Damian Priest WWE Screen grab: WWE

There was no shortage of storylines to come out of WWE’s WrestleMania XL weekend.

Cody Rhodes finished his story.

Paul “Triple H” Levesque established himself as the executive face of the company’s new era.

But in terms of elevation, no one received a bigger push in Philadelphia than Damian Priest.

“The Archer of Infamy” entered the weekend as a tag champion and left it holding the WWE World Heavyweight Championship via a memorable Money in the Bank cash-in following the opening match on WrestleMania‘s second night on Sunday. Pro wrestling might be predetermined, but the decision to put a top championship on a star is plenty symbolic, as it establishes that wrestler as one of the faces of the company moving forward.

Considering Priest’s newfound status as one of WWE’s pillars, it was notable to see the 41-year-old follow his crowning moment by signing with the Paradigm Talent Agency. According to Variety, Paradigm will “work to build his business across books, acting, marketing, unscripted and more,” signaling that the New York native has aspirations beyond the squared circle.

For anybody who has followed his WWE journey, it’s hardly a surprise.

Since first signing Priest — whose real name is Luis Martínez — WWE has made a concerted effort to elevate him into becoming one of its top stars. Following a two-year stint on the company’s developmental brand NXT, Priest was promoted to WWE’s main roster in early 2021 and quickly pushed into a program as the tag team partner of global music superstar Bad Bunny.

That WWE trusted Priest in such a spot so early into his main roster run spoke volumes, as did the fact that two years later, he fought Bad Bunny in a singles match in San Juan, Puerto Rico. By that point, Priest was already a part of the Judgement Day faction — one of WWE’s hottest acts — and the booking decision to give him the Money in the Bank briefcase last year only further cemented that the company had even bigger plans for him moving forward.

Progress in pro wrestling, however, isn’t always linear, and despite having the proverbial rocket strapped to him, Priest kind of got lost in the shuffle. Rhodes’ story dominated pro wrestling, as did the return of The Rock. Even in his own faction, Priest was probably a distant third in popularity behind Rhea Ripley and Dominik Mysterio.

But in the world of pro wrestling, the card is always subject to change, and regardless of how stale Priest’s run as “Señor Money in the Bank” might have felt at times, that was all rendered irrelevant once he cashed in on Sunday night. “You deserve it!” chants rang throughout Lincoln Financial Stadium as Priest kicked off Night 2 of the biggest WrestleMania in history as a newly crowned champion.

As for what’s next, Priest’s future outside the ring might be every bit as interesting as his future inside of it.

Under Vince McMahon, wrestlers taking on outside projects always seemed taboo and when wrestlers like The Rock would leave for Hollywood, it was often for good. But in recent years, it’s become far more commonplace for wrestlers to sign with top talent agencies with eyes on mainstream fame, although one could argue that the track record of wrestlers succeeding in doing so has been spotty at best.

But between his movie star good looks, prototypical pro wrestler physique, and bilingual ability, Priest is as good of a bet as there is for a wrestler to have crossover appeal. It’s not hard to imagine him playing a critical role in a superhero movie and as his pro wrestling career has already proven, he’s just as capable of being a good guy as he is a bad guy.

As was beaten over the audience’s head like a steel chair this weekend, it’s a new era for WWE — not just in the ring, but outside of it as well. Appearing on The Town with Matthew Belloni last week, WWE president Nick Khan noted that the company has no shortage of intellectual property to mine for mainstream projects, and considering Priest’s already impressive resume — to say nothing of the obvious comparisons to The Undertaker — he certainly fits into that strategy.

But first, he has a title to defend.


About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.