"We thought he was going through depression," his father says."We were kind of worried about him, hoping he wouldn't go off the deep end." When Graves's idea of getting his tongue pierced was quickly rebuked, his dad mentioned wrestling – and it struck a nerve.For someone who's torn both MCLs, had a broken tooth lodged in his cheek and occasionally asked his wife to pull thumbtacks and glass from his back, nothing hurt more for Corey Graves than being told he could no longer be a pro-wrestler.It's an obsession that drove him to have a Hulk Hogan cake for his third birthday, and to spend the Eighties and Nineties buying the magazines, watching the VHS tapes and practicing the moves of his idols with his younger brother, Sam.
When he called her to break the news, they cried with each other over the phone."He was saying, ' I'm done. It's January 2018, deep in the bowels of Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center in the hours before the Royal Rumble, one of WWE's most significant annual events.It was an obsession that continued to consume him, shifting from the mainstream icons of World Wrestling Entertainment to obscure Japanese and Mexican wrestling he'd find online.By early 2014, Graves, one of the jewel prospects for WWE, was on his way to being, as pro-wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes once described him, "the next thing." His tattoo-heavy look paired with his gift with words made him a favorite among wrestling execs.That night, the admittedly unremarkable kid from Pittsburgh debuted.He was paid ."I just sat back and grinned proudly," says Tanya Polinsky. We knew from that point on that that's what he was going to be."That first experience, and everyone thereafter, was all about getting reps.
By the time he reached high school in 1998, Graves's parents noticed that he was bored with school, lacking interest in seemingly everything, even the girls who gawked over him.