In 2013, WWE's ace backstage interviewer Renee Young began providing color commentary on women's matches for NXT, the then Hulu exclusive show featuring Developmental program wrestlers. As that show has grown and moved to a more prominent position on the streaming WWE Network, Young has risen in the commentary ranks. She now works every other episode of the Thursday evening broadcast for men's and women's bouts.
Today, WWE has announced that Renee will be adding a new responsibility to her already packed schedule, which in addition to NXT includes backstage and in-ring interviews on Raw, Main Event and Smackdown, plus pre and post show duties for the Network. Young will join Tom Phillips as a full-time announcer on the show that follows NXT on WWE Network - Superstars.
The post on WWE.com doesn't provide too many specifics, but it sounds like she will be replacing Phillips' Main Event announcing partner Byron Saxton, although it could be a three-person booth. It does provide some insight into what made the mostly male run WWE decide to raise her profile in a way that will make her one of the only female desk commentators in the company's history.
Her mentor, Michael Cole, said:
When Renee first started in the company and she started working with us, one of the things she told me is she wanted to be a trailblazer. We started working with Renee in the [announcing] booth at NXT about six months ago and she really showed some promise. And we have the opportunity now to bring her to the ‘big level' and she becomes one of the only females in history of WWE to be a full-time announcer at ringside. Renee can really tell some unique stories from a female point of view, and we have to remember that in WWE, our audience is forty percent female. I'm a 47-year-old man, and when Randy Orton comes to the ring, you're getting my perspective on it, but what are women thinking? What's going through their mind? What are they looking at? Renee is going to be able to give that perspective, which is really, really unique and it's really never been done before.
Triple H was similarly supportive of her talents, and said that for him as the Vice-President in charge of Creative, ability trumped gender:
It has nothing to do with her being a female or not, it has to do with her being the right person for the job. She's got a great voice that cuts through the clutter. She is very knowledgeable about WWE, about its history, about the talent and she is really willing to step up and do her homework.
Young herself is aware of both aspects - her talent and her place as a woman in pro wrestling - and says that she's up to the challenge and the responsibility:
I feel there is definitely a certain amount of pressure, not only as a performer and broadcaster but representing women who may not even know this is something that they want to do. I can show other women that if you're not a Diva and you still want to be involved in WWE, there's so much you can do. It's definitely really cool to be in the position to create a bit of a niche for myself and other women.
While she receives nearly universal praise as an interviewer, reviews of her work as an announcer are mixed. On NXT, Renee has a tendency to focus heavily on character and backstory to the detriment of the action and in-ring narrative. She is certainly a charismatic and confident talker, though, and hopefully more experience will improve her performance in all aspects of her new role.
There are also persistent rumors that Young could follow in the footsteps of Jonathan Coachman or Todd Grisham, with national sports channels allegedly interested in scooping her away from WWE. While she's a long-time fan (she hosted a Raw post-show in her native Canada before joining the sports entertainment giant), that is always a risk. But giving her a more prominent role and opportunity to pioneer for women in wrestling should be an attractive incentive to stick with the Stamford-based company.
Congratulations, RY! Excited for her, Cagesiders? And are you looking forward to a new voice on WWE commentary?