In 2014, the Marvel Cinematic Universe took to the cosmos with Guardians of the Galaxy.
Directed and co-written by James Gunn, the film introduced countless casual fans to the eclectic band of space-traversing heroes who’ve since become staples of the MCU. However, while each of them are now fan-favorites in their own right, the one with the most to prove at the time – and who’s since become arguably the most popular – is Dave Bautista, who plays Drax the Destroyer.
In 2014, Bautista’s resume was largely dominated by his time as a professional wrestler in the WWE. Outside of that, perhaps the biggest acting credit to his name was playing Diaz in 2013’s Riddick alongside his future GotG costar Vin Diesel. Nevertheless, Marvel Studios took a chance on Bautista, much like the Guardians franchise as a whole, and it paid off big time (approximately $1.65 billion over two films, not to mention Avengers: Infinity War and the upcoming Endgame).
Unfortunately, it appears Bautista’s future in the MCU could be in jeopardy.
On the Feb. 26 edition of WWE SmackDown Live, Bautista made a surprise return to crash Ric Flair’s 70th birthday party, seemingly setting the stage for a match between the former “Animal” and Triple H at WrestleMania XXXV in April. In fact, the seeds for this showdown were actually set months earlier, when Bautista teased some animosity between himself and his former Evolution teammate in October on the 1,000th episode of SmackDown.
Naturally, with Bautista apparently poised to return to the squared circle on the grandest stage of them all, one can’t help but wonder if it’s a sign that his days as Drax are numbered. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, though, let’s look back at his tenure in the WWE, up to and including his departure, as well as his current relationship with Marvel and Disney.
After being called up from Ohio Valley Wrestling – a developmental territory WWE used to groom future talent before establishing NXT in Florida – Bautista (aka Deacon Batista) began appearing on SmackDown in 2002 as an enforcer for D’Von Dudley (aka Reverend D’Von). He quickly outgrew that gimmick, though, and in 2003, Bautista (aka Batista) became a member of the faction known as Evolution, alongside Randy Orton and the aforementioned Ric Flair and Triple H.
It was during this period that Bautista got his first taste of WWE gold when he and Ric Flair captured the World Tag Team Championships. He was then quickly catapulted into the main event picture, winning the World Heavyweight Championship from Triple H in 2005 at WrestleMania XXI.
Bautista would experience five more World Title reigns before, in 2010, he abruptly departed the company, “quitting” during a scripted on-air segment in which he was wheelchair bound due to a legitimate injury to his L1 vertebrae. In reality, though, his contract was up and he opted not to resign.
However, that didn’t stop Bautista from returning for a brief run in 2014 to participate in the road to WrestleMania XXX. Once again, though, he decided to part ways with the WWE, this time only sticking around for six months.