At 6 foot 5 and more than 340 pounds of solid muscle, World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Batista has never been afraid to hand out beat-downs--in or out of the wrestling ring. In his new autobiography, Batista Unleashed, the reigning World Heavyweight champion describes how his single mother moved coast-to-coast to protect him from violence and his own criminal behavior as a youth.
Eventually Batista--who recalls seeing three people shot in his Washington, D.C., front yard before he turned 9--discovered bodybuilding. The pastime not only chiseled his physique into a weapon mass destruction, it kept him off the streets and in the process probably saved his life.
At 30, usually the midway point in a pro wrestling career, Batista found his way into the WWE. In short order he became one of the multimillion dollar industry's top draws, ultimately headlining WrestleMania, the Super Bowl of sports entertainment, where he won his first of three World Heavyweight Championships to date.
In this exclusive interview, the athlete born Dave Bautista but known to millions around the world as "the Animal," discusses his respect for pro wrestling's highest-ranking gay, the former WWE superstar turned agent Pat Patterson, how the industry is changing to accept greater diversity, and why nobody would dare mouth off about his lesbian mom.
In Batista Unleashed, you mention your mother and father attempted to reconcile during your early childhood--despite the fact she's a lesbian. It was just one time they tried to reconcile which I really remember, and that was after my mom moved to San Francisco. They tried to save the marriage, but I don't even remember that lasting very long.
As a child, how did your mother's sexuality impact you? It didn't. It really didn't. I don't really remember my mom not having girlfriends. I never really thought about it. I don't think I was really aware then. It's not like my mom was making out with girls in front of us. [Chuckles] She just had her girlfriends around, and that's how she referred to them--she called her girlfriends "girlfriends." Even my dad--I don't think I really ever noticed my dad that much either. I don't have any strong recollection of him being with us for any long period of time.
Throughout your autobiography, you mention running with a rough group of kids. Were you ever made fun of for having a lesbian mother? Never. I was a pretty tough kid. I don't know if they were just too afraid to say anything or what. In San Francisco, it's really no big deal, but I don't remember ever getting any grief for it. And it was very obvious. My mom's girlfriends weren't the most feminine girls. It wasn't hard to figure out, but I don't remember ever hearing anything about it. Anybody who did would get a smack from me. I wasn't afraid to stick up for my mom. She's my mom, and I love her. I don't care if she's got a girlfriend or a boyfriend. She's my mom; I love her.
Various Web sites and features promoting Batista Unleashed describe it as "scandalous." In the book itself, though, you mention your mother's being a lesbian quite in passing. That is only a very small part of who my mom is. It's not like it was some dirty secret I had to hide, and I think a lot of that comes from my her. She was never secretive about it. She never made us feel it was something to be ashamed of. I think the most important message about my mom is not that she's a lesbian but that she's a single mother who struggled to keep her three kids safe and alive, off the streets and out of prison, to keep food on the table. Those are the messages I wanted to convey, not who she was in a relationship with at the time.
For your grandfather, that your mother is lesbian was far less troubling than the fact she's a Democrat. My grandfather is actually a great guy, but I've never talked politics with him. [Laughs] Now he seems very easygoing, but back then he might have been a little more uptight. My mom is still kind of touchy about certain things around him.
You take time to thank Pat Patterson, who, though he was once tabloid fodder when he was basically outed in the 1980s, has managed to stayed relevant in the industry. First of all, I love Pat to death. It took a long time for Pat to really warm up to me. He's somebody who really loves our business. He really thinks you should pay your dues. Once he saw I really do have a passion for the business, I can't even tell you how supportive he's been. He's openly gay; he's not ashamed, and everybody knows about it. Honestly, nobody cares. We all respect Pat Patterson for what he's accomplished and what he helps our company with. He's somebody I always talk about my matches with on the road. He cares about the wrestlers. We could care less who he's sleeping with at night.
It's hard to imagine sexuality not being an issue in an industry so driven by ego--and testosterone. It's not. It's not at all. I think our company -- and the industry in general -- is not today what it used to be. It's also not the same industry it was 20 years ago. A lot of people have that "big ol' redneck wrassler" stereotype still in their head. That's just not what it is anymore. Our company has grown with the times. Any kind of discrimination like that in our locker rooms is not accepted. It's just not cool.
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