CALL it a case of hello and goodbye.
Relatively inactive as a grappler since 2014, former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) heavyweight champion Dave “The Animal” Batista recently made a brutal and brief return to the grunt-and-groan business by taking on fellow superstar Triple H at Wrestlemania 35. Triple H won the carnage, but it was Bautista who arguably won the hearts of the fans as he announced his retirement from pro wrestling immediately thereafter.
Batista took to social media to confirm that he was giving up pro wrestling for good.
"To all WWE fans across the world that gave me the opportunity to suspend your disbelief, thank you. From the biggest part of my heart thank you for letting me entertain you," he posted on his Instagram account. “I’ll miss this theater of violence more than I can express in words but I am officially retiring from Sports Entertainment. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, I leave in great health, and without a doubt the show will go on. I had a hell of a run. Thank you for the journey."
Batista’s journey to wrestling stardom was an arduous one. He was born David Michael Bautista Jr. in January 1969, the son of a hairdresser with Filipino roots and a Greek immigrant. He grew up in Washington, D.C. and later ran away from home to work as a bouncer in several nightclubs. Batista claimed he just kind of fell into the wrestling business after spending most of his teenage years as a bouncer in. D.C. clubs and training as a bodybuilder.
While competing in a bodybuilding show in Minnesota in the late ‘90s, Batista crossed paths with former WWE wrestlers Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig and Road Warrior Animal. Impressed by the size of Batista, Hennig and Animal encouraged the former to try out for the World Championship Wrestling (WCW), then the chief rival of the WWE.
Batista tried out for the WCW but failed to make the grade. Unperturbed, Batista contacted the WWE and he was directed by the organization to hone his skills in a wrestling camp in Pennsylvania. Batista packed his bags and moved to Allentown, Pennsylvania where he dedicated himself to learning the ropes under the tutelage of former wrestling star Afa “The Wild Samoan” Anoai.
In early 1999, Batista began training at the Wild Samoans Training Camp in Allentown. A few months later, on October 30, 1999, Bautista debuted in Afa’s WXW organization, wrestling under the ring name Kahn and defeating Southtown Joe. Batista quickly rose to the top of the organization.
Batista inked a deal with the WWE in 2000, but he was immediately sent by the WWE to its developmental group, the Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW). In the OVW, Batista was dubbed the Demon of the Deep Leviathan (or just Leviathan for short) and became a member of the Disciples of Synn, which would also include the future Mordecai and Tyson Tomko. As the Leviathan, Batista was packaged as a demonic character. He sported a bald pate, fangs and chains around his wrists. Batista would later admit that the gimmick was a bit over the top.
Batista won the OVW heavyweight championship from Doug Basham in November 2001 and later lost it to the Prototype (later known as John Cena in the WWE). Batista demanded a rematch, but was already on his way to the WWE.
Batista made his first on-screen appearance in the WWE in May 2002 as Deacon Batista, the bodyguard to D-Von Dudley who was then working with the “Reverend D-Von” gimmick. Batista eventually turned against the Reverend and struck out on his own. It was around this time when Dave’s ring name was shortened to “Batista.”
From Smackdown, Batista moved to Raw where he earned the attention of veteran Ric Flair. Flair helped Batista in the latter’s feud with Kane, which culminated in a victory at the pay-per-view event Armageddon in 2002. A few months later, the stable Evolution was formed with Batista, Flair, Randy Orton and Triple H as the charter members.
Batista’s stock was slowly rising when disaster struck. He was sidelined with a torn bicep in 2003 during a match against the Dudley Boyz. He reinjured the same muscle when he fell while jogging.
Fortunately, by the time 2004 rolled along, Batista was back in full battle gear. When The Rock and Brock Lesnar started making few appearances, the WWE machinery decided to give Batista a major push. In January 2005, Batista made a huge stride by eliminating Cena to top the WWE’s Royal Rumble.
In April 2005, at Wrestlemania 21, Batista defeated Triple H to win the WWE’s world heavyweight championship. Batista wept unabashedly as he savored his official ascension to fame. By some twist, Batista’s final WWE match would come against Triple H, the very same fighter he defeated to win his first major championship.
In November 2006, Batista made a cameo appearance in the popular TV series Smallville. It was Batista’s first acting experience and he loved it so much he ended up pursuing it. The Smallville cameo was followed by another cameo in Chuck. In 2014, Batista hit paydirt when he played the role of Drax The Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy. The movie was a critical and commercial success and within a year Batista was back in a major movie, playing the role of Mr. Hinx in the James Bond movie Spectre.
Batista is now a certified star in the celluloid world, but he needed to return to the ring to formally close the chapter on his wrestling career. Batista actually made a second return to the WWE last October when he teased a match with Triple H. That match turned out to be one of the highlights of this year’s Wrestlemania 35. Triple H won the match, handing Batista a loss in his final ring appearance.
Batista was the least concerned about the result. It was all about giving wrestling fans an exciting match and walking away fully convinced that his place in the sport’s history is already secured.