A somewhat odd story made the rounds earlier this month. Well, it was odd in that WWE doesn’t usually not work with movie stars who want to work with them. But maybe not that odd when you look at their strained relationship with Avengers: Infinity War’s Dave Bautista.
Reports said the company started talking to the former WWE Champ about coming back for WrestleMania 34, possibly as a partner for Ronda Rousey. While it didn’t have the “Olympic Dream Team” angle presented by Rousey’s eventual partner, Kurt Angle, it made some storyline sense - the Batista character has a ton of history with the team Ronda’s feuding with, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. But whoever had been in contact with Bautista allegedly just... stopped calling him. He was said to have found out they’d gone in another direction when the rest of us did.
Some doubted the story, but in a visit with Chad Dukes on 105.7 The Fan in his hometown of Washington, D.C., The Animal relayed his version. And it lines up:
“This is all insider stuff, and I usually don’t share. I’m really an old-school kayfabe guy. But they reached out to me earlier this year to possibly come back and do that thing with Ronda. And I said that I would be willing to do it only if we teased something for me and Hunter to go to ‘Mania next year. And they said, ‘Yeah, that would be great. I love that idea.’
And I said, ‘Well, that’s great. I’ll come back a few times during the year, and we’ll tease it, and we’ll work it and we’ll milk it. And we’ll go to ‘Mania, me and Hunter, next year.’ Oh, I love that idea. Let’s do it! And so we literally talked for about like three weeks and then they just stopped calling me.
I sent a text to Hunter. I was like, ‘Hey man, I don’t know if you put any more thought into what’s going on. I’m really excited about the possibilities.’ And I literally never heard back from them. They just stopped talking to me about it.
Man, I don’t know what else I can do to try to... I want to end my career the right way. I’m faithful and loyal to the WWE. I’m proud of being from there and I want to do good business with them, but they just don’t make it easy. You know, they just don’t.”
Now, I’m a Big Dave super-fan, but I just don’t get it. And neither does Bautista, who sounds pretty close to calling it a wrestling career - despite his love for the business:
“I told them next year would be my last year. I’m turning 50 next year. I’d be willing to… I feel great. Physically, I’m in great shape. I’ve never let up on that. But I just don’t want to be the old guy in the ring and I don’t want to overstay my welcome. I just want to end my career the right way and next year will be the last opportunity, so if we can’t make something happen by next year, then I’m just gonna officially hang it up.
I’m doing okay for myself, so I don’t need to be there. I just, I love it there. Even though the fans totally crapped on me the last time I was there, I would still go back in a heartbeat and love to entertain them, and I would have fun doing it, man. I’d be happy to be there. But, I just don’t get it, man. I don’t get that company. I just don’t understand.”
It seems like there has to be something more at play here, as even if the company doesn’t like how publicly critical Bautista’s been of them - on a few different issues - since his last run, Vince McMahon and team usually let bygones be bygones when there’s money to be made. And promoting Dave Bautista is good business right now. Ask Disney/Marvel, who loves having him front-and-center on Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy promotion, even though he’s not the top star of either film franchise.
Now, it seems like there will only be one more shot at a farewell tour for Batista. Will WWE get over whatever’s holding them back from making it happen?
As one of Dave’s co-stars might say, “I am groot”.
You can listen to more highlights of the interview with Dukes here.