Kevin Eck: When you first started in [World Wrestling Entertainment's developmental territory] Ohio Valley Wrestling, you wrestled as a demonic character named Leviathan. What did you think of that gimmick?
Dave Batista: At first I thought it was a little bit over the top. By that point a lot of wrestlers were using their real names and they weren't so gimmick-oriented. Some of the stuff they had me do was a little cheesy, but at the same time it was fun. They actually raised me from the Ohio River, which I'm still trying to live down. I get teased about that all the time.
Kevin Eck: Did your time in OVW prepare you for WWE?
Dave Batista: It didn't at all prepare me for WWE. I learned how to be responsible and stuff like that, but I didn't learn a lot as far as how to work in the ring. I learned more from [WWE trainer] Fit Finley in two days than I learned in OVW in two years.
Kevin Eck: When you were called up to WWE in 2002 you were given the role of Deacon Batista [a sidekick to a wrestler known as Reverend D-Von]. What were your thoughts about that character?
Dave Batista: At the time, I wasn't all that happy with it. I was a steamroller in OVW, and I thought WWE would bring me out in a stronger way, not as somebody's goon. The first thing WWE did was take away my body, which was my strongest asset, by sticking me in a goofy suit. I couldn't understand why they were doing that. Now I look back in retrospect and see there was a perfectly good reason for that. They took away my strongest asset because it forced me to learn how to work in the ring.
Kevin Eck: Eventually you were put into a group with wrestling superstars Triple H and Ric Flair. What was it like working alongside them?
Dave Batista: It's not only been an honor, but they've also become very good friends of mine. I just try to be a sponge around those two guys. I can't tell you how much I've learned. WWE had to stick me with the best or there was no hope for me. They really encouraged me to ride with them. Most of the learning actually takes place in the car after the shows, talking about your matches - how the crowd reacted to this or that and what you can try next time - while it's fresh in your mind.
Kevin Eck: Lately on WWE's Raw, you've been given more of a speaking role. Is that something you're comfortable with?
Dave Batista: I don't feel uncomfortable, it's just new to me. I feel if I had a lot of practice I would become pretty good at it. I was always a shy kid, so for me, getting in front of people and speaking is actually the hardest part. It's a little nerve-wracking.
Kevin Eck: When you got into the wrestling business, did you ever think you would one day be in the main event at WrestleMania?
Dave Batista: No. That never entered my mind. I always just wanted to be involved. I never set real high goals. I just wanted to make it into WWE. Being in the main event at WrestleMania and possibly holding the title is just unbelievable.
Kevin Eck: Wrestling fans really started to get behind your character a few months ago. What do you attribute that to?
Dave Batista: Right guy, right time. I try not to read into it too much. Triple H has given me the advice on a number of occasions to always enjoy the ride.
Kevin Eck: Several WWE stars have been able to crossover into acting. Do you have any such aspirations?
Dave Batista: Right now I'm real focused on wrestling. I just had my first out-of-the-business thing with getting the cover of Flex magazine. My original dream was to be a bodybuilder, so I can't even tell you how excited I am about that. That's a dream come true for me. As far as acting, I could never do the leading man stuff that The Rock does. I'd love to do some [supporting roles], maybe like Triple H did in 'Blade: Trinity.'
Kevin Eck: What do your three daughters think about your wrestling career?
Dave Batista: I always think I'm a cool dad, but I don't think they think so. They wish I was home more, but I don't think they think what I do is cool in any way. I don't think they're impressed.
Kevin Eck: Ric Flair is still wrestling at age 56. Have you given any thought to how long you want to wrestle?
Dave Batista: I haven't given a whole lot of thought to it. I should probably start. As long as my body will allow and as long as the people still appreciate me. I'd hate to overstay my welcome. I can say right now there's no way physically I could do this as long as Ric Flair. He's a special breed.
Kevin Eck is a sports copy editor for The Sun and the former editor of WCW (World Championship Wrestling) Magazine.