Join DAZN and watch more than 100 fight nights a yearThe 37-year-old Puerto Rican is thriving with the brand, putting on impressive matches with the likes of Pete Dunne and Killian Dain over the past year. On Wednesday night’s edition of NXT television (airing weekly on the USA Network from 8-10 p.m. ET), he’ll be part of a huge Fatal 4-way match against Dominik Dijakovic, Keith Lee and Cameron Grimes with the winner becoming the No. 1 contender for the NXT North American championship, which is currently held by Roderick Strong.Sporting News recently spoke with the “Archer of Infamy” about his improvement since joining NXT, being a part of the brand during its current growth period, being able to adapt his style as a big guy, and his unique entrance. Tomorrow night on #WWENXT:👊 @RealKeithLee, @DijakovicWWE, @ArcherOfInfamy & @CGrimesWWE battle for a shot at the NXT North American Title⚫️ The #DustyClassic kicks off with #Gallus vs. #UndisputedERA and The #ForgottenSons vs. #Imperium… and MORE!https://t.co/1lfm05TiQt— WWE NXT (@WWENXT) January 7, 2020SPORTING NEWS: You have an opprtunity at the WWE Performance Center of having Shawn Michaels as one of your coaches. What’s the experience like have him break down your work and offer advice?DAMIAN PRIEST: My in-ring work, in general, and concept of this business has completely changed. This is my 16th year and I feel like I’ve learned more in the past year than I have in the first 15 because, obviously, with the brains of those two guys, it’s invaluable the amount of knowledge they have and not necessarily wanting to change you, just making what you do better which is the main philosophy that I learned there which is really cool. It’s been amazing and just the idea that I used to watch these guys on TV on a weekly basis and now, I’m texting and messaging them and picking their brains any time I want. It’s insane.SN: We’ve been watching you now for 16 years but, in some ways, it feels like we, the audience, are just now getting to know you. Do you feel that way?DP: Yeah. I’m the first one to admit that. People say “what took so long?” Well, me. I took so long. I know it was my own fault and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished lately. I wish I would have known now what I knew then but that’s the main thing. I feel like because of the knowledge that I’ve gained here, it’s like I just started. It really does feel that way and I’m still constantly asking “was that OK, is this good, how canI make this better?” like if I just started. To me, it’s a journey with everyone. You guys watch me and it’s like you’re seeing me for the first time, like I’m brand new and I feel that way too. I don’t feel like I’ve been doing this for that long. I feel like I just started so I completely understand that because I feel it too and I’m the one in the ring doing it. SN: You mentioned how much of a difference it’s made for you since joining NXT and working with people like Terry Taylor and Shawn Michaels. What, in particular, has been the biggest different in your growth as a performer?DP: Just understanding why. We do a lot of things in this business. Not just in the ring, everything involved in the business. But sometimes we forget that there’s got to be a purpose and we get so used to doing things just for the sake of doing them. I call that, because I am from the indies, I call it indie style where you do things for instant gratification no matter what we’re doing but here, it’s not that. Here, we have to explain it to ourselves as to why we do the things we do and have them make sense. Once you can do that, and you can make everything that we do and try to make it make sense, it makes everything so much better. I think I’ve actually gained more knowledge here as far as understanding as far as when I do something, it has to mean the most possible and there has to be a reason behind it.What’s my motivation? What’s my goal? Just a lot of things I never thought about before. Before, you just go into a match or promo or appearance but there has to be more to it. I used to fight before I was in pro wrestling and it’s the same thing for preparation. You can’t just go out there and start swinging wildly. You actually have to have a game plan, you have to have a reason and know how to defend yourself and create a game plan. It’s kind of the same thing where I never put two-and-two together and never realized that’s the way I should have always attacked this business.SN: You’ve been with NXT now for just over a year. What was that transition like? Was it intimidating or exciting?DP: For me, it was both of those things. I was excited, obviously. When I decided that this was what I wanted to do with my life so many years ago, there was one goal: to make it with this company. This is the company I grew up watching. This is where I wanted to be since I was a kid. So when I finally got here, it was exciting but then it was wait a minute, now I have to deliver and I’m standing toe-to-toe with the absolutely best that this business has. I’m standing across the ring from this talent that this company has is intimidating and having all these geniuses and legends in the business around you, speaking to you, it’s very intimidating and nerve-racking. So at first, yeah, I almost wasn’t sure if I was good enough or if I belonged here because it’s just so much in front of you so it takes a minute to get acclimated. I feel confident now and that’s because everyone helps you and makes sure that you’re confident enough to be here because there’s a reason why we got hired. When I first came in, it was very cool but it was very nerve-wracking at the same time where you start questioning yourself a lot. SN: Was there anything in particular that helped you get over that?DP: Just being there all the time because they keep us busy. I think that helps when you get used to doing something and you have consistency. It helps you get over the hump. It’s just like working out. A muscle will be sore at first but eventually, it will get used to it and it will grow and get better. I don’t think there was any particular moment. I’ve had plenty of sit-down talks with plenty of people, coaches — our head coach (Matt) Bloom is awesome, he’s a great guy to talk to if you have a problem, even if it’s personal — and it’s cool because these guys were “the boys” too, and girls, and they can give you a perspective that an office person can’t because they get it, they were there. They help us out and guide us and make as easy of a path as possible to success..@ArcherOfInfamy FLIES to the outside in a WILD brawl with @PeteDunneYxB and @KillianDain on #WWENXT! pic.twitter.com/6PwQ9xqRCi— WWE (@WWE) November 14, 2019SN: One thing that really stands out about NXT is the team effort and it’s something that gets talked about, especially by people that went through NXT. It wasn’t too long ago in the wrestling business where it was more about yourself than the brand. So, what’s it like being a part of this brand and this mentality of everyone focused on pulling for one another and the brand?DP: Yeah, you described that perfectly as far as the way it used to be. Now, I think a lot of it what has to do with it is that everyone wants the business to succeed now. Before, everyone just worried about one person and that was themselves. Now, it goes without saying that we have to be somewhat selfish because this in an individual business at the end of the day but overall, we still want the business as a whole to succeed so we have to work together to do that. There’s not one person that can do that on their own and I think we all understand that. And a lot of us have similar stories, overcoming adversity, the struggles of being out there and making zero to very little money just trying to make it and finally getting an opportunity.A lot of us have dealt with that so we can connect on that level so it helps and then, again, being around each other and seeing everybody work hard and motivating each other. It helps make you want to motivate somebody else and it keeps going and it’s a revolving door of people helping people. When you also have a staff around us doing the same thing and encouraging it, it makes it easier. It’s taught us, especially at the PC (Performance Center), it really focuses on the positive side of what we do because there are a lot of negatives. Obviously, we’re on the road all the time, we’re away from family but the positive is to keep motivating and helping each other so that we can live the happiest we can doing something we actually love.SN: There’s so much going on with NXT right now, especially over the past few months since the start of the weekly show on USA Network. There are a lot of different directions and potential matchups that are possible every week. What’s it like to be in the middle of that?DP: (laughs) It’s insane. it’s so cool. Every week, I come to work and it’s exciting because sometimes I don’t know who I’m going to work with or who I’m going to be in the ring with or what’s the plan but you know it’s going to be good no matter what. There’s nothing where I walk in going “oh, I hope I don’t have this today”. There’s no such thing so it’s exciting. It doesn’t matter who I work with because the talent across the board is through the roof. There is nothing going to work where I’m thinking I hope I don’t have to do this today. It’s always exciting. I don’t remember ever being happier in my life as far as career-wise and that’s because it’s exciting every weekend and every Wednesday. There are so many possibilities because there’s so much talent here. SN: You’re not only a big, agile guy but your style works so well with so many different people. We’ve seen that with someone like Killian Dain to somebody like Pete Dunne. Now, you have this big Fatal 4-Way match on NXT TV this week against Dominik Dijakovic, Keith Lee and Cameron Grimes. What do you think you mesh so well with people of different sizes and styles?DP: You know, everybody is different. For me, I was just honest with myself years ago and I wanted to be able to adapt and be good enough to put on a good performance against anybody and I worked on it. I worked on my agility to be able to move with somebody my size or bigger. And then I worked on things where if I have to slow down the pace and be the big man, so to speak, with someone smaller. I purposely like at that and it goes with watching matches, watching some back, watching people that knew how to work and then taking what pertains to me and finding something there and then using what I’ve learned. Then, having guys like Shawn Michaels kinda help me perfect it if there’s such thing in this business.I’m prideful in that because I work hard at it. I work hard at the fact that I wanted to be able to put on at least a halfway decent performance against anybody from any style. I’ve worked on developed a consistent in-ring ability with any star so I’ve studied European wrestling, Japanese wrestling, South American wrestling, and obviously American wrestling. I’ve studied a lot of different things and tried to train with people who teach that style so that I can adapt to it even easier. And like you said, we have this Fatal-4-way match and, you talk about styles and size differences, and here we go.SN: You have one of the coolest entrances in all of wrestling. How did that come together?And the earth becomes my throne…@WWENXTSick music by @thesilencer1027 🤘🏹#LiveForever pic.twitter.com/zLIgdPmyAo— Damian Priest 🏹 (@ArcherOfInfamy) June 28, 2019DP: When I was kid and fell in love with this business, it had nothing to do with the coolest move in the world or anything. For me, it was the spectacle, the idea of we can be perceived as something bigger than just your neighbor. I’ve always kept that, even when I worked in other companies, I always made sure that my presence was felt a little differently than everybody else. There’s no shortage of good pro wrestlers and good entertainers. There’s so many of them nowadays. But I’ve always been adamant about the way I was presented. I wanted to make sure it was special every time. I didn’t want somebody to turn on the TV midway through an entrance and change the channel. I wanted them to be intrigued without me even performing yet in the ring. That’s how I feel in love with the business. Back in the day, I watched The Undertaker’s entrance, I watched The Ultimate Warrior’s entrance and I was intrigued without even knowing what they were going to do in the ring. It was mesmerizing and I wanted to make sure that was a part of what my presentation was. I had a writeup of ideas that I brought to Triple H. He was super cool, didn’t turn down any ideas, he just morphed them to make them better and was very adamant about — in agreement with me about — that my presentation had to be unique and special because there’s no shortage of guys that can go in the ring. This company, especially our brand, it’s known for our go, go, go, in-ring style so that’s not an issue. The issue was creating something that stood out a little bit differently and created something a little more special which I’ve tried to do my entire career no matter where I worked. Here, with the production team we have, we’re able to do it in a way cooler way and I was excited. That was one of the things I was most excited about when I signed on to come to work here was the idea, the possibilities of presentation and how I could really get people’s attention without even having to throw a punch. It was exciting and then, when we actually did it, it’s my favorite thing. All the time when we go over things and ideas and I’m like as long as I have a full entrance, whatever you guys need me to do and everybody starts laughing because that, to me, is so important, the presentation aspect. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do and the way it’s perceived. People dig it and I’m glad because we worked hard at it.SN: On a final note, how are your friends and family in Puerto Rico following the recent earthquake?DP: I literally just got off the phone about 20 minutes ago. Yeah, everyone seems to be doing OK. I guess it’s more frightening because of the unknown of what’s coming. If another one hits in the water and there’s a big tsunami or something. It’s more of the fear of what might come next. As of now, everyone is OK. There’s a lot of power outages and structural damage here and there but the people are OK for the most part. That’s the main fear right now is what could come next. With everything that’s happened in recent years, they’re pretty resourceful at this point. In that sense, they’re going to continue doing their thing on the island but it just stinks because it’s one thing after another there. It can take a long time to get to where you want to go.NXT superstar Damian Priest is a perfect example. After 15 years of working on the independent circuit, he finally impressed the WWE brass and signed with the NXT brand in late 2018. It was a long road for the fighter-turned-wrestler who always had aspirations of making it to this stage.