Graves in April 2018
|Birth name||Matthew Polinsky|
|Born||February 24, 1984|
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
|Family||Sam Adonis (brother)|
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||Corey Graves|
Sterling James Keenan
Iron City Irvin Ickleman
|Billed height||6 ft 1 in (185 cm)|
|Billed weight||208 lb (94 kg)|
|Billed from||The Sunset Strip|
Iron City, Pennsylvania
|Trained by||Boomer Payne|
Dory Funk Jr.
|Debut||March 22, 2000|
|Retired||December 11, 2014 (in-ring)|
Matthew Polinsky (born February 24, 1984) is an American wrestling color commentator, columnist, podcaster and retired professional wrestler. He is currently signed to WWE as a commentator and analyst for Friday Night SmackDown under the ring name Corey Graves. He is a former NXT Tag Team Champion with Adrian Neville. Polinsky is also known for his work on the independent circuit under the ring name Sterling James Keenan.
Professional wrestling career
Independent promotions (2000-2009)
Polinsky chose his ring name the night before his first professional wrestling match, and picked the name "Sterling James Keenan" as a tribute to Sterling Sharpe, Polinsky's favorite American football player as a child, and Maynard James Keenan of the band Tool.
Keenan debuted on March 22, 2000. Throughout the next few years, Keenan appeared for various promotions, including Dory Funk Jr.'s "Funkin Conservatory", where he competed with wrestlers including Paul London, Adam Windsor, and Onyx. In 2002, Keenan teamed with "Dreamachine" Chris Cage to win the Funkin Conservatory Tag Team Championship by defeating the team of London and Windsor.
Keenan also made appearances for NWA Upstate, Independent Wrestling Association Mid-South, Cleveland All-Pro Wrestling, and Full Throttle Wrestling. On April 26, 2002, in NWA East / Pro Wrestling eXpress, Keenan and Mad Mike won the NWA East Tag Team Championship by defeating The Premiere Players. Keenan was part of the Union of Independent Professional Wrestlers promotion in both of its incarnations. He won the UIPW Keystone Cruiserweight Championship. Beginning in 2005, he appeared regularly for Far North Wrestling (FNW), and on November 2, 2007, he won a Battle royal to win the FNW Heavyweight Championship. He defeated Samoa Joe and Rikishi by countout on August 23, 2007 to win the Ballpark Brawl Natural Heavyweight Title. On February 24, 2008, Keenan won Absolute Intense Wrestling's Heavyweight Championship by winning a 30-Man gauntlet match.
Keenan competed for Pro Wrestling Zero1, and won the Zero-One United States Heavyweight Championship on two occasions. On March 8, 2008, Keenan defeated Mr. Wrestling 3 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to win the championship for the first time. He only held the championship for a week before dropping it to Dr. X on March 15 in Morganville, New Jersey. On May 9, Keenan won the championship for the second time, defeating Jake Manning in Limerick, Pennsylvania. He held the championship for just under a month before losing it to Rick Landell on June 1.
Throughout the years, Keenan has also made sporadic appearances for Ring of Honor (ROH). His debut appearance for the promotion was at Round Robin Challenge II on April 25, 2003, where he teamed with EZ Money in a Tag Team Scramble match won by The S.A.T. He returned to ROH over two years later at Redemption on August 12, 2005, where he participated in a Four Corner Survival match won by Ace Steel. In October 2005, he lost a singles match to Claudio Castagnoli and a singles match between Keenan and Steel at Tag Wars 2006 in January 2006 ended in a no contest due to interference from Chris Hero and the Necro Butcher. Six months later, at In Your Face, Keenan and Jason Blade lost a tag team match to The Briscoe Brothers. He made a single appearance in ROH in 2007 at the Fifth Year Festival: Dayton event, losing to Jimmy Rave and another appearance in March 2009 at Steel City Clash, losing to Delirious. He also appeared on the Ring of Honor Wrestling television show on the April 4, 2009 episode, losing to Erick Stevens.
International Wrestling Cartel (2002–2007)
Keenan debuted in the International Wrestling Cartel (IWC) on October 19, 2002, defeating Troy Lords. On the following IWC show, Keenan defeated CM Punk, before losing to Shirley Doe on two separate occasions but defeating Josh Prohibition. On December 28, Keenan teamed with Dustin Ardine to challenge the Devil's Advocates for the IWC Tag Team Championship, but were unsuccessful. In May 2003, Keenan participated in IWC's Super Indy tournament, defeating B.J. Whitmer in the first round, but losing to Colt Cabana in the second.
At IWC's Revengeance show in September, Keenan defeated Al B. Damm to earn a match for the IWC Heavyweight Championship. He received his championship match on November 1, 2003, and defeated Dennis Gregory to win the championship. At Rebirth of Extreme on November 22, Keenan successfully retained the championship in a rematch against Gregory, and made further successful defences against Punk on December 12, Dean Radford on January 31, 2004, and February 24, and against Super Hentai on March 6. Two weeks later, on March 20, Keenan lost the IWC Heavyweight Championship to Radford, and failed to regain it in a rematch on April 3, and on April 17, when he lost a Tables match to Radford.
In July 2004, Keenan unsuccessfully challenged Chris Sabin for the IWC Super Indy Championship. That December, after Sabin had vacated the Super Indy Championship, Keenan won a four-way match against Petey Williams, Josh Prohibition, and John McChesney to win the vacant championship. He made a successful defense of the championship against AJ Styles on February 24, 2005, and Claudio Castagnoli the following night. In April he retained the championship against Nate Webb, before losing a championship match to Justin Idol by countout in final championship defense on April 29, 2005. That same night, McChesney won the Super Indy Tournament, winning the championship as part of his victory, despite having not beaten Keenan. The next night, a match for the championship between Keenan and McChesney ended in a double countout.
In March 2006, Keenan unsuccessfully challenged Doe for the IWC Heavyweight Championship. That September, Keenan was part of a tournament for the vacant IWC Heavyweight Championship, but was eliminated in the first round after losing to Ricky Reyes. On August 4, 2007, Keenan lost another match for the championship, this time to long-time rival Dennis Gregory, in what proved to be his final match in the company.
One Pro Wrestling (2005–2009)
Keenan made his debut for the United Kingdom-based 1 Pro Wrestling (1PW) at their inaugural show, A Cruel Twist of Fate, on October 1, 2005, defeating D'Lo Brown. He quickly formed an alliance with Abyss, and the pair defeated Sabu and Ulf Herman in a hardcore tag team match on January 7, 2006. In March, Keenan competed in a tournament to determine the inaugural 1PW Heavyweight Champion, but was defeated by AJ Styles in a quarter-final match.
He moved on to feud with Spud, defeating him on May 26 at Know Your Enemy Night One. At Fight Club 2 in July, Keenan defeated Spud in an Iron City Street Fight. Three weeks later, Keenan replaced Matt Hyson in a tag team match, where he and Spud challenged Jody Fleisch and Jonny Storm for the 1PW Tag Team Championship. They were unsuccessful after Keenan attacked Spud during the match. At Invincible in August, a tag team match featuring Keenan and Hyson versus Spud and Teddy Hart ended in a no contest after several other wrestlers interfered, prompting a 10-man elimination tag team match, which Keenan's team won.
At Resurrection in April 2007, Keenan challenged Romeo Roselli for the Nu-Wrestling Evolution Heavyweight Championship, but was disqualified for using the championship belt as a weapon. He then began challenging Ulf Herman for the 1PW Heavyweight Championship, but was unsuccessful in a four-way match on June 29 when Herman retained the championship. Keenan failed to win the championship again on June 30 and August 18. On October 13, at 2nd Anniversary Show, Keenan defeated Herman to win the championship in a steel cage match. Keenan successfully defended the championship against Doug Williams on January 25, 2008, and Martin Stone, Darren Burridge and Abyss in a four-way match the following night. His next defense was on October, when he lost to Johnny Moss via disqualification, and retaining the championship as a result. At the 3rd Anniversary Show that same month, Keenan retained the championship against Raven. Keenan eventually lost the championship to Martin Stone on April 18, 2009 at To The Extreme, ending his championship reign at 554 days. He continued to feud with Stone in an unsuccessful attempt to regain the championship throughout 2009, and made his final 1PW appearance at the 4th Anniversary Show in November.
Before signing a contract with WWE, Keenan made several appearances for the company. On April 26, 2006, Keenan and CM Punk lost a dark match to The Gymini prior to the SmackDown taping. On June 6, 2006, Keenan teamed with Jon Bolen in a loss to Jamie Noble and Kid Kash. Keenan appeared on an episode of WWE Heat that was taped on August 6, losing to Val Venis. Keenan appeared on the August 10, 2007, episode of SmackDown!, where he was easily squashed by Mark Henry.
Developmental territories (2011–2014)
In August 2011, it was reported that Polinsky had signed a developmental contract with WWE. Polinsky announced that he would be performing in WWE's developmental territory, Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), under the ring name Corey Graves. He debuted at the FCW television tapings on September 25, losing to Erick Rowan. The following year, on March 17, 2012, Graves won the FCW Florida Tag Team Championship with Jake Carter by defeating Bo Rotundo and Husky Harris. When WWE rebranded FCW into NXT, Graves and Carter participated in the inaugural tapings in June 2012. They defeated CJ Parker and Nick Rogers in match aired in July.
Graves was re-established as a villainous singles wrestler on November 14 with a win over Oliver Grey; Following a submission victory over Yoshi Tatsu in December, Graves attacked the NXT Champion Seth Rollins, and was awarded a title match on the January 2, 2013 episode of NXT. Graves failed to capture the championship despite winning via disqualification following interference from Rollins' associates in The Shield. After singles victories over former partner Carter and Alex Riley, Graves faced Conor O'Brian in a number one contender's match; the match ended in a no contest after The Shield attacked both men, and Graves later lost in a triple threat number one contender's match. Graves transitioned into a feud with The Shield, challenging them to a match for costing him title opportunities, turning face in the process. He faced Rollins in a lumberjack match, which he lost when the other members of The Shield interfered, therefore cementing his face turn. In May, Graves began feuding with The Wyatt Family following a confrontation (and later match) with leader Bray Wyatt. After being eliminated by Wyatt in a battle royal, Graves teamed with Kassius Ohno to unsuccessfully challenge Luke Harper and Erick Rowan for the NXT Tag Team Championship, and Graves, Ohno, and Adrian Neville lost to The Wyatt Family in a six-man tag team match. After the Wyatts injured Ohno in storyline, Graves began regularly teaming with Neville, and on the July 18 episode of NXT, they defeated Harper and Rowan to capture the NXT Tag Team Championship. The duo held the championship for nearly three months, before losing to The Ascension in September. After failing to regain the title, Graves attacked Neville to provoke a feud, thus turning heel. They traded victories, before Graves suffered a legitimate concussion, rendering him temporarily inactive. He returned in January 2014, to enter a feud with Sami Zayn. Graves defeated Zayn on April 3 but was defeated in a 6-man tag team match teaming with The Ascension against Zayn and The Usos. Graves then suffered a second concussion, causing him to be absent from television for several months.
Pre-show panelist (2014–2017)
Graves returned on the NXT TakeOver: R Evolution pre-show on December 11, where he announced his official in-ring retirement due to his concussion issues. He also announced that he would be joining NXT's commentary team with immediate effect, with his duties beginning at that event.
He is also the host of WWE Culture Shock, a WWE Network original series. In August 2015, following Dolph Ziggler's 2014 shout-out to the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fandom, March's reveal of Xavier Woods as a member of said fandom, and Sheamus being shamed in April by Ziggler about Bronies on TV, he attended BronyCon at the Baltimore Convention Center to investigate the fandom, where he dressed in an Applejack costume and interviewed Bronies. WWE released a free preview of the episode on August 26, 2015 following the August 22 NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn event and the August 23 SummerSlam event. Despite being drafted to Raw, Graves continued to provide color commentary for NXT until the February 1, 2017 episode. On the pre-show for NXT TakeOver: San Antonio, Graves announced he would be leaving NXT after that event, with Nigel McGuinness taking his place on commentary.
Main roster commentator (2016–present)
Following the 2016 WWE draft, it was announced that Graves would be joining the Raw commentary team. On July 25, on the first post brand split episode of Raw, Graves began serving as a color commentator alongside Michael Cole and Byron Saxton. On November 29, Graves joined the commentary team for the Cruiserweight division's WWE Network exclusive show, 205 Live, alongside Mauro Ranallo and Austin Aries.
In March 2017, following Ranallo's absence from commentary and Aries' return to in-ring action, Graves would be joined by Tom Phillips on commentary for 205 Live. On the May 29 episode of Raw, Graves would directly report to Raw general manager Kurt Angle about some "scandalous information" that was sent to him about Angle, with Angle telling Graves that if the news broke out, it would ruin him. On the June 19 episode of Raw, as Angle tried to resolve the mystery of who attacked both Enzo and Cass over the last few weeks, Graves would show security footage of Big Cass faking his attack, which led to Cass revealing himself as the one who attacked Enzo Amore, before attacking Amore once again, officially disbanding the team. Graves would continue to support Angle about his personal information that was sent to him, which Angle would reveal on the July 17 episode of Raw, announcing that Jason Jordan was his storyline son. On September 4, it was announced that Graves would also join the SmackDown Live announce team after JBL departed from the company, making Graves the only current announcer to commentate both Raw and SmackDown LIVE, as a heel color commentator.
On September 26, 2019, WWE announced as a part of their "WWE Premiere Week" that a new commentary team will be on all three brands. Later, it was announced that Graves would now be a commentator and analyst only for SmackDown.
Polinsky, as Corey Graves, made his video game debut as a playable character in WWE 2K15, where on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game, he has his own path in the "Who Got NXT" mode, documenting his matches in NXT and on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions as an unlockable character through the MyCareer mode. He later appeared in WWE 2K18 and WWE 2K19 and WWE 2K20 as a non-playable character as part of the commentary team.
Polinsky was a part of E:60 documentary: "WWE: Behind the Curtain". From October 2015 to April 2016, Polinsky wrote a monthly column for Alternative Press entitled "Stay Loud." The column covered the intersection of wrestling and music.
Polinsky, as his Corey Graves persona, launched his own podcast (produced by WWE and Endeavor Audio) titled WWE After the Bell, which debuted in October 2019. In June 2020, he would launch a second podcast called Bare with Us alongside his real life girlfriend Van Dale. The podcast, produced independently from WWE by Polinsky & Van Dale, delves into matters of relationships and problems within them with the couple drawing upon their own personal experiences (both past and present) as conversation points.
|2020||The Main Event|
As of 2020, Polinsky and his ex-wife, Amy (Schneider) Polinsky, have three children together. He also has a younger brother, Sam, who wrestles for the Mexican promotion CMLL under the name "Sam Adonis".
Polinsky is a professional piercer, after training as an apprentice at the request of a friend of his who needed a piercer in his tattoo shop. He has worked in the Naughty Vibrations shop in Greensburg, Pennsylvania and in a shop named True Image in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. Polinsky is known for his tattoos. He got two of them before the age of 16 with his parents' permission, and after turning 18, got sleeve tattoos on both his arms, made up of several clearly visible and separate tattoos tied together with designs. He also has tattoos on his neck, and has the words "stay down" tattooed across his knuckles.
Polinsky is described as a typical yinzer and often shows pride in being from Pittsburgh on WWE programming, often mentioning his bar-hopping on Pittsburgh's South Side and mentioning his favorite places to visit.
In early 2019, Graves' ex-wife posted a picture to her Instagram page stating that Polinsky had been having an affair with WWE wrestler Carmella. The post was deleted shortly after and it was confirmed that the pair had already been separated and were already in the divorce process. Their relationship was later profiled in the 9th season of the reality show Total Divas.
Professional wrestling promoter and booker Eric Bischoff has praised Graves as an "amazingly talented guy" and "an exceptional talent". Bischoff also further reiterated that Graves is "Very different, has his own way about him. He’s got a vibe and an approach to the business that I really love, and I think it makes him unique. But think about that. Think about how much wrestling, how many stories, think about what Corey Graves in particular had to do every week. Unless you’ve done that job, even if you’ve done that job, it’s hard to imagine".
Championships and accomplishments
- 1 Pro Wrestling
- Absolute Intense Wrestling
- Ballpark Brawl
- Natural Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Far North Wrestling
- FNW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Florida Championship Wrestling
- Funkin' Conservatory
- International Wrestling Cartel
- NWA East
- NWA East Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- NWA East Tag Team Championships (1 time) - with Mad Mike
- NWA North American Tag Team Championships (1 time) - with Brandon K
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- Pro Wrestling Zero1
- Renegade Wrestling Alliance
- RWA Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Union of Independent Professional Wrestlers
- UIPW Keystone Cruiserweight Championship (1 time)
- Wolverine Pro Wrestling
- WPW Championship (1 time)
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
- Worst Television Announcer (2019)
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- Ziggler, Dolph (September 7, 2014). "HERE WE GO, BRONIES..." Twitter.
- "2K Tournament of Champions: Xavier Woods". March 6, 2015.
[wearing a "BRONY" shirt] Xavier Woods here, reigning and defending 2K champion. This year at WrestleMania, people are gonna come and try to take my title, take my championship. That cannot be done, you ban't neat me! Brony: don't care, what up? Step up, and get bought!
- "Neville vs Sheamus: SmackDown, April 16, 2015". YouTube.
I get why you don't like the English, 'cause they sure as hell don't like you either. Come to think of it, come to think of it Sheamus, neither do the Germans, Hungarians, Dutch, Welsh, Millenials, Bronies, you name it! Not even the Irish like you Sheamus!
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