The Latest Episodes of INSIGHT with Chris Van Vliet
Feb. 28, 2022

Corey Graves & Carmella on Their New Reality Show, Best Advice They've Ever Received and Corey's Return To The Ring

Corey Graves & Carmella on Their New Reality Show, Best Advice They've Ever Received and Corey's Return To The Ring

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Today's guests are Corey Graves (@wwegraves) and Carmella (@carmellawwe). Corey is a color commentator and professional wrestler for WWE. Carmella is also a professional wrestler known for her time in NXT and WWE. They join Chris Van Vliet to talk about their new reality show called "Corey and Carmella" which airs on WWE's YouTube channel. They discuss the very sexy trailer that came out before the show's debut, their biggest pet peeves about each other as a couple, the fact that Corey is now officially cleared for in-ring performing after what was thought to be a career ending injury, they list their mentors in wrestling, the best advice they ever received in life and much more!

Watch "Corey & Carmella" on WWE's YouTube channel here:

There are so many things to congratulate you guys on! Congratulations on your engagement and congratulations on the new reality show.

Carmella: “Thank you so much. We have so much to be excited about.”

Corey Graves: “It has been a busy several months for us.”

Well this is a good thing, right? Did you see the reaction when this trailer went out? A lot of people online went erm yeah?

Carmella: “We sure did!”

Corey: “That was by design man, we had to come out of the gate strong. We have really addressed our relationship on WWE TV apart from me fawning over her entrance, which is equally to make people angry as it is to let people know that this is a real thing. So we had to come out of the gate [strong] and we discussed with WWE how we wanted to roll this out, and we decided to take the sexy route. Just because this is so different to anything that WWE has put out recently. It’s almost a call back to The Attitude Era where it was OK to be sexy. Being on YouTube we had a little more leeway than being on a major network right now, so we are kind of exploring. This is as much of an experiment as it has been a goal.”

Carmella: “Yeah I’ve definitely read the comments. Not all of them because oh my gosh I don’t have that much time on my hands and I don’t want to be depressed. But you see things like ‘Carmella, she’s a freak, I’ve never seen her like this…’ Come on, it’s 2022. What you see on TV on Monday Night Raw, that’s not who I am in real life. Yes I like to talk about sex and yes I have stepchildren now. Yes I am a fiancée and you get to see me with my dad and all these different aspects of our lives that you don’t get to see on TV. But it’s time to normalise these things, it’s OK to be a little sexy.”

Corey: “And the sexy aspect of the show is just a part of the show, there’s a lot more to it. We just figured what can we do to get people talking, and there is definitely no shortage of dirty jokes. But ultimately, it’s relatively family friendly for the most part. I would say PG 13 with leaning a little bit towards R from time to time, but it’s not going to be anything that you have to pay money to subscribe to.”

Carmella you have in your Instagram bio that Instagram is not real life. Is this show real life?

Carmella: “It sure is, you get to see all aspects of our lives, we don’t hold back. It’s basically because of our podcast Bare With Us, where we try to shed light on issues that every relationship has and everyone goes through things. We just want to normalise it like talking about sex, talking about problems in the bedroom or lack of communication, who is doing the household chores this week? We talk about it with our listeners, we don’t talk about work and we don’t talk about life in WWE. We just want to show who we are in our real lives, and we have gotten a lot of great feedback with our listeners who say something like ‘Oh my gosh my husband does that too.’ We just give advice and that’s what our show is. It’s not about looking at our life through a filter.”

Corey: “And that’s kind of been the goal from when we launched Bare With Us was to be overly honest with our audience. There have probably been things we have discussed where they have thought that they didn’t really want to know that about us. But to the point about Instagram not being reality, everyone likes to show their greatest hits of their life. It’s the perfect moment, perfect dinner, perfect kiss… Everyone is trying to keep up with each other and one up each other. We are out there on the podcast and on the show showing you the B-sides, letting people know that we have a lot of the same struggles as everybody else. It’s real life, every aspect of it, and our podcast has sort of become a form of therapy for the 2 of us.”

Carmella: “He makes me legit cry on our podcast. He’ll be like ‘You are doing this wrong.’ I’m not a podcaster, I don’t know what I am doing, I’m just trying to be real. He’s like ‘Well that’s not what we are talking about right now.’ But we leave that in there for the listeners. We are not trying to portray ourselves to be a certain way, this is us.”   

It seems like you guys get along really well. I’m curious, what are some pet peeves that you have about one another?

Corey: “It’s going to sound like I am just trying to keep myself out of trouble but there aren’t many pet peeves about Carmella. The only thing I will say is every once in a while she will get very moody, seemingly without any reason. Yesterday for example I woke up and I could sense that something was up. And I’ve now learned that when I get that feeling that something is up, 99% of the time it’s not my fault, so I can just take a step back and let her be her.”

Carmella: “Just let me be in a bad mood.”

Corey: “And she works through it and ends up coming out of the other side. Yesterday evening we went out to dinner and it was great, we had a great time. But I would say if I had to pinpoint something that makes me nuts, then that's it, just because it comes from out of nowhere. It’s one thing if I screw up, and I do, and I can expect it. It’s more when I wake up and say ‘Hey babe, let’s go and get some coffee.’ And she says ‘I don’t want to talk to you.’”

Carmella: “I guess I would say that I have two. One is when he texts me the letter k or just the ok emoji. It’s like come on, it drives me nuts. Number two is that you don’t stop talking. I get the point but you just explain yourself way too much, let’s just try and move on.”

You know he does this for a living?

Corey: “Thank you Chris!”

Carmella: “I know but I am not paying you at home to talk.”

Corey: “Then start paying me not to [laughs]. That’s a hell of an idea.”

I feel like everything is going so well in both of your careers. If we can take this back a few steps, I want to know who have been some mentors for you both professionally who have helped you guide the way for you?

Carmella: “For me I would say The Miz. Whenever I have an issue or a problem creatively or my character or something going on in a match, I go to him. If I could be a female Miz, that to me would be such an amazing accomplishment. They trust The Miz and they put him in any position and he’s going to shine. He is not afraid to lean into his role as a bad guy and I consider that the same to myself, I like to really lean into my role. Any time that I have a problem or issue, I go to him and he is going to be honest. Sometimes it is brutally honest, but he helps me out.”

What about you Corey? There is a big section that don’t remember you as a wrestler, they just know you as a broadcaster now.

Corey: “It’s really crazy that that time has now passed as a broadcaster that it has overtaken my wrestling career. But I’ve had so many people along the way help me and I wouldn’t be in the position that I am in if it weren't for a litany of guys. Going back to Tom Phillips when we were in NXT together, he helped teach me a lot. Michael Cole has been instrumental in most of my success. It was actually after I first got injured that I had a conversation in New Orleans with Michael Cole. I mentioned to him that I had done some local radio, and he went ‘Hmm, maybe you should give broadcasting a try.’ That was how this all came to be was just that basic conversation. After a few months out of the ring he said to give it a shot, and it didn’t happen overnight. I spent countless hours in the Performance Center in our little booth trying to learn how to call matches. But I like to think that I have learned from everybody along the way from different broadcasters, whether they are intending to teach me different things or not. If I am learning something negative, I can utilize it and put it in my tool kit to where I am confident that I can now step into a role like a Michael Cole.

I obviously can’t fill Michael Cole’s shoes because he is one of the greatest play-by play guys in history. But I have learned enough from him and absorbed it by osmosis that I can at least prevent the ship from hitting the iceberg. Along the way I think I lose track of some of the amazing minds that I am privy to on a weekly basis without even realizing it. I get to learn from Vince McMahon. Vince McMahon, sometimes in the middle of a show or in the middle of a match, will go on a 2 minute diatribe of why I have done something wrong, what he liked or what he wants me to accomplish. But in the moment it is easy to forget that you are getting advice from theguy who is responsible for all of this. I would like to think that everybody I have worked with from this side of the microphone has taught me something, because this was never my goal. I’ve had to learn and I think that has kind of leant itself to my success. OK I can’t wrestle anymore, but I don’t know anything about this world, I have to be a sponge and learn as much as I can. I have picked up good habits and I’m sure I have picked up some negative ones. But ultimately, I am constantly learning. Even now I have some trepidation when I sit down and get the countdown to the opening of Monday Night Raw. You hear 3,2 and I’m still in that frame of mind of OK, let’s not screw this up tonight. I get a little nervous, but then I get off and cruise, but I can’t thank enough people. I would be here all day if I just tried to list everyone that has taught me a lot.”

Corey, how much do you miss being in the ring?

Corey: “I miss certain aspects of it, but I have actually grown to love doing commentary. There is a part of me that will never go away as a wrestler, I have dedicated 15 years of my life, travelled the world and had a taste of some success as a competitor. It took a long time with a lot of internal work and reflection to get to this point where I have now embraced my role and realized that this is my role now. I may not be able to go down as one of the great Intercontinental Champions in history, which was always the goal, but now I look at how broad my work has reached and how it still lives on in video packages. These moments along with other ridiculous things I say ends up on t-shirts on other superstars. I actually think that in a weird way I am leaving a bigger footprint as a commentator than I probably would have as a competitor. But I definitely miss it at times.”

I feel like with the reality show this just writes itself. It’s you guys vs. Miz and Mrs.

Corey:“The thought has crossed our minds.”

Carmella: “We are open to it.”

Corey: “This is dropping a bit too close to WrestleMania. Otherwise I would have put the push on hard. But you know, SummerSlam is going to be big this year.”

Carmella: “That’s true, you never know.”

Well this report came out that you are actually cleared for in-ring performance. Is this true?            

Corey: “It is factual. The news took about 8 months to break, which I am sort of proud of and surprised that in this day and age. I wasn’t hiding it from anybody, but it wasn’t something that I was bringing to the forefront. I didn’t want everybody to go ‘Oh my God, Graves is making a comeback!’ To my previous conversation, I love what I am doing now, but there is a part of me that would love that gratification. I am a guy who when I was wrestling I was mainly a villain. To me the gratification came as soon as the bell rang at the end of the match. To me, there is nothing more satisfying than taking the crowd on a rollercoaster ride and then losing. As a good guy, you usually pose and you have to pose for the cameras. But I would lay there on my back after the ref counted 3, I would look at the lights and just think that we did it. That was what kept me going was that exhale at the end of it. So there is part of me that is going to chase that forever, and I would be open to it if the opportunity presents itself to maybe step back into the ring once in a blue moon or maybe just once. But importantly I got medically cleared, so now we see where the world takes us. Whether it’s a match, a mixed tag team match or against Pat McAfee at some point. At least now I know I can do it without endangering my health, which is the most important. I’ve got to be there for my kids and my blushing bride.”  

Did you go in hoping to get cleared or was it a routine medical and they said ‘Hey you are looking pretty good?’

Corey: “There was a process to it. I had to take a few flights and see a few doctors and get several different opinions. But I brought what I got from my doctors and showed it to WWE and then I went through WWE’s testing protocol to verify. I met all of the needs that they wanted to see, and I am medically cleared. I am still listed on the roster as a commentator, as far as I know nothing has been pitched in creative meetings as to how we get Graves into the ring. I’m just taking it one day at a time, if it presents itself I am ready, but I am not going to make myself crazy not having a transition into the other side.”

Everything happens for a reason. Carmella, you auditioned for Tough Enough, you didn’t get in and you ended up being a Lakers girl. Do you ever think about what would have happened if you did get on Tough Enough?

Carmella: “I have no idea, but everything happens for a reason, I still ended up in WWE years later. It’s kind of crazy to know how that all worked out but again I went to LA to be a dancer. That was what I was going to do and I wasn’t going to give up my career as a Laker girl, that’s why I went out there. That’s what I was focused on and I am grateful that I did it the way that I did and it lead me to where I am at now.”

How did wrestling find you originally?

Carmella: “Well for me I grew up watching wrestling, my dad was a wrestler in the early 90’s. He wrestled every big name in the 90s and I was the coolest kid in 3rd grade. But It was never anything that I aspired to do, I wanted to be a dancer. But one thing lead to another, I had an agent that lead to a try-out with WWE. I figured that there was no better time than now and with my dad’s history with the company the stars aligned.”

Corey, you were in the indies for a long time?

Corey: “Yeah I am a lifelong fan. My dad to this day is still a big fan. My earliest childhood memories involve WWE in some capacity, action figures and live events. I got to high school and was trying to figure out what to do with my life. My parents and guidance counsellors were asking me what did I want to do with my life? I went through this depression and I was sure my life was over at 14. There was this terrible depression, which I realized was just growing up. My dad said to me ‘Why not do something you love? Go and be a bodybuilder or learn to box, be a wrestler…’ I’m like OK. My dad was a fire chief in my local town, he had no idea how to help me, but he had connections to a local promotion that they would do fundraisers with. In my freshman year of high school, I started training in the back of the storefront of an old shopping mall. I had the bug and sacrificed everything to try and get a shot. Sure enough as I was about to give it all up, I had a career as a 911 dispatcher and my first kid had been born. But within weeks I get a call from WWE and the rest is history.”

You are so quick witted on commentary. Is there a favorite line that wasn’t planned beforehand?

Corey: “Oh my goodness. 99% of the lines I am proud of are completely improved. Basically anytime that I make Michael Cole break, that is when I trust that a joke landed. Cole is such the professional and can deliver terrible news with a straight face, so when I break him, I know it worked. I shouldn’t admit this, but unless it is a statistic, I rarely prepare for a show. My wit has carried me this far and 3 hours is a long time, so I need to entertain myself for my own sanity.”

I end every interview talking about gratitude. What are 3 things in your life that you are grateful for?

Carmella: “My health, my family and wine.”

Corey: “My children, my fiancée and for WWE.”  

Image credits: Instagram