PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A Pittsburgh native will be featured at WrestleMania this Sunday.

For the second straight year, Corey Graves will be in attendance, but not quite in the way he envisioned when he was growing up in Pittsburgh. A few years ago, Graves was on the verge of WWE stardom, but he was hit with something he never saw coming.

His roots in Pittsburgh run deep.

“I was born at Magee Womens Hospital,” he said. “I went to Gateway High School in Monroeville.”

His love for professional wrestling started at an early age, as it was a passion passed down from father to son.

“I was always a fan because he’d been a fan his whole life,” Graves explained.

Before he even turned 18, Graves was trying to make it as a pro wrestler. His reputation grew, first on Pittsburgh’s independent wrestling scene, then in other cities.

Before long, he followed in the footsteps of local pro wrestling stars like Bruno Sammartino and Kurt Angle. He eventually signed with WWE.

Graves became a hot prospect for WWE’s NXT brand, which features talent in the company’s developmental system. A call up to WWE’s main roster, and a chance to shine on national TV, seemed imminent.

“In my opinion, I was ready to get called up. As far as what I was hearing, I was about to be on Raw or Smackdown,” he said.

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Instead, two years ago, concussions ended Graves’ in-ring career, and put his future in doubt. But, he refused to stay down.

“I had to provide for my family, and had to survive,” Graves said. “At no point did I accept the idea of failure. So, whatever it was gonna be, whether it was commentary or working in the production capacity because, trust me, during that time after I got hurt I explored every avenue in WWE that they would let me.”

Graves landed a new WWE contract, as an on-air commentator.

Last year, he finally made it to WrestleMania.

“There’s nowhere else on the planet I’d rather be,” Graves said. “I believed that in a way being backed into a corner was the best thing that could have happened to me, because, I have a wife and three kids who depend on me.”

Graves’ job keeps him busy and on the road. When KDKA caught up with him at the Arnold Sports Festival last month, he had just hosted a Q & A with Arnold Schwarzenegger himself.

Finding the time to return home isn’t easy, but he knows the first place he wants to visit the next time he’s back in town.

“I am dying for Fat Heads. That’s all I can think of. Their sandwiches and their beers are fantastic,” he said.

While it’s not quite what he dreamed about when he was younger, he’s looking forward to the day when he’s in front of a live WWE crowd in Pittsburgh.

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