Mere months into his main roster run in WWE, Damian Priest can already lay claim to having stolen the show at WrestleMania alongside an A-list celebrity in Bad Bunny.
Their tag team outing against The Miz and John Morrison was among the bright spots of WrestleMania 37’s first night. Thanks to some terrific teamwork, it was Priest and Bunny who emerged victorious to the roar of the crowd.
It’s been an incredible last year for Priest, who came into his own following his fantastic match with Finn Balor at NXT TakeOver: In Your House. Since then, he’s gotten over as a fan favorite, held the NXT North American Championship, debuted in the men’s Royal Rumble match, and gone undefeated in singles competition on the Raw roster.
With WrestleMania now in his rearview mirror, the sky is the limit for what he can accomplish. Although he’ll be flying solo from here on out with Bad Bunny about to tour, nothing is stopping him from eventually entering title contention and continuing to create a legacy that can last forever.
In this exclusive interview with Daily DDT, “The Archer of Infamy” discusses his main roster run, working with Bad Bunny, his current relationship with Vince McMahon, two dream matches he wants to have, and more.
Damian Priest details his WrestleMania experience and his Raw run so far
WrestleMania 37 marked the first time Priest has ever stepped foot, let alone competed on “The Grandest Stage of Them All”. Luckily for him, he was put in a pretty prominent position with Bad Bunny against Miz and Morrison.
Walking down that ramp is a lifelong goal for many WWE Superstars and Priest was no different. Having attended WrestleMania before as a fan, he admits that it blew his expectations away to be on the other side of the barricade this time around.
“It was our first time with a crowd in over a year and I’ve never performed on this stage and I haven’t had fans on this type of stage,” Priest said. “I wasn’t sure how they were going to react to me, I’ll be honest. I thought I’d go out there and get no reaction because people might not be sure who I am yet. When I heard that scream, I was like, ‘Oh, man, they know who I am. This is so cool.’ The moment I walked up on stage, I was so hyped and it was the greatest day of my career hands down.”
If it weren’t for his breakout performance against Finn Balor last June, there’s a good chance he’d still be in NXT right now. He was spinning his wheels prior to that point, but that match made him realize that the key to success was just being himself.
He’s been in his element ever since.
“I feel like I figured out how to by myself now,” Priest said. “I was still, for a while, pretending as far as doing what I thought people wanted to see or portraying what people thought of me instead of just being me, the actual me. That’s where I’m at and I’m enjoying all of it. When you see me smile, it’s not a forced smile. I’m actually happy. I’m feeling everything and it’s awesome. What a perfect way to do this, coming out of a pandemic into a WrestleMania with fans, debuting at the Royal Rumble. There were so many things lined up for me and I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to excel and enjoy every single moment of it.”
As noted, Priest debuted as a member of the main roster in the Rumble, where he had a strong showing and eliminated several Superstars, including Kane. In beating Miz one-on-one and aligning himself with Bad Bunny on the next night’s Raw, it was clear the company had high hopes for him from the get-go.
That said, Priest revealed he was slightly trepidatious upon arriving on Raw. It’s well-documented that not every call-up is booked as well as they were in NXT, but he compared that feeling of uncertainty to the one he felt when he initially joined NXT three years ago.
“Whenever you go into something new and the unknown, you don’t know what to expect,” Priest said. “It was the same thing when I joined NXT. I was nervous and worried and I had all the concerns. Did I make the right call? Did I make the right decision? Yes, I did. So many good things happened that I can’t believe I worried about anything and that’s where I am now with Raw.
“Coming in, yes, I was worried,” he continued. “I was worried how I was going to be treated. I was worried of the perception of me. I was worried whether people would actually care and I’m talking about the company itself. I’m talking about Vince McMahon and if he’d even care who I am. There were a lot of concerns, and now I can’t believe I was worried about anything. Look at the spot they put me in. Look at the opportunities they’ve awarded me. This is incredible.”
Damian Priest doesn’t doubt Bad Bunny will be back in a WWE ring eventually
Priest and Bunny began working together at the Royal Rumble in January. Bunny was a regular on Raw throughout the road to WrestleMania, but at one point, Miz and Bunny were advertised as going one-on-one at the event without Priest or Morrison involved.
It was reported that Priest and Morrison were dealing with injuries prior to the pay-per-view and that’s why it was briefly changed to a singles match. However, “The Archer of Infamy” clarified that a tag team matchup was the plan the whole time and that it was more a matter of how they could rationalize turning it into a two-on-two affair.
“There were a lot of things. It’s just storytelling,” Priest said. “Why would Miz want to straight-up challenge the both of us when he would want to beat up just Bad Bunny? It was more so storytelling. We’re always banged up, so I took that as, when the focus was on Miz and Bunny, being able to rest up and getting over some soreness [before WrestleMania].”
Priest had nothing but positive things to say about his experience working with Bunny. They got along immediately and he was surprised by the stellar showing he had at “The Show of Shows”.
“Working with Bad Bunny was great,” Priest said. “We’re friends, so it’s always easier when you get to work with a buddy of yours and, I’ll tell you, we goofed around and had a blast every single Monday. Like, for real. We were like, ‘Let’s just act like this on TV.’ The whole situation was incredible. I still can’t believe that happened.
“Bad Bunny killed it, he really did,” he added. “I knew he was going to shock people, but even I was standing there like, ‘He’s doing it. He’s doing it better than even I thought he would.’ He did everything so great from the entrance to the celebration afterward. Everything was beautiful. I’m grateful for all of it.”
Priest confirmed the rumors from earlier this year that Bunny was training a ton at the WWE Performance Center to prepare for WrestleMania. There were a few others that played a part in his progression, but Priest was the one who helped him more than anyone else.
Clearly, Bunny’s hard work paid off, as his performance was a hot topic of conversation among wrestling fans coming out of WrestleMania weekend.
“I was working with him every week, training with him,” Priest said. “I had a good hand in training him along with others like Drew Gulak, Brian Kendrick, Adam Pearce, Norman Smiley. We all had a hand in working with him, but I was consistently there the entire time with him in the ring, giving him moves, and taking stuff from him. He took his licks. I knew he was going to be fine as far as being able to perform. The quality of the performance still got me.
“It’s WrestleMania, there’s a lot of nerves and a lot of variables, and things can happen that you don’t expect,” he continued. “How are you going to react to those things? That’s where he got me. I was like, ‘He’s acting like a pro!’” The way he would look up at me and reach for a tag. He was feeling in the moment and I was like, ‘That’s awesome.’ He put in the work.”
En route to WrestleMania, Bunny never quit and was adamant about putting on a good performance, according to Priest. As a longtime fan of the business himself, Bunny wanted to do his dream of wrestling inside squared circle justice.
As for whether Bunny will lace up the boots again, Priest has no doubts the WWE Universe hasn’t seen the last of the Grammy Award-winning artist.
“We talked about [a potential return] before and after,” he said. “There’s no question that we’ll see Bad Bunny in a WWE ring again. When? I don’t know. He’s really busy, he’s going to start touring again soon, and that’s a wild schedule he has to prepare for. But I’d be shocked if we never saw him again. It’s impossible. The love he has for this business and now the love this business has for him, there’s no way I don’t see him coming back.”
Damian Priest discusses his current relationship with Vince McMahon
Regardless of whether he won or lost at WrestleMania, being in such a spot at the biggest event of the year was an automatic victory for Priest. He admitted that the feedback he got backstage from the higher-ups afterward was overwhelming, specifically from Triple H who had a pivotal role in his development during his stint in NXT.
“When I got to the back, one of the first people to grab me and hug me was Triple H,” Priest revealed. “He said, ‘This is what I wanted for you. I knew you could do this.’ Him, Stephanie [McMahon], Vince, Bruce Prichard, Pearce all came right up to me immediately and everybody had nice things to say and congratulating me and being genuinely happy for me for having that moment and it working out so well. That one got me to where I had to talk a walk and say, ‘I need a second, guys. There’s too many emotions happening right now.’”
Priest mentioned earlier that he wasn’t sure what Vince McMahon would think of him once he was called up to Raw from NXT. Not only did he win him over, he ultimately earned his stamp of approval at WrestleMania.
“I wouldn’t say we’ve had a ton [of interactions], not yet, but every time I do something, I go right up to him and ask, ‘Is that what you wanted?’ He usually smiles and says, ‘Yes, thank you,'” he said. “So far, so good. I mean, I guess that’s a good thing he hasn’t had to tell me too much. I can speak to one instance when he wanted to be careful of how… I’m very animated. He said, ‘Be careful not to be too animated. Save it.’
“I made sure to do what he wanted and he told me, ‘I gave you direction last week and this week you implemented it and you did exactly what I wanted you to do. That’s all I ask for. Thank you.’ I said, ‘No, thank you.’ That was it. At WrestleMania, he gave me a hug and said, ‘Congratulations, I’m happy for you. You did your job well. You should be proud.’
Damian Priest on what’s next and his top two dream matches
WWE, unfortunately, followed up Priest’s big WrestleMania win with a loss to Miz and Morrison in a two-on-one handicap match on the next night’s Raw. Other than potentially exacting revenge on them for that, Priest promises big things for his future in his pursuit of creating a legacy that lasts forever.
“The idea of ‘Live Forever’ for me is that I want my name to live on,” Priest said. “I want to accomplish and have enough moments so that people remember my name long after I’m gone. Obviously, having a moment at WrestleMania is a great start. You can’t be remembered or be an icon or anything in this business if you don’t have a WrestleMania moment, especially now.
“That was the first step,” he added. “It’s about continuing having moments that people talk about the next day, the next week, the next year. Things that live on and stand the test of time. I just want to have those moments that people remember.”
Still being relatively new to the WWE’s main stage, Priest hasn’t worked with a ton of talent outside of Miz, Morrison, and Angel Garza. He’s looking forward to facing off with everyone on Raw and SmackDown eventually, but his top two dream matches are with Edge and Roman Reigns.
“I want to work with everyone, I really do,” Priest said. “There’s a reason why they’re on this roster, why they work for this company. It’s the very best in the world, right? I want to work with everyone, but if I had to pick one or two, obviously I’d start at the top. I don’t know how many he has left in him, but me and Edge have to work. We have to mix it up.
“Whether it’s teaming or we’re against each other, I need to be in the ring with Edge,” he added. “We had a little moment at the Royal Rumble which was amazing, but I want to do it where all eyes are on us. That would be a big deal for me. It’d be hard to not say Roman [Reigns], right? He’s the man. He’s the guy right now in WWE. If I want to be special, I have to be in there with the most special person in our company.”