Damian Priest

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Damian Priest
Priest in 2017
Birth nameLuis Martínez[1]
Born (1982-09-26) September 26, 1982 (age 41)
New York City, U.S.[2]
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s)Damian Martinez[1]
Damian Priest
Luis Martinez[1]
Punisher Martinez[1]
Punishment Martinez[1]
Billed height6 ft 5 in (196 cm)[3]
Billed weight249 lb (113 kg)[3]
Billed fromNew York City
Trained byMonster Factory[1]
DebutMarch 25, 2005[4]

Luis Martínez[1] (born September 26, 1982) is an American professional wrestler. He is currently signed to WWE, performing on the Raw brand under the ring name Damian Priest. He is a member of The Judgment Day stable and is the current World Heavyweight Champion in his first reign.

He is also known for his work in Ring of Honor (ROH) under the ring name Punishment Martinez, where he is a former one-time ROH World Television Champion.[5] He also worked in Japan through ROH's relationship with New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW). Martínez joined WWE in 2018 and began on its developmental brand, NXT, under his current ring name, winning the NXT North American Championship once. In 2021, he moved to WWE's main roster and has since won the WWE United States Championship once, the 2023 Men's Money in the Bank contract, and is a four-time tag team champion, holding the Raw and SmackDown Tag Team Championships twice each under the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship banner with fellow Judgment Day stablemate Finn Bálor, being the only tag team to have done so.

Early life[edit]

Martínez was born in New York City to his Nuyorican parents, but raised in the municipality of Dorado, Puerto Rico.[6] While living in Dorado, he saw the World Wrestling Council on television and developed an interest in becoming a pro wrestler.[6] He learned Japanese Gōjū-ryū karate from his martial artist father. After winning two national championships in full-contact martial arts, Martínez decided to embark on a career in professional wrestling.[1] When he returned to the States, Spanish was still his first language and he underwent a period of cultural adaptation. He was 10 years old when he returned and lived primarily in The Bronx.

Professional wrestling career[edit]

Independent circuit (2005–2015)[edit]

Martínez trained at the Monster Factory and won several titles in Monster Factory Pro Wrestling. In 2013, Martínez attended a Ring of Honor (ROH) training camp and went on to train at the ROH dojo.

Ring of Honor (2015–2018)[edit]

Martinez (left) during a match against Flip Gordon in February 2018

His first appearance at an ROH show was in 2015 under his real name, Luis Martínez, where he competed in two dark matches, losing the first to The Romantic Touch and winning the second alongside Shaheem Ali against Hellcat and Mattick.[7]

Martínez made his return in Ring of Honor, billed as "Punisher Martinez", at the ROH Top Prospect Tournament where he defeated Colby Corino in the first round.[8] Martinez lost to Lio Rush in the semifinals; however, despite the loss, Martinez was signed to a contract by Ring of Honor. He became a villain when he aligned himself with B. J. Whitmer and Kevin Sullivan, entering a rivalry with their adversary Steve Corino. On September 16, 2016, Martinez took part in the 2016 Honor Rumble, where he had an impressive showing before ultimately being eliminated.[7] In early November he participated in the 2016 Survival of the Fittest, where he ended up being eliminated in the final Six Man Mayhem match. Martinez and Whitmer went on to briefly feud with the former ROH World Tag Team Champions War Machine (Hanson and Raymond Rowe), first wrestling them to a no contest and then defeating them in an anything-goes match.[7]

Through ROH's working relationship with New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW), Martinez appeared at the two-day Honor Rising: Japan 2017 event. On the first night, Martinez teamed up with Los Ingobernables de Japón members Hiromu Takahashi and Tetsuya Naito to defeat Dalton Castle, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Ryusuke Taguchi, with Martinez picking up the win for his team. On the second night, Martinez unsuccessfully challenged Hirooki Goto for the NEVER Openweight Championship.[9][10][11][12] Using the name Damian Martinez, he returned to ROH to unsuccessfully compete in a Manhattan Mayhem Battle Royal for the #1 Contendership to the ROH World Championship. Martinez also entered a Battle Royal for the #1 Contendership to the ROH World Television Championship, which he also lost.[13] On February 11, Martinez and B. J. Whitmer defeated War Machine, but after the match, Martinez turned on Whitmer by hitting him with his South of Heaven finishing maneuver.

Martinez won his first championship in ROH on June 16, 2018, defeating Silas Young for the World Television Championship at night two of the Promotion's "State of the Art" event in Dallas, Texas. Martinez had qualified for an opportunity at said championship earlier that same evening by pinning Cheeseburger in a six-way Proving Ground match.[14] Martinez would make another successful title defense at Best in the World 2018 against "Hangman" Adam Page in a Baltimore Street Fight.[15] At Death Before Dishonor XVI, he successfully defended the title against Chris Sabin. After the match, he attacked Sabin, until Jeff Cobb made the save.[16] On September 29, his contract with Ring of Honor expired and he opted out of a contract offer. In his final appearance for the promotion, Martinez dropped the Television Championship against Cobb.[17]

WWE[edit]

Early beginnings (2018–2020)[edit]

Before signing with the WWE, Martinez made an appearance at Money in the Bank 2014, playing the role of a security guard standing behind Stephanie McMahon who confronted The Bella Twins.[18]

On October 12, 2018, it was reported that Martinez had signed a contract with WWE; six days later he was formally introduced among other new members to the NXT brand.[19] At an NXT taping on December 5, he made his debut as a heel, losing to Matt Riddle.[20] On April 15, 2019, it was reported that Martinez would be repackaged as "Damian Priest",[21] although he still used the "Punishment Martinez" name in house shows.[22] Vignettes soon began airing which reintroduced Martinez as Damian Priest.[23] On the June 19, 2019, episode of NXT, he made his debut under the character, defeating Raul Mendoza.[24] On the July 24 episode of NXT, he defeated Keith Lee in his second appearance.[25]

On the October 2 episode of NXT, Priest started a feud with Pete Dunne and Killian Dain,[26] culminating in a triple threat match at NXT TakeOver: WarGames on November 23 for the #1 contendership to the NXT Championship, in which Dunne was victorious.[27] Priest was also a part of the 5-on-5-on-5 Survivor Series pay-per-view match the following day, representing Team NXT in a losing effort to Team SmackDown and Team Raw, where he was eliminated by Randy Orton.[28] In January 2020, Priest was included in a storyline around the NXT North American Championship with Keith Lee and Dominik Dijakovic. Priest would have an opportunity for the title against Lee and Dijakovic on April 1,[29] and a singles match against Lee on April 22, but lost both times.[30][31]

NXT North American Champion (2020–2021)[edit]

On the April 22 episode of NXT, Finn Bálor was attacked backstage by an unknown attacker.[30] Priest was revealed as the unknown attacker on the May 13 episode of NXT,[32] culminating in a match between the two at TakeOver: In Your House on June 7, where Priest lost to Bálor.[33] Despite losing the match, his performance was highly praised by Triple H,[34] and on the June 10 episode of NXT, he praised Bálor during a backstage segment, turning face in the process.[35]

On the August 5 episode of NXT, Priest defeated Oney Lorcan and Ridge Holland to qualify for the NXT North American Championship ladder match at NXT TakeOver: XXX on August 22.[36] At the event, Priest won the title, earning his first championship in WWE.[37] He made his first title defense on the September 16 episode of NXT, defeating Timothy Thatcher.[38] The following week, NXT General Manager William Regal announced that Priest would defend the title against Johnny Gargano at NXT TakeOver 31 on October 4,[39] in which he successfully retained the title.[40] However, Priest lost the title to Gargano at Halloween Havoc on October 28 in a Devil's Playground match, ending his reign at 65 days.[41]

On the November 11 episode of NXT, Priest distracted Gargano during his title defense against Leon Ruff, which caused Gargano to lose the title to Ruff.[42] The following week, Ruff retained the title against Gargano by disqualification after Priest punched Ruff during the match, disabling Gargano to win the title.[43] This soon transitioned into a triple threat match for the NXT North American Championship, which took place at NXT TakeOver: WarGames on December 6. During the match, Priest was attacked by a masked character and its gang that attacked him previously at Halloween Havoc, who was soon revealed to be Austin Theory; as a result, Priest lost the match with Gargano winning the title by pinning Ruff.[44]

On the December 9 episode of NXT, Priest looked forward to revenge against Theory but was viciously attacked by a returning Karrion Kross from behind.[45] The following week, Kross challenged Priest to a match at New Year's Evil, which Priest accepted.[46] At New Year's Evil on January 6, Priest lost to Kross in his final match in NXT.[47]

United States Champion (2021–2022)[edit]

At the Royal Rumble pay-per-view on January 31, 2021, Priest entered at #14, eliminating John Morrison, The Miz, Elias and Kane before being eliminated by Bobby Lashley.[48] A day later, Priest made his debut on Raw after being introduced by Bad Bunny during a Miz TV segment, while defeating Miz later that night.[49] On the February 15 episode of Raw, Priest helped Bad Bunny win the 24/7 Championship by knocking out Akira Tozawa, who pinned R-Truth moments ago.[50] Over the following weeks, Priest began a winning streak, defeating the likes of Angel Garza,[51] Elias,[52] and Jaxson Ryker.[53] On the April 5 episode of Raw, Priest and Bad Bunny challenged John Morrison and the Miz to a tag team match at WrestleMania 37, which they accepted.[54] On the first night of the event on April 10, Priest and Bad Bunny defeated The Miz and Morrison.[55] On the Raw after WrestleMania, The Miz and Morrison challenged Damian Priest to a 2-on-1 handicap match, but despite dominating most of the match, Priest lost due to outside interference by Maryse, marking his first loss on the main roster.[56] They continued their feud, which set up a Zombie Lumberjack match (as part of a promotional tie-in for the 2021 zombie film Army of the Dead) between The Miz and Priest at WrestleMania Backlash on May 16 Priest won.[57] Briefly after, he took time off due to a back injury.[58]

On the July 12 episode of Raw, Priest returned to save Humberto Carrillo from attack by Sheamus, the reigning United States Champion after their title match, thus starting a rivalry between Priest and Sheamus.[59] Priest challenged Sheamus to a match at SummerSlam for the title on the August 9 episode of Raw, which Sheamus accepted.[60] At SummerSlam on August 21, Priest defeated Sheamus to win the United States Championship for the first time in his career.[61] On the August 30 episode of Raw, he retained the title against Sheamus and Drew McIntyre in a triple threat match.[62] On the September 6 episode of Raw, Sheamus defeated McIntyre to earn his rematch against Priest at Extreme Rules.[63] Priest retained the title against Jeff Hardy on the September 13 episode of Raw.[64] At Extreme Rules on September 26, Priest retained the title in a triple-threat match against Sheamus and Hardy.[65] On the following episode of Raw, Priest retained the title against Sheamus in a no-disqualification, no count-out match, ending their feud.[66]

On the October 25 episode of Raw, with a new, revamped character, he defeated T-Bar when the latter threw a chair at the former outside the ring; as a result, Priest viciously attacked T-Bar, turning himself into a tweener.[67] At Survivor Series on November 21, Priest lost to Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura by disqualification in a champion vs. champion match after his ally Rick Boogs repeatedly distracted Priest, despite the latter warning the former not to do it. After another distraction, Priest attacked both Nakamura and Boogs, thus losing the match by disqualification, making it his second loss on the main roster.[68] On the following episode of Raw, he retained the title against Sami Zayn,[69] and against Apollo Crews,[70] Robert Roode,[71] and Dolph Ziggler in the following weeks.[72]

On the February 14 episode of Raw, he retained the title against AJ Styles.[73] The following week, he retained against Shelton Benjamin, before getting challenged by Finn Bálor after the match.[74] On the February 28 episode of Raw, Priest lost the United States Championship to Balor, ending his reign at 191 days. After the match, Priest attacked Bálor, fully turning heel for the first time since May 2020 and for the first time on the main roster.[75]

Formation of The Judgment Day (2022–2023)[edit]

Priest (right) joined The Judgment Day in April 2022.

On the second night of WrestleMania 38 on April 3, Priest distracted AJ Styles during his match against Edge, causing Styles to lose the match. After the match, Edge celebrated his victory with Priest, starting an alliance between the two.[76] On the April 25 episode of Raw, Edge and Priest were dubbed The Judgment Day, after which, Priest defeated Bálor in a singles match.[77] At Hell in a Cell on June 5, The Judgment Day (Edge, Priest and Rhea Ripley) defeated Styles, Finn Bálor, and Liv Morgan in a six-person mixed tag team match.[78] The next night on Raw, Edge introduced Bálor as the newest member of The Judgment Day. However, Bálor, Priest and Ripley suddenly attacked Edge, kicking him out of the stable.[79] The Judgment Day then began a feud with the Mysterios (Rey and Dominik) in an attempt to recruit Dominik into their ranks. At SummerSlam on July 30, Priest and Bálor were defeated by the Mysterios following interference from a returning Edge.[80] At Clash at the Castle, Priest and Bálor lost to Edge and Rey Mysterio in a tag team match, where Dominik turned heel on both of them to join The Judgment Day.[81][82] On November 5, at Crown Jewel, Priest, Bálor, and Dominik defeated The O.C. (Styles, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson) in a six-man tag team match after interference from Ripley.[83] On the November 28 episode of Raw, The Judgment Day defeated The O.C. in an eight-person mixed tag team match to end their feud.[84]

On the January 9, 2023, episode of Raw, Priest, Bálor and Dominik won a tag team turmoil match for a Raw Tag Team Championship opportunity against The Usos.[85] At Raw is XXX on January 23, The Usos successfully defended the championship against Priest and Dominik despite Jimmy Uso's injury, with Sami Zayn taking Jimmy's place.[86] At the Royal Rumble on January 28, Priest entered the Royal Rumble match at #22 and although he and Balor were eliminated by the returning Edge, they eliminated him as a result with help from Dominik afterwards.[87] On the February 6 episode of Raw, Priest defeated Angelo Dawkins to qualify for the Elimination Chamber match for the United States Championship.[88] At Elimination Chamber on February 18, Priest failed to win the title inside the namesake structure.[89]

On the Raw after WrestleMania 39, Priest got involved in Dominik's confrontation with Bad Bunny, Priest's WrestleMania 37 tag team partner. Priest ended up chokeslamming Bad Bunny through the announcer's table.[90] Bad Bunny returned on the April 24 episode of Raw and challenged Priest to a San Juan street fight at Backlash.[91] Priest lost at Backlash after Savio Vega and Carlito interfered for Bad Bunny.[92] On May 7, Priest, alongside Bálor, were selected as the Raw participants for the new World Heavyweight Championship tournament.[93] However, Priest lost his qualifying match to Seth "Freakin" Rollins at the quarterfinals round on the May 8 episode of Raw.[94] Rollins went on to become the inaugural World Heavyweight Champion at Night of Champions. On the June 5 episode of Raw, Priest unsuccessfully challenged Rollins for the World Heavyweight Championship. Bálor interfered during the match to Priest's chagrin as Priest claimed he did not need The Judgment Day to beat Rollins.[95]

Money in the Bank and World Heavyweight Champion (2023–present)[edit]

Priest defeated Matt Riddle to qualify for the men's Money in the Bank ladder match on the June 12 episode of Raw.[96] At Money in the Bank, Priest won the match after delivering a Broken Arrow to LA Knight off of a ladder. Later that night, Priest appeared halfway through the World Heavyweight Championship match between Bálor and Rollins. Priest's presence distracted Bálor, allowing Rollins to take advantage and win the match, much to Bálor's irritation.[97] At Payback on September 2, Priest and Bálor defeated Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn to win the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship after interference from Dominik, Ripley and JD McDonagh. Priest became the third wrestler to win a title and hold the Money in the Bank briefcase simultaneously, the first being Rob Van Dam with the Intercontinental title in 2006 and The Miz in 2010 with the United States Championship.[98] On the September 25 episode of Raw, Priest and Bálor defeated Owens and Zayn in a rematch to retain their titles.[99] At Fastlane, Priest and Bálor lost the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship to Cody Rhodes and Jey Uso after JD McDonagh accidentally hit Priest with his briefcase, ending their first reign at 35 days.[100] Priest and Bálor, however, regained the titles in a rematch on the October 16 episode of Raw.[101]

At Crown Jewel on November 4, Priest attempted to cash in on Seth Rollins after his successful title defense against Drew McIntyre, but Zayn stopped him and ran off with the briefcase before he could officially do so. Later that night, Priest lost to Rhodes despite interference from Bálor, Dominik, and McDonagh.[102] On the November 13 episode of Raw, Priest agreed to make McDonagh an official member of The Judgment Day. Later that night, Priest and Bálor defeated Rhodes and Uso in a rematch to retain their titles after interference from McIntyre.[103] On the November 24 episode of SmackDown, Priest and Bálor successfully defended their titles against The Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford).[104] The next night at Survivor Series: WarGames, Priest participated in his first WarGames match alongside The Judgment Day against Rhodes, Rollins, Uso, Zayn, and the returning Randy Orton in a losing effort.[105] On the December 18 episode of Raw, Priest and Bálor successfully defended their titles against The Creed Brothers (Brutus Creed and Julius Creed).[106] At Royal Rumble on January 27, 2024, Priest entered the namesake match at #26, eliminating R-Truth before being eliminated by Sami Zayn.[107] On the following episode of Raw, Priest and Bálor defeated DIY (Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa) to retain their titles.[108] At Elimination Chamber: Perth on February 24, Priest and Bálor successfully defended the titles against New Catch Republic (Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate).[109] On Night 1 of WrestleMania XL on April 6, Priest and Bálor lost the SmackDown Tag Team Championship to A-Town Down Under (Austin Theory and Grayson Waller) and the Raw Tag Team Championship to The Awesome Truth (The Miz and R-Truth) respectively in a six-pack tag team ladder match, ending their second reign with the undisputed titles at 173 days.[110]

The following day, at Night 2 of WrestleMania XL, Priest successfully cashed in his Money in the Bank contract on Drew McIntyre to win the World Heavyweight Championship following an attack by CM Punk, becoming the second person to cash in at WrestleMania, as well as the first world champion of Puerto Rican descent, and second overall, since Pedro Morales in 1971.[111] At Backlash France on May 4, Priest successfully defended his title in his first title defense against Jey Uso after interference from Bálor and McDonagh despite asking them not to interfere.[112]

Professional wrestling style and persona[edit]

Martinez is known to have a deep voice, which has helped him in his promos to maintain the menacing, dark character while working as Punishment Martinez in Ring of Honor.[113][114][115] In WWE, "Damian Priest" was previously intended to be a similar, but darker, more intense character than the characters that Martinez has represented previously in other promotions,[116] however, his character gradually evolved and developed a more machismo, rockstar-like attitude that pursues more fame, recognition and success, and the character is further emphasized by portraying bars, parties and women frequently with him in backstage segments. Therefore, he has been referred to as "The Archer of Infamy".[117][118][119][120]

On the October 25, 2021, episode of Raw, Priest debuted a new character, having a more calm and composed personality with a darker and fiercer side described as the "Damian inside [of him]", which would be seen when provoked or disrespected.[121][122] This character would be discontinued after Martinez turned heel in early 2022, subsequently becoming part of The Judgment Day following WrestleMania 38.

His wrestling style involves various power moves as well as high-flying moves, and his striking is heavily influenced by his background in martial arts.[123] He uses the Razor's Edge (a crucifix powerbomb, inherited from Razor Ramon, his childhood wrestling idol)[124][125] and also a release suplex slam which has been dubbed Broken Arrow. His finisher is a rolling cutter called The Reckoning. After debuting on the main roster, it was renamed Hit The Lights since the 2021 Royal Rumble, potentially due to sharing the name with Mia Yim, also known as "Reckoning" at the time, as a member of Retribution.[126] The name was reverted to The Reckoning on July 26, 2021 episode of Raw.[127] He also uses a sitout chokeslam called the South of Heaven as his finisher, originally utilized when he was working with ROH, but has used it more recently in WWE since becoming part of The Judgment Day.[128][129][130]

Personal life[edit]

Martinez is a melophile, being heavily influenced by rock and heavy metal.[131] He and his family has known and interacted with various music bands and personalities, like Bad Bunny, Dee Snider, and Eddie Ojeda.[132][133]

Martinez is also a big fan and a collector of hand-to-hand combat weapons.[134]

Martinez cites Pedro Morales,[135] Scott Hall[136] and The Undertaker as his inspirations in wrestling.[137] He is good friends with fellow wrestlers Keith Lee, Matt Riddle, and Rhea Ripley.[138][139][140]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

Priest is the current World Heavyweight Champion

References[edit]

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  2. ^ "Damian Priest News, Videos and Biography". December 2, 2020.[unreliable source?]
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  43. ^ Moore, John (November 18, 2020). "11/18 NXT TV results: Moore's review of Io Shirai vs. Rhea Ripley for the NXT Women's Title, Leon Ruff vs. Johnny Gargano for the NXT North American Title, Dexter Lumis vs. Cameron Grimes in a blindfold match, NXT Champion Finn Balor returns". Pro Wrestling Dot Net. Retrieved September 9, 2022.
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  54. ^ Powell, Jason (April 5, 2021). "4/5 WWE Raw Results: Powell's live review of the brand's final push for WrestleMania 37 with WWE Champion Bobby Lashley vs. Cedric Alexander in a non-title match, Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler vs. Rhea Ripley and Asuka in a non-title match, Drew McIntyre vs. King Corbin". Pro Wrestling Dot Net. Retrieved September 9, 2022.
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  63. ^ Powell, Jason (September 6, 2021). "9/6 WWE Raw Results: Powell's live review of Charlotte Flair vs. Nia Jax for the Raw Women's Championship, Tag Team Turmoil for a Raw Tag Title shot, Drew McIntyre vs. Sheamus for a U.S. Title shot, Natalya and Tamina vs. Rhea Ripley and Nikki ASH in a non-title match". Pro Wrestling Dot Net. Retrieved September 9, 2022.
  64. ^ Powell, Jason (September 13, 2021). "9/13 WWE Raw Results: Powell's live review of Bobby Lashley vs. Randy Orton for the WWE Championship following Big E's threat to cash in the MITB contract, Damian Priest vs. Jeff Hardy for the U.S. Title, Raw Women's Champion Charlotte Flair vs. Shayna Baszler in a non-title match, Rhea Ripley vs. Natalya". Pro Wrestling Dot Net. Retrieved September 9, 2022.
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  66. ^ Powell, Jason (September 27, 2021). "9/27 WWE Raw Results: Powell's live review of Big E vs. Bobby Lashley for the WWE Championship, Charlotte Flair's open challenge for the Raw Women's Championship, Damian Priest vs. Sheamus in a No DQ, No Count-Out match for the U.S. Title, Riddle vs. AJ Styles". Pro Wrestling Dot Net. Retrieved September 9, 2022.
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External links[edit]

Preceded by Mr. Money in the Bank
2023
Succeeded by
Incumbent