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All Rise for El Campeon Damian Priest

Photo Credit: WWE

My appreciation for Damian Priest goes beyond his talent. But we’ll get to that shortly. First lets start with how I became familiar with his story. I have been a fan of professional wrestling since the summer of 1987. During that time, the Four Horsemen ruled the ring, Hulkamania was running wild, AWA, UWF, and World Class were still in existence, and there weren’t many who looked like me in the ring or in the crowd. It seemed like wrestling wasn’t for black people and boxing was the sport for us.

The funny thing is I never liked boxing, but LOVED professional wrestling. I have seen many come and go. I have met quite a few and even have a couple of my favorites from the Attitude era on speed dial. BUT this is the first time that I have ever been moved to write about my favorite professional wrestler Damian Priest. 

As a student at Coach Danny Cage’s Monster Factory, he became The Punishment. It didn’t take him long to capture the Ring of Honor World Television Championship. When he arrived at NXT, under the training of Terry Taylor and others, he became the NXT North American Champion.

Shortly after being called up to the main roster for WWE RAW, he became the United States Champion, and after helping to train rapper and singer Bad Bunny, he became a member of RAW’s most dominant faction, The Judgment Day. It didn’t take long for him to win gold. 

Alongside his fellow stablemate, Finn Balor, he became 1/2 of the 2x Undisputed WWE Tag Team Champions, while simultaneously winning the coveted Money in the Bank (MITB) Briefcase, making him Senor MITB. It was at Wrestlemania 40 on night two when Senor MITB would cash in his purple briefcase (it was so sick I had to purchase one) to become the 2nd Puerto Rican in 50 years to become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. All Rise for El Campeon, Damian Priest!!!

Why should we care about the Bronx baby who was born Luis Martinez? I appreciate that he likes DC Comics, Masters of the Universe, has Britney Spears on his playlist, and can bake a mouth-watering Oreo cheesecake! I’m not mad at him for being a metal head and wanting to live a rockstar lifestyle. I also appreciate his love for bow and arrows and skull and crossbones, but there’s more to our champion than meets the eye.

The 41-year-old was raised by his mother in Puerto Rico until he was around ten years old. Priest would then live with his father in New York City, where he is widely known as the ultimate New York Yankees fan! Alongside his father, who practiced martial arts, he learned to become a skilled martial artist, winning two tournaments that eventually led to becoming a successful club manager and independent wrestler. 

The future El Campeon was living the life. His job provided his apartment (rumored to have formerly belonged to Al Capone) and vehicle. However, when he was offered a promotion with the understanding that he must focus on the club and give up his dreams of becoming a professional wrestler, he immediately turned in his two weeks’ notice and never looked back.

There were some rough times, but Priest knew what he wanted, and he decided to train under Danny Cage. Coach Cage and others showed the future champion wrestling moves, how to cut a promo, and being in a training state of mind. 

After getting rid of the wrong people that he surrounded himself with, he lost over 100 pounds and gave his all to professional wrestling. Even when he briefly lived in his car, he never turned back. If anything, it made him push harder….driving two hours to the Monster Factory in New Jersey and two hours returning to New York to help his father with his business. 

What do you say about a man who learned to read and write English in one year? What do you say about a man who invited his best friend since childhood to escort him to the NXT ring playing the guitar for Halloween Havoc 2020?  

What do you say about a man who trained Bad Bunny for a second time, even when he was left off the card for Wrestlemania 39, while his other stablemates had matches? What do you say about a man who had a match at Backlash the following month with Bad Bunny that qualified for Match of the Year? 

I know what to say about our champion who can deliver jaw dropping, high-flying leg drops that see this big man flawlessly soar through the air, demonstrate his sheer power, offer the surfer walk to honor Scott Hall, and deliver a South of Heaven that many don’t get up from. I say CONGRATULATIONS and WELL DONE, Champ! 

The level of joy that was felt when he won is evident by the genuine love and respect from so many backstage. Priest’s photo with his wrestling family and blood relatives is proof that he’ll not only live forever, but he is leading the charge in re-opening the doors to Puerto Ricans in professional wrestling.

If he had handled NOT being on the Wrestlemania 39 card differently, it is likely that he wouldn’t be champion today. In fact, if he had reacted the way many of us would have, his career likely would’ve come to a screeching halt. 

The Archer of Infamy is living proof of what hard work, determination, patience, and understanding the importance of being happy for someone who perhaps took a spot that he felt belonged to him. But he quickly realized that what’s meant for him can never be taken away, especially if God’s hand is on it. That, and perhaps, a little behind the scenes training in growth and development from a certain Wiseman.

All Rise for the Rock star! All Rise for the Outlaw! All Rise for The Punishment! All Rise for the Bad Guy! Boricua!!

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