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The Natural: WWE’s Renee Young inspired by Chelsea Handler

The funny side of WWE broadcaster Renee Young, getting jiggy with the hilarious New Day (Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, the original Francesca and Big E) during a backstage segment for the WWE SmackDown tapings in September at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami.
The funny side of WWE broadcaster Renee Young, getting jiggy with the hilarious New Day (Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, the original Francesca and Big E) during a backstage segment for the WWE SmackDown tapings in September at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. Photo By Jim Varsallone

Inspired by comedian and former talk show host Chelsea Handler, the lovely and talented Renee Young was born to talk into a microphone.

“It’s not that I necessarily wanted to be a broadcaster,” said Young, who is a WWE broadcaster. “I wanted to be like a TV host. I studied comedy and acting, so I wanted to be more on the performance side of things, but the main thing that struck a chord with me was one night I saw Chelsea Handler for the first time on her show on E!, and I said, ‘That’s what I want to do.’

“It was the perfect combination of getting to do a show, getting to be funny, getting to think on your feet. Doing a show like that really spoke to me. I don’t want to be on SportsCenter. I’m not looking to be behind a desk doing sports. It’s the entertainment aspect of doing a show that I love.”

A Toronto, Ontario original, Young comes across very natural on WWE broadcasts, interviewing superstars, divas and authority figures during backstage segments on Raw and SmackDown. She can be serious or provide some humor without going overboard.

“Being able to now work in WWE, which has a great combination of sports and entertainment, it’s such an awesome marriage,” Young said. “It just seems to work perfectly for me, coming from a sports world. Though, I didn’t come from a sports world as a sports aficionado. I kind of figured out a lot of stuff on my own.”

Prior to WWE, she worked as a sports broadcaster for The Score, now known as Sportsnet 360, a Canadian TV channel primarily providing sports news, highlights, information and analysis programming, along with live event sports coverage currently focused on mixed martial arts, soccer, basketball, the National Hockey League, college/university sports, and professional wrestling.

WWE broadcaster Kyle Edwards, who worked with Young at The Score, wrote via message: “I worked with Renee every week from 2009-13 in Canada co-hosting a [pro wrestling] TV show called ‘Aftermath.’ I laughed out loud every show. Renee is one of the funniest people I know. We had so much fun. We just tried to make each other laugh all the time.

“I remember once before a show we made up a Weekend at Bernie’s dance. We did it for like 15 minutes. The camera people were laughing along at first, but eventually they just shook their heads in disbelief, but we didn't care. I think the dance even made it on the air. Without her steering that show, I don't think it would have gotten off the ground as well as it did. It’s no surprise to me Renee is so popular in WWE; she truly is one of a kind. When I joined WWE [in 2014], Renee was the first person to reach out and give me great advice, and I really appreciated that and always will.”

Young did not know it would lead to WWE, but she is sure glad it did.

“Working in Canada [prior to WWE], there were only so many places to work, and The Score always had these funny man on the street interviews, so I went there but then kind of got pigeon-holed a little bit doing sports.

“So now being able to be in WWE and work in both fields [sports and entertainment] and have a background in both is great.”

Her background is comedy, sports broadcasting and modeling. She never envisioned becoming a wrestler, but doing ‘Aftermath’ on The Score in Toronto led to her big break with WWE as a broadcaster.

“Doing ‘Aftermath’ was an opportunity that got thrown my way maybe six months into working at The Score,” she said. “My boss Greg Sansone asked me if I would be ready to do a live post-WWE show. At that point, I was like, ‘Yea, absolutely.’ I knew I had to do a lot of research and a lot of homework to be ready to step into the WWE field, because it is no joke, and you can not mess anything up, because you will never be forgiven.

“With The Score having the rights to WWE in Canada, we were obviously working very closely with WWE; so they were familiar with the show, familiar with the talent on the show. Then once they contacted us, they sent me a little note. I said, ‘All right. I’ll be there.’”

Young first called her dad, Tex, to reveal the good news, landing a job with WWE.

“My dad is always the first person that I call to tell things like that because he always gives me the right reaction,” she chuckled, “and he’s in the entertainment business, too, so he understands...I told him...and then telling the people who I worked with, too, because they were all really excited. I still get notes from them all the time. ‘Oh my God, you have an action figure. On my God, you’re in the video game.’

“It’s definitely a bit of a trip I never would have thought, going from just wanting to make dumb videos online -- literally at 19 making stupid videos -- to working at The Score and now working for WWE. So I never thought that would be the direction that it led to, but it’s so cool, and it’s so cool when things kind of happen organically. It’s great.”

Her first time on WWE TV had little to do with WWE.

“The first thing I ever did with WWE, when I lived in Toronto, they flew me down to do the red carpet for the Rolling Stones movie that was coming out on HBO,” Young recalled. “So I went there and interviewed the Stones, which was insane. It was such a moment that happened so quickly. ‘OK, that was cool. I’ve interviewed celebrities before, but that’s the freakin Rolling Stones. I just had a conversation with Mick Jagger. He is great.’ That was really cool.”

Her next assignment for the sports entertainment leader did involve WWE content.

“Shooting the Vintage collection with Gene Okerlund,” she said. “I was so nervous because I used to watch that show back home all the time. Just to walk on set and talk to Gene and get to step into that spotlight and hang out with him, it blew my mind. The first couple takes that we did, I was like, ‘Uuum.’

“I thought, ‘Holy crap I’m working with Gene Okerlund. Oh my God, I’m on the set that I’ve watched forever.’ That was great. It was really cool. Everyone who was on that set was so awesome. They were great to work with, welcoming me with open arms.”

The WWE Network is a welcome addition for Young. The network allows talent (past and present) the opportunity to provide programming. Young is in her element there, hosting Unfiltered with Renee Young.

“[Unfiltered] helped me get my feet wet. As a talent for WWE, I’m always trying to let people know what it is that I do and what I’m capable of doing,” she said, “and being able to do ‘Unfiltered’ was such a great opportunity for me to show another side of ‘Renee Young’...and not only just me but everyone else, because that’s the cool thing about ‘Unfiltered’ is that everyone always comes into it very open and honest. Everyone gets to let down their walls a little bit, which is awesome. Kevin Owens comes on and is [Kevin Steen]. People getting to see what Summer Rae is actually like and Seth Rollins. Being able to do that stuff is really important to me. I love the human element of sitting down and talking to people.

“Now moving into Spring time and getting down to Dallas, we’re going to start filming again to get out some more interviews. We’re going to expand it and make it feel like a real TV show. I’ve been working on the show a little bit with some other producers to see what the new elements are going to be and how the show is going to come together. I’m so excited to have it come back and be a real show. I’m going to be so happy and proud, saying that in advance of me actually doing anything yet , but I feel good about it.”

“Unfiltered” was Young’s idea which turned into a collaboration.

“We started out in the mode of let’s just shoot something and see what happens, and then ‘Unfiltered’ organically became its own thing,” she said. “When I first started doing that, I was just looking to take up some space on the network. The WWE Network is such an awesome place to explore avenues TV wise, and that’s the stuff that I love getting to do. I love TV shows. To be able to have that as kind of a blank canvas is awesome.

“So the idea of ‘Unfiltered’ is something that happened on its own. Let me sit down with some superstars and interview them and hang out and get them out of their shells a little bit. I think that’s been the cool part for fans of the WWE Universe to see their favorite superstars eating breakfast, hanging out. I think that’s a cool aspect for other people to want to see. For me, as a fan of any other show, those are the shows that I’ve always loved to watch. Being able to sit down and watch other people’s interview shows and take little tidbits and learn different things about people is interesting to me.”

Young continues to develop new programming ideas -- some with her associates.

“Dolph [Ziggler] and I have been trying to put some shows together [for WWE Network],” Young said. “We’ve been trying to figure out how we can do a comedy-based show together. So that’s one of the things that we’re hoping to get up on the WWE Network.”

One moment as a kid she’s watching WrestleMania VI at the Sky Dome in Toronto, meeting Stone Cold Steve Austin, Trish Stratus and Triple H backstage. Fast forward, now as an adult she’s working for Vince McMahon, Kevin Dunn and Paul Levesque backstage.

Her father, Tex, is in the entertainment business, thus the WrestleMania VI VIP treatment.

“It was awesome,” she said. “To sit there out in the crowd, to be in Toronto and watch everybody do their thing, the crowd is going wild. It’s unlike anything else. The fans come from all over the world, and they are so pumped to check it out. It’s being able to look at everyone around you and just see how huge of a production it is. Nothing is held back production wise at WrestleMania.”

An OK student in school academically, Young attended Exeter High School in Ajax, Ontario, Canada.

“I was always kind of off doing my own thing,” Young said. “I was like the loud class clown. I was always trying to be funny, kind of disrupting class, but not in a bratty way -- more so like a funny way. I would spend a lot of time in the hallways.”

When not in the classroom or halls, Young competed in track & field in high school.

“I played sports at a pretty high level,” she said, “but once I got bit by the bug to be an entertainer, I let sports fall to the side, and as soon as I finished high school, I went to Second City in Toronto, starting that path of my life.”

The Second City Training Center was founded in the mid-1980s to facilitate the growing demand for workshops and instruction from the world famous The Second City theatre. The centers -- in Chicago, Los Angeles and Toronto -- offer a variety of classes for different ages. Programs of study include Improvisation, Comedy Writing, Acting & Scene Study, Stand-up, Clowning, Music Improvisation, Teen and Youth courses, and more.

“You learn all the rules of improve, how the games are played; you do some shows doing improv,” she noted. “It’s where Mike Meyers went; it’s where Martin Short went; it’s where Catherine O’Hara went. All of the big Canadian comics have been through [Second City].”

Other former Training Center students include Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Scott Adsit, Anders Holm, Amy Poehler, Cecily Strong, Chris Farley, Tim Meadows, Bonnie Hunt, Stephen Colbert, Halle Berry, Sean Hayes, Jon Favreau, Hinton Battle, Jack McBrayer, Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald. Classes are taught by working professionals, many of whom are current and former Second City performers.

“It just seemed like the natural thing for me to do,” she continued. “I was flipping around, going through a couple of talent agencies, and someone gave me a pamphlet for Second City. A light bulb went off.”

Young did not have any formal training prior to Second City.

“Drama [Club] in high school wasn’t something that stuck out to me to do in school, and I never really hung out with the kids who did that,” Young said. “It’s funny because when I started studying acting at this pretty good school in Toronto, and a girl who I went to elementary school and high school with, she’s like, “Wow, I never would have known that this is what you wanted to do. You never hung out with us. You never did this stuff.’

“I’d always been a big a fan of comedy and TV shows, watching SCTV, watching Kids in the Hall, watching SNL -- seeing what worked and didn’t work -- but I was focusing on other things in high school and not realizing I wanted to be a performer.”

Young is performing now, and what a time to do so.

It’s WrestleMania season, and she will be part of the annual spectacular. Emanating this year from AT&T Stadium in Arlington (near Dallas), WrestleMania 32 won’t be her first Super Bowl of wrestling/sports entertainment adventure.

“My first WrestleMania working [in 2014], I was really stressed out, because I honestly really didn’t know what to expect,” Young said. “Going into the New York/New Jersey area..I had just moved to New York not too long prior to that...Getting my footing in WWE and in the city, figuring it all out, it’s such a huge overtaking obviously, but just seeing everybody in their mode, and everyone’s in their element, and everyone’s bringing their A game, it’s cool. There’s all these celebrities backstage. There’s so much action going on. You’d like to find a spot where you could like hang out for a little bit. Get a good eyeful of what’s going on and then focus on whatever the task at hand is going to be.

“My first year was an interview with Mark Henry on the [WrestleMania] pre-show, and I was very excited because I had people from The Score -- where I used to work in Toronto -- there watching WrestleMania. So they got to see me on the big screen, and everybody was very excited.”

Young attended two WrestleManias prior. Toronto in 1990 as a VIP and Miami in 2012.

“When I went to Miami [for WrestleMania 28], I worked for The Score. We went down to check everything out,” she said. “When I went to Toronto, I went to enjoy it as a kid.”

Young, who worked the social media lounge at WrestleMania 31 last year in Santa Clara, Calif., can’t wait for her assignment come WrestleMania 32.

“It’s going to be insane,” Young said. “I’ve never been there [AT&T Stadium], but just from seeing packages put together on how [big] the stadium is...They have that huge tron...There’s literally not a bad seat in the house...Knowing the capacity of it, you got to be talking record breaking.”

AT&T Stadium can facilitate more than 100,000 people. The NBA All-Star Game in 2010 drew more than 108,000 there. WrestleMania III in 1987 at the Pontiac Silverdome near Detroit still holds WWE’s attendance record at more than 93,000. WWE projects it will break that 93,000 mark at AT&T Stadium.

- Extra points by Renee Young

“I really loved the way that I learned how to do what I do, because I had to cut my teeth and just do it and figure it out,” she said. “The comedy shows that I used to do was my equivalent of working the indies as a wrestler. Go out, do these shows, see what works and didn’t work. I’d go back and see some of things I did, and be like, ‘What was I thinking?’

“I love the Carol Burnetts, the Gilda Radners, all of these women who were just a little bit wild in comedy.”

Pre-Score, Young spent some time in Los Angeles, vying for acting and comedic opportunities. She worked the door at The Mint.

It did not work out, and she returned to Toronto nine months later.

“That’s when I started working as a TV host,” she said. “I just needed a camera and myself, and then I just hit the ground running.”

Running is one thing. Wrestling is another.

“I’d definitely be open to the idea of doing a storyline in some capacity,” she said. “I think it would be so fun to jump in there and do something like that. If that opportunity came along, I would go with it, but I think WWE has other things in mind for me.”

Like interviews backstage for Raw.

“Usually when I get to the building for Raw, I see what’s going on for the show. See what interviews I have. What other things I might be working on,” she said. “In between that, making a hot tea, and then I usually hang out in the locker room, and that’s when I will work on stuff for ‘Unfiltered.’ Start writing different segments. Trying to put together other pitches for other shows that I want to do for the network or doing a blog post for my website.”

Does Renee Young have a go-to outfit as a broadcaster?

“I love messing around with fashion,” she said. “It’s funny because when you work with a bunch of men, they like to tell you what you should be wearing. I’ve had so many conversations. They’d say, ‘I don’t know about this outfit. I’m not sure about this.’ I’m like, ‘Trust me. This is fine. It will be good.’ I have a good concept of what people should be wearing, so they’ve left me alone in that capacity now.”

She continued: “I mess around with my look a lot. I like to wear whatever I feel like wearing. It could be a dress. It could be pants and a shirt. The way I dress on camera is different than how I dress in real life. In real life, I’m really just a jeans and T-shirt type person.”

Young is very excited about her fashion sense for WrestleMania. It won’t be jeans and T-shirt.

- Renee Young socially acceptable

@ReneeYoungWWE

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- WWE WrestleMania 32

WrestleMania 32 is 7 p.m. EST Sunday, April 3 on WWE Network from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, near Dallas.

@WWE

@WrestleMania

- WWE Network

- WrestleMania 32 will be free for new WWE Network subscribers. WWE is using the #FreeWrestleMania hashtag to promote it.

Go to:

http://www.wwe.com/wwenetwork

@WWENetwork

- WWE WrestleMania Kickoff

USA Network will carry the WrestleMania 32 Kickoff Show at 6 p.m EST. It will include the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, featuring 20 WWE Superstars. Big Show won last year, and Cesaro won the inaugural event at WrestleMania 30 in 2014.

The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray and D-Von) against the Usos (Jimmy and Jey) will also be on the pre-show.

@USA_Network

- Pro Wrestling On The Web

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