Corey Graves On The Lengths He'd Have Gone To In Order To Stay With WWE

Some fans may remember Corey Graves as an in-ring competitor during the early days of "WWE NXT" in 2012-13. However, a series of concussions unfortunately put an end to that career and eventually led him to the role of color commentator, which he has served in for the better part of a decade. During a recent appearance on "The Kurt Angle Show," Graves recalled how his commentator role came to fruition.


"I can remember the night the commentary idea was floated," Graves said. "That was actually the night of or the night after I had my last match. It was WrestleMania Axxess before WrestleMania in New Orleans. I wrestled the match early in the morning. I don't remember if it was the same night or the next night, I was at a little bar in New Orleans with Michael Cole. I was just sort of venting. To me, I went, 'Okay, I've had concussions before, I'll heal. This is annoying, but whatever.' It was in that conversation that I mentioned to Cole that I had spent a tiny bit of time as a sports broadcaster here in Pittsburgh."

Graves noted that he used to work for 93.7 The Fan, which still exists, however he worked overnight shifts from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. on the weekends. In hindsight, he's grateful for that.


'I'm not going to let this opportunity go up in smoke'

"Back to what Dusty meant to me, when I got shut down, when I was told officially, 'You can't wrestle anymore,' it was the most heartbreaking thing I had ever experienced," Graves recalled. "But I think that fight or flight instinct kicked in because I went, 'Oh my god, I'm at WWE right now. I'm here at the Performance Center. Okay, I can't wrestle anymore now, but what else can I do?'"


"I'm not going to let this opportunity go up in smoke, so I started doing everything. I started setting up the speakers and running sound at the live events for NXT, and anything I could get my hands on. Working with Dusty extremely closely, and then Cole revisited the conversation we had in New Orleans and said, 'Hey, I want you to try commentary.'"

Graves explained that he sat down with the former Rich Brennan at the Performance Center and they would call dozens of matches over and over again as practice. Despite that, Graves said he didn't feel that light bulb go off and felt self-conscious to take risks. After nearly a year, he felt comfortable enough to crack a joke or slip in comments that didn't take away from matches.


Kurt Angle then asked if Graves was confident that WWE would find a spot for him, to which he said that he was not.

'I wasn't saying no to anything that was thrown my way'

"Again, I wasn't saying no to anything that was thrown my way at the time," Graves noted. "So while I was learning commentary, again, I was learning all these different aspects of the business and TV production. I was like a sponge. I would sit down and ask these people questions. Hell, as far as I was concerned, I would be doing lighting backstage as long as it meant that I could stay in WWE. That was how I looked at this. It was almost desperation."


After growing frustrated about feeling "stuck" on "WWE NXT," Graves learned years down the line that higher-ups knew he was ready for a main roster call-up and wanted him to be over-prepared rather than under-deliver.

"There's so much that goes into commentary in WWE that the world should never know," Graves added. "If it's done well, you never know. There are so many different things. I think the thing I struggled with the most was having all the different voices in my head. In 'NXT,' we would have the producer counting down, and occasionally Michael Cole was producing backstage and he'd nudge you a certain way or give you, 'Hey, make sure you don't miss this.' Okay. But then you've got Kevin Dunn in one ear, whoever's producing in another ear. Nowadays you've got Bruce and Triple H, but nothing rocked me like hearing the voice of Vince McMahon at any given moment. I always joke and say, 'It's the voice of God that comes into your ears.'"


Graves then recalled how McMahon yelled at him for saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas," one night on "WWE Raw," but everything turned out fine without consequence.