Dwayne Johnson Isn’t The Best Wrestler Turned Movie Star, This Comic Book Movie Star Is Better

Dave Bautista has taken a wider variety of roles and demonstrated a willingness to improve, making him the best wrestler-turned-actor.

By Jonathan Klotz | Updated

Dave Bautista

Wrestlers have been getting involved with movies for decades, from Kurrgan appearing Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes, to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson becoming the biggest star on the planet. Despite everything that The Rock has achieved on his own and as part of the Fast and Furious franchise, he’s still only the second most successful wrestler-turned-actor. The best is Dave Bautista, as unlike his fellow grapplers, the former WWE Champion has taken on a wide variety of roles through multiple genres (check out his IMDB), and he’s constantly improving.

Dave Bautista became a WWE Superstar later in life compared to his peers. He was already past his 30th birthday when he was training alongside John Cena and Brock Lesnar in Ohio Valley Wrestling. Most wrestlers have already been performing for a decade by the time they’re 30, but against all odds, Bautista proved to be a natural in the ring and quickly became one of the company’s most popular stars

After rising to prominence in Evolution, a wrestling stable led by current WWE executive Triple H and the legendary Ric Flair, Bautista had his first real acting opportunity in season six of Smallville as a Kryptonian criminal that escaped from the Phantom Zone. Unlike other wrestlers from his era that crossed over, Bautista didn’t have a starring role created for him, and there was no Scorpion King or The Marine in his future. Instead, he had to start from the bottom.

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Dave Bautista as Drax in the MCU

A small cameo in the hit Australian series Neighbors was followed by a brief role as a villain in Man with the Iron Fists, small parts that came before Dave Bautista finally had his breakout role: Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy. As Drax, Bautista took a one-dimensional character and infused him with a strange sense of humor based on taking everything literally and an amazing sense of physical comedy. To go from berserker rage to making “Why Gamora?” a punchline while remaining true to the character is an impressive feat.

What I appreciate about Dave Bautista’s acting career is his willingness to lose on-screen and be the butt of the joke. Drax isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, and Bautista’s humor still works perfectly in the comic universe. As a henchman in Spectre, he was able to steal scenes from James Bond in Daniel Craig’s best outing as the superspy. As a medical professional in Hotel Artemis, the very large and imposing Bautista is essentially a pacifist, helping to ground the criminal film with his world-weary character.

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Dave Bautista in Knock at the Cabin

The Rock has a famous clause in his contract that he can not lose a fight on camera, and John Cena, another massive wrestler-turned-actor, has settled into a groove as a comedic action hero. No matter what role each of those stars is playing, it’s impossible not to see them as “The Rock” and “John Cena,” and while they may play against type, neither can blend into an ensemble like Dave Bautista. In Glass Onion, he played a men’s rights activist/social influencer, followed just a few months later by his best role yet as the leader of the strangers in Knock at the Cabin.

Looking more disheveled and broken down than in any other role, Dave Bautista carries the M. Night Shyamalan film. This tense thriller involves the bare minimum of punching anyone in the face and, instead, makes the star say the most lines he ever has in a feature film. The same dedication to his craft that made Bautista an unlikely champion is still paying off in his second decade of acting, with every role proving that he’s getting better and better.

Dave Bautista thinks of himself as a dramatic actor and wants others to view him similarly. He’s not a wrestler playing a part; he’s a real actor pursuing dramatic roles now that he’s done with the MCU. The willingness to do whatever it takes to tell a great story, the risks he takes in his roles, and the constant improvement he’s shown just in the past three years alone are all why Dave Bautista is the best wrestler-turned-actor.