As I mentioned in the first part of my interview with wrestler-turned-actor Dave Bautista, I’ve been a big fan of the squared circle for about as long as I’ve loved horror movies, so when we had the chance to sit down and chat during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, I couldn’t help but bring up the topic of his in-ring persona’s recent return to WWE in 2014.

For anyone who has followed the WWE and professional wrestling over the last few years, Bautista (or Batista, as he’s known whenever he’s working in the ring), it’s no secret that things went horribly awry once he made his triumphant return to WWE in the midst of the uprising of Daniel Bryan (a fan favorite who wasn’t being taken seriously by the company at that time). Bautista found himself caught in the middle of a lot of backstage awfulness that made what should have been a highlight of his career into a total nightmare for the multiple-time WWE champion.

Read on to hear from Dave Bautista on just what went wrong with his WWE return, becoming the scapegoat of sorts, how he had wanted to return for SummerSlam 2014 and was rebuffed by Triple H, and more.

I just want to say on a personal level, being somebody who's enjoyed watching your career as a wrestler, too, I was so incredibly bummed about how everything went when you came back in 2014. I was so excited to see you come back, and I'm glad that you're moving on in movies now, but I feel so bad because you deserved more than you got out of that situation and it still makes me sad as a fan.

Dave Bautista: It really sucked. It didn't have anything to do with me or anything, there was just a lot going on behind the scenes.

Well, creative was a mess back then, too.

Dave Bautista: It was the company, man. They really just screwed me over. I was banging my head against the wall every day. It's one of those things, I wish people knew how hard I fought to be there and how hard I fought to just give them the best matches and performances that I could. But it was an everyday struggle dealing with the company. It was such a f***ing nightmare.

I'm so sorry.

Dave Bautista: I stayed longer than I should have, actually. You followed it pretty closely back then?

I did, and still am, yes.

Dave Bautista: What most fans don’t realize is that I stayed an extra month. The reason I had to leave was because I had to go and do press for Marvel for Guardians of the Galaxy. They were actually nice enough to let me stay an extra month. They wanted me to stay that extra month and work with Daniel Bryan at another pay-per-view, but I just thought that didn’t even make sense.

We were just starting the Evolution thing, so why couldn’t we run with that instead of me putting Daniel over again, which I just did at WrestleMania? We're not going to have a better match there than we did at Mania. Let's just work more with Evolution and build these guys up. So we did. Then right after we built the hell out of them and they were so strong as a unit, they broke them all up. I said, "What is wrong with you guys?"

But that was my struggle. I also think a lot of people thought that I really quit, that I really walked out, when in reality, I really stayed an extra month more than I was obligated to do just because I really wanted to be there. I felt like I finally hit my stride and I was so happy to be there again.

And not only that, but here's how messed up they are. I said to them, because I wanted to come back for SummerSlam, "Wouldn't it be great if I came back right when I'm also in the biggest film in the world?" Literally, it was Hunter [Triple H] and Stephanie [McMahon] who laughed at me, and Hunter goes, "We don't even know if it's going to be any good." I swear to God.

But I wanted to go back for SummerSlam, and they didn't want me to come back. I think because they thought it was such a failure, that run, and it wasn't a failure because of me. Sorry, I'm venting now.

You have every right to vent. You walked right into that perfect storm where the fans were just all over [Daniel] Bryan. It was the worst timing ever for your return.

Dave Bautista: Oh yeah, and the first night that I came back, I came out and it was somewhere in Ohio. They wanted me to come back and they wanted me to do this thing with Stephanie and Hunter in the ring. It was my first night back and I wanted to just be out there by myself so I could have five or ten minutes with the fans. They said, "No, we really want Steph out there, too, because we're doing this thing,” and I had to just go along with it.

Then, they were talking about me being a baby face. I was like, "I'm not a baby face, I'm a heel." I said, "The fans want me to be a heel. They love me as a heel." They said, "No, they’re going to be so happy you're back, so this is how we’re doing this." I told them, "It's only going to last for about five minutes the first night I come back, because they want me to be a heel. I'm a good heel." They just said, "No, no. They're going to love you."

Then, creative kept trying to push me down everybody's throat as a baby face. It just kept getting worse every night because the fans kept booing me and booing me. Every night I'd come walking backstage, and I'd look at Vince [McMahon] and I kept telling him we had to change the way we were doing this.

Then, there was one night that he got so frustrated, and this was after a couple months. I walked down the ramp, the fans are just booing me and booing me, so after, I walked right into Vince and I looked at him. He goes, "You know what, you were right. We're going to turn you into a heel, we're going to shove it right down their throats." I said, "I've been telling you this for two months."

I think he just didn't want to agree with me. It was like that the whole time I was there, and then I had to go for Guardians. It was such a horrible experience, and I wish I could have been the guy the fans wanted me to be when I was there. I took a lot of blame I didn’t deserve in that situation.


In case you missed it, check out part 1 of Heather's Sundance interview with Dave Bautista, and stay tuned to Daily Dead for more live coverage of the Sundance Film Festival.

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.