No place like home for Jackie Redmond as WWE invades Toronto

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“I’m shockingly energetic considering I just got back from Scotland.”

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Energetic would be among the most blasé descriptors when you talk about World Wrestling Entertainment and National Hockey League commentator and on-air personality Jackie Redmond.

The Ontario native, who returns “home” to Toronto when WWE invades the GTA next week for its Money In the Bank weekend, is beyond energetic. Dynamic. Driven. Limitless. Determined. Groundbreaking.

Redmond wears any and all of those descriptors on any given day.

She also wears her heart on her sleeve, bringing so much vim, vigour and creativity to her wildly busy daily life, it would make one wonder how she has time and energy to do for two jobs what normal humans might struggle to do for one.

“We run on adrenaline and caffeine,” the 37-year-old quipped during a Zoom call ahead of a recent episode of Monday Night Raw.

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For Redmond, who splits her time between gigs for the NHL and WWE, she’s sipping coffee and gathering adrenaline around the world in the midst of a career she said she never even dreamed of when she and her sister were sneaking down to the unfinished basement at their parents’ home to try to catch the end of Raw during its vaunted Attitude Era.

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“I would say I was probably in the sixth or seventh grade when I started watching wrestling, and it was The Rock and Stone Cold that got me and my sister into it,” Redmond said. “When I say got us into it, I mean we were obsessed.”

So smitten with WWE were the siblings that they’d break curfew and tiptoe down to their parents’ basement to watch their obsession on a tiny TV screen akin to what today would be a tablet.

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“My mom didn’t really want us watching (WWE),” Redmond said. “It was not the PG era back then. There were a couple of reasons why she didn’t want us watching, it was also on late. I wasn’t supposed to stay up until 11 o’clock at night when I was 10.”

Fortunately for the girls, there was a way to access the basement without going through the main living room of the house, where their parents would be congregated.

“We would sneak down into the basement after we were supposed to be in bed to try to see the main event of Monday Night Raw, which usually featured The Rock or Stone Cold or Triple H, the Hardy Boyz — I was obsessed with the Hardy Boyz and Lita and that whole era. There was an office that had this tiny little TV in it, a tiny little desk TV, and we would watch Monday Night Raw on that TV on the lowest level of volume.”

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Every once in a while, however, ma and pa would get wise to their basement stowaways, perhaps tipped off by a little too much celebrating of ol’ Stone Cold or a little too much smelling of what The Rock was cooking.

“We would get caught down there sometimes and get in trouble,” she said with a laugh. “Those are some of my favourite memories with my sister. The nights where we would get caught, we’d be so upset because if you’re getting caught, it means the show is not over. It’s not like today, where you can go online and see videos of what happened pretty much immediately. We would legit not know what happened.

“We’d go to school the next day like ‘What happened to The Rock?’ ‘Did Vince McMahon come out?’ ‘What happened?’ It was just different back then. You couldn’t have instant access to how the show ended. When we wouldn’t see it, it was a devastating blow.”

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The sisters also squared off and teamed up when playing the WrestleMania 2000 video game, Redmond said.

“We were obsessed with that,” she said. “We could never beat it. We could never beat Mankind for some reason, or Undertaker, and we would just get so frustrated.”

In later years, they’d take advantage of the WWE’s offering of its premium live events being broadcast in movie theatres.

“We got to a point where my mom realized she was fighting a losing battle and we were just going to be obsessed with WWE forever, so she would take us to the movie theatre and we would watch WrestleMania,” Redmond said with a chuckle. “I remember watching the McMahon-in-every-corner match at WrestleMania 2000.”

Jackie Redmond works on WWE's RAW brand.
Jackie Redmond works on WWE’s RAW brand. WWE

Redmond even confessed that her obsession with WWE drove her to sign up for her amateur wrestling team in the eighth grade.

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“I did!” she said. “And I won a gold medal. Listen, I’m not saying I could run the ropes now and it was a different type of wrestling, but WWE did motivate me to actually join the wrestling team at school.”

She couldn’t have known it then, but Redmond’s early infatuation with WWE would ultimately set her on a trajectory that sees her deeply embedded with the company today, providing commentary, feature content, backstage interviews and more.

Redmond broke into the broadcast world after winning the Canadian reality show Gillette Drafted: The Search for Canada’s Next Sportscaster in 2011, when she became the first and only female winner over the show’s five-year run.

She started at The Score, a sports network in Canada that initially only offered sports scores and highlights — no live coverage – where she joined a host of future sports personalities that included the likes of Elliotte Friedman, Cabbie, Renee Paquette and others.

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“My start in sports was a little different because I walked on a competition/reality show, but I think a lot of things about the way I started in this business have really been the reason I’ve been able to kind of carve the path that I have,” Redmond said. “For people who don’t realize, in Canada, The Score didn’t have all these big rights to a lot of major sports. You weren’t turning on The Score to watch a Toronto Maple Leafs game.

“A lot of the directive there was ‘Listen, we are going to gain viewers by having personality, by being the home for the hardcore, by doing things that other broadcasters aren’t doing.’ Believe it or not, we haven’t always had the Pat McAfees or the Paul Bissonnettes in sports.”

Redmond also was coming in at a time when women were just beginning to break into the previously male-dominated world of sports broadcasting. Fortunately, she said, she crossed paths with one of the movement’s pioneers, Pacquette, now a former WWE announcer/personality that went by Renee Young, also a Torontonian.

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“I was very fortunate to start where I started because I was able to sort of figure out who I was and I was allowed to showcase not just my opinion, but just my personality, who I am, my passions, my annoyances, all of that,” Redmond said. “I think that all is part of it, and working with someone like Renee. A lot of people don’t realize who aren’t Canadians, but she was at The Score when I was there, she was on the judging panel that decided that I would have a job there.

“The first day, my desk was directly beside Renee’s and I was very fortunate to start out next to someone like her who is such a class act, who really embodies what it means to be a woman in sports supporting other women. She’s not just tweeting that, she actually lives her life that way and is one of the nicest humans ever and I learned a lot from her.”

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Today, on the strength of the groundwork laid by Paquette and Redmond and others, women enjoy much more equality in sports.

“I think women in sports have come a really, really long way and I’m really just glad and grateful that I’m living in the time that I am and that I get to be a part of that and hopefully passing it along to the next generation, too,” Redmond said. “There’s room for women in a lot of different roles that maybe weren’t there before.”

In her time at The Score, Redmond became part of a groundbreaking wrestling “post-game” talk show, initially called Right After Wrestling, later changed to Aftermath.

Along with its creators, former WWE personality Arda Ocal, Paquette, former WWE referee Jimmy Korderas and a small host of others, the program was ahead of its time when it came to recapping wrestling shows.

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It was during that time that Redmond got her first exposure to live WWE events, travelling to her SummerSlam in Brooklyn. She also was invited to ring the bell for a live WWE event at the now Coca-Cola Coliseum in Toronto.

“My first live event in Toronto was a live show at (the then) Ricoh Coliseum when I was hosting Aftermath,” she said. “I remember going and I’d got invited to be a special guest. I had a big intro, I went out on stage, I wore a Leafs jersey, which got me a mixed reaction, and I got to welcome everyone to Ricoh Coliseum for that event. Then I got to go down and ring the bell.”

From there, it was trips to cover WrestleManias, some other live events — both working and as a fan — before she left her job in Toronto to accept a position with TNT Sports covering the NHL, another lifelong passion for the girl from the so-called centre of the sports universe in Toronto.

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Jackie Redmond works on WWE's RAW brand.
Jackie Redmond works on WWE’s RAW brand. WWE

Amid that incredible run, Redmond was offered the opportunity to bring her talents to WWE, an offer that allowed her to also stay involved in working the NHL beat while working with WWE as well. It was an offer, she said, that was too good to refuse.

“Hockey is so special to me,” she said. “It’s a big part of who I am as a person. I would never leave hockey fully ever. Part of the beauty of WWE and what I’m so grateful for is that from the beginning, it was never ‘You have to choose one. We will make this work.’ ”

Initially, Redmond worked creating content for Peacock Network shows that aired after Raw and Smackdown.

“They were similar in ways to Aftermath, like the show happens, you talk about what happened,” she said. “There was a little bit of background there already. It’s been wild.”

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Later, she joined Monday Night Raw, where she hosts live content, interviews with talent mid-show and has become a staple on Monday nights. All while still popping up on NHL broadcasts during the regular season and playoffs.

“It’s been really cool to do both,” Redmond said. “I’ve really enjoyed balancing it and I think I’ve learned a lot at WWE that I can apply to (the NHL) and vice-versa. It’s been super beneficial that way. We’re always learning. We’re always trying to find ways to grow and to be better and I think I’ve learned a lot from WWE.”

Ever the innovator, Redmond even found a creative way to blend her passions.

“One of the things I’m most proud of is taking the YouTube show that I do with the NHL and using it to do these crossover segments and episodes where we’re bringing the hockey world and the WWE world together,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of crossover between the fanbases, at least that’s what I’ve learned doing the sit-down interview with CM Punk at Monday Night Raw that was all about hockey, taking Jey Uso to his first-ever hockey game or talking to Chelsea Green about the Vancouver Canucks.

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“Doing those crossover episodes has been really, really fun. It is something that I hope to do more of.”

In the throes of her dominant career, Redmond shudders when asked if she feels she has reached the top of the mountain.

“I never want to say that I’ve climbed to the top of the mountain because the top of the mountain scares me because there’s another side to the mountain and I never want to go down the mountain,” she said. “I think I’m always climbing.”

Redmond said hockey was always a goal for her and that she rediscovered her passion for WWE when she was hired to work for the company.

“Hockey was always my goal when I was younger. That was the dream,” she said. “When I got into wrestling, in middle school, I don’t know if I ever dreamt about working for WWE. I definitely dreamt about being a wrestler, but I think that this has become a real passion for me when I got the call to join the company. I’m constantly being inspired to dream new dreams and bigger dreams.”

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She admitted she has had a few “pinch-me” moments already in her young WWE career.

“I’ve had a few moments when I’ve been standing out there and it hits me and I stop and I’m like ‘Wow, how did my life get me to this point?’ Before I was even on Monday Night Raw, when I was doing the Peacock shows, I remember being at WrestleMania in Dallas and Stone Cold is out there smashing beers together in celebration and I’m like ‘How did I end up in this moment right now?’

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“And then I’m taking a picture with him and a little bit of your child comes out and you feel that magic of WWE. You always have that sense of hope or belief that something really cool could happen. I feel like being here, I’ve had that resparked for me in a lot of different ways.”

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In other words, there is no mountain top. Only a constant ascent.

“There doesn’t have to be a peak,” she said. “Maybe you can just keep going and try to do new things and dream new dreams. I feel like this place has done that for me in a lot of ways and so I’m just really glad that when I had the choice, I didn’t say ‘Oh, it’s too much, I can’t handle hockey and WWE,’ I’m glad that I said ‘You know what, screw it, let’s try and see what happens,’ because I’ve already had some pretty cool moments and things happen to me.”

For now, however, Redmond said her targets are squarely locked on Money in the Bank weekend, where she will return to her old stomping grounds.

“I’m so excited about Money in the Bank because it’s the first big event in Toronto for WWE that I’ll actually be with the company,” she said. “It’s going to be one of those things where I go out on the floor in a place where I started my career and spent a lot of my life and I’m probably going to have another one of those moments where I’m like ‘We can do anything.’ ”

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Redmond is reflective when she thinks about all the opportunities she has had and the ones that lie ahead, including next week.

“It means the world (to be coming home),” she said. “My family still all lives a couple hours down the road in London, Ontario. I’m heading up there early to try to spend a couple of days with them, I’m probably going to retrace some of my footsteps from earlier in my career from Sportsnet, see some people.”

She’ll also get her fill of ketchup chips and Tim Hortons before stepping inside Scotiabank Arena.

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“I think that Money in the Bank is going to be a really full circle, surreal moment for me, because I’ve been doing this sports broadcasting thing now for I guess like 13 years or something like that,” she said. “I didn’t know I would end up here. I didn’t know that I would ever go to the United States and cover Stanley Cup finals and work for WWE and end up interviewing legends like The Rock … you never know what’s going to happen.

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“Am I going to succeed? Am I going to fail? I think in Toronto, I had a lot of those moments of adversity and moments of self-doubt and not knowing ‘Am I really in the right place?’ Is that was I should be doing?’ Am I meant for this?’ ”

If she’d only known then what she knows now.

“I wish for a split (second) I could go back to 2021 Jackie Redmond and say ‘Hey, I know it’s hard right now, but it’s going to work out and you’re going to get to do some cool f***ing s***.’ I think I will have one of those surreal moments at Money in the Bank where I’m like ‘I’m so glad that I pushed through and I kept working and I kept working and I kept believing’ because now, look where I am right now, it’s Money in the Bank, one of the best events of the year, is happening in a place that feels like home to me for so many different reasons. It’s going to be full circle.

“I’ll probably cry. I’m a crier anyway. I cry very easily, but I’ll probably shed some tears at some point, or at least get a little bit watery eyed at some point during the weekend. I can’t wait.

“I can’t wait to cry in Toronto.”

[email protected]

x.com/Jan_Murphy

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