Aftermath's Paquette blazing a trail that started in grade school
Aftermath: Part 1 of 3
JAN MURPHY - Kingston Whig-Standard
To wrestling fans, she's one-third of the trio that has popularized and legitimized pro wrestling like few -- if any -- before them.
She is Renee Paquette, and she, along with Arda Ocal and longtime World Wrestling Entertainment referee Jimmy Korderas, give wrestling fans a voice, not to mention fantastic analysis and insight into WWE Inc. on The Score's Aftermath.
The show airs Tuesdays at 6 p.m. and Fridays at 10 p.m. on The Score. As well, Ocal and Korderas offer a live podcast, Aftermath Radio, each Monday night following Raw.
Aftermath is the first WWE post-game show to be broadcast on TV, making it groundbreaking by nature.
If that isn't groundbreaking in itself, add to it the very likable Paquette, who credits public school pals for spurring her interest in pro wrestling, which has a reputation for being less than mainstream.
"I think that developed probably when I was in like Grade 7 or Grade 8 and all of the boys in my grade were into wrestling big time then, which was at the beginning of the (WWE's) Attitude Era," Paquette answered when asked how she became a wrestling fan. "That was when it all started."
All it took from there was seeing pro wrestling live to hook Paquette for good.
I went to an event -- my dad used to work at the (Rogers Centre) for a little while. I got meet Stone Cold (Steve Austin) and Chyna was there and The Rock and Mick Foley -- that that definitely started that off."
And what childhood wrestling story is complete without tales of "pretend" wrestling in back yards and school yards?
"My brother was never really into it and it never really existed too much in my own household," Paquette confessed. "It started off with other friends of mine at school who got into it ... Tombstoning each other on their parents' lawns, which is probably very dangerous ... I can actually confirm that it's very dangerous," she quickly added with a chuckle. "But we were doing it. That and chokeslams all over the place, Sharpshooters, I remember being put in a Sharpshooter quite a bit as a child."
The Sharpshooter was made famous by Canadian wrestling legend Bret (Hitman) Hart, but more on him later.
Arda Ocal, Mick Foley, Renee Paquette and The Score's Norm Sousa.
blazes a TV trail for wrestling analysis shows, Paquette is a trailblazer herself. You won't find too many women who will talk wrestling even in public, let alone in a starring role on TV.
"It's cool," she answered when it was suggested to her that she is a pioneer. "It's just interesting being put in that situation -- of doing it on The Score -- and not having a lot of females doing it," she said, adding "we do get a lot of e-mails from female fans.
"It's nice to be able to kind of reach out to them and know that there are other women watching it and other people who care about it still. I'm glad to be in that situation."
Aftermath began as Right After Wrestling on The Score in late 2009 before being rebranded to its current name last year. For Paquette, being part of the popular show has been a blessing.
"I couldn't have asked for a better situation. I love, love, love doing Aftermath. The best part of my job is being able to do that."
And what a part of the show she is. She's witty, bold and not afraid to go toe-to-toe with her co-hosts.
But is that, she was asked, an on-screen gimmick, like in wrestling, or is that simply Renee?
"My on-air personality (and) real life are very much the same," she said. "Maybe I'm just a little bit more amplified on the show a bit, but not by much. It's pretty close to what I'm like."
In fact, it was suggested, Paquette truly gives off the kind of vibe that she is simply "one of the boys." She couldn't agree more.
"I grew up playing sports," she said. "I've never been an overly feminine girl. I make the worst, gross fart jokes and tell stupid stories. I like being able to do that and I like being able to relay that through (social media site) Twitter as well, especially with wrestling. There is so much that can be made fun of."
Paquette's Twitter followers are well versed in her humour and wit. If you don't follow her, you should -- @reneepaquette on Twitter.
The Aftermath opportunity has afforded Paquette some memorable moments to date.
"Meeting Bret Hart was the best. That was very, very cool," she said, adding that the so-called Excellence of Execution did some sketches with her.
"I met him at another bar when SmackDown! was in town a couple of months prior to that," she said, and "having stayed in touch with him and getting a text message at Christmas, being wished Merry Christmas, was very cool."
Paquette also mentioned shooting some sketches with WWE stars Evan Bourne and Yoshi Tatsu as being memorable.
"And being tweeted by Dolph Ziggler is cool and being burned by Paul Bearer on Twitter also very cool."
The Score's makeup artist, Nadine Natour (center), has to deal with wrestlemaniacs Arda Ocal and Renee Paquette.
Perhaps the coolest of the cool moments came when Paquette saw herself referenced in a sign on televised WWE programming.
"It's crazy," she reflected. "The first time I saw that, I had my boss here at The Score at the time, message me, 'You realize that there are signs for you at Raw?' That was crazy. That blew my mind."
If you're a wrestling fan, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better medium for the industry than Aftermath. Ocal's knowledge, Korderas's experience and Paquette's energy and humour are a near-perfect blend. In fact, without Paquette, the show would not be the same.
"Sometimes I just need to keep those guys in check," she said. "Arda is the biggest wrestling fanboy that I think exists. Sometimes I need to bring him back to reality and say 'listen buddy, we're still talking wrestling here, be cool for a second,' " she said, as if cutting a promo, before turning serious again.
"The thing with doing the show with those guys that's great is they literally know everything. I'm prepping right now to go down to do the live show with them, and we might talk for five minutes before the show, but I literally don't really prep them on most of the stuff that we're going in to talk about because they know it all. I could bust out pretty much any random trivia question and odds are Arda's going to know the answer. He's nuts," she added, her TV persona kicking in for a split second longer.
Paquette, and in fact all of the Aftermath hosts, have covered a lot of ground in a very short period of time. But there are still a few dream interviews among her aspirations.
"My dream interviews would be Cody Rhodes, Dustin Rhodes, I want Goldust for sure, and Dolph Ziggler. For current guys right now, those are my dudes."
And while wrestling plays a big role in her professional life, Paquette quickly dashes any notion that she might some day like to have a role in WWE.
"I like the way that I get to broadcast with WWE and with wrestling, but I could never live up to that travel schedule," she said. "I respect them so much for what they do, but for me, as a broadcaster and as a TV host, there are other avenues I would rather explore than do that."
In the meantime, fans can sit back and watch as Aftermath and Paquette continue to blaze a trail.
Jan Murphy is the news editor at the Kingston Whig-Standard and has written about wrestling for 15 years.