Renee Young: A Role Model for Women in Sports

Renee Young, now using her real name of Renee Paquette, announced at WWE SummerSlam in August that she would be leaving her role within WWE. Having signed with WWE in 2012, Paquette stated she made the decision after coming to the conclusion that she had accomplished everything she felt she could in her eight years with the company, also citing the cancelation of WWE Backstage as a driving force behind her motivation.

The wrestling industry responded to the announcement with sorrow that one of the most talented and relatable personalities had to step away, and it sparked reflection on everything Paquette has accomplished in the entirety of her career, the important moves she made within WWE, and the far-reaching effect she had on women in sports broadcasting.

Early after high school, Paquette trained in improv comedy, moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, and later moved back home to Toronto to audition for various on-screen roles. When her plan didn’t reach the level of success she wanted, she turned to sports broadcasting, instead.

In 2009, Paquette appeared for The Score Television Network, presenting on Right After Wrestling, later renamed to Aftermath. There she worked with familiar WWE names like Jimmy Korderas and Mauro Ranallo. Throughout her career, Paquette had starred in various commercials, music videos, magazine photo shoots, and even presented a show about extreme sports for BiteTV called Rippin’ It-N-Lippin’ It. She’s hosted a podcast, and appeared on Total Divas.

In 2012, Paquette signed with WWE, first appearing as a pre-show cohost. During her time at the company, she was a backstage interviewer, host of the World Tour segments, commentator, a special contributor, and even played a part in a few onscreen gimmicks. She was the first full-time female announcer in almost a decade when she was promoted to one, and was the first woman to call an entire episode of Raw. With every appearance, it was clear that Paquette was professional, talented, and more than just a pretty face holding a mic.

In a personal sense, Paquette represented the hope that a career in a large wrestling promotion was not only possible for a woman, but that it was possible without having to change everything about herself. In a field where personality changes are encouraged and expected, Paquette stayed true to who she is and still managed to snag those super important “first-evers”.

I would never go as far as comparing myself to her, but I’ve also switched fields as a journalist, and often struggled with my choice of switching fields. Am I giving up? Am I any good at what I do? Will I ever find my true calling? Knowing that someone of Paquette’s stature also went through those issues comforts me, in that I know one day I’ll find my place.

Wrestling journalism, or sports journalism in general, has always been a boy’s club. Look around the top sites of wrestling news coverage, and the underrepresentation is glaring. I have spoken to so many writers, editors, and broadcasters who have decided to bail on the wrestling industry because they no longer feel seen, heard, or safe. To change the atmosphere feels like a daunting task, and certainly not something that can be done over night. Paquette played a part in creating a safe and bright place.

After leaving the company, Paquette revealed issues she had in her roles with WWE. If you look back, though, it wasn’t obvious. Her professionalism, ability to adapt, and the desire to do what she loved were the driving forces behind her work. There was no drama, scandals, or unethical concerns. There were no unkind words. Something that is never lost on those who pay attention.

Renee Young is a presence and influence within WWE that will be sorely missed. She is a spotlight of hope for so many in sports journalism, and a model of behavior for women who wanted to make changes in a field that has been set in stone.

For me, she is a role model. Someone I look up to (even though we’re the same age). Grace, talent, ambition, humor, direction, and an unrivaled work ethic is what Paquette teaches the next generation, and I’m just glad I watched wrestling while she was around.

I hope she doesn’t leave wrestling for good, but I can’t wait to see what she conquers next.

Renee, thank you.

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