In the blink of an eye, Corey Graves went from one of the most promising wrestlers in all of WWE to one of its best commentators.
Ahead of his first WrestleMania in the booth, Graves sat down with FOX Sports' Wrestling Compadres to talk about his relationship with Byron Saxton, Saxton's lovably weird ways, how Michael Cole helped his career, his neverending workload, and much more.
Oh, and on top of all that, Graves joked with Jonny Loquasto, Scott Narver and Dale Rutledge that his new goal is to be on the broadcast teams for both Raw and SmackDown. At least, we think he was joking.
GRAVES: "Let me say this, in some sort of a public forum: Without Byron Saxton, I would not be nearly as entertaining. I love Byron to death as a human being. He is a legit weird dude, but he's a great human being.
"But yeah, without Byron to be there — he walks into these. Sometimes, I go, 'Byron, thank you for setting that up.' He's all, 'I didn't realize I was. I was just telling a story.' I'm like, Well, just thank you for being you.' ...
"It's a great time. Honest to God, I have more fun on Monday nights than anybody in the company, I swear. ..."
"And the cool thing is, neither of [our TV personalities] are really that over the top, character-wise. Like, Byron is a honest to God sweetheart of a man, to the point where he is bizarre these days."
On how Michael Cole made Graves the announcer he is:
RUTLEDGE: "[Saxton]'s come into his own, too, though. I think he's grown so much."
GRAVES: "Oh, absolutely. And it's truly a team on any of the commentary teams, and it takes time to develop chemistry. ... It takes time and I was always a big believer, when I start working with somebody new, to get to know them socially, like outside the confines of work.
"When Tom Phillips and I started working together at NXT, we'd call a four-hour TV taping, and then go sit down at the bar and go, 'All right, what can we do differently?' And then I get to know him as the guy, and what makes him tick, and what he likes. Every once in a while, I'll use it against him.
"Chemistry is so important. And [Michael] Cole's actually been there — even though we've only been working on TV for six or eight months — he's kind of responsible for me coming into the fold as an announcer, way back in New Orleans. He means the world to me."
On Byron Saxton's weird travel habits:
GRAVES: "I won't ride with him, though. Byron Saxton's impossible to travel with. Let that be known. He's a very strange guy.
"Usually, WWE wrestler etiquette is basically, get to the next town as fast as you can as long as it's safe and no one gets arrested. Byron will just take the scenic route everywhere. It takes Byron eight hours to make a four-hour drive. ... Byron finds like the weirdest places — not cool weird. ... He was like, 'I'm going to the hat museum tomorrow.' Okay?
"He goes to the 'Toy Story' house anytime we're within six hours of Cleveland. Byron will be like, 'I'm really tired today.' I'm like, 'Why are you so tired?' He goes, 'Oh, I went to the 'Toy Story' house.' I'm like, 'Byron, we're in Pittsburgh. That's in Cleveland. That was unnecessary.' It's ridiculous."
On whether he prepares or calls matches off the cuff:
LOQUASTO: "Now, when you do commentary, it's clear you put the work in. ... Some people just wing it, but you mention you're always putting work in, and it really shows."
GRAVES: "And I appreciate the compliment. I am actually sort of known for not preparing much. I don't like to prepare, because I feel like I'm sort of naturally witty, and that's when I'm funny.
"Aside from an insult for Enzo, which I'll put work in for because I need a bag of those, most of it is reactionary. But I'll tell you what it is that lends itself is me being that busy.
"I'm so engulfed in everything WWE, 24 hours a day. I don't have time to slow down or get out of practice. I don't forget stories. And I'm not trying to put myself over. I'm so surrounded by it all the time. It's like breathing air. It's just what you do. I know WWE. I know what happened and what this guy's doing and his thing.
"And I try to just put my own little flavor on things from outside influences. I try to make a lot of, like, rock 'n' roll references and things that entertain me."
On his neverending workload:
NARVER: "For the workload, do you like to be working all the time?"
GRAVES: "I'm a workaholic, 100 percent. If I'm not doing something, I feel like I'm going crazy.
"In the off time that I do get, which is a day or two — usually I'm good for about 36 hours at home, and I get to see my wife and my kids, and everyone has a good time. And then I just start going stir crazy, because I feel like I can be creating or working on things.
"And the thing about WWE is, it's such a big machine, it never stops. Literally 24 hours a day, there's something happening. I moved to Connecticut last year to be close to the TV studio. if I'm off on a day, and I feel like going into the studio and sitting down with the producers, we'll start putting things together.
"It's a good creative outlet. I need to be busy all the time, otherwise I go crazy. And I get myself in trouble, so."
On his goal to conquer Raw and SmackDown:
RUTLEDGE: "You're in luck, I feel, then, because you couldn't have had a busier year overall."
GRAVES: "Yeah, well, you know, don't say that. Because hopefully, I'm going to call Raw and SmackDown. That's my new goal. ..." [Editor's note: Graves laughed while he made this comment, so we assume he's joking. You never know, though.]
NARVER: "They'll find a way to put another chair at that SmackDown announce table."
GRAVES: "Let's have 37 people there. Why not? I like it. We should have an entire roster at the announce table."
On protecting his voice:
LOQUASTO: "With how much you have to talk, I imagine it's a lot of tea and honey, right? You've got to protect the voice."
GRAVES: "I have been given a lot of advice from people who talk professionally and sing: Michael Cole, our ring announcers. They all have different tricks. I'm more of a Jack Daniels guy. That's about all I do for my voice. I'm taking the old school route."
LOQUASTO: "With honey, though."
GRAVES: "Yeah, Jack Honey, with the white label, I've got some of that, too.
"I'm terrible at taking care of myself just as a whole. I work out so I stay in shape and my wife still likes me, but fitness has never been my passion. Which is great, because I get to wear a suit on TV. ... So no, I don't actually have any tips or tricks. Lots of coffee, and that's just kind of what keeps me going."