Wrestlemania 35: 11 Things About Batista's Wrestling Career You Didn't Know
By Kevin Wong on
The massive Batista is returning to WWE at Wrestlemania 35, in a No Holds Barred match against Triple H. And should The Animal win, The Game will be forced to retire from in-ring competition.
For Batista, this match is important; it means finishing his wrestling career on his own terms. For years, he's made it known that he wants to wrestle his retirement match at Wrestlemania against Triple H. On April 7, he'll get the chance to do just that. And WWE is hoping that he'll bring some of his Marvel Cinematic Universe fans along with him.
Today, Batista is best known for his role as Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy. But for several years in the early to mid-aughts, he was one of the biggest stars in WWE; a monstrous, muscular brute with a hidden, hilarious sense of humor.
To get you caught up for what is likely The Animal's final match, here are 11 facts you might not know about Batista, especially if you're a newer fan who missed his first couple of runs. And check our updated match card and final predictions for WrestleMania 35, airs live from Metlife Stadium on April 7.
1. Mr. Perfect and Road Warrior Animal urged him to wrestle
Batista came from a tough background and neighborhood; as a teenager, he and his friends would steal cars and take them for joyrides, and he had an estranged, distant relationship with his father. Bodybuilding, however, gave him some direction and focus in life.
He drifted between jobs as a bouncer until, by chance, he met Mr. Perfect and Road Warrior Animal in a gym at Minneapolis. Seeing his impressive physique and strength, they encouraged him to enter the wrestling business. He was in his late 20's--much older than most prospects are when they attempt this sort of thing for the first time.
2. His first tryout with WCW was a disaster
His first attempt at wrestling was when he went to a local tryout at the Power Plant in Atlanta, Georgia, a training ground for WCW. And the head guy in charge, "Sarge" DeWayne Bruce, just about broke the big guy, according to his autobiography Batista Unleashed. Sarge made him do squats and exercises until he puked, and Batista, rather than giving up, continued working out in the puddle. Even so, Sarge told him he would never make it in the business, and ordered him to leave.
3. A Wild Samoan takes him under his wing
Discouraged, Batista started making phone calls. And one of them was to WWE, who recommended that he get training at the Wild Samoan Training Center in Allentown, PA. It was run by Afa of the Wild Samoans, the uncle of current WWE Superstar Roman Reigns and former WWE Superstar Rikishi (who is himself the father of Smackdown Tag Team Champions The Usos). Afa treated him like family, and made Batista his pet project. Once he taught him some rudimentary skills, Afa sent Batista to the WWE for a tryout.
4. He crawled out of the Ohio River
Batista signed with WWE after an in-ring tryout and was sent to developmental promotion Ohio Valley Wrestling in Kentucky, which, at the time, was run by manager and booker Jim Cornette. Cornette was (and still is) an old school booker, and he saw monster potential in Batista. So, Cornette made him into a literal monster. Batista performed as Leviathan, the Demon of the Deep, who crawled out of the Ohio River with sharp fangs and discolored eyes.
He destroyed everyone he came in contact with, and even fought in handicap matches, decimating two guys at a time. He was on a long, undefeated streak, until a former WWE champion put a stop to things...
5. His first loss was to Kane
Every now and then, established WWE stars came down to OVW to scope out the new talent and pop the crowd. And Batista, who was being groomed as a potential main eventer, was booked against WWE Superstar Kane.
The Big Red Machine handed Batista his first loss, but The Animal looked glorious in defeat. He took two Choke Slams and a Stone Cold Stunner from Steve Austin before getting pinned for the three-count.
6. WWE destroyed his $500 "Deacon" suit
When Batista finally got called up to the main roster, he was thrust into the role of Reverend D-Von's lackey, "Deacon" Batista. He came to the ring with a massive collection box chained around his neck and scowled a whole lot.
Batista hated the gimmick and especially the suit he was forced to wear, which covered up his incredible physique. The suit was actually a custom-fitted $500 suit that the big guy had bought on WWE's orders, and he was very dismayed when WWE decided to cut its sleeves off.
But the Deacon Batista gimmick also served a great purpose: by covering up his greatest asset, it forced Batista to work and tell a story without it. And when he got switched from Smackdown to Raw, things started to look up.
7. He caught hell for criticizing his colleagues
On Raw, Batista caught the eye of Triple H, and he was folded into the Evolution stable, signifying the past (Ric Flair), the present (Triple H) and the future (Randy Orton and Batista). From this point forward, Batista's success was nearly assured. He held the Tag Team Championship with Ric Flair. He physically dominated his feuds. And in 2005, he won the Royal Rumble, guaranteeing himself a title shot at Wrestlemania.
He also started getting a big head. In an interview with the Sun, Batista had the following to say about his colleagues at Smackdown:
"I don't consider it a rivalry at all. We’re a better show, period. There's no comparison. I feel for Smackdown, I just don't know what’s going on over there. I try to watch the shows but, for me, they're hard to sit through. And that really makes me sick as it should be a top show. I've watched their tapings live and it seems like a lot of the guys couldn't care less. There's a lack of passion and pride."
He caught a lot of flack for these comments from Vince McMahon and The Undertaker on down. He's fortunate that he won the Royal Rumble around the same time; these remarks could have buried a lesser wrestler's career.
8. He's one of the few men to outsmart The Game
After winning the 2005 Royal Rumble, Batista had to choose between fighting his mentor Triple H or fighting JBL for a world title at Wrestlemania. But Batista, seeing that Triple H was planning to turn on and betray him, decided to beat him to it. And in a memorable contract signing, he gave Triple H his signature thumbs down and booked their showdown at Wrestlemania 21. There, he won his first world title, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, which he held for 282 days.
Triple H has backstabbed so many of his proteges: Randy Orton and Seth Rollins are the most infamous victims of his machinations. Batista stands out as a notable exception to the typical script.
9. Batista was fined $100K for blading
For the next three years, Batista was consistently at the top of the card. He was a world champion five more times, but he was also increasingly disenchanted with the PG evolution of the product. And during a November 2008 steel cage match on Raw, during which he dropped the WWE World Heavyweight Championship to Chris Jericho, the issue reached a head.
Batista decided to "blade" and cut open his forehead, to give the match some added realism. And Vince McMahon was none too happy. In addition to fining everyone involved in the match, he fined Batista $100K. Batista paid his and everyone else's fines. But in hindsight, he felt that this punishment killed his love for the business.
"When he said $100,000, I was just heartbroken," Batista recalled on Chris Jericho's podcast in 2014. "I literally think that he sucked the life out of me that day. I think that's the day that I knew things were never going to be the same."
10. He hit his stride with Heeltista
Before going on an extended leave to pursue a career in Hollywood, Batista betrayed longtime friend Rey Mysterio and turned heel. And this new "Heeltista" persona was the greatest character work of his entire career. Batista became a massive, testosterone-fueled parody of himself, who insulted all the "fat people" in the audience who paid for two seats, and demanded a spotlight on him at all times.
After getting embarrassed by John Cena in three back-to-back matches (he lost a Last Man Standing match after Cena duct taped his feet together), Batista quit, and wouldn't return for four years.
11. Batista objected to his 2014 booking
When Batista returned in 2014, it was a prime example of wrong place, wrong time. The Daniel Bryan underdog narrative was in full swing, and WWE wanted The Animal to return as a face, even though Batista wanted to work as a heel. But then he was booed for winning the 2014 Royal Rumble, and finally, WWE let Batista be a villain again.
He ended his latest WWE run after only half a year. His last match was with Randy Orton and Triple H; they lost a close bout against The Shield at WWE Payback. And in the wake of this relatively disappointing run, Batista struck gold in Hollywood as Drax the Destroyer. He gained critical acclaim for his humor and impeccable comedic timing.
Batista's upcoming match at WrestleMania 35 will be his first in close to five years. Will the Animal have what it takes to take down The Game, one last time? Tune in to the WWE Network on April 7 to find out.