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Before that time, he was a star of the independents with the less than stellar ring name of Sterling James Keenan. A regular for Pittsburgh-based IWC, he made his way from Indiana to Florida as a independent talent, but never managed to get more than sporadic appearances in Ring of Honor nor did he ever appear for EVOLVE. He also made frequent trips to the UK, where much of the influence in his style can be seen.
His NXT career was a strange bounce between heel and face. Graves clearly enjoys being the bad guy, but honestly worked better as a face during his run with the brand. He had some great matches against the likes of Seth Rollins, Neville, Kassius Ohno and Sami Zayn during his run, often submitting his foes with his excellent Lucky 13 finisher. He would become a one time NXT tag team champion alongside Neville, but would drop the titles as The Ascension started their extended run as tag champions.
His subsequent feud with Neville gave some impressive matches, such as this one below.
Ultimately Graves should have a long career in WWE if he chooses to stick around. He's a great member of the kickoff panel and an even better heel commentator on NXT television. Should WWE ever want to seriously improve their announce structure, he would make a stupendous replacement for Booker T on Smackdown. But I would guess as a WWE announcer, we will see Corey Graves for many years to come. And if he can't continue as a wrestler, I am stupendously happy he can continue to be involved in the sport he clearly loves.