Evolution Of An Animal: What You Don’t Know About The Life And Wrestling Career Of Dave Bautista

While some people see Dave Bautista (or Batista, to use the WWE spelling) as a coddled WWE star, somebody hand-picked for his impressive physique, Big Dave has lived a tougher life than most in the company, and his ascent to the top of the wrestling business (and eventually, show business in Guardians of the Galaxy) was far from a sure thing. Batista isn’t perfect, but he’s a unique guy whose personality and passions might surprise you.

So, lace up your boots and get ready to walk for miles through these surprising facts about WWE’s Animal…

Three people died in Batista’s front yard before he was nine.

David Bautista Jr. was born in January 1969 in Washington, D.C. His father was second-generation Filipino American, while his mother Donna was of Greek descent. Dave’s dad wasn’t in the picture much during his younger years, so his mom raised him and his sister solo in the hardscrabble southeast section of the city. Things can still be hard in Washington, but things were particularly rough in the ’70s because, well, pretty much everything was rougher in the ’70s. Batista generally looks back on his time in Washington with nostalgia, every kid thinks their childhood is normal, but he was surrounded by gangs, drugs and other dangerous influences throughout his formative years.

According to Batista, two men were found dead in or near their front yard as a kid. It was a third death that forced Batista’s mom to pull up stakes. A man was shot in the head near Batista’s house, and a call to the police didn’t bring a response for nearly an hour. The neighborhood kids, including Dave and his sister, gathered around the man, but before long they were telling jokes and horsing around like usual as a man lay dying on the sidewalk. Batista’s mom, not wanting her kids to be desensitized to such tragedies, immediately packed up her family for an unknown future in San Francisco.

He was seriously into breakdancing as a kid.

If you’ve read a few of these facty wrestler biographies of mine, you know most famous pro wrestlers started off as gifted amateur athletes. Hell, even Mick Foley was star jock in high school. Batista wasn’t. This was mostly due to him not having the grades to get on any teams (he was booted off the wrestling team in his senior year). That said, young Dave did have one athletic outlet – The Animal loved to breakdance.

Yes, stiff-ass, wooden Batista, a guy whose hamstrings would probably tear off and fly away if he tried to touch his toes, was a b-boy at a teenager. Years later, WWE even had him show off his breakdancing skills in a SummerSlam promo (which you can watch above). I’m going to be very generous and assume he was a better dancer back before he became a 300-pound muscle monster. At least I hope he was.

A messy breakup led to him getting interested in pro wrestling.

After high school, Batista got seriously into bodybuilding and, like a lot of muscle guys, fell into bouncing. For Batista, who was even more ridiculously massive than he is now, it was easy money, so he ended up sticking with it for more than a decade.

In the late ’90s, he was finally shook from his comfortable rut when he set eyes on Angie, the woman who would become his second wife. Unfortunately, when he met Angie, he was still in the midst of a six-year relationship with another woman named Maryanne. Bautista started seeing Angie on the sly, but as is usually the case, the affair was found out and Maryanne broke it off and moved to Minneapolis.

Dave, feeling bad about how things had gone down, decided to trudge up to the Minnesotan tundra to try to patch it up with Maryanne, but that sh*t wasn’t happening, so a dejected Animal ended up spending most of his time working out at a local gym. Well, it just so happened this gym was the training spot for local wrestling legends Road Warrior Animal and Mr. Perfect. Seeing the adoration and respect they received, Batista, who hadn’t given pro wrestling a second thought since he was a kid, had his “eureka” moment. Big Dave would return home, marry Angie and embark on his quest to become a professional wrestler.

Batista tried out for WCW.

Somebody thought this guy wasn’t cut out for pro wrestling.

The first stop on Batista’s journey wasn’t the indies or WWF. Instead, he unwisely stumbled into the pit of danger that was the WCW Power Plant. Head trainer Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker immediately targeted Batista, doing everything he could to drive him out of the business. Dave sucked it up and managed to endure the grueling boot camp training sessions, but Sarge’s mind wouldn’t be changed. Batista was told he’d never amount to anything in the business and sent packing.

With nothing left to lose, Dave decided to give the WWF a call, telling them all about his disappointing WCW experience. Any enemy of WCW of was a friend to the WWF, so they helpfully suggested Batista go train with The Rock’s uncle Afa and grandfather Peter Maivia at the Wild Samoan Training Facility. Not being idiots, they immediately recognized Batista had massive potential, and after a few months of training, they strongly recommended him to Vince McMahon. The first step towards the top of the mountain had been taken.

He was in the same developmental class as John Cena, Randy Orton, and Brock Lesnar.

Batista was sent to Ohio Valley Wrestling in Louisville, Kentucky, where he became Leviathan, a crazy, contact-wearing, vampire fang-having demon from the depths of the deep blue sea. Everybody has to start somewhere.

Say what you will about Jim Cornette, there’s plenty to criticize, but under his leadership, early 2000s OVW was the most successful developmental territory in wrestling history. During Batista’s stay in OVW, he battled numerous megastars in the making, including Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar, Shelton Benjamin and some guy in colorful spandex tights calling himself The Prototype. Batista would win the OVW Heavyweight Title, only to lose it to proto-Cena, establishing a pattern they’d repeat numerous times once they were called up to WWE.

Batista’s character nearly went in a shocking, decidedly non-PG direction.

The beginning of a beautiful friendship, and almost a terrible storyline.

In 2002, Batista graduated from OVW and made his glorious WWE debut as Reverend D-Von’s collection box-carrying heavy, Deacon Batista. As most people remember it, Batista dropped that dud of a gimmick quickly and immediately joined up with Evolution, but there was actually a brief in-between period in late 2002, during which he was mentored solely by Ric Flair. Or at least, Ric tried to mentor him.

Throughout this period, Batista was particularly cranky and aloof, which Ric just couldn’t figure out. Everybody wants to hang out with the Nature Boy! The storyline never really resolved itself, and considering where it was supposed to go, it’s probably good it didn’t. On an episode of Chris Jericho’s podcast, Batista claimed it was going to be revealed that his anti-social behavior was due to him discovering (brace yourselves) that he was conceived via rape. That may sound too astoundingly tasteless to be true, but then again, WWE was in the midst of an astoundingly tasteless run. Only weeks before this Batista storyline kicked off, WWE unleashed the infamous Katie Vick necrophilia angle upon the world, so anything was on the table at the time.

Not that a storyline about rape, thoughtfully done, should be verboten, but there was no way in hell 2002 WWE could be trusted with that. Thankfully for Batista’s career, WWE got gun shy about the storyline, and he was instead recruited into Evolution in early 2003.

Mark Jindrak was almost given his spot in Evolution.

Did Orton borrow his suit from The Big Show?

Batista was now a member of the most powerful faction in wrestling, but his position was far from secure. Almost immediately after joining the group, Dave destroyed his triceps at a house show. Batista then re-injured himself doing wind sprints in his driveway, further setting back his recovery.

You really need four guys before you can properly call yourself a stable, so with Batista out, WWE began looking for a replacement, and the generically handsome Jindrak was the choice of Vince and higher ups. The company went so far as to film vignettes of Jindrak exiting helicopters and strutting around with the the group. Ultimately, though, WWE never pulled the trigger on Jindrak – word is Triple H just didn’t like him personally. Instead, the Evolution angle was kept warm on the back burner for nearly eight months until Batista was able to return in October of 2003.

Batista is 0-1 in backstage fights, but 1-0 in an MMA ring.

Batista may have played the raging badass in the ring, but he has a rather mixed record as a real-life tough guy. In 2006, Batista and Booker T became embroiled in a somewhat legendary backstage brawl. The exact cause of the fight has been lost to history, but during a SummerSlam promo shoot, Booker confronted Batista, leading to a fairly serious scuffle. The fight apparently lasted nearly five minutes, with Booker coming out on top.

Booker T may have made Batista look like a sucka, but Big Dave would later earn a measure of redemption. After leaving WWE in 2010, Batista started seriously training in jiu-jitsu under Cesar Gracie. Batista would only end up having one official fight, a sloppy bout against an out-of-shape opponent, but he did score a TKO victory, which is more than can be said of some other pro wrestlers who have turned to fighting.

A massive fine for blading contributed to Batista quitting WWE.

Few people have been as critical of WWE’s PG Era as Batista. In fact, it was the dawning of the PG Era and a specific incident involving an illicit blade job that led to his departure from the company in 2010.

The blading incident happened on a late 2008 episode of Raw. Batista and Chris Jericho were having a cage match for the World Heavyweight Championship, which Jericho won by hitting Batista with a metal piece of the cage. Wanting to sell the severity of the blow as much as possible, Batista bladed. Unfortunately, he also busted himself open the hard way, making the match even bloodier than he was hoping.

When Batista and Jericho got backstage, the boom was lowered. Batista was fined a staggering $100,000 for blading, while Jericho and agent Dean Malenko were fined $5,000 apiece (Batista stepped up and paid both their fines for them). In Batista’s own words, “he [Vince] sucked the life out of me that day. That’s the day I knew things were never going to be the same.” A little more than a year later, Batista was gone.

Batista has an awesome collection of vintage lunchboxes and lowriders.

Eddie, as he would undoubtedly most like to be remembered.

So, what do you do with your money when you’re Dave Bautista-level rich? Once you’re done at the polo shirt and skinny jeans store, you spend the rest on lunchboxes and lowriders, of course! Hey, don’t act like you’d make better purchasing decisions if you suddenly had $10 million in the bank.

Bautista actually first got into vintage metal lunchboxes before he hit it big (neeeerd) and the prize of his collection is a 1967 Green Hornet lunchbox featuring Bruce Lee. As for the lowriders, Bautista is a member of the LA-area lowrider club The Imperials and drives a ’64 Impala SS featuring a pretty fantastic tribute to Eddie Guerrero painted across the hood. That’s it up above. Starting to feel a little bad about those Bootista chants?

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There you are, a few miles walked through the life of Dave Bautista. Know and interesting facts I missed? Have some Bluetista jokes you desperately need to get off your chest? Scroll on down and unleash your comments, you animals.

via Batista Unleashed, Batista: I Walk Alone, Batista: The Animal Unleashed, Talk Is Jericho, Bleacher Report & Pro Wrestling Wiki

This is an updated version of an article that ran in January of 2016.