Maybe it was luck, perhaps it was smart booking, or just recognizing how important it is to effectively develop NXT call-ups instead of letting them linger on Raw or Smackdown without a purpose.
In the immediate, it’s clear that the company has grand plans for Damian Priest, the latest NXT-alum to have debuted in last week’s Royal Rumble, who also solidified himself on the main roster by appearing on Raw the next night. But beyond even the handshake with men’s Royal Rumble winner Edge, and engaging in a feud with Money In The Bank contract holder, The Miz (along with his partner John Morrison), Priest earned a co-sign by teaming with the biggest name to infiltrate the WWE this past week: Bad Bunny.
By way of both New York City and Puerto Rico, Priest gained notoriety on the independent wrestling circuit under both the Punishment Martinez and Punisher Martinez alias’. Outside of his current WWE run, he’s perhaps most known for his tenures in Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling. While it’s splendid that Priest has arrived at Raw, it’s even more important that his character is accompanied by Bunny in his main roster onboarding. In a week that also provided consumers the literal 10+ year return in the waiting of Carlito, another Puerto Rican native, we saw Priest and Bunny both lean into their heritage on WWE television.
On why it matters, Priest explained in an interview with WWE on BT Sport.
“Everybody here in the States watches the Super Bowl,” he said at the top. “I’ve never been to a Super Bowl. Bad Bunny performed at halftime of last year’s Super Bowl, with J.Lo (Jennifer Lopez) and Shakira … He’s not just a top artist in the Latin community; he’s a top artist on the entire planet. And for me to be associated with him is super cool.”
Bunny, a noted wrestling superfan, performed his song “Booker T” from his album El Último Tour del Mundo at the Rumble. It’s been reported by PWInsider that Bunny is not just teaming with Priest in vain, he’s apparently been training at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, presumably for some level in involvement for WrestleMania 37, which will be held at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa this April.
“We know each other,” Priest said later in the video. “Where he was born and raised, I was raised in the island of Puerto Rico, and it’s not a good area. We both had that struggle upbringing of trying to just make it through the day in the neighborhoods that we’re from … It’s not a forced thing. It’s not fake. I’ve been in the ring with him helping him out because he loves wrestling.”
Asked if he’s received a response from back home, if you’re of a certain background, you knew the forthcoming reaction and answer.
“Oh yeah! Big time!” Priest acknowledged as his eyes widened. “The whole island is super psyched. (I got) so many messages from people that don’t even watch wrestling, but this is all over the news there; everybody’s talking about it … That’s just cool for us; we’re a very proud culture.
“I am proud of my heritage and to be able to bring them up a little bit and to focus on the island, which at times, it’s forgotten about, it’s cool, and it’s a great feeling.”
Things are headed in the right direction for Priest, but however his WWE-run eventually concludes, it’ll be remembered that this is how it started. And if it takes Priest and Bunny through WrestleMania season, maybe Priest will, in fact, Live Forever, as he always says.