The WWE United States Champion Damian Priest recently sat down with Superluchas.com to discuss how far the star has come since his days struggling on city streets. Priest opened up about moments where he faced homelessness and uncertainty of where his next meal would come from.
“Mine was a long road to wrestling and it wasn’t easy. For me, if you really want to be a wrestler in your life, you have to try one hundred percent. I was fifty percent with wrestling and suffered a lot for many years,” Priest said. “I lived on the street for a few months because I had no money at all. I lived on the street, I slept on the street, and I was homeless and looking for how to eat. Even having work, I suffered. I tried to pay rent, sometimes I did not know what I was going to eat the next day. I kind of gave up wrestling and started working in nightclubs and earned money. I worked as a bouncer, and then I was manager of several night clubs and strip clubs and I was very fat. I lost about 160 pounds, but I almost gave up wrestling. I didn’t see that I had a future there. However, one day one of the night club, owners told me that he was going to give me more work and more money but that I had to stop doing that wrestling thing that I did on weekends. So, I don’t know how, but I said, ‘No, I better quit. This is my two-week notice’.
“Although I quickly said, ‘Oh sh**! What did I do?’ But that was the moment when I dedicated myself one hundred percent to trying to achieve my dream,” Priest continued. “Nobody was going to work for my dream and that was the problem, I thought that everyone was going to help me. And the worst thing was that everyone told me: “Don’t worry, with your size, you will be a great star.” That was the worst thing I ever heard, I put myself on a ‘sleep mode’ and I didn’t work for my dreams. I jumped right in and thank God it turned out well. I changed my life to positive, I started exercising, and it was actually the first time in my life that I got into a gym. And that was in 2012, less than 10 years ago… Being homeless was my normal life at the time, so I was just trying to find a way to eat and find a place to sleep. It wasn’t a long time but a couple of months went by where I had nowhere to go, and then some friends helped me. I stayed at their houses for a few weeks and so on until I managed to get up, find a job, and rent an apartment, but it was not easy.”
The reigning US Champ detailed his experiences in full contact combat, something he’s dabbled in alongside pro wrestling. It came in handy to Priest when he got into a fight in New Jersey because of a drunk driver that collided with his car.
“I was two times National Champion in New York of Full Contact, without gloves or a helmet. So for me, it is the same to enter the WWE ring now than before with the same mentality of war. I will defend my life in the ring except that I’m just not trying to hurt whoever I’m wrestling with,” Priest said. “We really hit each other, my hardcore match last Monday against Sheamus on Raw proves it. The public is not stupid – they can watch the UFC, and now that WWE is in High Definition, you see everything that happens. It can no longer be like in the old days. I am a huge fan of the UFC, but in my fights in Full Contact, I have not knocked out anyone. In the street, yes, I have knocked out [people] working in clubs, drunk guys or some crazy guy.
“Once on the street, I was with my mom, I was driving and a guy was f**king with me in another car, trying to crash my car. And he didn’t even know me, they were all drunk and then he hit me from behind as my mother was in the car. I don’t know what happened but I was furious, and I got out and after seeing that the car was fine, I heard him say in Spanish to his friend, ‘Look what I’m going to tell this a-----e’. That was in New Jersey, he thought I didn’t speak Spanish and came out cursing me in broken English,” he continued. “I didn’t say a word to him, just bang! He fell to sleep. I think that was the last time I knocked out someone. The friend goes out of the car and I told him, ‘Let’s go, I’m giving 2 × 1 today!’ And he told me, ‘No, calm down! I don’t want trouble!’ And my mom was very worried, but we only laughed afterwards.
“And working as a bouncer, that’s where I practiced wrestling like a madman. Even before the security officers, I was already running on the top of these tables to get the drunk guys out,” Priest explained. “But, well, it depends if he is only a drunkard, because if they are drunk they cannot defend themselves – so, the first thing is the dialogue so that they go out on their own. But if they get angry, I’d rather they hit me first so I can defend myself.”