Since Chris Jericho left WWE and joined AEW, his podcast has become a space where people who have no reason to fear what WWE thinks of them can be honest about their experiences with that company and the often strained creative process that leads to its shows and storylines. Jon Moxley did this most famously (and savagely), in his interview following his AEW debut at Double Or Nothing. Now Dave Bautista, star of Guardians of the Galaxy and the new comedy Stuber (but never Fast and Furious) had some things to say about his most recent WWE return, in which he beat up Ric Flair on his birthday, leading to a match with Triple H at WrestleMania 35, after which Batista officially retired from wrestling.
How was the creative process behind that whole angle? On Talk is Jericho, Batista doesn’t mince words.
It was a nightmare. It wasn’t a nightmare like the last time, but it was difficult. Because for one, I thought I was going back way too soon [in late February]. And because I thought, “If I go back, we tease this now, what the hell are we doing for the next five weeks?” You know, because the last run I went out [in 2014], I went back and they had no plan. And they didn’t know what to do with me, so every week they’re just sending me out there to cut these really horrible promos. They’re just awful, and I’m just regurgitating the same crap while people are going, you know, [chanting] “CM Punk!” or “Daniel Bryan!”
Batista’s return was famously in a segment where Ric Flair’s birthday party was happening in the ring, and Dave appeared backstage, dragging the old man’s limp body after beating him. So it’s surprising to learn that WWE originally wanted Batista to be celebrating with everyone else.
Then the night I was going back, they really wanted me back for the 70th birthday party for Ric, for Flair. And I said, “I don’t want to be a part of that! Because it just waters down our shit! Don’t just stick me in there with like 20 other people who are coming back to say Happy Birthday Ric, then it’s me and Hunter, and we get in a little spat.” I said, “It’s just watering down our program.” So then they came up with the backstage segment where I drag Ric across the floor … And I knew, you know, it’s weird. Because I did ask the question, I said, “Are there gonna be some people in that ring who are a little offended that they’re not part of the program? They think they’re showing up for one thing, and they’re actually showing up for another?” I don’t think [they knew]. Shawn, I saw Shawn after, he said he didn’t know. So I don’t know who was privy to what. But then they came to the point where, this isn’t my idea, and I’m not gonna water down my shit to make everybody else happy. If they’re gonna do this to them, then they need to tell them that this is what we’re doing. Not my responsibility. You know, in wrestling, you look out for your program. What are you worried about? Your program. That’s the #1 issue that you’re concerned about. So that’s what I was concerned about, was my program with Hunter.
Once they had him there, WWE apparently wanted him to do way more than he originally agreed to, but having the leverage of any actual celebrity made it easier for him to say no.
So moving forward, I signed up to do a few shows, because I was concerned that I would show up every week and they wouldn’t have anything for me to do. And once I’m there, you’re just there. So I said, “I’ll do this show, and this show, and this show.” But then they started saying, “Would you come and do an interview?” and I was like, “Nope!” “Well, would you come and do a promo?” “Nope!” So I ended up, they said, “Well, would you do an Instagram post?” I was like, “[sigh] Okay.” And then they said they wanted me to come and do an interview with Michael Cole. I said, “I won’t do it. Send Michael Cole here.” And they ended up doing this ‘via satellite’ thing, which I didn’t think was great, but it got us to the next week. I just, I was hoping we — I would still have preferred to come back at a later date, a few weeks before [WrestleMania]. Because I just don’t think, I think we had enough history where they could have built the rivalry on packages.
There’s one promo however, the final one, that Batista was simply unable to resist.
But, I have to say that the promo I did in DC, they cut when Vince called and asked me if I would do a promo in DC. It was like the go-home week of WrestleMania. I was like, “Not a chance. Not a chance in hell, I’m not going into my hometown to gather up support before I go into ‘Mania.” And he said, “Well, this is what I want you to do. I want you to come in and want you to take off your glasses. I want you to tell Hunter to kiss your ass.” And I said, “I’ll do it!” [laughs] It was just, it was too funny! I laughed my ass off. I said, ‘I am there.’