In just a week, Damian Priest will put his NXT North American Championship on the line again in a TakeOver: 31 rematch with the man who’s put many TakeOvers on the map, Johnny Gargano. But this time, the stipulations will be different, as it was announced that their match will have the “Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal” stipulations. In his interview on WWE’s The Bump, Priest is more than confident he’ll walk out of Halloween Havoc as the retaining champion. He even mentions just how confident he is at the beginning of his interview.
“Oh, that I’m better than him. Plain and simple,” Priest chuckled when asked what he took away from him and Gargano’s encounter at TakeOver: 31. “Johnny has been trying to figure out what it is that he’s missing, and he’s not missing anything; he’s as good as ever. I’m just better, you know? I proved that to myself at TakeOver: 31.
“Now, going into Halloween Havoc, I have even more confidence than I did, and if anyone knows anything about me, I don’t like confidence. But yeah, I feel more confident now going into the ring because when it comes to our level and the pain we can conflict, he’s not even close.”
Following that remark, Priest says there were three stipulations that he’s hoping he and Gargano will have implemented in their match next week.
“I saw some of the options on the wheel, and I’ll be honest, I was intrigued by the ‘Buried Alive’ [stipulation],” he said with a smile. “When I saw that, I thought, ‘Man, I’d like to bury him alive.’ I thought about others like the ‘Bolier Room’ one. But the one that stood out to me the most was the ‘Inferno’ match; I was like, ‘Hm, I could set little Johnny on fire.'”
Just four days (on October 17), “The Archer of Infamy” celebrated his second anniversary since signing with WWE/NXT. He says the moment he signed on the dotted line, it was game time for him. He recalls all the matches he had in the very beginning with top-tier talents like Keith Lee and Pete Dunne, and how that shaped his career to him becoming the newest North American Champion.
“From the get-go, I was in the ring with top talent,” he recalls. “You know, my debut match – my first match – I was against [Keith] Lee – I beat him. Then, my second match was against Pete Dunne, who I beat too. So, I really, really think that helped me get to where I am today. I think if I had started slower, opponents like Finn Balor probably wouldn’t have wanted to work with me. So yeah, I’m ecstatic with how everything is going because it has to do with how I started.”
Before he made the big jump over to WWE, Priest found himself working for Monster Factory (where he trained) to Ring of Honor (under the name Punishment Martinez) from 2015 – 2018. Although many would argue those were pivotal promotions to work for, he admits there was no authenticity when it came to who he was and who he could be, especially during his time in ROH. Now that he’s in NXT, he believes that Triple H and Shawn Michaels have provided him a more personal platform, which has drawn a cult-like following than he’s had before.
“Yeah, it’s wild because everywhere I’ve been before, it was more of a case of, ‘Hey, can you do this? Can you be this?” he mentions before his WWE debut. “From the get-go man, Triple H, Shawn Michaels and the wrestling coaching staff – from the start – have just asked me, ‘Hey, can you just be yourself? Just do you; we like who you are.’ They started filming those vignettes of me going out to the clubs, and that’s me, man.
“I love going out and having a good time. I love surrounding myself with people who love life and love having a good time. That’s real, and now I get to show that. I think that’s why I’ve connected with a lot of people because they can identify with a real feeling. [I’ll admit], it was a real struggle because I didn’t know how not to pretend… it was difficult at first, but once I figured it out, it was around the time that I had that match with Finn Balor. Everything just clicked. I’m enjoying myself and everything I do!”
You can watch Damian Priest’s full interview here. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit WWE’s The Bump with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.