Coming off a jam-packed weekend at WWE, Corey Graves revealed on his WWE After The Bell podcast that there was an energy within WWE coming off the ThunderDome, “TakeOver: XXX” and SummerSlam. He revealed that on Sunday night after SummerSlam, many in WWE partied coming off that energy as well as wishing Renee Young goodbye as she will be leaving WWE.
“I feel like, as long as I’ve been here with the company, Sunday night after SummerSlam, we went back to the hotel, and everybody was on top of the world because it was a solid fun weekend,” Graves revealed. “A bit of a return, I don’t wanna say a return but a step toward normalcy, and the vibe from top to bottom, from the bosses to the crew members to the cameramen, we had a bit of a goodbye party for Miss Renee Young. And we celebrated the best way we know how until about 4:00 in the morning because everybody was just on top of the world. It’s been so long since we all as a group felt that energy.
“It used to be a pretty regular occurrence. Like anything, you get stuck in a grind. Man, the schedule’s hellacious and you get tired and you’re burned out, but there’s no substitute for that high you’re on when you’re done with a great show whether it be a RAW, SmackDown or PPV. In this case, for me personally, it was the first ThunderDome SmackDown. TakeOver was a blast when I got to be a part of that, and SummerSlam to the point where I was physically sort of exhausted, but I could have gone another two days I felt. It permeates the whole company.”
On the topic of ThunderDome, the new set-up for WWE debuted on FOX on SmackDown where Graves serves as color commentator. Graves admitted that ThunderDome brought a sense of normalcy to WWE for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Let’s start at the very top, Friday night on FOX, the debut of the WWE ThunderDome. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think anybody knew what to expect, and while we’re being honest, I will happily admit it blew my expectations out of the water,” Graves said. “It was the closest thing to normal that I think any of us have felt since pre-pandemic days, and visually man, it was mind-blowing. NBA has 70-ish digital fans at any given time inside their bubble, and I believe we are closer in the neighborhood of 1600 at a time. It’s like being inside of a video game. It was awesome. It was so much fun.”
The guest on After The Bell was Pat McAfee who commented on ThunderDome as well. He talked about how WWE is always at the forefront of innovation citing the WWE Network and said that ThunderDome is another example of that.
“Honestly, I was a big fan of it because WWE has always been at the front, creative wise, has always been at the front idea-wise,” McAfee noted. “I mean, you got to look back when Vince launched the WWE Network, everybody called him an idiot. The business was going to crumble because of the WWE Network. Now every single company is attempting to have a paid subscription service. Like every time, he’s like 10 years ahead of it, five years ahead of it, and they said he was going to ruin the company.
“So WWE, I feel like if you’ve been a fan for a long time, you realize, OK, these folks, they’re utilizing their form of entertainment, but they are ahead of everybody else. So whenever I saw the Performance Center get flipped into the thing. I was excited to see what happens next with the WWE. What does the WWE decide to do next because I feel like that is something WWE has always done. So then when the ThunderDome gets introduced because you see the NBA have the Zoom virtual fans and their success with it, and there’s Belgian soccer doing it.
“There’s like a lot of people doing it, and then it take it to the next level. I was very interested to see how it would work with the delay because the Zoom would have the delay, but it feels like that’s kind of getting battled through. But the grandness of it all, getting a chance to see some fans out there and see some reaction which is a big part of wrestling, I think it was a good idea, cool idea, and I’m happy the Amway Center there in Orlando is one that looks awesome. It’s looks absolutely awesome down there.”
McAfee recalled his first few appearances with WWE as part of the Kickoff Show where he wore jorts. He revealed that Michael Cole had told him not to wear jorts the next time when he did the WrestleMania 35 Kickoff Show.
“The first time I went down there, I had jorts on,” McAfee recalled. “The first WrestleMania down there in New Orleans, I had jorts on with a sports coat with a tie and a button down. So I was like, ‘hey, business on the top, party down the bottom.’ I’m trying to set the precedent for how I’m going to dress. Because if I go in there full suit, really nice, OK, that’s the expectation now every single time, and I don’t own enough suits to do that. I don’t even know how to tie a tie. I have Sam Roberts tie my tie.
“I finally get to the next WrestleMania a year from then. It was the one in New York. I was told leading up to it, Michael Cole said, ‘no jorts. OK? You cannot wear jorts for this. You’re going to be on the WrestleMania Kickoff Show on USA Network. No jorts.’ I was like, ‘I’m not gonna wear jorts. Don’t you worry about it. I’m not gonna wear jorts OK. It’s WrestleMania. I understand. This is a big deal. I’m pumped to be a part of it. Thank you so much.'”
McAfee admitted that he put a lot of effort into his outfit for WrestleMania. This time he came in with tuxedo shorts, but Cole was not happy with McAfee’s outfit. McAfee admits that he now understands Cole’s anger, but he said at the time, he got into an argument with Cole over his outfit.
“So I actually go and get tailored. One of my first times going to a tailor. I get this tux. I get these tuxedo shorts made, shows off the legs, and then I got these very expensive shoes. In my eyes, I was like, hey, I put real effort into this. I went and got it tailored. They’re not jorts. They’re tuxedo shorts. People wear these. This is OK. I got this jacket on, Its flashy. It’s a tux. I got this bow tie. I mean, I’m doing it. Like I feel like I’m buying in here as much as I can because this is a world I do want to be a part of.
“So then I’m sitting around WrestleMania day wearing the same thing for probably five-six hours, and then we’re like 35 minutes until showtime. Michael sees me for the first time, and he just starts chewing me out. He starts chewing me out. In hindsight now, I understand WrestleMania is pressure on Michael Cole. I mean there is a lot of things to deal with. The last thing he wants to deal with is one of his commentators being a reason why he gets yelled at by Vince for ruining our Kickoff Show.
“With hindsight, I know that, but at the time, I’m like, ‘yo, I’ve been here for five hours dressed like this. I sweating my balls off. I’m excited for this whole thing. I’m very pumped to be here,’ and he just starts yelling at me. Like I look unprofessional and stuff, and I look at him. I’m like, ‘who are you talking to?’ And he was mad. He was not happy with me. He said no jorts. He never said no tuxedo shorts, and I tried to explain to that time, but at the time, that conversation was getting lost.”
McAfee described the situation backstage where Cole and others in WWE had to get Vince McMahon’s approval of McAfee’s outfit. McAfee said that McMahon said, “I’m hip. He looks good” in regards to his outfit as McMahon was shown LeBron James also wearing tuxedo shorts with the idea that this is just the fashion of today.
“I got sent back into like a dressing room or whatever after there was quite a give-and-take between me and Michael Cole,” McAfee stated. “[He] had to go talk to Vince because I had no backup. I had no other clothes. That was it. We’re 20 minutes until show time. So there’s really nothing anybody can do. I f–ked big, small ways. They weren’t gonna be able to tailor me or anything. We are in a position where it was either, hey, this is it or not, and they had to go ask Vince if it was OK.
“And Vince, I was told his words were, ‘I’m hip. He looks good’ or something like that. The internet was not happy about the shorts either. The wrestling internet was not happy with the tuxedo shorts. Michael Cole wasn’t happy with the tuxedo shorts. I mean, it as a night. I’ll never forget. Obviously for all the wrong reasons, but I think if you listen to me on a microphone, I think I crushed it.
“They had to show him LeBron James was in like a tuxedo shorts for a game. They showed him like a picture of that. Here’s kind of a new style. Pat McAfee has this same sort of style. Is this OK? ‘I’m hip. Yeah.’ I’ve never met him, but my God. I appreciate you. Me and Michael Cole have a great relationship, but that night, we’ll probably talk about 15-20 years from now.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit WWE After The Bell with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.