Dave Batista Interview
Batista was one of the top superstars of his generation, early on in his WWE career joining Evolution with Ric Flair, Triple H and Randy Orton, Batista would go on to become a six-time heavyweight champion.
‘The Animal’ also had memorable feuds with the likes of Eddie Guerrero and The Undertaker whilst also holding tag team gold with The Nature Boy, John Cena and Rey Mysterio.
Dave Bautista left the WWE in 2010 and has since embarked on an acting and MMA career. We caught up with Dave to talk about his time in the WWE, his recent MMA debut and his upcoming big screen debut.
When growing up who were some of the wrestlers that inspired you to get into the sport?
When I was a kid my favourite wrestler was The Warlord, he wasn’t in the league of guys like Hulk Hogan or Ricky Steamboat, but he was always my favourite because he was the largest human being I had ever seen.
How did you first get into the sport of professional wrestling?
I was living in Minneapolis at the time and WCW were holding open tryouts, so I actually just went to tryout at their Power Plant but I actually failed miserably and they kicked me out and told me never to come back. However I had got a buzz from it and had decided I wanted to pursue it.
You came through the OVW developmental territory with the likes of John Cena and Brock Lesnar, what was that experience like?
It was incredible, if you think back to the first class of OVW, there was John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Shelton Benjamin and myself. When we first started there, we were not spoilt at all, the facility was a dump, it was a little rough around the edges, but we all came out from there and made it to the top of professional wrestling.
OVW has vastly improved since in terms of the facility itself, but that first class of OVW that I was involved in has not been repeated since in terms of the talent that came out of there.
What was it like when you eventually made that step into the WWE and getting in the ring with guys like Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker?
It was so surreal, I remember my first big match against Shawn Michaels, I was in the ring watching him do his entrance and I was just standing there thinking is this a dream because it didn’t seem real. I had watched all of these guys on TV for years and then all of a sudden I’m in the ring with them, it was incredible.
Batista, Edge and The Undertaker
What was it like as part of Evolution and getting to work closely with Triple H and Ric Flair?
When I first went into the WWE I was really unsure what they were going to do with me, then they put me with Devon, which was a great experience and he really helped school me being on the road etc.
Then there was Evolution, and I had heard rumours about it since the day I arrived in the company but I didn’t believe it until it actually happened. Then when it happened I knew that’s where I wanted to be and it was the perfect spot to excel and to excel fast.
Working with guys like Triple H and Ric Flair, two of the best in the business ever and having full access to them on a day-to-day basis really helped me during my career.
During your time in the WWE you held numerous titles including a six-time World Champion and held tag-titles, what are some of the highlights from your time in the WWE?
My biggest highlights were winning tag team gold with Ric Flair on two occasions, then of course winning my first World Championship in 2005 at WrestleMania 21 against Triple H is up there. Another WrestleMania match, even though I lost, was against The Undertaker in 2007 and that was probably the biggest match of my career.
My favouirte match during my career was one that wasn’t televised or recorded and it was in Mexico when I got to work as a heel against Rey Mysterio. I wish we had that match on video because i think that was the best match of my career.
Trailer for WWE’s Batista ‘I Walk Alone’ DVD Set
Your departure from the WWE came in a very unique setting, who’s idea was it for you leave the way you did?
It was a long time coming, I had given the company nine months notice that I was going to be leaving and they were supportive, they didn’t really want me to go but they left the door open for me to return.
I think the storyline with me quitting in the wheelchair was one of Vince McMahon’s ideas, Vince and Michael Hayes are always coming up with the greatest things.
What is Vince McMahon like as a boss?
I’ve heard a lot of nightmare stories and I’ve had a lot of disagreements with Vince but he was a great guy to work for, because he was just like a locker-room guy. If you understood Vince was a businessman he was very easy to get along with, sometimes he would be your friend but other times he had to be the chairman of the company and he had to do business.
He was very fair as a boss, sometimes you hated him but otherwise he was a lot of fun and great to hangout with and he really understood how the locker-room worked.
Was MMA always something that you were interested in going into?
Not so much, I was really just a fan and then became a huge fan about six years back so I then started to do some martial arts training but was never really looking to compete professionally.
A year or two before I left the WWE, I then started to get a spark and thought about giving it a shot, and other guys like Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley were going from wrestling and competing in MMA and that’s when I thought I would really like to try this now.
Batista on the cover of November 2012′s edition of Muscle & Fitness
What did you make of Brock and Bobby’s MMA careers and is there anything you have learnt from them?
Both Brock and Bobby were very different fighters to myself, I think they both based their MMA careers on their wrestling ability, I’m the opposite, I prefer the standing-up approach, that is where I feel my game is at.
I have really gone out of my way to pursue traditional jiu-jitsu and I really consider myself a martial artist, so I haven’t really implemented the amateur wrestling style.
You won your first professional MMA fight, are the plans to get into the UFC?
No, that’s actually not my goal, and I have always said this isn’t a career for me it is something that I’m doing because I love it, and I’m just looking to take it fight by fight. I haven’t set any long-term goals or anything, I’m 43-years-old, I’m just being realistic. For me this has been a dream come true and I’m just doing this for personal reasons, as it is something I love to do.
Are there quite a few guys in the WWE locker-room who are fans of MMA?
I’m sure if you asked around you would find a lot of the guys are fans of MMA, you would also find that a lot of professional wrestling fans are MMA fans, and vice-versa, which I have found out during my tryouts and training.
What do you make of MMA stars like King Mo entering the world of professional wrestling?
I think it is awesome for professional wrestling, I think it was great Brock went back to the WWE, I think it is incredible King Mo has gone into professional wrestling and I think professional wrestling needs a dose of that credibility.
There was a long period of time in wrestling when the guys were pretty boys and they were more worried about how much baby oil they have on and how many flips they could do in the ring.
Having these MMA guys come in makes wrestling look more of a competitive sport and that is the art of professional wrestling, you want people to suspend their disbelief and I think that was really lost for a while.
You have a new film coming out The Man With The Iron Fists, and have starred in a few other films, is the acting something you would like to pursue more?
Yeah definitely, I’m going to have my first theatrical release coming out on November 2nd, which will be Man With the Iron Fists and I really hope that will open up more doors for me in Hollywood.
Sometimes now I walk through the doors in Hollywood and not everyone is aware of my work in professional wrestling, so it’s not always easy in Hollywood getting called in for parts, the very big parts are very limited. This is going to be a really badass movie so hopefully it opens a few more doors.