Wrestler Chris Jericho appeared on the popular online food culture channel. During the rapid-fire segment, Chris was asked to rate the acting abilities of the famous wrestlers. He rated Dave Bautista as the best actor of the group. Jericho said, “I would say the best actor of all of them is Bautista.” Jericho continued, “I think his work and his diversity, from what I’ve seen I think he’s the best actual actor and then I’ll put Dwayne Johnson, Cena, and Hulk Hogan after that.”
Jericho’s sentiments are a testament to Bautista’s talents. The Guardians of the Galaxystar has come a long way from his wrestling days in the WWE. In GQ, Yang-Yi Goh reflected on the wrestler’s road to Hollywood star, writing, ‘Dave could’ve made an easy living cranking out brainless, explosion-happy blockbuster after another.
Instead, he’s probably emerged as a serious thespian trapped in an action hero’s body.” Goh states, “…the who’s-who of Hollywood auteurs-from Glass Onion’s Rian Johnson to Dune’s Denis Villeneuve-keep lining up to work with him.
When you think about Dave’s trajectory as an entertainer and an actor, it’s shocking that a wrestler has transitioned into a serious actor. The Rock and John Cena are not bad actors. Cena is doing great in James Gunn’s Peacemaker, and The Rock has been a significant star for over a decade.
Wrestlers becoming actors is nothing new, but usually, their acting range and ability are limited, and they often stick to prominent action roles and steer clear of films and characters with a flair for the dramatic.
It’s a testament to Bautista and his talent and tenacity. He rebuffed the easy road and took a more challenging path, which meant more tremendous sacrifice but seemed to have paid off. Bautista remarked to GQ, “I never wanted to be the next Rock. I just want to be a good f***ing actor.”
Dave, the Bouncer Turned Wrestler
Before being a respected actor and even jumping into the ring as a wrestler, Bautista was a bouncer in DC. The actor has said he grew up in poverty and had a hard life. As an early teen, he used to steal cars, and by 17, he was living on his own and estranged from his parents. The actor credits bodybuilding as saving his life. He said he became a wrestler after he couldn’t afford to buy Christmas presents for his children.
Bautista tried out at the World Championship Wrestling (WCW) but was told he would never make it as a wrestler. The ever-tenacious Dave didn’t give up but went to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), eventually ending up with WWE, where he signed a contract in 2000. He became a big wrestling star, winning the WWE Championship and World Heavyweight Championship titles six times.
Outside the Ring
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After wrestling for a decade, Bautista left WWE in 2010 and became an actor. The first few years after leaving wrestling were hard, and Bautista’s chances of success in Hollywood looked grim. Dave told GQ that after he left wrestling, he lost everything, “I had to start from over”.
Starting from scratch meant moving to Los Angeles and working with an acting coach. It also meant he had to swallow his pride and appear in direct-to-DVD movies. Bautista ensured he appeared in only a few of these cheap movies.
The actor was wise and knew that taking too many of these roles would taint his resume, and he would be stuck making bad films. Despite the financial gain he could have reaped from starring in tons of straight-to-DVD movies, Bautista hunkered down and only accepted a handful. Eventually, the actor got a more significant break and was chosen by Vin Diesel to appear in Riddick. Speaking to WIRED, Dave said, “I’m particular about the projects that I’ve chosen. Each one of them, I’ve taken a step up, like climbing a ladder. Before, it was baby steps up to Riddick. Then I took this huge leap onto Guardians!”
Dave Becomes Drax The Destroyer
To get the role of Drax in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Bautista had to go through many gruelling auditions. When the actor finally got the role, he said he was in his car and had to pull over because he was crying so hard.
Bautista’s tenacity paid off. He made the jump from the small to the big screen. Bautista said that Guardians was such a higher-level and colossal project that he never thought he would ever get to be involved in.
In the WIRED interview, Dave confesses that it is hard for wrestlers to be respected as serious actors. There is a stigma attached to wrestlers when they crossover into acting. When asked about this, Dave responds and admits to the stigma. “It’s one of those things where it’s bound to happen, but I also realize I look a certain way, and they cast me because I look that way.
The actor provides more insight, saying, “Sometimes it’s hard to get people to take me seriously as an actor, when they just see me as this WWE musclehead.”
Dave the Star
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Dave’s portrayal as Drax the Destroyer in Guardians was a highlight of the film and was loved by fans of the series. Bautista, however, was almost not cast in the role. Disney and Marvel had other, more well-known actors like Jason Momoa in mind for the role. James Gunn was adamant that Bautista be cast in the role and fought to have him included in the first Guardians film.
The unlikely success of Guardians of the Galaxy made more minor actors like Chris Pratt and Dave Bautista instant stars. Dave embraced his role as Drax and showcased his innate acting abilities channelled through James Gunn’s vision of the character.
Bautista played the character’s aggressive and impulsive musclehead version but also showed a poignant, tender side. The character’s loss of his wife and children could be felt in Bautista’s performance. The actor was able to channel the multi-layered complexities of the character. Drax was funny, sad and insightful.
Dave Removes the Stigma
Dave was not content to star in superhero films but branched out to star in various film genres like 2015’s James Bond-Spectre, Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 and Dune, to name a few.
He chose and continues to choose roles that require nuanced and honest acting ability. With each film he stars in, Bautista proves that the musclehead stigma can no longer be used to label him.
Chris Jericho’s ranking was spot on. Bautista might be the best wrestler-turned-actor of his generation, and hopefully, he will continue to choose interesting film roles. His performance as Drax, however, will always be one of his best moments.
Wrestler Chris Jericho appeared on the First We Feast show.
When asked who is the best actor turned wrestler, Jericho says Dave Bautista.
Jericho says Bautista is better than The Rock, John Cena and Hulk Hogan because of the diversity in Bautista’s work as an actor.
What do you think of Dave Bautista as an actor? Is he better than the others like The Rock and John Cena? Let us know in the comments below.