Dave Bautista's tragic real-life story

Whether you know Dave Bautista as the fearsome WWE superstar Batista or the resident metaphor misunderstander of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Drax the Destroyer, he's one of the world's leading providers of intimidating shirtless characters. Bautista has slowly raised his profile over the years, and while he's becoming a blockbuster juggernaut who could potentially give Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson a run for his money, the wrestler-turned-actor has also been able to deliver the goods in roles that require fewer spinebuster moves and more nuance. After all, Bautista's role as Drax makes it clear that the big man has a knack for comedic timing, and it's difficult to imagine any other WWE alum in his turn as Sapper Morton in Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049.

It takes an extraordinary person to make it in both the WWE and Hollywood, and Bautista has lived a truly extraordinary life to get where he is. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean his life has been particularly nice. Throughout the years, he has endured (and, on occasion, caused other people to endure) all sorts of debilitating difficulties. Here's a look at the tragic real-life story of Dave Bautista.

​Rough childhood

There's no easy way to put this: Dave Bautista had a really, really difficult childhood, as detailed by the man himself in his book Batista Unleashed. He was born in 1969, and he says the Washington D.C. area he grew up in was one of the nation's poorest throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. As he was growing up, crack cocaine was about to make its entrance, murders in the neighborhood were common, and according to him, life expectancy for children was "worse than in many third world countries." Bautista goes on to say that homelessness and corruption ran rampant, and even honest folks couldn't trust the police.

If that sounds like the most dystopic imaginable place to grow up, Bautista immediately raises the stakes by casually mentioning that three people died on his doorstep before he turned 9. In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, he elaborates on one particular death, where his mother found a man dying of a gunshot wound outside their house. She called for help, but the officials took too long and the man didn't make it. Meanwhile, Bautista, his sister, and several other children were happily playing outside nearby. They were so accustomed to violent sights that they didn't even shed a tear, and after Bautista's mother saw this, the family promptly moved to San Francisco.

​The Drax affair

Dave Bautista's role as Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy propelled him to mainstream fame, but according to Wired, the dream gig could get surprisingly nightmarish at times. It has been reported that Bautista was nervous when he auditioned, but that isn't quite true. He has corrected the record: He was actually terrified. His first day on set wasn't any better because apart from his own nerves he was unfortunate enough to start filming two weeks later than everyone else. When he arrived, the others already in the zone, and the anxious giant had to scramble to catch up.

Bautista eventually calmed down and found his groove, but when existential terror went away, physical discomfort filled the void. The role required buckets of makeup and body paint, which took four hours to apply and another hour and a half to remove every day. Because the full upper-body treatment didn't really allow the actor to sit down, he had to go through the entire process by leaning on a little saddle-like perch instead of lounging in a comfortable makeup chair. However, getting it all put on wasn't as bad as having to don the Drax "costume" for many consecutive days. He says that by the third or fourth day, his skin started to get sensitive, and by the sixth consecutive Drax day he just wanted to peel his skin off and hit the showers.

Backstage trouble

While Dave Bautista was a huge WWE superstar, rumors claim he had (and caused) his share of backstage trouble. In 2006, he even allegedly got into a real fight with fellow wrestler Booker T (above). Wrestleview reports the fight took place when the men shot an ad for the upcoming Summerslam event, and while it was initially thought to be a staged incident to drum up hype, reports soon emerged that it had been a legitimate physical fight. Locker room whispers indicated that bad blood had been brewing for quite some time because of Bautista's bad backstage attitude — the big man had allegedly started to make comments that he "carried the company on his back" and that he was drawing in the most money, and his relatively quick rise to the top of the food chain and lack of humility had angered many of his colleagues. Said colleagues were also reported to be quite happy with the way Booker T stood up to Bautista, and other wrestlers were shown hugging and high-fiving Booker after the incident. Wrestleview also reported that Bautista confirmed things had been escalating for a while between Booker T and himself, and the fight had been a long time coming.

Then again, it must be noted that the initial reports of the fight's legitimacy appear to have come from the WWE itself, and Bautista and Booker T were promoting their title match against each other at the upcoming Summerslam. Hmm.

Gym addiction

If you've ever wondered what it takes to get a body like Dave Bautista's, the big man is happy to tell you … but you might not like the answer. In a 2019 interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Bautista says he spent his 20s in a state he calls "reverse anorexia." Despite being a fresh father of two daughters, he had no real plans or ambitions, so he got stuck in a loop: He worked all night as a bouncer, then spent hours at the gym, and by the time he got home, he'd sleep all day and start the cycle anew. Despite weighing over 300 pounds and doing virtually nothing but working and lifting, he felt he was never big enough.

Bautista spent ten years on this schedule, which didn't do any favors for his family's financial stability. As he was pushing 30, he realized he had wasted a decade of his life and was in a situation where he had to borrow money just so he could afford to buy Christmas presents for his children. This bleak situation ultimately came with a silver lining, as the impoverished Bautista decided to try his hand at wrestling despite being far older than most rookies.

Steroid allegations

Dave Bautista's hulking physique seems a bit more age-appropriate and less veiny these days, but back in his WWE heyday, he used to be so ripped that it seemed almost impossible. According to Forbes, there have been allegations that this is because Bautista was aided by every dishonest athlete's best friend: steroids. In 2007, the aftermath of the Chris Benoit murder-suicide case led the WWE (and other entities) to take a long, hard look at the company's wellness policy, and an ESPN report eventually linked Bautista and a number of other wrestlers to a large doping ring. Bautista strongly denied the allegations, and insisted that he was both tested regularly and operating "in full compliance with the WWE wellness program."

While he ultimately avoided suspension, the cloud of steroid suspicion has hovered over his head ever since. Wrestling Inc. and Bleacher Report have both reported on industry whispers about his past steroid use, and it has been pointed out that some of his injuries seem oddly consistent with the ones steroid users commonly suffer.

​Tumultuous relationship with the WWE

Dave Bautista made his name as a WWE powerhouse, but his relationship with the company has been stormy. According to Sportskeeda, Bautista has quit the company twice, in 2010 and 2014. His first departure was reportedly because of a lack of movie opportunities, as Bautista discovered the WWE wouldn't offer him roles in the company's movies despite his in-ring star status. He asked if he could go outside the WWE and audition for other films but was allegedly told: "You're our property. Get dressed for the house show and get to work." Bautista handed in his notice and left the company a year later as a borderline pariah. On his last night, few people bothered to thank him or say goodbye.

He made a comeback in 2013, but creative differences soon drove him out again. He reportedly wanted a slow buildup as a heel (a bad guy), but the WWE decided to strongly push him as a babyface (a hero), and the fans didn't really love it. According to Bautista, it didn't help that when he pitched a cross-promotion with a little movie he was doing called Guardians of the Galaxy, WWE big shots Triple H and Stephanie McMahon basically laughed in his face (a negotiation tactic they have presumably regretted since).

Finally, Bautista returned to the WWE one last time in 2019, when he wrapped up his wrestling career in a Wrestlemania match against none other than Triple H. Bautista lost.

Troublemaker youth

It's not exactly news that troubled youths tend to gang up and dabble in crime, and young Dave Bautista was no exception. On the podcast Anna Faris is Unqualified, Bautista says his childhood gang of thugs used to specialize on petty theft. They'd go down to the houses of kids they knew and steal small stuff like clothes and knickknacks they couldn't afford.

Bautista has since called his youthful thieving ways "petty," "ridiculous," and "kid stuff," but puberty turned him into a completely different beast. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Bautista grew large and intimidating during his later teenage years and ended up taking on a protector role in his group. He eventually ended up with a body that "implied violence," which made a career as a nightclub bouncer a pretty logical choice. Unfortunately, Bautista turned out to be a bouncer of the "splatter" variety, and he roughed up unwanted clientele so much that he was once even charged with assault.

Divorces, divorces

The life of a top WWE superstar isn't an easy one to mesh with your private life, and Dave Bautista has been less than successful with this particular juggling act. In an interview with Sport Bible, Bautista admitted that the year-round grind of being on the road with the WWE didn't do any favors for his marriage. Never being at home was not a good look for a husband. "Throughout my wrestling career I just … I was never home," he says. "I lost a marriage with someone who was a very, very close friend of mine. We still remain friends, but just never being home just tore our marriage apart."

According to Australian Broadcasting Corporation, he ruined two of his marriages while he was on the road, and it wasn't just his constant absence that was the problem. The superstar admits he was a proficient cheater while on the road, and that obviously also hurt the people he loved.

​Troubled family life

With his hulking physique and steely gaze, Dave Bautista might look like he was built at a shipyard, but he has a family just like everyone else … if maybe a slightly more turbulent one. The Tampa Bay Times reports that Bautista's father was a Filipino-American hairdresser who never did anything for young Bautista, and Dave writes in Batista Unleashed that his dad wasn't really prepared to be a father. Bautista also had an older brother who died in a car accident.

Dave's mother, Donna Raye, managed to bring up her children while also struggling with poverty, the high crime rates of their Washington D.C. neighborhood, and a number of family issues of her own. After separating from Dave's father, she started having relationships with women, which was a potential social problem for a woman coming from a conservative Greek-American family. However, it turned out they took a much bigger issue with the fact that she was a Democrat. According to Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Bautista's childhood may have been tough but he thinks very highly of his mother. "I never thought of her as, 'My mom the lesbian,'" he says. "She was Mom, an incredibly strong woman who always did her best to keep me out of trouble and keep me alive." To drive home his pro-LGBQT stance, he has also declared that he's a "proud son of a lesbian," and once even threatened boxer Manny Pacquiao for making anti-gay comments.

Difficulties with dyslexia

A large, muscular man with a wrestling background can often carry the stigma of people assuming he's a big stupid lug, and Dave Bautista faces an extra hurdle in his race to conquer that sort of snap judgment: He's dyslexic. In an interview on Chris Jericho's Talk Is Jericho podcast, Bautista says his dyslexia has made things like table reads for Avengers: Infinity War and other films pretty difficult for him. Still, the wrestler has kept a sense of humor about his condition and has been known to reply to badly spelled Twitter insults with friendly advice about how to deal with dyslexia.

As it happens, Bautista isn't the only Guardian of the Galaxy who deals with dyslexia. According to the New York Times, his castmate Zoe Saldana (who plays Gamora) is also dyslexic, and Dyslexic Advantage has praised both stars for publicly speaking out about their struggles with the condition.

So, so many injuries

Dave Bautista is a large man who entered the physically grueling world of wrestling at a relatively late age. This may be why his first, star-making tenure with the company was marred by multiple injuries that sidelined him for months on end.

According to Batista Unleashed, his first serious injury was a triceps muscle tear that sidelined him for a whopping seven months in 2003. However, it was far from his last one. In 2010, Bleacher Report named Bautista as one of the five most injury-prone wrestlers in the company's recent history, citing some of his most notorious mishaps. In 2006, he was forced to vacate his WWE World Championship because of yet another torn triceps. In 2008, a similar tear occurred in his hamstring, sidelining him for what was supposed to be six to eight months. He came back in four. Upon his return, he had just enough time to capture the WWE championship before a bicep injury forced him to drop the title the very next day, and a lower back injury later stopped him from completing a scheduled circuit of shows.

​Lack of education

In his book Batista Unleashed, Dave briefly dwells on his formal education, which there isn't really much of. Though he enjoyed wrestling in high school (shocker, huh?), his actual grades were far from amazing. In fact, by his senior year they were so bad that he wasn't allowed to wrestle and didn't even finish his senior year.

Bautista says not graduating from high school is something he has regretted his whole life, especially because he knows he absolutely could have done it if he had tried. Whenever he bothered to apply himself, he got good grades and his teachers were perfectly willing to let him make up assignments when he missed things. However, young Bautista couldn't care less about education, and it remains a sore spot to this day.

In a interview with Sport Bible in 2018, Bautista admitted that if he could live his life again, he would focus on getting an education. "I always preach that," he says. "I preach that to my kids and I believe that because that's something that you can take with you no matter where you are in your life or where you are in the world."

Too much of a good thing

As Recovery Connection notes, many WWE superstars have been known to struggle with drug and alcohol addictions. Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports that while Dave Bautista doesn't drink or do drugs, he was no different from his peers during his early years with the company. His drug of choice just happened to be a little different.

Although he didn't realize it at the time, he was addicted to the pleasures of the opposite sex while touring with the WWE. When the naturally shy and timid man became popular and suddenly had scores of girls interested in him, he says he was completely unequipped to handle it and dove in head first. While he didn't think it was a problem at the time (especially compared to all the drug and alcohol stuff he saw while on the road), he was eventually put in place by the late wrestler Chris Benoit, who told Bautista that his constant womanizing was a problem. That's when he realized his addiction, and he says he has since matured and changed because he doesn't want to hurt his business or be a bad role model for his children.