While you might not know the name Dan Polinsky, chances are you know his two sons: WWE announcer Corey Graves and international star Sam Adonis.

Papa Polinsky’s life has been intertwined with pro wrestling since he was a kid back in the ’60s — so much so that he began his own wrestling promotion in 2003. While it had been shuttered for a time, it’s back.

It all started back in 1962, when Polinsky started watching wrestling in person and on television, with his grandfather taking him to live shows in the Pittsburgh area. Once Polinsky had children of his own, he brought them to the shows as well. Going from fan to promoter started slow enough; Polinsky provided security for smaller indie shows that his sons would watch, and eventually wrestle on.

A firefighter by trade, Polinsky was spending so much time around promoters at the shows, Polinksy figured that he could do promote as well. First, he set up Far North Wrestling (FNW) in 1999 in Western Pennsylvania. After taking a brief hiatus, Polinsky rebranded FNW as Pros of Wrestling, which is still based in the Pittsburgh area, and will be putting on a card on February 24.

As for those two boys of his, Polinsky always knew that they’d end up working somewhere in the wrestling universe, after he had brought both Corey and Sam to their first live event.

Dan Polinsky (back center) with wife Tanya (back left) and sons Matthew (front center) and Sam (front left) (via @wwegraves on Instagram)

“I knew at a very young age, because as soon as we were old enough to go to a wrestling match, a live wrestling match, I took them both. And I knew the very first time we went, they were bitten so hard by the wrestling bug, that it was a constant thing with both of them, they always wanted to go to shows,” Polinsky told SlamWrestling.net.

In a Father’s Day post back in 2020, Adonis wrote that “My brother and I grew up loving pro wrestling because of my dad. He would tell us stories about Bruno Sammartino, Bobo Brazil, and Big Bill Miller like they were super heroes of years past! He loves wrestling as much as anyone and we wouldn’t have accomplished what we have without his love and support! Love You Dad!!”

Dan and Tanya Polinsky, who have been married for more than 40 years, also have two daughters, Sydni and Alexandra. Polinsky also said that Tanya helps with the promotion, calling it a partnership between them, and that she enjoys it. Sydni lives local and has been known to help out too.

Corey — whose real name is Matthew Polinsky — was a bored teenager, said his father. “He was just kind of miserable, we couldn’t really focus on getting involved in anything that really appealed to him. I had a friend of mine who was a professional wrestling promoter in Pennsylvania, mainly independent wrestling. I went to him and I asked him, if he would be willing to, at his training facility, let me enroll my son.”

As they say, the rest is history.

Debuting in March 2000, the rechristened Sterling James Keenan worked locally and built a reputation until signing with WWE in 2006. A concussion in 2014 derailed his in-ring career and set up a life as a color commentator and, more recently, as lead commentator.

Sam, who is five years younger than older brother Matthew, began his wrestling career in 2008. Wrestling under the name Buddy Stretcher, he began working in the WWE’s developmental promotion, Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), but unfortunately suffered a knee injury in his second match which led to his release. Since then, he became Sam Adonis and is a headliner in Mexico, initially rising to fame as a pro-Donald Trump heel. In the US and Canada, he has worked for bigger companies, like the NWA and MLW, and a slew of different indie promotions. (Adonis has also promoted around Pittsburgh under the WRESTLEREX banner, at the Enclave, which was formerly the Rex Theater.)

Both sons have partners who are wrestlers too. Graves is, of course, married to WWE’s Carmella, and they recently welcomed a son named Dimitri, to go with the three kids Corey has with his first wife, Amy Schneider. Sam and WoW’s Ray Lyn have been a couple for many years now. It means a few more people for Polinsky to bounce ideas off of — though it’s notable that none of them are advertised at his Pros of Wrestling show, busy as they all are with their own bookings. Polinsky hopes that down the road he will be able to book his sons and in-laws on a card, but it will take a lot of seeking of permission.

Carmella, wife of Corey Graves and Ray Lyn, girlfriend of Sam Adonis

Polinsky’s start in promotion came as an indirect result of his sons too. He had a ring so that the boys could train with each other. He credited the knowledge that he learned as a security guard at indie shows, being able to see behind the scenes how the shows ran, as well as learning what made crowds react and feel. Every different show that he went to work on, he learned something new which helped him massively in setting up FNW.

Looking back, Polinsky’s advice to a wanna-be promoter is simple. “Be patient, be ready to take your lumps and, and cross the t’s and dot the i’s. You know, pay attention, I mean, pay attention to detail. And the other thing I would also say is be careful, because there’s always going to be somebody else, whether it be a wrestler, or another promoter who is going to get the idea that they’re going to go ahead on their own. They think that they could do it better than you.”

The rise of social media has made promotion different than it used to be, with posters and newspapers becoming less impactful compared to the worldwide reach that Instagram, X, and Facebook have. Polinsky may be an old dog, but he can certainly learn new tricks, as he used social media to promote Pros of Wrestling’s upcoming event. The power of social media has been reflected in their ticket sales, he said. Polinsky’s only complaint about social media? That it didn’t come sooner. “And I only wish now that we had this back then, because it would have made my job so much more efficient, and honestly, probably a little bit easier as far as getting the word out.”

Modern-day wrestlers can film promos themselves, ready to roll. “Some of these wrestlers cut unbelievable promos and they send them to us so that we could put them on our site… Some of them are just unbelievable how professional they are. I had no idea because years ago — and even still now — some people, you ask them for a promo, they’re gonna stand in front of the bathroom wall or something and talk a little bit, they’re not going to give you that much. But this is the first show that I’ve done in a long time that I was absolutely floored by maybe four or five of the promos that I got in.”

Social media has even changed how Polinsky finds the talent for his shows. Though he still does some scouting the old school way, by visiting other indie shows in the Pittsburgh area and reaching out to promoters and talent if he wants to work with them, he also receives many submissions from wrestlers online, not all of which have what it takes to wrestle.

“I think that there are way more wrestlers out there, way more talent out there in different areas that are available. I find myself often being notified by somebody who’s an independent wrestler, they’ve heard about our show on social media, and then they contact me wanting to know if they can have a spot on the show,” he said. Or they ask about future shows. “That’s probably the biggest thing that’s changed. … Related to social media, I have a lot more choices out there of people that I could use, there’s a lot of good talent out there. And by the same token, there’s a lot of people out there that shouldn’t even be calling themselves professional wrestlers.”

A more recent photo of the Polinsky men (via @realsamadonis on Instagram)

What makes someone a professional wrestler? Polinsky had very clear criteria. “I’ve got two cardinal rules that I tell everybody whenever they’re going to wrestle for me. I tell them that number one, you have to look like a wrestler. And number two, you have to dress and have gear like a wrestler.”

There’s a mental side to what makes a professional wrestler a professional. “I would say the newer wrestlers today, just because of their age, a lot of them don’t really know the way wrestling was back in the  ’70s, and the ’80s, and things like that. A lot of them are really interested and they’d like to follow it. They’re kind of like students of the sport or the game. And these people, they seem to catch on really quick.”

There was more advice from Polinsky, aimed at up-and-coming wrestlers to stand out from the rest — work on your gimmick, character, and wrestling, rather than going into the gym and beefing up. “Personally, and I know a lot of promoters out there, I like to get guys that are good workers, and that have great gimmicks, because I’m concerned with the fans, having a good time. And if everybody comes into the ring looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger or whatever, it’s going to be a very boring show.”

Polinsky also said that the biggest challenge that promoters face today is the oversaturation of the indie scene. By his count, there are six to eight different promotions just in the Pittsburgh area alone, which leads to conflicting schedules, like events on the same night, as well as talent needing to choose between shows, diluting the shows forcing them to employ talent they may not think are ready.

The other issue is that with more shows available, fans and crowds begin to choose cards based on convenience, rather than going to see that card of highest quality. “I just personally would like to see some of these just go away, because they’re taking people that would normally come to a good professional wrestling show. And [the fans] not wanting to travel the extra mile to go see a good show or pay the extra dollar, because they’d rather go three blocks down the street. And watch guys, like I said, that you’d never think in a million years that they’re in professional wrestling, or a professional wrestler. And so that’s the biggest challenge.”

The main event of Pros of Wrestling’s Feb 24th card

For the Pros of Wrestling card on February 24, Polinsky pulled out all of the stops. The main event features fan favorites Beastman and Super Oprah taking each other. Wrestling and Respect (WAR) champion Brandon Day will be taking on RYSE wrestling champion Gorgeous Gregory. Former NXT women’s wrestler Gina Delucia will also be fighting on the card, as will Canadian tag team Los Medicos.

TOP PHOTO: Left, Dan Polinsky with the future Sam Adonis and Corey Graves; right, Sam and Dan many years later. Facebook photo