We are less than a month out from WrestleMania 38 and the card is starting to fill up. As of this writing, nine matches have been announced for the most stupendous two-night event in WrestleMania history. One of the more marquee bouts will see Carmella and Queen Zelina defend their WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships against Sasha Banks and Naomi.
This can be a nerve-racking time of year for a WWE Superstar, especially if they are this close to the event and have yet to booked for the show. Even someone the caliber of Seth Freakin’ Rollins doesn’t have a clear path to getting on the card right now. So, for someone like the Most Beautiful Woman in All of WWE, it has take a load off knowing she has her spot secured. Right?
For Carmella, it’s a bit of both yes and no.
“I’m never relaxed. I always want more. I always want to be the best. I want to always improve. I always want to outmatch what I did last year, or the year before that. Just show up and show out always.”
I had a chance to sit down with both Carmella and Corey Graves this week on the Bleav in Pro Wrestling Podcast, and Mella said it’s that mentality that allows her to answer the call whenever an opportunity arises.
“I always stay ready, so I don’t have to get ready. And so, I’m not worried about making sure I’m ready. I’m just excited about really showing up and showing out and just putting on the best match we can possibly do.”
It was at this point that Corey Graves, Carmella’s real-life fiancé, chimed in and said that the biggest stressor she’s experienced in the past week was wondering what her gear for WrestleMania should look like this year.
“When Sasha and Naomi issued the challenge, her first thought wasn’t, ‘Oh, we should accept the challenge.’ She was like, ‘What the hell am I gonna wear?’”
It was in the mere moments after hearing the challenge from two of SmackDown’s best, that Mella texted her ring gear designer to get the ball rolling on this year’s look for the Show of Shows. Carmella said there is just as much pressure for her to serve a killer look as there is for her to deliver in the ring.
As for Corey Graves, he’ll be back at the commentator’s desk this year alongside Jimmy Smith and Byron Saxton. When asked about how he handles the pressure of calling his industry’s version of the Super Bowl, Graves very candidly said he doesn’t really sweat it all that much.
“This is gonna sound totally backwards probably from what you’re expecting in that WrestleMania, in my experience, has been one of the easiest shows of the year to call. Every time I do it. Because it’s the culmination of the storytelling. Sometimes the stories have been laid out for three months, six months, a year, and it finally comes full circle. The story’s basically been told. So, during the entrances, my partners and I will tell what needs to be told of the story, but then I just get to be a fan again.”
“I get to call these epic matches; these WrestleMania matches that will live forever. And it’s gratifying to me or satisfying to me to know that in a video package the next night, you’re gonna hear my voice and that will live on because it’s me getting to call a moment that genuinely resonates with me, not because I’ m a broadcaster, but because I’m a wrestling fan.”
Graves retired from in-ring competition in 2014 due to a suffering multiple concussions and was given a shot in the NXT commentary booth. Today, he’s one of the lead main roster commentators and has called countless huge matches and events. That said, he still doesn’t consider himself to be a true commentator.
“From a broadcasting perspective, I can’t ever give anybody advice in good conscience, because I’m not a broadcaster. I accidentally fell into this world. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I wouldn’t be able to give you any sort of comparison from a broadcasting perspective. As a fan though, it’s super exciting (calling WrestleMania) for me to this very day.”
Adding to the excitement this year, is the possibility of both Stone Cold Steve Austin, 57, and Vince McMahon, 76, returning to some form of in-ring competition. The likelihood of either of those occurrences happening may be waning as the big day approaches, but at the time of our conversation, Graves believed it was a very real possibility for one or both men to return to the ring. He gave the classic WWE motto: never say never.
“It’s so weird to me. Again, back to me being a fan. A few years back, I got to call Undertaker matches and Shawn Michaels’ return in Saudi Arabia. And I’ve called Goldberg matches. These guys that I grew up… and they were heroes to me, and I’ve been able to voice some of their moments. It’s all surreal. At this point, I think Austin and McMahon are about the only two left that I haven’t gotten to call in some capacity. If I can get one of them this year, you know, leave something for next year.”
Make sure to check out my full conversation with Corey and Carmella in the video above, or feel free to check out our Q&A session about their new YouTube show. All five episodes are now available to watch on WWE’s YouTube Channel.
Bleav in Pro Wrestling: If fans look at the trailer for the show, which made a lot of headlines, what they are actually going to see is completely different when they watch it, right?
Corey Graves: Right. And that was all by design. We’ve never, up until this past Monday, really acknowledged on WWE television that we are in fact together. We’ve acknowledged it through social media. I haven’t been hiding it from there. As far as having the masses know about it, we kind of needed to come out of the gate strong. We had several discussions with marketing people and our social media department as to what’s the best way to launch this and get people talking. And we went somewhere that WWE hasn’t gone in a long time since, you know, probably the late nineties. Sort of just the edgy, sexy, spicy vibe. And it got a lot of people talking. Not all positive, but a lot of people talking.
Carmella: At least to the point where they wanted to check it out, like, ‘Oh my gosh, if their trailers like that, can’t even imagine what the show is.’ And then once they actually watch the show, they realize, yes, do we make sex jokes? Do we reference sex once in a while? Sure. But mostly, it’s us being real and living our lives and figuring out our way here in Pittsburgh. Buying a home and being with his children and my dad. And, you know, it’s really just our lives. But it’s not all what you think it might be by watching the trailer.
Corey Graves: Ultimately, we just have the sense of humor of a 13-year-old kid. We make sex jokes all day.
BPW: You guys have always been very open and honest about your relationship on the Bear with Us Podcast, but there is a difference between discussing it on a podcast and then showing people and letting them behind that curtain to see your everyday lives. When the discussions were underway to get this show going, there was any hesitancy from either one of you to kind of really kind of dive into all this?
Carmella: I think that was our discussion when we decided this is something we’re gonna do. We need to be real. We need to be authentic. We need to have it be authentic to our podcast because that was what we wanted to do. Be real and open on that and show who we really were, aside from what you see on WWE. And so, when the discussion came about having a show, it’s like, okay, well nothing’s off the table. Otherwise, it’s not real. It’s not our reality if we’re gonna be like, ‘Oh, well we can’t show this or we can’t talk about that. Or I’m not saying that.’ We really wanted it to be authentic to who we are.
Corey Graves: And in unscripted television, they don’t call ’em reality TV shows anymore, obviously there’s gonna be compromise. There’s got to be situations. Otherwise, you’re not gonna have much of a TV show to watch. However, WWE is awesome and Glass Entertainment, the production company behind it, have been awesome about allowing us to have creative input. Yes, we like this. No, we don’t like that. And when we were going through the editing process and we were watching the rough cuts back, there were a few times we looked at each other and kind of went, ‘Eh, maybe that’s a little too far. Uh, I don’t know if that feels quite like us.’
But then it’s not just about our opinion. And then we would discuss it with the company or some of the producers and they would say, ‘Yeah, but this works well because of that.’ But it was of the utmost importance to us to be authentic and maintain the spirit of the Bear with Us show, which is not Corey and Carmella. It’s Matt and Leah. So, to bring that vibe as close as possible to this WWE platform, it was really important to us. And I think we did a pretty decent job of maintaining it.
BPW: With that in mind, you’re talking about going through the editing process when you start a new project. You have a vision in mind of what you want it to be initially and then in the end it might be something completely different. What were the biggest differences from what your expectations were and what the final show ending up being?
Carmella: It’s basically one long episode. One 45-to-50-minute episode, that’s chopped up into five episodes. So, there’s only so much that you can put into that one episode. So, of course I wish there were more stories and more aspects of our life. I have a house in Florida that we go and visit pretty often. I wish we could have shown that. I wish I could have shown more of my family or just different sides of our lives that we have and things we experience on a daily basis or a weekly basis. But again, we were kind of limited as far as, it’s just one episode that’s now chopped up. So hopefully, you know, we’ll be able to do more and show different stories and different sides and different things.
Corey Graves: All the footage that you’re seeing in these first five episodes was shot over the course of almost two years, because this whole project began mid-pandemic. And then just with the world being upside down, like it was for so long, things took a lot longer. And then we’d have to go back and maybe reshoot something. Oh hey, we’re moving. Oh, well we can’t get a crew this weekend. And just all these different variables. So once everything had been shot, it seemed to be a little more easily digestible to break it up rather than try to force it all and cobble it together into one mega episode. Just take the little story arcs and kind of let them all live on their own. And with it being on YouTube is cool, because it’s evergreen show. It’s not necessarily relevant to what’s happening this week. It’s should hold up. Hopefully for some time now and give people a reason to go back and check it out or re-watch it. Or if they’ve just heard about it, and haven’t seen it yet, you can watch from start to finish and it takes you about 45 minutes, 50 minutes to blow through the whole thing.
Carmella: I do think it kind of ended up the way we were hoping and expecting. And one thing that was really important was to have our podcast be part of the show. And I think that adds a different aspect to the show that you don’t really get to see in most unscripted television shows. It adds a different take on what we’re talking about in the show.
Rick Ucchino can be reached at Rick.Bleav@gmail.com. You can follow him on Twitter @RickUcchino and make sure to subscribe to the Bleav in Pro Wrestling YouTube Channel.