NXT North American champion Damian Priest spoke to Pro Wrestling Sheet to talk all things pro-wrestling, including how it feels to finally hold gold for the yellow-and-black brand. Highlights are below.
How it feels to hold NXT gold:
I’m still on cloud 9, man. It’s so cool. It’s what I’ve been working for, you know? For months, obviously, I’ve been tiptoeing around the North American Championship. I’ve been bragging about wanting to be the champion. I’ve been bragging about wanting to do something that’ll stand the test of time and live forever. To finally achieve it, it was all the feels combined. I was ecstatic, happy, emotional, everything. Everything encompassed in one. That’s why I said all that was real. And when the cameras went off, I didn’t get out of the hot tub. When I finally got out because they were kicking me out, I just went to another place to continue celebrating. It didn’t stop. That’s just who I am. What you see now is not a character. I’m not pretending. I’m not doing somebody a favor by doing a job the way I’m asked to portray a certain persona. I’m not doing that anymore. Hunter and Shawn gave me their full support too. “Hey, go out there and be yourself!” And I finally figured out how to do that. So now I’m really just being me. All the time. 24/7. And I love it because I don’t have to stop and go.
His hot tub celebration after the match:
I was celebrating. There was no me pretending for cameras. I was thoroughly enjoying the moment. Hunter came up to me smiling, laughing. He couldn’t believe that I just jumped in the water with my clothes on. Then he wanted to do the picture and I was like, “take it while I’m in here!” Then he thought about it and was like, “stay right there!” It was really cool because it was individual to me. You ain’t taking a picture like this with nobody else. Ever.
Advice Triple H gave him:
It’s a cool story. I was talking or doing something and Triple H heard me. Then he pulled me aside and we were just talking. Then he started telling me about advice that Undertaker gave him about when you learn how to be yourself, you’ll make a lot of money in this business. That’s what Undertaker told him. Then he tapped me on the chest and basically said, “now I’m telling you that. I didn’t realize it until he said that, that although they had been for months telling me “hey, you can just be you now,” I was still pretending to be a version of me. Or I was pretending to be who people thought I was, instead of really being me, and I think that day it hit me. I was like, “Oh … I’m still pretending.” It was even the way I was speaking in promos, where I felt like I had to have a certain voice and I had to sound a certain way. Instead of just talking like I’m speaking to you right now. And Shawn would be on me about that too. He was like, “Hey, you’re a pretty cool guy. Just be you.” I think finally leading into that match, I think that’s when it finally all came together and I haven’t looked back since. Obviously working with Finn Balor makes it really easy to go out and put on a great match too.
Honoring Shawn Michaels with his Takeover XXX gear:
He died laughing when he saw it. I wondered if he would even get it, because he’s worn so much stuff. But immediately he knew. He was like, “Ohh, there it is!” and started laughing. So I was really happy. Of course with certain things or certain people I’ll reach out and ask, but with that one I kinda wanted to surprise him … but at the same time I was hoping he was ok with it. Because you never know.
Reveals that this was his first ever ladder match:
I was the only one in that match who had never been in a ladder match. I’ve never climbed a ladder in a ring. So, for me, I was asking a million questions to anybody that would listen and then watching every match to see why things work, why they didn’t. And then after all those hours of footage, I learned nothing. I was just like, “Oh my god. This is gonna suck!” Because everything looks so painful!