Cathy Kelley

Cathy Kelley On Returning To WWE, Rhea Ripley, Random DMs, Triple H & Stephanie McMahon

Cathy Kelley (@cathykelley) is a journalist, TV host and backstage interviewer for WWE. She sits down with Chris Van Vliet in Hollywood, CA to talk about her decision to leave WWE in 2020 and what made her return in October 2022, how she got started in broadcasting, moving to Los Angeles, what she learned working in NXT, her favorite interview moments, the relationship she has with Stephanie McMahon and Triple H, working with Rhea Ripley, her thoughts on Grayson Waller, what kind of DMs she receives and much more!

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Quote I’m thinking about:
If you do what you’ve already done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.- Tony Robbins

On wrestling training:

“I did try once back in the day. Dave Marquez had a little wrestling ring in Championship Wrestling from Hollywood. I took a couple of bumps until I had the wind knocked out of me. Also running the ropes, people don’t realize that until you have done it, it’s intense, you end up having calluses on your back. I was bruised for a week.”

On watching back her WWE debut:

“I actually talked about this the other day, it was sink or swim and I sunk. I was thrown in at the deep end, it was WrestleMania weekend. So, coming from where I had not done real-life television before, I don’t think my high school television show counts. I had come from a podcast world and those two are so different from doing live to tape to doing live, live. Nothing can really prepare you for that I don’t think.”

How did Cathy Kelley sink:

“I remember reading Twitter comments and they were not too nice. As you know as well, there is so much history and so much respect when it comes to wrestling, there were some things that I was not prepared for. Also if I flubbed a line or made a mistake I didn’t know how to recover.”

On the WWE machine:

“There is no industry, entertainment or otherwise that accomplishes what WWE does week in and week out, multiple times a week. It is an absolute monstrosity every week in the best possible way. You look at SNL who does a live show every week but they have seasons and they have multiple rehearsals. Then you look at a sporting event and the people that are an athlete are also not expected to cut a promo 10 seconds after they get off the field.”    

On getting on WWE’s radar:

“It was actually through Ryan Katz. He was working very closely with WWE and Dusty at the time. They were putting on this try-out where I think JoJo got called up, Eva Marie, Lana and a couple of other people. I remember Ryan saying, Hey, I think you should do this, and I was scared sh*tless! I said, Nope, I’m good. I wanted to work at WWE but I didn’t see myself as a Superstar, and that was what the try-out was for. So a few months later I end up seeing some of the girls from that try-out in backstage roles and I was really bummed that I did not capitalise on that opportunity.”

What was the next step?

I think it was a few months later. I was working with Sam Roberts at the time and he was very close to Michael Cole. I kind of stayed in touch with Michael Cole and there was an opportunity to do Live Event hosting, which I tried out for. They brought a bunch of people to Orlando and we got to sit in on an NXT show. I think a couple of people tagged me back in the day just sitting in the audience. I was told I was going to be starting soon, they had a hiring freeze a couple of months later and started hiring internally. Two years later another opportunity turned up and that was in Stamford.”

On the first day in WWE:

“The first thing they had me doing was WrestleMania weekend in Dallas. I was kind of hidden because they wanted it to be a surprise. But I was in Stamford just sitting in on a couple of the shows.” 

On the nature of backstage interviews:

“90% of them are live, it’s rare that you will get another take on something. Because I loved it so much I watched a lot of old WWE stuff. Mean Gene is obviously the GOAT but I love old Michael Cole backstage interviewing. It’s money. I told him that I miss the frosted tips.”

On Michael Cole being underrated:

“I think that in his career you can see all of those moments that add up to where he is today. If you are not in it week to week then you don’t know how much work has to be done. I mean, his job is crazy. I don’t know how his voice withstands everything, he’s a monster.”

On who gets Cathy Kelley excited to work with:

“I feel like there is an obvious answer to this, but I do really enjoy working with Rhea [Ripley]. I know the WWE Universe enjoys it in some capacity as well but I think it’s fun because it’s a different interaction from me and while you said that I will know what a lot of people will be saying, I don’t a lot of the time. Sometimes I do but Superstars have a lot more leeway coming up with what they are going to say more so than they did a few years ago.”

On Rhea Ripley:

“We actually talked about this the other day. I did her first live interview after an NXT TakeOver. Hunter and I used to have those Breakdown sessions and she came to one of them to make an announcement, and that was her first ever live interview on a WWE platform.” 

On leaving WWE:

“I was really tough and I struggled with it for about a year. It was partially promises that were made when I started and the trajectory of where I wanted to see my career go, and it didn’t feel like that opportunity was going to come to fruition, which was going to be on one of the main shows, Raw or SmackDown as a backstage interviewer. While I was at NXT they said that I wasn’t ever going to be on a main show, that was my catalyst. I’ve talked about this recently, but the first week where I don’t feel like I not necessarily brought my A Game, I wasn’t prepared for that opportunity, that loomed over me for the next couple of years. I did a lot of digital stuff but they didn’t feel like that was enough to prepare me for live television. And then even though I was doing a paragraph of live NXT each week, I was in an overlook every week and run down the matches or talking with William Regal about the show. Then a couple of weeks later I remember putting in my resignation letter that I had a conversation with Cole that it was probably never going to happen.”

What changed:

“I was with my mom in Alaska at the time and I just texted him Happy Birthday and I expected a thanks kid or whatever. And then he starts to send me all these things of like oh I remember when I was there fishing in Alaska. And then he sends me this long thing which turned into, Hey, would you have a conversation with Steph? Which obviously I would any day of the week.”

Who can make Cathy Kelley break:

“I don’t want to give him this credit, but Dom Mysterio, there have been a couple of times. Honestly, I love working with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn too, they just have this dry humour that is unmatched.”     

Does it feel different for Cathy Kelley this time around?

“Yeah, I feel more confident, I feel like I am doing what I was supposed to be doing all along. It just feels a lot better.”

What is Cathy Kelley grateful for:

“My dog, my mom and all of the people that use their platform for good.”

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