Tonight's NXT features a stacked card, and that includes a match between Damian Priest and Cameron Grimes. Grimes recently managed to get on the wrong side of Priest, and tonight Priest is looking to make him understand the consequences that come with that, especially when you cross someone who has momentum on his side. Priest is coming off of a win against Killian Dain during last week's NXT, but he's also gone toe to toe with heavyweights like Finn Balor and Keith Lee. ComicBook.com had the chance to talk to Priest about his recent match against Dain, his upcoming match against Grimes, what The Undertaker has meant to his career, and more, starting with how he's approaching Grimes and how it differs from his approach to someone like Dain.
"I see it like this, he's obviously very talented, but it's clearly a different style compared to Killian Dain like you said. Killian Dain, he's more of a brawler. He's a big boy, so I have to approach that more from a physicality standpoint," Priest said. "We're going to be standing up more. Where Cameron Grimes, I know what he's going to be coming for. He's going to be coming for a limb, especially now that I have an apparent target on my back, literally. I know what he's coming for, so it's just a matter of me protecting myself in that sense and trying to keep him up on his toes, as much as I can, until I drop him."
Priest put his body through the wringer during his match against Balor, especially his lower back, and while he's not 100%, he's not letting that stop him from putting down Grimes.
"Yeah. It's a little tender," Priest said. "At this point, it's more muscle soreness and pain than anything else. Nothing too serious. It's just that the muscles are so tightened up that sometimes if I move too fast I'll feel a jolt of pain, only because I need to really loosen up and warm up before I do physical activities. So it's just a matter of stretching and physical therapy to get moving, basically, but I'm okay. I'm cleared to go. It's not going to be an issue, as far as me being able to compete, put it that way."
At any point in time, every NXT star is dealing with some sort of physical injury or increased soreness due to the physical toll they put their bodies through every week, and that toll can at times be underappreciated. That said, Priest would actually rather have it that way than it being a constant topic.
"It's funny you say that. I guess so because it is true," Priest said. "There's always something that hinders, there's always something in pain, but I think it doesn't get recognized because we don't even recognize it. We're so used to it and accustomed to it, that we're just on a go, go, go mode. We get asked all the time, 'How you feeling?' The answer is easy, 'Fine. I'm great.' But, realistically, we're not. There's something sore. There's a muscle or a tendon or something. There's always something wrong with us, but we choose to kind of block out that pain. We're just focused on the goal at hand, which is usually to win a match. It doesn't get appreciated and brought up as much, but I think that's because of the way we treat it, where we don't even bring it up. I get why people don't talk about it as much. To be honest, I think we all prefer it that way. We don't want that to be a focal point. We don't want that to be the news. We want our ability, we want our match quality, we want that to be the focus on our business, basically."
Priest impressed during his matches with Lee and Balor, and although he didn't win those particular matchups, he is keeping his eye on the big prize, and that's his growing legacy.
"Those matches, obviously, the outcomes weren't what I wanted," Priest said. "I still believe that there's a lot more to be accomplished other than just winning matches. In our business, obviously you want to win matches so you can become a champion. More championships mean more stardom. More stardom means more money. More money, that just brings all the positives of why you're in this business."
"Of course, that's what I ultimately want, but what I can take away from those matches is I'm an equal, I can go," Priest said. "It's just a matter of time before I really hit my stride. I think that's where I'm getting to now, where I really understand that I needed that extra bit of focus to then get that win. I think the ability's there, my intent is there. The only thing I was lacking was maybe that extra push, that extra focus, and I think that's where I am now. Cameron Grimes, honestly, he's probably in the same boat that I'm in, where he's basically trying to make a name for himself and trying to make his legacy bigger, but I'm the roadblock standing in his way, and I think I'm a step ahead of him. What that will bring for me is another victory and another step forward in my chase of legacy."
Priest is focused on Grimes at the moment, but if he can clear that hurdle, we had to ask who he sees as the next challenge in that quest for legacy. There's plenty of names to choose from, including Johnny Gargano, Adam Cole, and Karrion Kross, just to name a few.
"You know, I take things one step at a time, so I don't have an actual target, per se, at the moment," Priest said. "I think right now I'm focused on Grimes. Once I'm done with him, then I have to really sit back and think of what's next. What's going to help me best in my quest for my name, right? Is that a championship? Is it a potential target, as far as just a person, because of what their name means? Like you said, Gargano. You could throw Ciampa's name in there. There's a lot of people that I would consider, 'Hey, if I could knock this dude off his pedestal, that's just going to raise my value.' I'm not sure. I think I would have to revaluate that once I'm done with Grimes."
Speaking of names like Gargano, we've seen a host of stars completely change their persona in recent months, though Priest has chosen to steadily evolve his persona and how he operates in the ring. That's how he prefers it, so you're probably not going to see him making any drastic changes anytime soon.
"Yeah, basically what you're saying right now is that it's natural," Priest said. "People change because of circumstance, and I think that circumstances for me have changed. I am who I am. I can't be something that I'm not. I can't do that. A huge change, it would have to be still within the realm of me being me because I don't know how to be someone else."
"Yes, I will continue to change, as far as what I need to do to keep improving," Priest said. "That's never going to end, that's never going to stop. If there's a time that I have to make a drastic change, I would do it, if I had to. I love being myself, and I don't know how to be anything other than that."
One of the names that played a big part in creating Priest's fire for professional wrestling is The Undertaker, who recently announced his retirement from WWE. Undertaker was of particular importance to Priest, who credits him for his love of the business and breaks down what he means to the world of wrestling.
"I guess it comes down to respect," Priest said. "The respect that he's had for the business, and that he demanded from everybody else in it. That's probably the number one thing. People that are in it that are successful, you have to have a certain respect for the business and treat it a certain way or get out because you don't belong. I think he's instilled that, and he's made sure that everybody around him has had the same mentality. That's probably the biggest influence he's had to the business, not just WWE, where people know how to act toward the business. The ones who don't, you'll see them fade away. They don't last. They might have a moment in the sun, but then that's it. The people who really last are the people who follow his lead, and it comes down to that, respect."
"For me, personally, I wouldn't even be in the business if it wasn't for The Undertaker," Priest said. "I fell in love with professional wrestling and WWE because of The Undertaker. I was a kid watching and I was mesmerized. I followed his entire career from then on. I mean, now I've had the chance to spend a little bit of time with him, and it's incredible. I was literally, right before we got on the phone to talk, I was looking at a picture from 21 years ago when I met him and I was shaking his hand as a kid. Now I see, because of the network and The Last Ride, that there's a clip going around of me shaking his hand. It's cool to see both pictures 21 years apart, me shaking his hand. It's incredible."0comments
You can watch Priest in action on tonight's episode of NXT, which airs on the USA Network at 8 PM EST every Wednesday.
You can follow along with live coverage of tonight's NXT right here on ComicBook.com or by finding me on Twitter @MattAguilarCB for all things NXT!
Disclosure: ComicBook is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.