New WWE NXT North American Champion Damian Priest recently spoke with Scott Fishman of TV Insider and was asked what it meant to win the vacant title in the 5-man Ladder Match at Saturday's NXT "Takeover: XXX" event. Priest said the win means everything.
"It means everything. This is what we're here for," he said. "I wanted to do something to solidify myself as someone of importance in this business. This is the first step. This is the first major moment for me. I'm still on cloud nine. It's everything I've ever wanted. I've wanted success. I've wanted the attention. It's just rewarding when you achieve it. I'm appreciating and enjoying it. I'm going to hold on to this for as long as I can."
Priest revealed advice he received from Triple H - to just be himself. He noted that WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels has said the same thing to him. The former Punishment Martinez was asked how he feels he's evolved as a performer since signing with WWE in October 2018.
"It came from a piece of advice I got from Triple H, which is basically just to be you. Shawn Michaels has been adamant about that too," Priest said. "Both of them have been on me for months. They [were telling me], 'this guy, we speak to in the back and we see at the PC [Performance Center] and at shows and on the road, give us that guy.' For so many years I was asked to be a certain type of presentator. I was always cool with that because I always liked the idea of trying to be cool.
"You never look at yourself in a certain way. You see how others perceive you. I would always pretend to be something else. I think at first I was still pretending to be a version of what I thought people wanted me to be. I was still pretending. Now, I feel there is none of that. I'm living in the moment. So far, it has been so far, so good. I can feel I've excelled because of that. It's crazy to think if I had just been myself from the get-go, who knows. I give credit to Shawn and Hunter for pushing me to just be myself and not worry about anything else."
Priest and Triple H went viral after Takeover when Triple H tweeted a congratulatory message to Priest, filmed right after the Takeover segment that saw Priest jump into a hot tub to celebrate with a few female friends. He was asked about the hot tub segment and the photo from Triple H.
"I had a contingency celebration plan in place just in case," he said. "I mentioned it to Hunter. They had one on standby. Luckily, everything worked out the way I wanted it to. The crew set me up something outside. That was real, me celebrating.
"There is this imagery I have of a rock star jumping in a pool with their clothes on, just getting off the stage. It was basically what I did. I got off this huge stage where I had just won a major championship in this company. I just wanted to celebrate like a rock star. It's a moment I'll cherish forever."
He also revealed that Triple H's photobomb was not planned.
"Not at all," Priest said when asked if the Triple H photobomb was planned. "He was cool with me having that setup. He was like, 'hey, let's take a picture.' That's usually what he does with the new champions. And I was like, 'let's do it here.' He thought it would be cool. I thought it was pretty neat and unique to me."