When Cathy Kelley learned in August that NXT would air live every week on the USA Network, she immediately wanted to be in Orlando every Wednesday.
“I fought to be back here,” said Kelley, who is NXT’s backstage correspondent. “The people at NXT are looking to prove themselves. That’s why I’m here, too, because of my passion. We’re hungry for this opportunity.”
Kelley studied journalism at Loyola University Chicago, then broke into the entertainment business as a host on Maria Menounos’ Afterbuzz TV online broadcast network. Her interviews convey the realism of sports, blended with entertainment, which was the style she hungered to bring to backstage segments in NXT.
“My goal is to deliver interviews in as realistic a way as possible,” said Kelley. “I started with NXT, then became the first host of WWE Digital. We were figuring out what worked on the fly, and I pushed to do more longform interviews with the talent. But I really missed doing backstage interviews, so I really pushed to go back. I spoke about it with Joe Belcastro, who is the head writer for NXT, and he shot it up to Triple H.
“Look at the work of Tommaso Ciampa or Shayna Baszler. There is something magical about this roster. People were so excited to learn that we’d have a weekly [live] show. There is a different feel and a different pressure, but it’s a testament to all the work that has gone into NXT.”
In addition to providing WWE audiences with a different perspective of their favorite stars, the 31-year-old Kelley has another goal in mind when she appears onscreen each week.
“I want to be an example for young girls,” said Kelley, who grew up as an only child raised by a single mother. “My mom busted her butt to take care of me, and she also set an incredible example. She is a scientist and runs a research lab, as well as taught at a medical school, so she was crazy busy when I was growing up.”
Kelley credits her mother for shaping her into the independent person she is today.
“She’s always been a strong female force, whether that meant working long hours or traveling for business trips and taking me with her,” said Kelley. “If I was sick, I would sleep in a sleeping bag underneath her desk. I was very lucky to grow up with her as my mother, and I’m really lucky to be surrounded by so many strong females at NXT, which has the strongest, most talented group of females in all of wrestling.
“Steph McMahon has also really been a mentor to me, seeing everything she does is inspiring. It’s also inspiring to see so many women and girls coming to shows, too, as this has always been a male-dominated business.”
With the WWE brand proudly attached to her, Kelley is also seeking to impact society through a number of charitable endeavors that she somehow fits into her off days. She is involved with GirlUp, GLAAD, UNICEF, Special Olympics, and most recently, Unlikely Heroes.
“I’ve had the chance to get to know Erica Greve, who is the founder of Unlikely Heroes, and I’ve learned how human trafficking is actually a problem in the United States,” said Kelley. “Their Recognizing Heroes Gala in Dallas recognized human trafficking survivors, and it’s so important to find ways to help the survivors.”
As for her future, Kelley’s ambition is pushing her to reach for more in-depth roles both on and off camera.
“I want to be connected to WWE for the rest of my career,” said Kelley. “I have other goals, too—producing, writing, hosting, I want to do it all. I had to miss a SmackDown recently to film something, and I’m looking forward to sharing that soon.
“It’s so special to be involved with WWE. I was the person watching at home. Now I hope that my passion for the product shows in everything I do.”