Renee Paquette wanted to leave WWE long before she actually did.
Signing with WWE in 2012, Paquette made her WWE TV debut on the Survivor Series pre-show that same year. Adopting the name Renee Young, she would go on to wear many hats for the company, serving as a backstage interviewer, panel and Network series host, commentator, Total Divas cast member, and so much more.
Speaking with Ariel Helwani, Renee revealed that it was around five years ago that she first asked for her release from WWE.
"About five years ago, I asked for my release from WWE and I wasn't granted it. It was before I did commentary and other things. I'm glad I didn't leave at that point and that I wasn't granted my release because my resume wouldn't be what it is today if I had left during that point," Renee shared. "For me, I still had stars in my eyes, and I still have stars in my eyes, about what I want to do with my career and I kept feeling like I was hitting a wall and being told that I cannot be a star within this company because it's not about me, and I get that because I'm a broadcaster and personality, not the wrestler. I understand. I'm not putting asses in seats, I'm not selling merch, I'm not selling tickets, I get it. That was sort of the thing that felt stunting in my career because I felt like I had more to offer and more that I wanted to do. Yes, I was given an amazing platform, but I do see where the ceiling is at and I see me for me outside of this. If you guys don't see that...it's not that they didn't see, the opportunities just weren't there. With the Network starting and the different versions from when it first started to being all interview shows to then all documentaries, they were really going through growth spurts of figuring out what the Network was and I couldn't quite find a place where I wanted to land within that. Then moving over to FOX and being able to do Backstage, that was something that scratched a bit of an itch. 'I like doing this,' I liked working in the studio setting, I liked working with FOX and had such a great experience there, but that came to an end as well with COVID shutting its doors on everything."
WWE's schedule is always jam-packed, meaning there was never an ideal time for Paquette to "get off the ride," as she puts it. However, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, she knew that this was her time to finally move on.
"I asked for my release several years ago, was not granted it, got to do a bunch of other things, and on the second time I was like, 'Okay, now it's really time to get off the ride.' That's the reference I come back to, getting off the ride. It's hard to find a time to leave WWE. There's never a perfect time," Paquette said. "It just goes so fast. The fact that I was there for eight years makes my head spin, but it's like 'next show, next show, next pay-per-view, building to Mania, building to SummerSlam, this is coming up, this new opportunity,' there's never that time to get your foot out the other door. With my time at commentary ending, the FOX show ended, and with COVID, we're in the middle of COVID, and I was like, 'This is my time. I see this window and it's my time to jump off the ride and figure it out, which is a weird time to do that because everything else was shut down so it was 'oh shit, I don't know where I'm going, but I'm getting off this ride.'"
Stuck in a system that didn't fully utilize her skillset, Renee admits that she was unhappy knowing that she had more to offer. She even recalls a conversation with WWE Producer Kevin Dunn in which he turned down her initial release request. Here are her full remarks:
"I was just unhappy in the sense of knowing that I had more to offer. I was just doing backstage interviews. I was still doing kick-off shows, but on the day-to-day, the schedule was just backstage interviews, which I actually loved doing cause it felt more to me getting to flex a little of that acting muscle and I always loved that. I loved being able to have the subtle reaction to the heel or the babyface and being able to help those storylines any way I could, but there wasn't that other thing to sink my teeth into. There would be times where I would sit there, and I wasn't on the show, there was no backstage interview. I would sit there, waiting for something to do and I started to feel like I was really wasting time and wasting important years of my career. Even if I was doing something on the show, it was a quick 'Hey, welcome my guest....' they cut me off, I'm staring off into the abyss for the camera cut. As much as I loved doing that, I know there was more that I had to offer and other things I wanted to do. It was just trying to find that right thing to do. I spoke to Kevin Dunn, I asked him for my release, and he said 'No.' I was like, 'Wait, you can say no?' I wasn't expecting that. He was like, 'We have other plans for you and we have things we want to do,' I'm glad the doors didn't close and we didn't end our relationship at that point because there was stuff for me to do. By the time I jumped off commentary and the FOX show ended, it was time to go."
Now under contract as an employee, Renee acknowledges that she was in a much better spot to walk away from WWE than she was when she first requested her release. She concluded by summarizing her feelings on why she felt it was time to close this chapter in her career.
"This time around, it was a different situation and I was under a different contract. I was an employee, so I gave my two weeks notice. Much different. It put me in a better spot to be like, 'Now I can end it, we are ending it, it is what it is.' I can't speak for them, but the way I feel is, we're not meeting each other on the same playing field," she said.
Renee would end up leaving WWE following SummerSlam 2020. She now hosts her own podcast entitled Oral Sessions.
Elsewhere during the interview, Paquette discussed the possibility of joining AEW. You can find her full comments by clicking here.
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