Two years ago, WWE Superstar Damian Priest had his Wrestlemania moment when he partnered with his then-brother-in-arms Bad Bunny in an action-packed tag-team match. For Priest, he was a burgeoning rookie looking to make a frog splash of an entrance alongside the music behemoth. Their chemistry was electric, as Priest’s powerhouse strength and Bunny’s daredevil acrobats sealed them the win against The Miz and John Morrison. Fast forward, and now the two friends-turned-enemies will square off in a San Juan Street Fight this Saturday night (May 6) at the WWE’s live premium event Backlash.
The lovefest between the Puerto Rican stars ended last month, when Bunny involved himself in a skirmish between Priest’s villainous group, The Judgement Day, and WWE Hall of Famer Rey Mysterio. Priest — the stable’s muscle — showcased his unrelenting power, chokeslamming his former friend through a table. Weeks later, Bunny returned the favor, mercilessly attacking Priest with a kendo stick and challenging him to a San Juan Street Fight at the same show he would be hosting in Puerto Rico.
The hellacious showdown will have an exciting backstory: Priest and Bunny’s relationship dates back to their time on the island, when the WWE superstar’s aunt — a teacher — taught the singer’s brother. Priest also served as a mentor to the wrestling aficionado, whose in-ring skills are now equally impressive to his hitmaking prowess.
“Being someone who was also a street fighter, then a professional fighter, this is what I do for a living,” says the former WWE United States Champion. “I’m not doing a battle of the bands with him. Now, he’s stepping into the ring with me. He’s been successful in the WWE because I was there to help him. Now I’m there to do the opposite. I’m gonna hurt him, and I don’t think he’s gonna be ready for that.”
Billboard spoke to Priest about his excitement performing in his homeland of Puerto Rico, his upcoming match with Bunny, their history and why the global superstar’s presence is a big win for the WWE.
Because you have Puerto Rican roots, what does it mean for you performing in front of your family and friends at this year’s Backlash event?
When it comes to culture, it’s all about representation, trying to level up and putting Latinos and Hispanics — not just from Puerto Rico, but all around the world — in the spotlight. I feel like we’ve had different Latinos here, and they’re making a splash. But never like now. I feel like there’s a group of us and everybody’s on fire.
Then, you take all that, and now we’re having a premium live event in Puerto Rico — which is insane to me that we got to do this. We made it. This is hopefully the beginning to a lot of other opportunities for a lot of different people. Going out and having different premium live events in different countries like Money in the Bank in London, and obviously we had [Clash of the Castles] in Cardiff last year — I’d love to keep that ball rolling and continue going to different countries.
Speaking specifically about Latinos and Hispanics, this is huge. The representation that we’re putting on display right front and center is wild. I get goosebumps just talking about it, because this one means a lot. There’s matches that, obviously, for gain and growth are important, but this one is for a lot of people, not just myself. The pressure is there, but also excitement and the gratitude outweighs that, and I’m so pumped for this.
Your relationship with Bad Bunny goes back. You guys were tag partners at Wrestlemania 37 two years ago, and now you’re preparing to battle in a San Juan Street Fight. Talk about that relationship and how we ended up here with that upcoming match.
Bro, Bad Bunny Vs. Damian Priest in a street fight in Puerto Rico just sounds wild. Look, we hit it off because I was raised in the same town that he’s from. We have those roots in the island. Then, our love for the business, that’s how we became friends. Then, him getting involved with WWE and getting picked on a little bit, I wasn’t cool with that at the time. I had his back and we formed a relationship.
Then, I started doing my own thing. He went off to do his and I did mine. I’m extremely happy to have my homies in The Judgement Day by my side at all times, and we’ve grown into basically like a family. I know we say that at times on the mic, but we mean it. Like I love those three individuals — they’re like my brothers and sister. I don’t know what I wouldn’t do for them.
So when he gets involved… like everybody else, when someone messes with your family, man — it doesn’t matter if they’re your friend, your family is family. That’s how this came to be. And obviously on TV, I told him, “Come be a part of the WWE. Great. Do your thing. Just stay out of our stuff.” And he didn’t, so he we are. He made the match. He’s hosting Puerto Rico, so he had the power to make this match. He’s the one that said he wants to come for a street fight. I don’t think he really understands what’s happening.
Yeah, man. If you chokeslam him through another table, I don’t know if he can go on tour anymore.
He almost didn’t make it at Coachella! [Laughs.]
You said on a recent episode of RAW in reference to Bunny that you don’t go to Coachella and do his job. When you think about people like Bunny, Shaq or even a Logan Paul who stepped inside the ring, do you think that adds to the sport or takes away from it?
It has to add, because you’re bringing in new viewers. I know we have our faithfuls that aren’t too thrilled when this happens, but they don’t turn away, and we gain some more. Those same faithfuls will have to educate the new fanbase and I think that’s cool. I think that’s great. You’re creating more moments for more people and I think that’s beneficial to all parties involved.
With Bad Bunny, we may have our differences now, but I take nothing away from his contributions to what he’s done for the WWE, what he’s done for the culture and what he’s done for me and my name. As much as I hate to admit it, he’s done more for a lot of us than if it just happened on its own. I don’t know if the show in Puerto Rico is happening [without him]. I don’t know where I’m at. My debut on Raw was next to Bad Bunny. I don’t know where I’m at today. So it’s just one of those things where celebrities can definitely enhance. I’m not saying it always works, it’s not always a home run, but specifically speaking about Bad Bunny, there’s been no failure at all, it’s been all positive and it works.
It’s good because he’s passionate about the business, too. I’ll give him that. A lot of celebrities like to come and promote or just put something over that they’re doing on the side — that wasn’t his interest. He loves this business, and he just wanted to be a part of it and live out another dream he had. Whether this is the best way to go about it — a street fight against me in Puerto Rico — probably not. [Laughs]. I don’t know how he’s going to enjoy this dream, but he we are.
Do you have a gameplan going into your match with Bunny, especially knowing you teamed up with him before and he’s a high-flyer in the ring?
Yeah. Beat him up. [Laughs.] Take him out, go home and celebrate it on the island. That’s the gameplan. I mean, first of all, I’m the one that trained him. So I know what he knows at what to do, that’s No. 1. No. 2, I get it’s a street fight and I know where he’s from. I’m sure he’s had his share of street fights, but I’m a different animal, man. This is what I do.
Who’s the one artist you would love to see in the ring next and feel they have the most potential?
That’s a good one. Artist? You know, Bad Bunny, I would have never guessed he would have been this good as a superstar. So it’s hard to pick one because you don’t know what they have inside. You don’t know any of that. That’s a tough one because I don’t know.
Or even athlete?
Athletes are a little easier because you see they’re physical. Every sport has their monster. We have tons of guys that came from the NFL and collegiate. I always try to pick a different kind of athlete, like a baseball player or a basketball player,x because it’s not that common. For me, Aaron Judge. I think he would fit right in with The Judgement Day. All rise.
I saw Finn Bálor posted an edited photo of him having holding the newly-revealed WWE Heavyweight Title. Why do you think he should be the first to hold that belt?
I think Finn Bálor has unfinished business when it comes to a new championship being presented. The last time was the Universal Title, and unfortunately he got to hold it for a day because he got injured. I think he’s hungry, man and I get it. He needs that back. He needs that moment back and showcase what can come after with him being the guy.
To me, I think the world of him and I know exactly what kind of champion he can be. It would be nice to show the world on the biggest stage him holding that title. That would be awesome. But to counter that one, too, I think it’s time to see another Latino Heavyweight Champion. More specifically, a Puerto Rican one. The title is very beautiful, but I think it would better around my waist.
Is that an internal conversation you guys are having, regarding trying to hold all the titles in a similar way to how The Bloodline has over the last few years?
We’ve definitely had those talks. We all know that would be so special if we all held titles. That’s always on our minds. Obviously, we all have business to take care of so to speak at the moment whether it’s Rey [Mysterio], Bad Bunny or whoever else comes our way. But at some point, I feel like that’s inevitable. We’re all going to be holding titles at the same time.