard to make the segments about myself instead of trying to put over the talent, but I remember Cena was being very gracious and sweet.
“He was like, ‘The world is going to know in moments.’ I had just gotten out of the shower and my phone just starts blowing up. So, it took the pressure off of me having to figure out some cute little way to do it. I actually loved that it came from him. It was easy.”
Renee was familiar with a couple of Superstars when she joined WWE in 2012 as a few of them had passed through Toronto while she was working for the sports network The Score (now Sportsnet 360).
“When I had first started WWE, I had already known Dolph [Ziggler]. I knew Zack [Ryder] and Evan Bourne. They came through Toronto when they were doing live events for TV. I did another show with them called The Break, which is a web comedy show. We did some comedy bits with them and Yoshi Tatsu,” stated Renee.
During her eight-year run in WWE, Renee performed a variety of jobs including hostess, interviewer, color commentator and presenter. She recalled the first assignment she had with the company which, ironically, didn’t even involve wrestling.
“The very first thing I did for WWE was when I was in Toronto. They were like, ‘Can we fly you to New York and interview The Rolling Stones on the red carpet?’ It must have been early on of them figuring out what they wanted to do with the Network because I think The Stones were using the back end of how they served out their pay-per-views to broadcast one of their concerts. They had me fly to New York. I got to talk to Mick Jagger on the red carpet and he was so charming and lovely. So, that was the very first thing I did,” said Renee.
“The very first WWE thing I did was Vintage with Gene Okerlund. I was so nervous because we had Vintage in Canada. I was on the show that I used to watch. I was so nervous because Mean Gene Okerlund, who is an absolute icon and the most lovely man ever. I was so stressed out.”
If there is godfather of wrestling broadcasters, it’s Mean Gene Okerlund whose career spanned nearly 50 years in pro wrestling. Renee shared what she learned while working with Okerlund for WWE Network.
“I would say having the case of the ‘f**k it’s’. He was so cheeky all the time and you can see that in his interviews. The way Mean Gene was able to do his interviews was so different than how we do it. It’s so different, script-wise. I think us being so upholded to the script changes everything that drastically,” admitted Renee. “For him the way he was able to react to things and he had such a rapport with the wrestlers, you could tell he had their respect and they enjoyed him. That was something that really stuck out to me for my time with him.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Chris Van Vliet with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.