Opinion: Pro Wrestler Dave Bautista Set For MMA Debut But, After Years Of WWE Injuries, Can He Handle It?
By Joshua Molina
There’s a common name in wresting for a big guy with a lot of muscles who can’t move very fast inside the squared circle. They call him a “broomstick.”
The idea is for the broomstick to flex his muscles, scream loud and “destroy” all of his opponents, while hopefully selling a lot of T-Shirts. The guy the broomstick faces is usually more athletic, fast, and who has agility. It’s his job to make the broomstick look like the ultimate force inside the ring, and mostly importantly, to lose.
It’s a simple formula, and one perfected by iconic broomsticks such as Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior and Andre The Giant.
In the modern era, every wrestling fan knows that “Big” Dave Bautista is a broomstick inside the wrestling ring. But now, Bautista is looking to do something that few pro wrestlers are capable or gutsy enough to do. He’s about to step inside the cage and fight for real.
Bautista wrote this on his Twitter account: “I’m making my MMA debut oct 6th live on PPV check it! BOOOOM there’s the announcement. Sorry haters!”
Bautista announced recently that he will fight for the CES MMA organization on Oct. 6, in Providence Rhode Island. The 43-year-old’s announcement comes two years after he nearly signed a deal with Strikeforce – before it was owned by Zuffa – to step inside the cage.
The reaction on Friday to Bautista’s new career was met by wrestling fans with mostly skepticism.
Bautista is, after all, 43, and has a history of injuries, particularly torn tricep muscles. According to the website www.fiveouncesofpain, Bautista has suffered major injuries from 2003 to 2009.
March 1, 2003: Torn right triceps during a wrestling match.
2003: Re-torn triceps in training, delaying his return to the ring
Nov. 11, 2005: Muscle torn in his back during wrestling match.
Jan. 6, 2006: Torn right triceps during a wrestling match.
Aug, 17, 2008: Hamstring tear during training.
June 2009: Torn bicep during training.
His pro wrestling peers have been mostly silent since Batista’s announcement.
John Bradshaw Layfield, a former WWE world heavyweight champion, said on his Twitter, “HUGE new and best wishes to Batista as its reported he just signed his 1st MMA fight. Wish Dave the very best!!!”
At least one pro wrestler isn’t expecting much out Bautista. Booker T, a retired wrestler who now works as a ringside commentator, said in 2010 that Batista would get crushed inside the cage. He compared Bautista’s skills to that of Bobby Lashley’s, another ex-wrestler, saying Lashley would pound Bautista.
It’s clear that Bautista is taking his MMA career seriously. He’s in great shape and has been learning jiu-jitsu. By any man-on-the-street standards, he’s a legitimate tough guy.
But can Bautista, at 43, fight? Or is this a way for him to make a quick buck? Sure Brock Lesnar was successful, but Lesnar was 32 years old when he first stepped inside the cage – and that considered old to start. Lesnar is also a former NCAA heavyweight wrestling champion. He won the UFC titled by beating on aging Randy Couture, but fizzled out after that.
Lashley, also a former college wrestling champion, hasn’t fared as well, compiling a 7-2 record against mid- to low-level talent.
Here’s what we do know about Bautista and his legit fighting skills. In 2006, the story is that he got his clock cleaned backstage by Booker T, when the two and other wrestlers were filming a promotional commercial for SUMMERSLAM, the WWE’s big summer show.
At the time, Bautista was enjoying an incredible run at the top of the WWE. He was world champion, and his popularity came out of nowhere. He was always envisioned to be a big enforcer-bodyguard type of guy for other stars. But in a storyline when Randy Orton was cast as the next world champion, fans instead started wildly cheering for Bautista, forcing the WWE to change the script and make Bautista champion.
According to wrestlezone.com, Booker T got in Bautista’s face over Bautista’s attitude. Many wrestlers felt that Bautista, who not long before was at the bottom of the card, was now acting arrogant and above everyone else. He said the WWE was getting poor ratings on shows that he didn’t appear on.
Booker T confronted Bautista and then the two started fighting, in a match that ended with Booker T on top of Bautista pounding him in the face, before wrestlers stepped in after about 30 seconds. wrestling.insidepulse.com.
Bautista screamed to let the fight continue, but the Booker T regained the upper hand, according to wrestling.insidepulse.com. Eventually, pro wrestlers Kurt Angle, Layfield and Fit Finlay broke it up. Bautista suffered a big cut to the face and Booker T received a black eye, reportedly when Bautista suckerpunched him as they were being pulled apart.
Bautista may be ready for the cage. He might surprise everybody and enjoy a success career as an MMA fighter. Or he may be trying to leverage the fight against a new contract in the WWE. Maybe he just wants a big payday. Maybe he just wants to prove to himself and his critics that despite what they have heard, he can fight.
He is scheduled to fight somebody named Rashid Evans – not the UFC fighter by the name of Rashad Evans. It probably doesn’t matter the name of his opponent, but for Bautista’s sake, it’s probably a good thing, he’s not fighting somebody named Booker T.
Joshua Molina is a college journalism instructor in California, journalist and mixed martial arts writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.