Renee Young on Stepping Into 'WWE Backstage,' CM Punk Joining Panel & Her Love of Hallmark
Renee Young broke down broadcasting barriers in WWE by bringing a female voice to Monday nights on Raw. After stepping away from the announce desk the trailblazing Canadian admits to finding her true sweet spot with Booker T., hosting the new Fox Sports 1 studio show WWE Backstage.
“We’re sitting around talking about wrestling. What can’t be fun about that,” she said. “From doing backstage interviews, doing commentary, seeing me in that traditional host role is where I’m happiest and what I always wanted to do. To be back wearing that hat, I feel like I’m firing on all cylinders again. I love it.”
Young credits the production and crew for helping grow Backstage in the short time its been on the air so far. For the 34-year-old, elements of the format are similar to the WWE Network post-show she hosted with Daniel Bryan called Talking Smack.
“It’s nice to have the resources of FOX,” Young said. “We work with the producers there to come up with what works and doesn’t work. We bounce off each other. Going back to what I was doing with WWE, one of the things I was most proud of and had the most fun on was Talking Smack. It was so loose.
“We really went on there with no script. We would wing it and try to make the best show we could. I think the fans really felt that authenticity from myself and Daniel Bryan. Now to work with FOX and develop this show and turn it into something Talking Smack wasn’t able to be.”
She finds what resonates most is hearing perspective on Raw and SmackDown with lighthearted segments mixed in and the top headline rundowns. When it comes to topics discussed, Young says WWE is the prime focus. Although they aren’t above touching on other news outside the “Universe” if there is some crossover.
“We want to do a service to WWE and FOX. Obviously, we keep our fans in mind with all of it. We want to cover as much as we can, but we bounce stuff off WWE as well to see what they are comfortable with us talking about,” Young explains.
“I’ve worked there for so long I know exactly what that line is always going to be anyway. We’re still developing the show and listening to what fans want. We’re always on social media and seeing what people are into and not into. We’re going to cover the big headlines and the reaction, but also other stuff going on like Dana Brooke and Dave Bautista’s weird love affair that’s happening online. So, we try to cover as much as we can. An hour goes by so quickly.”
And that weekly 60-minute window got even more interesting for fans after news broke CM Punk would be joining the panel for visits. The FS1 contributor gig, although facilitated through FOX, is the first time the popular performer has done anything WWE related since his ugly departure in 2014. Sitting down with Punk during his first episode on Backstage, Young gauged that he is becoming more comfortable being around familiar surroundings again.
“I saw on my timeline he likened it to the frozen caveman coming back to life and checking out the wrestling world again,” she said. “Fans respect Punk so much, to see him back in any capacity of the wrestling world is a huge win for everybody all around. To see him get more comfortable in that spot, it’s fun. It’s cool to be there with him side-by-side as he is dipping his toe back into this world.
“To hear his perspective and share that on television, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens this week coming up as we always look for that honest opinion from him. Anything that strays from that would be a misstep. We want that unfiltered Punk on our show.”
His involvement in the show is giving people a glimmer of hope the “Best in the World” would lace up the boots again. Young isn’t so sure.
“We’re going to have to poke the bear because that is what everybody wants,” she said. “Still to this day, every arena we go in with WWE chants his name. Everybody wants to see CM Punk back in the ring. Does he want to come back in the ring? I truly don’t know. It seems like a never say never situation. I don’t foresee it happening in the near future.”
What Young does look forward to happening is quality time with husband Jon Moxley, who left WWE this year for other opportunities in AEW. The 45-minute flight from their home in Las Vegas to Burbank each week makes travel a little less draining on her.
“It was definitely a growth spurt when I initially did the show and then flew to SmackDown. I’m not currently not doing that now, so it’s nice to be on the West Coast and do the studio show and go back home to my dogs and my husband,” Young said.
“Although he is in Japan right now. He has AEW tapings coming up. But we’ve always had weird schedules with our relationship, whether he was with WWE or now with AEW. It’s not different for us to have to juggle our schedules to be together. He is going to fly out with me next week as we get ready for the holidays. We have some trips coming up, so we always make time for each other.”
Outside her WWE and FOX commitments, Young is known to enjoy time cooking up something nice while turning on a warm and fuzzy Hallmark movie. She traces her borderline obsession with these films to two years ago flying in to New Orleans for a presale WrestleMania ticket party. The channel in her hotel room happened to be playing a marathon. The die-hard hasn’t turned it off since.
“I’m in love when it comes to holidays. I will watch any Christmas movie. Once I got exposed to these movies I thought, ‘I love this. I want to be a part of this.’ I’m constantly tweeting at them, making posts,” Young said.
“Unfortunately, I’m not getting a lot of love back from Hallmark. I think I would be a shoe-in. I can be the next Candace Cameron Bure. I’m ready. Sign me up.”
The avid viewer not only wants to be in a Hallmark movie in any role. She has ideas.
“I would love to do a great, traditional Hallmark movie where everything is beautiful and everyone ends up together and it has a happy ending,” Young said.
“There was one I was watching recently where the guy is a playwright and comes into town and meets his old girlfriend. I want some song and dance in mine, definitely. But I also wouldn’t mind a shred of some Lifetime. I wouldn’t mind a little mystery in that. Some weird fun we have to overcome for the holidays where everyone gets together. A little mismash.”
— Renee Young (@ReneeYoungWWE) November 25, 2019
Until her Hallmark dreams are realized, she turns focus back to preparing for Backstage. This week CM Punk returns to the panel. Young hopes decision-makers can get a certain Breaking Bad star to do the celebrity segment that puts their verbal smackdown skills to the test.
“I would want Aaron Paul. I was watching one of his new shows, and I know he is a big WWE fan,” she said. “We had him in WWE before. I think that would be awesome. Then I could see CM Punk cutting a promo on Aaron Paul because I know he is a huge fan.”
On the future of WWE Backstage, the possibilities are endless. Young enjoys the freedom and building the show organically.
“Bringing the show on the road would be amazing. The backstage environment, there is nothing like it,” she said. “Especially, with WrestleMania season and Royal Rumble around the corner. If we would be at some of the major Pay-Per-Views, I would love to do that. I also have a list of guests I want on the show.
“I’m dying to get Daniel Bryan so we can have a Talking Smack reunion. I want to get Randy Orton. I want to get AJ Styles. I definitely have some guest list requirements. I have to bump that up to some higher-ups to make sure we get those guys in the studio. We are fleshing out the segments and want to make the show as enjoyable as possible. I know we are having a ton of fun doing it, so we want to make sure everyone else is having fun too.”
WWE Backstage, Tuesdays, 11/10c, FS1