This week saw the official premiere (although there’ve been two “preview episodes”) of WWE Backstage, a wrestling studio talk show hosted by Renee Young. Prior to the recent reboot of WWE that accompanied Smackdown’s move to Fox, Renee spent a year on commentary for Monday Night Raw, a role in which she lacked confidence and received plenty of criticism. Whether WWE Backstage will find an audience remains to be seen, but what’s immediately clear is that this is a role that makes Renee Young much happier than her previous one. It seems she never wanted to join the commentary team, and never really felt comfortable once she was there.
Now that she’s off the commentary desk (and happy about it) Renee can talk about that experience a lot more candidly. As she tells it on the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast (with transcript help from Wrestling Inc), she was given the commentary assignment with a week’s notice and no previous planning (in the typical WWE style), and never really felt like she fit in the role.
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.
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. 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.
She goes on to explain that the timing of her move to FS1 for WWE Backstage worked out perfectly.
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. 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’ve watched WWE Backstage, you know it’s a great position for her, holding together a panel that also includes Booker T, Christian, and Paige, as well as hosting segments with remote correspondents. Unfortunately, statistically there’s a good chance you haven’t watch WWE Backstage, because apparently hardly anyone has. According to Showbuzz Daily, the premiere episode on Tuesday night only had 49,000 viewers on FS1, with a 0.02 rating in the 18 – 49 demo. Hopefully those numbers improve, although Fox might be smart to move it to a night with a wrestling lead-in.