By Jeff Lutz, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@JLutz82)
WWE announcer Corey Graves has a lot of ways to express his feelings. Probably too many.
He’s paired with Michael Cole on Smackdown every Friday, and even though that’s an in-character performance, surely some of Graves’ real personality comes through. He recently began a podcast in which he shares his opinions on WWE and interviews some of its principals.
And, as you might have heard, he’s on Twitter.
Unfortunately, all of those mediums are public, and too often Graves makes a spectacle of himself, bringing himself and WWE negative press and attention. Graves’ character is a lightning rod for controversy, and it seems he revels in that in real life, too.
Graves made the wrong kind of news last month when he took a thinly veiled shot on Twitter at NXT announcer Mauro Ranallo, who is open about his struggle with bipolar disorder and whose animated play-by-play style is subject to a wide array of opinions. Graves, in a way many deemed to be overly aggressive, noted that Ranallo wasn’t the only person in the booth, and Ranallo hasn’t been seen on TV since. Ranallo also deleted his Twitter account as he presumably works through a bout of mental health issues.
To his credit, Graves publicly apologized for his comments, though he didn’t directly address Ranallo. Hopefully, Graves learned a lesson about professionalism and figured out that while his is an important voice in WWE’s landscape, he doesn’t need to be its spokesperson and he certainly doesn’t need to opine on the performance of his announcing colleagues.
There might be another equally important lesson for Graves in all of this: how to deal with pro wrestling journalists.
During the fallout from his comments on Ranallo, Graves – on Twitter, of course – called out veteran wrestling writer Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer for what Graves felt was an inaccurate portrayal of the situation between Graves and Ranallo. Graves suggested that Meltzer should call him before reporting, and Graves was right.
I worked in newspaper for 18 years and I have been around journalism – the family business – for my entire life. I understand the importance of thorough reporting, accuracy, trust in and from sources, fairness, and never making yourself a part of the story.
All of that applies to pro wrestling journalism, too, but I don’t think I completely grasp the difficulty of covering the industry, particularly WWE, on a day-to-day basis. From where I sit, it seems that misleading information is rampant, cooperation from WWE is limited, and few if any sources ever attach their name to their comments. Like the media in general these days, it’s difficult to know whom to trust.
I trust Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez, Wade Keller and much of his staff at Pro Wrestling Torch, and of course Jason Powell, who runs my favorite wrestling website. Meltzer, though, has become distrusted by many fans who have listened to Bruce Prichard repeatedly rip him on his podcast “Something To Wrestle.” Those fans don’t understand that most people in any company that is heavily scrutinized dislike journalists because they sometimes share unfavorable opinions and often report hard truths.
Meltzer, like every journalist, especially those with a decades-long body of work, has made mistakes. He has also shown himself to be out of touch at times, like with his comments this summer about the appearance of WWE women’s wrestler Peyton Royce. But, for better or worse, he is an authority on professional wrestling past and present.
And he should have called Corey Graves.
Of course, Graves could have and should have called Meltzer, too. Not to mention the call he should have made to Ranallo. Better to work things out over the phone than to take your beef to Twitter. Graves, representing WWE, needs to be better than that.
Prichard’s constant bashing of Meltzer has made some in WWE feel they can publicly criticize him, too. But that’s not how business should be done in that world, where no sources are ever named, anyway. The lines of private communication – from both sides – need to be open.
I’m not Graves’ biggest fan, but I’m fine with his being an influential voice in WWE. He’s young, interesting, and he has a unique perspective as an ex-wrestler. His next step is to understand the responsibility that comes with his influence and handle it with care.