Matthew Polinsky (February 24, 1984) is a retired American professional wrestler, better known by his ring name Corey Graves. He is currently signed to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) where he works on Friday Night Smackdown as a color commentator. 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 (2000–2011)
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, 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 Heayweight 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 has 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 SAT. 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 BJ 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, Kennan 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 challening 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.
World Wrestling Entertainment
Before signing a contract with World Wrestling Entertainment (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 Polinksy 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 WWE 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 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. He faced Rollins in a Lumberjack match, which he lost when the other members of The Shield interfered. 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 and return to NXT (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 continues to provide color commentary for NXT.
Color commentator of Raw (2016–2019)
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 as a heel. Since the May 29, 2017 episode of Monday Night RAW Graves started taking part in two storylines, one where he communicated and advised Raw General Manager Kurt Angle about private information that "could destroy" Angle's career, making Graves leave the commentary position several times in order to continue to talk with Angle, this storyline culminated in the July 17, 2017 episode of Monday Night RAW, where Angle revealed that Jason Jordan was his biological son. The other one was the mysterious attacker of Enzo and Big Cass, in this one, in the June 19, 2017 episode of Monday Night RAW, Graves revealed that it was Big Cass that attacked Enzo and faked being attacked after he showed security camera footage of this, Big Cass admitted being the attacker and kicked Enzo, turning heel and officially disbanding their team; the following week Big Cass threatened Graves and said that the only reason he was not going to punish him for what he did was because he was protected by the GM Kurt Angle.
Color commentator of SmackDown LIVE (2017–present)
On September 4, 2017, it was announced that Graves would be joining the SmackDown LIVE commentary team following John "Bradshaw" Layfield's departure for charity work. On the following day, he began serving as a color commentator alongside Tom Phillips and Byron Saxton as a heel.
Polinksy, as Corey Graves, made his video game debut as a playable character in the WWE 2K15 video game and has his own path in the "Who Got NXT" mode for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game, documenting his matches in NXT.
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 18 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 attended college and got a degree in marketing. Polinksy is the son of former wrestler Dan Polinsky and has a brother who wrestles as Samuel Elias.
- Finishing moves
- Signature moves
- "The Savior of Misbehavior"
Championships and accomplishments
- Absolute Intense Wrestling
- AIW Absolute Championship (1 time)
- Ballpark Brawl
- Natural Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Far North Wrestling
- FNW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- International Wrestling Cartel
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked him #118 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2013
- Union of Independent Professional wrestlers
- UIPW Keystone Cruiserweight Championship (1 time)