WRESTLEMANIA 37/BAD BUNNY: Wrestling with Bad Bunny as WWE friends (and foes) sound off ahead of his Wrestlemania match (Billboard.com)

Posted on 4/09/121 by Mike Informer



Bro, Im shaking.

Thats what WWE Superstar Damian Priest says Bad Bunny
confessed to him backstage as they waited to appear on
screen at WWEs Royal Rumble event in January. It wasnt the
sentiment youd expect from a world-famous Latin music star
who had performed during the Super Bowl halftime show a year
earlier, but it made sense. Its not every day you get to
live out your childhood dream.

Bunny had watched wrestling religiously since he was a kid
in Puerto Rico, and now he was set to make his debut as an
on-screen character at one of WWEs biggest shows of the
year. Priest could relate. The leather-clad big man would
also begin his run on WWEs main roster that night in St.
Petersburg, Fla.

Watch Bad Bunny Perform 'Booker T' on WWE's Royal Rumble
We were both a little rocky beforehand in the back, Priest
says. I think laughing about how nervous we were kind of
eased our nerves.

Priest has become Bunnys closest friend in WWE both on and
off screen. Now, hell be watching closely as El Conejo
Malo readies for another WWE milestone, fighting The Miz
and John Morrison at Wrestlemania, which this year airs live
from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa April 10 and 11 on NBCs
Peacock streaming service.

WWE trainer and on-screen authority figure Adam Pearce,
along with WWE superstar Drew Gulak were tasked with
training Bunny for his match. And they admit they had some
initial skepticism.

I think it was intimidating for him, like it would be for
any new prospect walking into the WWE Performance Center,
Pearce says of Bunnys first day at WWEs Orlando training
facility. I saw him looking around and marveling at the
pictures and ring, like Man, this is real. It got even
more real when Bunny took his first bump, which is
wrestling parlance for a fall onto the mat or ground. I
read somewhere that a backward fall onto a mat feels like a
30 mile-per-hour car crash. That first one, [Bunnys] eyes
got wide and his soul leaped out of his chest, says Pearce.

Pearce says Bunny began his training after the holidays, and
usually hits the ring a couple times a week -- except for
the few weeks that he missed in March. But he had a valid
excuse for his absence, one that Pearce had never heard in
his quarter century in wrestling: Bunny was nominated for a
Grammy (which he won) and would be performing at the
ceremony.

Bunnys transition to wrestling hasnt been seamless. But
Pearce has been impressed with Bunnys persistence and how
seriously he takes the craft. When you take your first
steps in any journey, youre going to goof up. And that
happened, Pearce says. I wanted to look him in the eye and
see how he was going to react to that kind of thing. Hes
competitive with himself. But he never quits. He always
says, 'Lets do it again. Hes all in. You cant teach
that. (Bunny, through his representative, declined to take
part in this story.)

Pearce, along with Gulak, prepared Bunny for his now-viral
jump off the top rope at the Royal Rumble. He says Bunny
must have practiced the move a hundred times. While Pearce
acknowledges that Bunnys left foot slipped upon take-off
due to a sweaty top rope, as sometimes happens, he was proud
to see Bunny still hit his targets outside the ring.

I gave him a hug [afterward], Pearce says. He was smiling
from ear to ear. He has told me personally this was a dream
for him. And that was step one in making his dream a
reality.

Not as excited for Bunny was The Miz -- at least not
publicly. The MTV Real World star-turned-two-time-WWE Champ
was one of two wrestlers on the receiving end of Bunnys
splash, along with his right-hand-man John Morrison. The Miz
wrecked Bunnys DJs turntables earlier that night, after
Bunny turned down his offer to collaborate on music, which
set up their storyline.

It wasnt fun. I wasnt like Yay, Bad Bunny jumped on
me, says The Miz, partially staying in character. [WWE]
made a T-shirt out of it. And by the way, that T-shirt is
one of the best-selling WWE T-shirts in the last couple
years. Ive been trying to get a T-shirt that sells really
well for years. And the one Im on is Bad Bunny jumping on
me? Fantastic

As nice of a bonus as T-shirt sales are, nothing tops the
mainstream media coverage and massive social media following
that Bunny has brought to the table. Its why a niche form
of entertainment like WWE is so enamored with incorporating
celebrities.

But no celeb has carried the WWE flag like Bunny has. This
is a Billboard chart-topping artist who has a song named
after Booker T -- which he performed at the Rumble -- and
music videos featuring the aforementioned former WWE Champ
and fellow wrestling legends Ric Flair and Stone Cold
Steve Austin.

And then there was Saturday Night Live. Bunny was the
musical guest five days after winning the WWE 24/7
Championship, and showed off his new title during his Te
Deseo Lo Mejor performance -- just because. Everybody [in
the locker room] thought that was so cool, Priest says. He
didnt have to do that. He knew it would put eyes on our
product.

From John Cena to Booker T, 10 Times Bad Bunny Paid Tribute
to Wrestling
There were conflicting reports about whether or not Bunny
was well-received in the WWE locker room, as the screen time
he takes up is screen time taken from other wrestlers.
Priest insists that Bunny is well-liked in the back, and has
shown nothing but respect and admiration for his peers.

In fact, being the wrestling fanboy that he is, sometimes
Bunny has to temper that admiration. I see it all the
time, Priest says, laughing. Hell see somebody and be
mesmerized. I know he was excited to talk to Randy Orton at
the last Raw. But hes mostly quiet and doesnt want to
intrude.

The Miz, ever the heel, wasnt as willing to call Bunny a
beloved figure in the locker room. He preferred to lean into
the idea that his Wrestlemania opponent is resented for
holding other wrestlers back.

Superstars work their entire life to get a Wrestlemania
match, Miz says, again partially in character. This guy
comes in a couple months ago and is now going against one of
the most decorated superstars ever at Wrestlemania? Im not
just doing this for me. Im doing this for every superstar
who isnt on the Wrestlemania card the ones whose spot he
took. He thinks hes going to waltz in and embarrass me, but
thats not going to happen. You step into my ring, you are
going to get hurt.

The Miz isnt the only one talking a big game. After months
of training Bunny, Pearce proudly feels his most famous
student is going to surprise the WWE Universe and says
fans havent seen anything yet. But what happens after the
ref counts to three, and a victorious Miz or Bunny gets his
arm raised by the referee? Will Bad Bunny continue to live
out his lucha libre dreams -- or does he go back to his day
job as one of the worlds biggest pop stars?

I dont know, Pearce says. I dont think this guy has a
pause button. If hes interested in continuing in sports
entertainment, I cant see any reason why we wouldnt want
to have him.
































































































































































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