first published at the Manila Times, Sept. 16, 2006  by Uy, Ed Richelle

IT was a homecoming of sorts for the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) superstar David Michael Bautista, more popularly known as Batista, as he paid a visit to the Philippines, the native land of his grandparents, on September 7 to 9. He has never been to the country before, but said it was the Filipino culture that has molded and influenced him to succeed.
Thousands of Filipino fans welcomed the star wrestler at his rounds around the metropolis to promote the upcoming WWE Survivor Series Tour, slated on October 21 to 22 at the Araneta Coliseum.

During a news conference, Batista said he was impressed by the Filipino hospitality that he has heard so much about.

“I’m very proud of my roots,” said Batista as he showed off his tattoo that merged the Filipino and Greek flags.

“My father is Filipino, my grandparents are from the Philippines and my mother is Greek,” he explained. And though he doesn’t speak or understand Pilipino except for “mahal kita [I love you],” he says his grandparents have instilled in him the Filipino values of hospitality and showed him the importance of hard work and dedication.

Batista is not ashamed to admit that he came from a poor family as he recounted how his grandfather, who served in the military, would take in odd jobs as a taxi driver, or a barber to put food on the table. “It’s the same trait that inspired me to claw my way to the top of the wrestling business.” It is also in this sense that his moniker, “The Animal,” has never been more appropriate. “I’ve always been very aggressive in life just like my grandparents. It is the same drive that motivates me to try and do my best, and when things slow down, all I have to do is to look at my three daughters to feel that hunger again. I would do everything for them,” he said.

Birth of ‘The Animal’

Born January 18, 1969, David Michael Bautista Jr. is perhaps the biggest Filipino international superstar, and at 6’5″ and 290 lbs, it would be certainly hard to argue with him.

He entered wrestling rather late, and was a bodybuilder and a bouncer before he met the late Curt Henning (Mr. Perfect) and Road Warrior Animal at a bodybuilding show in Minneapolis. He first went to the World Championship Wrestling (WCW) Power Plant for a tryout, and in another expected bad decision, WCW decided that he would never make it as a wrestler. He was trained by Wild Samoan Afa and started his career working for his WXW promotion under the name Kahn. Shortly after, he signed a WWE developmental deal and wrestled in Ohio Valley Wrestling.

While there, he was known as Leviathan and Demon of the Deep. He debuted for WWE in May 2002 as Reverend D-Von’s assistant Deacon Batista and holder of the collection plate (the Deacon character he said was one of the lowest point in his career!) WWE seeing potential shipped him to Raw where he became the fourth member of Evolution that included Ric Flair, Triple H and Randy Orton. It was during his stint at Evolution that Batista won several title belts and was slowly groomed to become a main “eventer”-WWE’s top wrestler/talent.

His biggest break was at Wrestlemania 22, when he defeated Triple H for the World Heavyweight championship. He would then carry the belt to Smackdown, before forfeiting the World Heavyweight Championship on January 9 after tearing his right tricep following a match with Mark Henry. He holds the record for being the longest-running world heavyweight champion surpassing Triple H’s previous mark of 280 days.

Sports entertainment

“If someone came up to me and told me that wrestling was fake, I’d probably stick my scars in his face,” he said. “It is entertainment, we’re not trying to fool anybody, but it is also something that is very tough. Not everyone can do what were doing. Wrestling is something we do four days every week for an entire year. We don’t have an offseason. Offseasons are for sissies (laughs). We have to wrestle and travel (sometimes even overseas) a lot. It is very physically demanding and despite the years of training we still break bones and tear muscles. It is a very risky and dangerous profession.”

Besides dealing with the hardships on the road, Batista said he also had to deal with the guys in the locker room when he was first transferred to Smackdown. He said it was tough at first since he already had established several friendships from the wrestlers at Raw. Batista and WWE champion King Booker even got into a real-life a few months ago during a taping of the Summerslam commercial shoot.

The fight was so intense both men were left swollen and bloodied and it took nearly a half dozen WWE superstars to separate them. Batista, however, disclosed that they both have come into an agreement. “It’s over, we will agree to disagree. We won’t be friends, but we will work together to give the fans a great match.” Batista will be facing King Booker as the probable main event for their Survivor Series tour.

But it was also in the Smackdown locker room that he developed a strong friendship with the late Eddie Guerrero. “I loved Eddie; he was a real friend and I also learned a lot from him just like I learned so much from Triple H. He said that even though he doesn’t agree with the use of Eddie in the storylines he said a part of him wants to believe that Eddie is looking down and having a laugh at what they are doing.” He adds that Vicky Guerrero is a wonderful woman and they enjoy having her in the locker room.

Speaking of women, Batista said girls were almost always the topic at the locker room, adding that he admires the toughness and athleticism of all WWE divas. In case you haven’t heard, Batista, who is separated from his Filipina wife, is rumored to be dating one of the 2006 WWE Diva Search finalists, Rebecca DiPietro.

Batista says he doesn’t see himself doing anything else. “Wrestling has become my passion and I hope to be in it for the rest of my life. “Vince [McMahon WWE owner], despite being a heel [bad guy] on TV is one of the greatest guys I’ve ever met. “Vince is a really funny guy with an incredible sense of humor, too bad he is also the worse dancer in the planet [laughs].”

Watch Batista, King Booker, The Undertaker, Chris Benoit Mr. Kennedy, Chavo Guerrero and other WWE superstars take center stage for the much-anticipated sports entertainment event of the year, the SmackDown! Survivor Series Tour at the Araneta Coliseum.