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Out of all the WWE alumni who have gone on to Hollywood, there is one Superstar who may have more on their plate in 2023 than anyone else.
No, it’s not Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and it’s not John Cena. And it definitely isn’t The Miz.
It’s none other than Batista, the man responsible for the most famous “thumbs down” in wrestling history. The former multi-time WWE Champion is currently using his real name in Hollywood, Dave Bautista, and has had a long and unpredictable road to success multiple times in his life. And it seems 2023 will bring even more accolades and attention to this ultra-talented wrestler-turned-actor.
Bautista recently spoke with GQ UK for a deep dive into his career both before and after WWE. As is par for the course for the big man, he didn’t mince words and was honest and open as he shone a light on the struggles he had to endure before truly making it in WWE.
At age 30, Bautista had a revelatory moment when he realized he had to make some serious life changes. After years of working as a bouncer in his hometown of Washington, D.C., he discovered he couldn’t afford Christmas gifts for his two daughters. It was then and there he decided to swallow his pride.
“I had to go to a guy I worked for at a club and ask him if I could borrow money,” he told GQ UK. “I was so ashamed of myself that I said, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I gotta find something.’ I didn't know what the f*** to do. I had no education. I had nothing to fall back on. And I was f***ing desperate.”
That desperation manifested into a tryout for World Championship Wrestling, and then eventually, a WWE developmental contract. The rest, they say, is history.
Years later, once his WWE career came to an end, he discovered a newfound passion.
While he always showed a natural affinity for the wrestling business, Bautista revealed that nothing makes him feel the way acting currently does, as he calls himself “obsessed” with it. “It’s this puzzle that I can’t figure out,” he said. “You don’t know if it’s right, but sometimes it feels right. To me, there’s nothing like it. It’s a natural high — it’s an addiction.”
Some members of the WWE Universe believe Bautista is simply following in the footsteps of megastars like the Rock. After all, some stars truly shine brighter than others, and sometimes men and women become bigger than WWE itself. For truly remarkable talent, the logical progression has always been Hollywood. But Bautista is concerned about being tagged “the next Rock” — he’s too laser-focused to be worried about those types of comparisons.
“I never wanted to be the next Rock,” he said. “I just want to be a good f***ing actor. A respected actor.”
Thanks to some smaller, critically-acclaimed roles that helped make Bautista a known Hollywood name (his role as Drax in the "Guardians of the Galaxy" films especially helped put him on the map), Bautista suddenly finds himself the owner of a filmography that looks poised to absolutely explode in 2023. Last month, USA Insider profiled Bautista’s greatest roles, and one thing stood out: He is constantly willing to try new and challenging roles in quality films, and that’s translated to him becoming a more well-rounded actor. In fact, according to Bautista himself, he took the advice that fellow WWE alum "Stone Cold" Steve Austin in this regard:
“Before I left WWE, Stone Cold Steve Austin pulled me aside and said, ‘You’re going to get offers for horrible scripts. The money will be tempting. Don’t get caught in that trap,’” he said.
His acting resume in the upcoming year is impressive: Following up his hilarious role in "Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery," a film currently topping the Netflix charts, he’s slated to reprise his most famous role in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," then he’s closing the year with an expanded role in "Dune: Part Two."
In February, he’s also starring in M. Night Shyamalan’s newest thriller, "Knock at the Cabin":
One glance at the comments section of the "Knock At The Cabin" trailer reveals Bautista is quickly garnering a huge following of movie lovers.
In the end, Bautista’s acting stock is poised to climb even higher in the upcoming months and years due to his dedication to his craft. The days of him climbing the turnbuckles and raising WWE championship gold to the cheers of tens of thousands of fans in sold-out arenas across the world are long gone. Now, he’s in a mature and focused head space, which will only serve to benefit him in the long run.
“I don't care about the spotlight,” he said. “I don't care about fame. I just want to be a better actor. I want respect from my peers. I don’t need accolades — I really don’t, man. It’s about the experience, about knowing that I accomplished something.”
(And hey, if he feels like showing up at the 2023 Royal Rumble as well, that works for us too.)
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