Bolstered by a series of circumstances nobody saw coming, the WWE Universe turned en masse against The Animal when he won the Royal Rumble Match, earning a main-event spot at WrestleMania that many WWE fans felt rightly belonged to the ascendant Daniel Bryan. While Batista soldiered on against an increasingly hostile audience, his return took on a life of its own, embarking on twists and turns that took The Animal from the main event of The Show of Shows to the bottom of a six-Superstar pileup before he finally quit on the June 2 episode of Raw, less than six months into his comeback.
WWE.com was able to catch up with The Animal before he hits the press trail to promote his summer blockbuster, “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and got the skinny on what, exactly, was going through “Bootista’s” mind over the last half-year, what he really thinks of the fans and why he might not be done with that pesky Daniel Bryan just yet. Love him or hate him, read what he has to say, because you might never boo him again.
WWE.COM: Can you talk to us about how your return came about? Who contacted who?
BATISTA: Well, actually, I’d wanted to come back the day I left! [Laughs] I always planned on coming back, and I always tell people I wanted to come back much sooner. It was just that when I left, I wanted to accomplish certain things, and it just honestly took me a lot longer than I had hoped. But I’d always stayed in touch with a few of the boys, and I stayed in constant touch with [Triple H]. When Hunter started being very involved in NXT, it was right here in Orlando, so I just started coming out, talking to him and we talked about me coming back after I wrapped on “Guardians.”
It's like they forgot about my pain and sacrifice.WWE.COM: So you felt like you had accomplished everything you needed to at that point?
BATISTA: After I wrapped the role of Drax on “Guardians of the Galaxy,” I really felt I accomplished, and then some, what I’d left to do. It was a struggle out there, man, auditioning to get movie roles and stuff, and I finally landed that big role that satisfied that craving to act.
WWE.COM: You came back with a lot of fanfare and a great reaction, but the fans, as we all know now, eventually turned against you. What were your thoughts on that sudden change in reception?
BATISTA: It was weird. It wasn’t like a normal response. It was almost like a personal attack. It had to do with factors that were not in my control, factors and things that were going on in the company with other people, stuff that really had nothing to do with me. To me, it was a little frustrating, a little confusing, and, you know, I don’t want to say I completely took it personal, but I did somewhat.
What I heard over and over was, “Batista doesn’t deserve this,” and that’s what I took personally, because it’s like they forgot about my 10 years of pain and suffering and sacrifice. When I left the company, I gave plenty of notice, I left the right way, I did everything right. And also, my very last match, I broke my back. So I literally broke my back for the fans. And for me to come back and for them to say that I didn’t deserve the spot that I was being put in? For one thing, I didn’t ask for that spot. And here’s my thing with wrestling, and I tell this to everybody: If you get an opportunity, take the opportunity, and if you pass it up, you’re a fool. And if you hate on a guy just because he’s taking advantage of an opportunity that’s given to him, then you’re an idiot.
WWE.COM: One such opportunity that presented itself — and may not have if the fans hadn’t reacted the way they did — was the revival of Evolution.
BATISTA: Yeah, we had not talked about that at all. Evolution was where I got my start. It’s my comfort zone. I love it, the fans love it. Everywhere I go across the world, people still talk about Evolution. So when [Triple H] started talking about it, I said, “That’s veeerrry interesting.” [Laughs] I loved that, and I got with that program real fast, because that’s something I’ve wanted to do for years. I knew it was going to be good.
NEXT: Batista returns to WrestleMania and explains why he wanted Daniel Bryan in the main event with him all along.
WWE.COM: So going back to your return for a moment, after you won the Royal Rumble Match, it was supposed to be you and Randy Orton at WrestleMania for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Eventually, Daniel Bryan was added to the mix. What were your thoughts on that development?
BATISTA: Oh, I was super excited. I was super excited, because, you know, we needed that element. Even speaking from a fan’s standpoint, for me, it’s hard to get sucked into a [bad guy vs. bad guy] match. We needed a hero, man, and Daniel Bryan was the biggest hero in the company. I knew this was gonna be good. It’s so much better when the fans have an emotional investment. And they were so emotionally invested in Daniel Bryan, and they were so absorbed in their hatred for me that I knew it was gonna be good stuff.
WWE.COM: You’ve spoken about wanting to steal the show, and a lot of people think the Triple Threat Match did just that. Did the match live up to your expectations?We needed that element of Daniel Bryan.
BATISTA: Oh, by far. I knew we were gonna steal the show. But that’s one other thing. If anybody can accuse me of being selfish or arrogant, it’s when it comes to my match. I’m selfish in that way. I want it to be all about my story. I want it to be all about my match. Everything else is secondary to me. I think more guys in this business should have that outlook. It’s gotta be about their story. They should be protective of their story. They should be protective of their matches, because it’s theirs. It’s what they own. It’s everything they strive to be in this business. It’s all in that story and in that match. Not making it about yourself, making it about thematch. It’s never making it about yourself, it’s about your story. That’s why I never minded being the bad guy. I don’t need the accolades, I don’t need the applause. I want people to be sucked into my story.
WWE.COM: Apart from the WrestleMania match, you had some great battles with Superstars like Dolph Ziggler. Looking back, is your return up to par with what you had set out to accomplish?
BATISTA: Somewhat, it is. It is within myself. But I still feel like, with the fans and the audience being really wrapped up in internet rumors and whatnot, they really missed out on a lot of good entertainment. And that’s a shame, because I had some good matches, man. Like you said, I had some really good matches with Dolph. There were a few people that were paying attention, but I think a lot of people missed out on it, man. Maybe because there wasn’t that built-in story behind it, but we made the best we could out of it. Even going back to when I started with Alberto Del Rio. We had some good matches. We had a good pay-per-view, we put our hearts into it, but the fans were so intent on booing for no reason, they weren’t even paying attention to the match. That’s a shame, because we were out there killing ourselves to entertain people. So that’s the only thing that I feel like is a downside, you know?
WWE.COM: Some WWE fans did get pretty creative in finding ways to bash you. They got things like “Bootista” and “Bluetista” to trend on Twitter during your matches, and you actually heckled them back a bit.
BATISTA: I did, especially with the Bluetista thing, because, you know, we had six guys beating the crap out of each other … but people were focused on me wearing blue! I don’t get that, man. I just don’t get it!
WWE.COM: You ultimately did quit on Raw, dropping the mic and giving a pageant wave that got one of the best reactions of your return. How do you think that exit stacks up against you in the wheelchair in 2010?
BATISTA: The last time I quit in the wheelchair, my contract was up. I had fulfilled my contract, I gave plenty of notice, I wanted to leave and do other things outside of the company. I felt like that was the time. I’m not getting any younger, I needed that time to go and do it. And this time it’s the same way. I’m really leaving because I have obligations that I made to Marvel, and I need to go out and promote “Guardians of the Galaxy.” I’m not leaving behind WWE, I’m not leaving behind wrestling. I love it. I always say, at the end of the day, I am a wrestler, I am a sports-entertainer. I’m not leaving it behind, but I fulfilled my obligations and now I need to fulfill other obligations and that’s why I left.
NEXT: Find out how The Animal went intergalactic with his biggest role yet in Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy."
WWE.COM: Speaking of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” you play Drax the Destroyer in the Marvel adaptation. How did that role come to be?
BATISTA: It was pretty funny. My agent ... turned me down like three times before he finally agreed to take me on as a client. And literally the week after he took me on as a client, he calls me and says, “I got this role. It’s a long shot. There are a lot of big names trying to get this role. But I fought to get you in to audition for this, so I need you to go in and audition."I'm pretty guilty of having a heart bigger than my brain.
It was the biggest audition of my life, and I was absolutely terrified. But I was even more terrified when they called me later on that day and said, “Can you stay in town? We’d like you to come back and audition for the director.” [Laughs] That night I didn’t sleep. But then I hooked up with [“Guardians” director James Gunn] and felt comfortable with James immediately. He’s such a good guy. And the rest is history. It was a long process, but that’s how it got started.
WWE.COM: How does WrestleMania anxiety match up against pre-audition anxiety?
BATISTA: It’s a different type of nervousness for sure. I guess it’s the same kind of pressure at the end of the day, but with acting and auditioning there’s just more of a stressful anxiety, and with wrestling there’s more of an adrenaline anxiety. It’s like you’re amped up and pumped up and have all this anxiety and built-up energy. It’s very different. I think wrestling is more of a physical and a mental anxiety, whereas auditioning was just mental.
WWE.COM: How much can you relate to Drax as a character? How different is he from you as a person?
BATISTA: Well, his family was murdered. I can’t really relate to that. But I feel his pain of loss. Drax is a very noble guy. He’s a noble guy and he has a big heart and the best intentions always, even if it’s something he doesn’t understand. I think I completely relate to him in that way, because I’m pretty guilty of having a heart bigger than my brain. [Laughs] I think that’s one thing a lot of people in wrestling don’t really realize. I’m naturally a very gentle person. I’m not a violent person at all. I think Drax is just a family man, but he’s hell-bent on revenge because his family was murdered. And I can really relate to that sense of nobleness and decency and loss, you know?
NEXT: Batista vs. Bray Wyatt? Hey, a guy can dream ...
WWE.COM: Do you think you’ll get back in the ring after you’re done promoting the movie?
I'd love a long-term rivalry with Daniel Bryan.BATISTA: We’ve already been talking about that. We were talking about when I would come back before I even left. I don’t feel like my career is over. I felt better leaving this time than when I got in, because I came in with an injury and I left feeling healthy as can be. It’s hard for me to leave now because I feel like I was just hitting my stride. I think a lot of people forgot I was away from wrestling for four years, and it took me a couple months to really start getting in touch with the audience because it’s a completely different audience, man. It was really weird for me at first. I just started finding my stride, so it’s weird for me to leave, but I don’t feel like my career is even close to over, man. I got a lot of good matches, and hopefully it’ll work out.
WWE.COM: Any guys off the top of your head you want to compete against?
BATISTA: Absolutely. Right off the top of my head, Bray Wyatt. Love him. Of course, Roman Reigns. Ambrose, I love Dean Ambrose. I think they need to elevate him a little bit. I’d like to see him in more singles matches. Daniel Bryan. I’d like a long-term rivalry with Daniel Bryan. And, of course, Triple H. I’ve said for years and years, I want to go back to WrestleMania with Triple H. I’d like to be that my retirement match.
WWE.COM: And when you do come back, are the WWE fans going to cheer you or boo you?
BATISTA: They might cheer me for a minute or so.[Laughs] They’ll boo me. I don’t know, I’m the guy they love to hate and I don’t mind playing that role. It’s a good thing. I have more fun in that role, it’s my comfort zone, I know how to be that guy. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes I want to do stuff that I know would get them excited, I know would get them amped up, but I have to tone it down because I don’t want them to like me. And sometimes I think they lose sight of that. It’s like, “Oh, Batista, you got old, can’t do this anymore, can’t do that,” and it’s like, “Yes I can!” But I’m not gonna give it to you, because I know that you’ll cheer me. And I don’t want you to cheer me.