Damian Priest is just eight weeks removed from one of WWE’s most chaotic matches of the year, a San Juan Street Fight against wildly popular recording artist Bad Bunny. That match, at WWE Backlash on May 6, contained a shopping cart full of weapons, a terrifying suplex off an audio rig through a table and the use of a heavy, metal chain.
The worst part, though? Getting hit over and over again by Bad Bunny with a kendo stick, Priest said.
“That’s one of the worst things that we introduced into this business,” Priest told ESPN. “I wish that somebody would’ve never brought those into this business, because man, those are killer, dude. It’s not just the day or when it happens, they leave these welts and anything you touch burns and they’re brutal.”
Priest landed a kendo stick shot on Bad Bunny, as well. The weapon, a bamboo or wooden staff used in training for the martial art of kendo in lieu of a sword, has been used as a “foreign object” in pro wrestling for decades.
“I hit him one time with the kendo stick and he said he couldn’t feel his arm for a second,” Priest said.
There are no breaks for Priest. He’ll perform in his first Money in the Bank ladder match Saturday, the signature match of the WWE live event in London. Priest and six other men have a chance to earn a title shot at any time by climbing the ladder and grabbing a briefcase with a contract in it.
The ladder match, one of the most dangerous in pro wrestling, is star-studded this weekend. YouTuber-turned-wrestling-phenom Logan Paul will be in it, along with Shinsuke Nakamura, LA Knight, Ricochet, Santos Escobar and Butch.
Priest is no stranger to working with celebrities like Paul, especially after that match with Bad Bunny two months ago in Puerto Rico.
“I know he was really banged up,” Priest said of the reggaeton superstar. “Apparently, it took him a few days to really get moving again, move around normal, which is to be fair. I understand because the soreness, it’s like being in a train wreck or a big, bad car wreck. Your whole body is sore. And it took him days to recover, and we don’t know when we’ll see him again after that one, because he apparently went through it really bad. Now, that’s what we go through all the time. The difference is we don’t get to take another year off. We got to go right back the following day or the following week.”
The bodies of pro wrestling stars have gone through a ton of abuse over the years, with immediate and then cumulative effects. Some wrestlers are not so lucky and the wrong spill or landing can be a career- or life-changing one.
“There’s nobody’s body that’s built for this,” Priest said. “This is what we do and it’s insane just because … there’s no offseason and we just keep going and going. And mainly because for the love of the business.”
ESPN asked some of the top names in WWE, including Priest, about the worst bumps — the wrestling term for falls — they’ve taken and what those felt like.
Braun Strowman, former WWE Universal champion
Let’s be real. The human body is not designed to get picked up and slammed on the ground. None of them feel good.
One of the worst bumps I ever took was when I got triple powerbombed by Bobby Lashley, Drew McIntyre and Baron Corbin in 2019. They were standing on top of the steel steps, and they powerbombed me through two tables. For some odd reason, that bump was just awful. I think it was just because there was so much weight in the ring that it was already collapsed or compressed, so there was no give in it. And then them putting me just through the tables, I remember hitting the mat, and it felt like I hit concrete. It just stopped and knocked the breath out of me and everything.
I was rolling around like a fish gasping for water.
Seth Rollins, WWE world heavyweight champion
I’ve fallen off the [20-foot-high] Hell in a Cell structure twice. First, I was young and full of piss and vinegar. Felt great, as young people do. The second one wasn’t even my match, mind you. It was Roman Reigns versus Braun Strowman [in 2018]. Brock Lesnar had come out and ripped the door off, ruining the whole match. And myself and Dean Ambrose (now Jon Moxley) had come out. Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre had come out, and somehow Dolph and I had been tasked with taking a big bump to save this rotten finish that the company had booked. Why I agreed to it? I’ll never know. But my lower back is still jacked up from that. And we’re talking like [five] years ago. So that’s the one.
I landed on the announce table. And we added a little pad on there? No, no. We’re tough. We got this. But we had wrestled a banger tag match at the beginning of the night. Then we came out at the end. So, I had been sitting for three hours. My body had fully tightened up. I tried to loosen up as best I could, but there’s no substitute. So, we went up there cold, came down cold. And I remember laying there just thinking, “This is it. I’m never going to walk again.” It was bad. I thought that was the end for me. Like maybe I’ll never wrestle again. Maybe that’s it. Maybe we hang it up tonight.
Cody Rhodes, 2023 WWE men’s Royal Rumble winner
I skin the cat, which is when you go over the top rope and you hang on. And one time when I did it, the mat wasn’t covering the boards underneath. So, there was a board jutting out. I just didn’t check the ring earlier in the day, which is why you should always check the ring. But the board hit me in the back.
So, as I’m dangling there, trying to look cool before I flip back into the ring, I thought I had blown my C4 vertebra or something. This was . I mean, I was able to finish the match and stuff, but it scratched me up a lot. And it also scared me from skinning the cat. So, if you see me do one, it’s random. The match was against Justin Gabriel. Oddly, it was not his fault nor mine. We just had no rhythm. Things like that were happening.
Damian Priest, former WWE United States champion
It was In Your House 2020 in NXT. I thought it was a good idea to try to slam Finn Balor on top of some steps off the apron. He ended up knocking me off the apron and I flew down to the floor where the steps were. And I’ll be honest, when I hit those steps, I thought I broke everything inside me. Like, everything.
The ref was counting and I was like, “I think I’m just going to get counted out.” I did not want to move. And then around when the referee was at 7, I was like, “Oh, I think I can move.” It was the middle to lower back that hit. So, when I fell back, I almost missed the steps, so it hit my middle and lower back, and then I landed on my head on the rest of the floor. So yeah, it was a good one.
Sami Zayn, former three-time WWE Intercontinental champion
I’m not sure if this is the worst, but the first one that comes to mind is a tag match I had with Kevin Owens against Nigel McGuinness and Go Shiozaki in Ring of Honor in 2008. I did like a flip dive while Kevin had Nigel in the sharpshooter. I was going to take out Go Shiozaki with a dive. I went to the top rope, and as I stood on the top rope, I go, “Wow, he’s so big and strong. I’m going to really go for it this time.” And I jumped as high as I could and flipped in midair. He did not catch me at all.
I just landed and felt all my organs go like, “Blerghh!” It’s like the outer part of my body kept my organs from exploding. But that’s all it did. It kept them in my body. But they all wanted to explode. There was a very thin mat, but it didn’t do much.
Kevin Owens, former WWE Universal Champion
The chokeslam from Braun Strowman onto the steel ramp at SummerSlam 2018. I felt a ringing in my body for about four months after. I don’t know if anything was structurally wrong, but not long after, I took six months off. I don’t know if that was related, but it didn’t help. I felt that for a long time.
Rhea Ripley, WWE Women’s World Champion
I’ve taken a lot of bad ones. There’s been a lot of crappy bumps in my life. But one of the worst was my Last Woman Standing match (which requires a wrestler to keep an opponent down for a 10-count, rather than the traditional three) with Raquel Rodriguez in NXT in 2021.
She gave me a back body drop onto the announcers’ table, but I didn’t make it to the table completely. I hit the edge, and then the table broke, but it legitimately screwed my back up and my lower back has never been the same. A lot of pain. It was just an awkward bump. And then to continue after that with the Last Woman Standing match, going through the stage, falling down the steps, and going through the glass, it was just a compilation of everything. Sometimes you get a weird spot and you can’t control it. It’s so random sometimes. Even the ref came to me, he’s like, “Are you OK?” I was like, “That sucked.”
Finn Balor, former WWE Universal champion
I was training in a gym in my home country of Ireland and tried this move that one of my friends called a backpack stunner, where you pick someone up like a piggyback and give him a stunner. They land on their butt. But whatever way it was, I was actually taller than the guy and I landed butt first with all of his weight and my weight. I cracked my tailbone. That’s one that sticks out. That was an absolute killer. I was like 20 or 22 years old.
There’s been another couple where I’ll do the flip dive over the top rope. I’ll miss the guy, or the guy will move out of the way. And those always hurt, too. They’ll knock the wind out of you. But the one, that injury to the tailbone lasted three or four months. It was terrible. I was just walking around in pain, trying to wrestle the best I could.
But I could go on for days. There was one, I got in a small package [pinning position] and whatever way he pulled me was so tight that when I twisted, my ribs popped. A small package, like the silliest move in the world. That was in New Japan Pro-Wrestling in 2010, a tag team tournament and the first of four matches over that weekend. It was against Davey Richards. He and Rocky Romero against Ryusuke Taguchi and me.
Bayley, former Raw and SmackDown women’s champion
One of the worst ones I took was in Saudi Arabia last year when I had my Last Woman Standing match with Bianca Belair for the Raw women’s title. And it was just a suplex onto the ramp, the ramp that you walked down at the entrance. And that was one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had in wrestling. It just knocked the wind out of me. I don’t know what kind of ramp that was. I don’t know if I wasn’t ready for it or what, but it knocked the wind out of me. That was bad. I was not expecting that.
My lower back felt like it just crumbled, from my tailbone and halfway up my back. It was one of those where you could feel it in your thighs. It shifted down to my thighs. It felt like it shattered and I was thrown into a cement wall. It kind of lingered a little bit. I was limping slightly after that, but even Bianca said the same thing. I think she took a belly-to-belly suplex on the ramp and she’s like, “I don’t know what that was.” She was like, “I saw my soul leave my body.”
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