June 17, 2024

WrestleMania and Hollywood have always gone hand in hand. Mr. T headlined the inaugural event back in 1985 with special guest referee Muhammad Ali. Fast forward to 2022 and both Johnny Knoxville, star of “Jackass Forever,” and social media star Logan Paul are on the WrestleMania 38 card.

Damian Priest worked closely with Grammy-winning Puerto Rican rapper and singer Bad Bunny. The two had a well-received match against John Morrison and The Miz at WrestleMania 37 in 2021. Bad Bunny earned the admiration of fans and those behind-the-scenes for his commitment to the craft. That commitment is key to separating a good celebrity crossover from a bad one.

“I only have the one experience, but it would have to be how much work they want to put in. While it’s fun and everything, it’s serious business. If you’re not trained correctly and not doing everything properly, it can be very dangerous,” Priest told CBS Sports. 

“I would say that’s the most challenging part. How are the people coming in? How are they going to co-exist with our world? Johnny [Knoxville] has made multiple appearances. He’s been around and so we already know that he fits right in. Plus, he’s crazy like the rest of us so that always helps… It’s hard for somebody to do just do this and be good at it when they come from another world.”

 Check out the full interview with Damian Priest below.

WrestleMania 38 is full of celebrity crossovers. Paul is teaming with The Miz and Knoxville goes one-on-one with Sami Zayn. SmackDown commentator and NFL alum Pat McAfee, whose in-ring appearances are few and far between, is also slated for a WrestleMania match. Priest noted that while celebrity appearances can impact worker morale, the efforts put forth by guys like Bad Bunny have shifted that perception among WWE superstars.

“Being honest, just like the fans, when you see an outsider you [groan]. Just because we’re so passionate about it. Not that we have a problem with that person. We’re just passionate about our business. We like it being treated as such,” Priest said. “Someone like Bad Bunny coming in, of course, there are going to be eye rolls and whatnot. But then you see the other side and it’s like, ‘Oh, no. He’s one of us.’ Seeing things like, for instance, we were walking backstage. At that time it was the Thunderdome. Randy Orton stops, because he was crossing like us, he stops and says, ‘Hey, I just wanted to say thank you for showing us the respect like no other. People don’t usually do it this way and I just want to say thank you and you’ve earned our respect.’ It wasn’t even about me. I was just standing there and I thought that was one of the coolest things ever… Bad Bunny actually understood how big that was. He was so humbled by that.”

Priest has undergone many character tweaks since joining the WWE roster last year. He leaned into the cheerier elements of his personality when teaming Bunny, and battled with the angel and devil on his shoulders late into his U.S. title run. Priest experienced more attitude adjustments in between and after those runs, but “The Archer of Infamy” welcomes the challenge.

“I’m fortunate that, for whatever reason, usually when I’m feeling that type of pressure and back against the wall situation that I have to figure out right now, I’m actually pretty good at that. I figure it out somehow. I’ve been fortunate with that,” Priest said. “I love the idea of having to be creative. I have to keep the wheels in my mind turning and figuring it out. I like that pressure because I have to do be successful.

“Then I was the United States champion Damian Priest where now I’m literally one of the faces because I’m a representative as a champion. We morphed that into the Damian and Priest, diving into why that’s my name and having both sides to me. Everybody has it in them to be mean and have rage and have a dark side. We make conscious decisions to let it out or not… Now I feel like I’m getting closer to really me. I’m just going to have fun and be a badass and wreak havoc. I’m really going to enjoy this. This is the best Damian Priest we’ve seen. I’m really excited about my direction right now.”

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