WWE Raw: Damian Priest on a path to win the Royal Rumble

Damian Priest, WWE (photo courtesy of WWE)
Damian Priest, WWE (photo courtesy of WWE) /

Damian Priest did it again, keeping his winning streak alive by retaining his United States Championship in a triple threat match against Drew McIntyre and Sheamus.

Considering his streak, trajectory, and victory on the Aug. 20 WWE Raw, Damian Priest seems like a good bet to win the 2022 Royal Rumble match.

I wrote a few weeks ago on the fans investing in Priest, and rightfully so. At that time, he had only lost multi-person matches where the odds were stacked against him: the Royal Rumble match, a handicap match, and a battle royal. Basically, he’d won every singles, tag team, and six-man tag team match.

That streak has continued, and his most impressive victory came last night in a triple threat match no less. It was the rare Raw match that saw two commercial breaks as the match lasted 21 and a half minutes.

It was a hard-hitting match with a well-told story that centered on McIntyre taking an absurd amount of punishment and barely surviving before finally succumbing to Priest’s The Reckoning finisher.

I like how the finish played out with the countering of finishers, Priest dodging the Claymore so it hit Sheamus (knocking him out of the ring), then slipping out of a McIntyre carry to land The Reckoning for the clean 1-2-3.

While Priest won the United States Championship at SummerSlam, I would argue his victory last night was a higher profile win. He took on two former WWE Champions in a match that WWE usually schedules to switch titles without the champion factoring into the decision; just ask Bobby Lashley about his recent United States Championship run (but don’t ask Nikki A.S.H….)

That was a match with the odds against him, yet he prevailed. He’s shown growth from his previous multi-person matches in that he found a way to win (kayfabe). This tracks with his presentation as an intelligent and cunning babyface by not falling victim to the stupid tactics of The Miz & John Morrison, instead of turning it on them for example.

That Priest won clean over the most recent WWE Champion not holding the title speaks volumes to the confidence WWE has in him. McIntyre just doesn’t take clean losses to anyone. Lashley needed help from M.V.P. to dethrone him at WrestleMania after all.

The show of respect from McIntyre after the match, preceded by both men respectfully looking the other in the eyes, gave Priest a rub from the biggest babyface on Monday nights. McIntyre has been receiving loud pops including last night, and shaking Priest’s hand probably help solidify many viewers as fans of Priest.

He’s also continued growing on the mic. He’s not John Cena or Roman Reigns, but he isn’t lost, either. He seems more confident each week and the resulting fan reaction seems to correspond. Dropping in his one-liners in Spanish has definitely helped (though he didn’t do it last night).

He also just looks more comfortable as the weeks pass. He doesn’t shrink in the spotlight, which he has stepped into more and more over the past month. The title, while large, seems a perfect fit on Priest’s right shoulder and his facial expressions say he was meant to be a champion.

At this rate, Priest may not lose a match the rest of the year (unless not involved in the decision in some kind of tag/multi-person match). He not only keeps winning but winning decisively and over better and better competition.

Let’s say he doesn’t lose and keeps defending the United States Championship, entering the Royal Rumble event on a long winning streak. Would you take Priest or the field at that point?

It’s not as if rewarding a wrestler for a great year with a Rumble match victory in unprecedented. Just think about Brock Lesnar winning in 2003 as one example.

Further, WWE is sorely lacking in newer stars, and while Priest isn’t young at 39-years-old, he has not been around WWE for years. Priest can and should be one of those stars.

To many WWE fans who don’t watch any other promotions or even NXT, they only know him from what he’s done since entering the Royal Rumble match last January, so he is “new” to the WWE audience even at his age.

I know there are concerns from some on if Priest can be a top act. However, I believe he’s shown immense growth in the eight months he’s been on Raw in all aspects of professional wrestling. WWE taking the slow build with Priest has benefited both parties.

Having Priest win the Rumble at his current trajectory should set him up to be a massive star for the company in 2022. SummerSlam aside, Priest winning the Rumble match could have him on a similar path to Bianca Belair from this year. If you want to go back to Lesnar in 2003 as an example, that works, too.

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Regardless, barring some game-changing free agent signing or return of a massive star, I don’t think there’s another man I’d want to see win their respective Royal Rumble match than Priest at this moment. I liked him as Punishment Martinez in Ring of Honor and his “dark playboy” persona in NXT, but his work on Raw is what’s really won me over.

I’m calling it now: Damian Priest will win the 2022 Royal Rumble match.