Dave Bautista has lately established his presence in Hollywood as an action superstar. However, before he became famously known for his roles on the screen, and even for his wrestling at the WWE, the man had a rough childhood. His story is an inspiring tale of growth and development.

I, like many others who grew up watching the WWE wrestler known as “The Animal,” picture Dave Bautista today as a larger-than-life sports entertainer-turned Hollywood star. So it’s hard to believe that the 51-year-old actually had a rough childhood given all the success he’s achieved as an adult.

Long before battling his way to the top of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), and beating other actors to a role in within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Bautista had to face a different kind of adversity.

Dave Bautista grew up in challenging conditions

Many celebrities had modest childhoods, especially compared to their modern-day lifestyles. Dave Bautista’s upbringing was something much worse, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

“Growing up in Washington, D.C., in the ’80s, violence was at Bautista’s doorstep, literally. He watched from his window as a mob beat a man and tried to throw him from an overpass. He says he saw his mother get hit.”

In his teen years, Bautista began developing into the imposing physical specimen we see today, and in hanging with the wrong crowd he got mixed up in petty crimes. Later, as a nightclub bouncer, he’d occasionally take his job too far and was once even charged with assault.

Turning the ship around

The tipping point for a near 30-year-old Bautista at the time, father of two girls, was one sad Christmas, he told host Ben Pakulski on the Muscle Expert Podcast. Broke and unable to buy Christmas presents for his kids, he decided to try his hand at professional wrestling that he watched on TV.

People ask me, ‘What got you into wrestling? Were you a lifelong fan?’ You know, I really hate to tell them — I really hate to say this — but I always say, ‘No, I wasn’t.’ I got into it for the money, because I need to make some money.

Dave Bautista

Although an avid bodybuilder and a natural athlete, the road to the big time wasn’t necessarily a smooth one. 

After a rejection from then-red-hot World Championship Wrestling (WCW), Bautista explained in in his book Batista Unleashed that he didn’t stop trying. Instead, with the financial help of two friends, one of whom is now his manager, he enrolled in a wrestling school in Pennsylvania. Five years later? He earned the highest honor in the industry: WWE champion.

Lights, camera , action

Not a new story by any means, but a decade-plus of working the ring took its toll on Bautista’s body leaving him recovering from a string of injuries. Compounded with his love for weight training, telling the Tampa Bay Times he suffered from a kind of “reverse anorexia,” he began turning his attention towards yet a new career: in Hollywood. 

After a few bit parts, his major break came after being cast as Drax the Destroyer in the blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy. Perhaps surprisingly, even to himself, Bautista became an instant hit with fans and critics alike praising him for his comedic timing.

Breaking a stereotype

Even though Guardians is undoubtedly a massive franchise, it may surprise you that he’s not just vying for a spot as the next greatest action hero like fellow former wrestler Dwayne Johnson. Rather, Bautista is going the route of character actor.

In fact, the thespian has been quoted saying, “I don’t want to look like Dave Bautista there on screen, being the same guy in every role,” adding, “I want to be different characters. I want to be a chameleon, which is not easy for me to do because I’m built like a fucking gorilla.”

For those following his career, this may not come as a surprise since Bautista’s name can be found in the credits of cerebral sci-fi productions like Blade Runner 2049 and the upcoming Dune adaptation. He’s also honing his humour having appeared alongside HBO’s Silicon Valley funny-man Kumail Nanjiani in the buddy cop flick Stuber.  

Use adversity as fuel for a fire

It can often feel easier to give up or take the easy way out when faced with hardship whether in the home, or in the professional arena like Bautista has. Instead of throwing in the towel, take a page from his book (literally) and use adversity as motivation to move forward in life, one step at a time. 

Rather than ending up on the wrong side of the law as a youngster dealing with difficult circumstances, giving up after trying his hand at wrestling or taking the typical muscle-bound part in a movie, Bautista has always challenged himself to take the path less traveled. 

And as for the actor formerly known as The Animal? He’s well on his way to becoming one of the Tinseltown’s most bankable stars, and is getting set to reprise his role as Drax in 2022’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

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