Renee Paquette spoke to Ariel Helwani recently about her career in WWE and her career after leaving WWE in 2020. According to Paquette, however, she almost left WWE many years earlier.
“Probably about five years ago, I had asked for my release from WWE and I wasn’t granted it,” Paquette said. “This was before I did commentary, this was before I did a lot of other things. And I’m glad I didn’t leave at that point, I’m glad I wasn’t granted my release because my resume wouldn’t be what it is today if I had left during that point. I think, for me, it was really– I still sort of had stars in my eyes, and I still have stars in my eyes about things I want to do with my career. And I kept feeling like I was hitting a wall of being told ‘you cannot be a star within this company.’
“Because it was not about me, and I get that, because I’m the broadcaster. I’m the personality, I’m not the roster. I understand I’m not putting asses in seats, I’m not selling merch, I’m not selling tickets. I get it. But that was sort of the thing that just felt very stunting to me and my career, being like ‘damn, I feel like I have so much more to offer. There’s so many more things I want to do, and yes, you’ve given me this amazing platform. But I do see where that ceiling is at, and I see more for me outside of this. And if you guys don’t see that, or if that opportunity doesn’t exist?’
“I don’t even know if they didn’t see that, the opportunities just weren’t even there. With the Network starting and having the WWE Network and the different versions of that, from when it first started to just being all interview shows to it being all documentaries. They were really going through their growth spurts of figuring out what the Network was, and I couldn’t find out the place I wanted to land within that.
“Then moving over to Fox and being able to do Backstage with Fox, that was something that scratched that bit of an itch where I was like ‘I like doing this. I like being in this studio setting, I like working with Fox.’ I had such a great experience there, but then that came to an end as well with COVID kind of shutting the doors on everything. Anyways, kind of going back to what I was saying, I asked for my release several years ago, it wasn’t granted it, got to do a bunch of other things. And then on that second time when I was like ‘okay, now it’s really time to get off this ride.’ That’s sort of the reference I keep coming back to a lot, getting off that ride. It’s hard to find a time to leave WWE. There’s never a perfect time. 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 PPV. Now we’re building to Mania, now we’re building to SummerSlam, and this is coming up and this is new opportunity.’ There’s never that time to really get your foot out that other door. So with my time at commentary ending, the Fox show ended and then COVID, we were in the middle of COVID. I was like ‘this is my time. I see this window and this is my time to jump off the ride and figure it out.’”
Helwani asked Paquette why she wanted out of WWE at the time. She felt that she wasn’t doing as much as she could’ve for the promotion as backstage interviewer, despite enjoying the role. Her request was ultimately denied by Kevin Dunn.
“I was just unhappy in the sense of just knowing that I had more to offer,” Paquette said. “Then I was just doing backstage interviews. I was still doing kickoff shows and whatnot, but on the day to day, weekly schedule, I was just doing backstage interviews, which I actually loved doing. I always liked doing backstage issues because that felt more to me like getting to flex a little bit of that acting muscle. I’ve always loved that, so I enjoyed doing that. I loved having the subtle reactions to a heel or babyface and being able to help those storylines along anyway I could through that. But there wasn’t that other thing for me to sink my teeth into.
“There’d be times where I would sit there at RAW or SmackDown and I wasn’t on the show. If there was no backstage interviews, you’d just sit there, waiting for something to do. And I felt like I was really wasting time, really important years of my career when I could be out doing more things. Even if I was doing something on the show, it was a quick little ‘hey ladies and gentlemen, let me welcome my guest, blah, blah, blah.’ They cut me off and I’m left staring off into the abyss for the camera cut. As much as I love doing that, I know that there is more that I really had to offer and other things I really wanted to do. So it was just trying to find that right thing to do, and then when I spoke to Kevin Dunn, I asked for my release and he said no. And I was like ‘wait, you can say no?!’”
Paquette admitted to being caught off guard by her request for release being denied. Ultimately, she’s happy it didn’t happen because she was allowed to do more of the stuff she wanted. Once her gig at WWE Backstage with Fox ended, along with her commentary gig coming to an end, Paquette recognized it was time to leave.
“I wasn’t expecting that. I was like ‘oh s**t. Okay,’” Paquette said. “They were like ‘well we’ve got other plans for you. We’ve got things we want you to do.’ So I’m glad that the doors did not close. We did not end our relationship at that point and time, because there was stuff still for me to do there. By the time I jumped off commentary and the Fox show ended, that was the time to go this time around, and I think this was also a different situation. I was under a different contract, I didn’t have to ask out of my contract, I was an employee. So I gave my two week’s notice, which is much different. So yeah, that definitely put me in a better spot to be in ‘okay, now I can end it. And we are ending it and that is what it is.’
“But I think that we both– I can’t speak for them, but my opinion and the way I feel is we were both alright. We’re not meeting each other on the same playing field right now. And I felt my time in commentary really sort of lent its hand in that it left a bad taste in my mouth. I felt like my relationships with other people there had kind of maybe gone downhill a little bit. And it wasn’t a great experience. So I think stepping away from that and having that sort of clarity afterwards, and just knowing the way things work. For me to take a second to myself, the commentary didn’t go the way that I wanted it to go, and I’m sure it wasn’t the way Vince wanted it to go either. And when he’s not into something, it takes him awhile to come back around to it. And I did not have the time to wait for him to come back around to it.”
Helwani also asked if Paquette would’ve chosen to stay with WWE if AEW star Jon Moxley had chosen to stay with WWE, where he worked from 2011 to 2019. Paquette said that wouldn’t have been the case, although Moxley’s decision to leave did help influence her decision to leave a year after him.
“No, I don’t think so because he was still there when I tried to leave before,” Paquette said. “He was at the height of doing all of the Dean Ambrose things. I don’t think those things go hand in hand. I do think it definitely helped in the sense, and not even in the sense of ‘you’re not here, I’m going to follow you and do the things you’re doing.’ It wasn’t that, it was more so the conversations we have are ‘do the things you want to do. Do the things that make you happy. And if it’s not here, it’s not being in WWE, it’s not doing that job, go do the things you want to do.’ It’s more so that. Those were the words of encouragement that he always gave to me.
“Even before he left WWE, we would talk about this stuff. And like ‘man, you make that sound so easy. It’s not so easy to pick up and go do something else. You’re making good money, you’ve got a steady gig.’ That’s not easy to come by in this form of entertainment, it’s tough. So when I saw him get up and leave and go ‘f**k it, I’m going to do my own thing.’ And he did and he’s thriving, I’m like ‘oh s**t, look at you!’ To see him step out and do that, and he never hesitated. He didn’t really overthink what he was doing, he just trusted his instinct and went to do that. And that was something that was hugely inspirational to me. ‘S**t, you’re right. Go do the s**t you want to do. Life’s too short. Get off this ride and go do the other s**t.’”