At first, the brawl between the two monsters known as Batista and Booker T was thought to be a work. After all, it was referred to on WWE television, and the WWE.com website even reported on it.
But make no mistake, this was no work. The two main event wrestlers definitely went at it for real, and both had the battle wounds to prove it.
Fight: Batista vs Booker T
Date: May 8, 2006
Location: Encino, CA
Source: Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Wrestlezone.com, Wrestlinginc.com
As often happens in situations like these, the tension between Batista and Booker T had been brewing for awhile. Batista became a big star, thanks to his being linked with HHH and Ric Flair in Evolution. And as much as blame as HHH has deservedly received over the years for burying much of the talent, he absolutely did make Batista a superstar by putting him over the way he should have. Batista also came across as shy and likeable on camera, which worked due to the contrast with his menacing physique and look. It’s the same reason his appeal has translated to the big screen, where he’s now a bonafide movie star.
Batista’s quick ascension to the top, where he was hand picked by Vince McMahon almost entirely because of his freaky physique, did cause him to develop something of an attitude backstage. Some of it was his shy personality coming across as arrogance (similar to Lex Luger), but some of it was definitely his own doing. Batista had proven to be a genuine draw, but because of his physique and protected booking, and because he was a relative newcomer who wasn’t a smooth worker, there was the natural resentment from the other guys in the locker room.
In early 2005, Batista had given an interview in England saying the SmackDown wrestlers didn’t have the same commitment as the Raw wrestlers, and it sickened him. The interview was done before Batista was drafted to SmackDown. Booker took this as a personal insult against himself and the guys on the SmackDown roster, and felt he didn’t respect the history of the business. He felt Batista only respected HHH and Ric Flair, and that he was on the same level as they were. Booker didn’t like Batista’s attitude and that he felt he was superior to everyone else.
Batista had also been bragging about his drawing power, since SmackDown business was slightly up since he switched over. That is true, but there were other reasons for that since SmackDown was scoring especially well with Hispanic viewers at the time. The SmackDown roster felt they weren’t making any more money than when Batista wasn’t there, so they, and Booker, felt his bragging wasn’t warranted.
While surely those things did bother Booker, speculation is that the real tension was far more personal. In particular, Booker’s wife Sharmell and Batista’s girlfriend Melina had problems with each other. The problems escalated on a tour of Australia that year, resulting in a “wrestlers’ court” in which Melina was “sentenced.” The feud between the ladies carried over to their men, and that may have been the tipping point for both of them.
Booker and Batista were in Encino, CA filming a commercial for SummerSlam, which featured a match between the two for the world title. Batista hadn’t been around for months, as he was home rehabbing his triceps and torn lat muscle, the former of which he had surgery on. When he showed up, he only shook the hands of the main event talent, along with Fit Finlay. This was a violation of the unwritten rule of locker room etiquette, which was to shake hands with everyone there upon your arrival. This only cemented in Booker’s mind his feelings about Batista’s superiority complex.
This show of disrespect caused Booker to cut a promo on Batista, and in the argument, he may have brought up the aforementioned interview from England. Batista brought up how SmackDown ratings sank as soon as he left, which was true, but there were other factors and Batista’s absence likely played only a minor role. Still, that comment didn’t go over well with the SmackDown roster. Aside from that, it was said Booker got the better of the argument.
Batista made a comment that he could take Booker out any time (in a fight). Booker responded that the two of them should go find an empty room right now, close the door, and go for it. People there tried to talk Batista out of it, as he could’ve re-injured his triceps badly and risked his entire career over it. Booker was also putting his career at risk if he ended up responsible for injuring Batista and forcing him out of action for a long period of time again. Above all, it seemed ridiculous for men their age to be fighting like this. Batista could have and should have let it go, but wouldn’t.
By the time they were about to find a room, Batista had no choice but to go because backing out would’ve been a major loss of face and respect among everyone watching. Rey Mysterio was the last person to try to talk Batista out of it, but it was too late. He had to do it or never show his face again.
When they went into a room, everyone left. As Booker closed the door, he claimed Batista immediately suckerpunched him as his hand was still on the knob. Booker came back right away and was doing some pretty good damage. People outside could hear the sound of Booker’s fists pounding on Batista’s face, and after about 30 seconds, they rushed in and found Booker on top of him, doing just that. The WWE website reported the fight lasted five minutes, but it was really only 30 seconds. The argument itself lasted five minutes.
Batista screamed at everyone to let it continue, so they did. Booker once again got the upper hand. At one point Batista held Booker’s braids and tried to knee him in the face, but Booker blocked them with his elbows. Booker shouted, “Is that all you got? You’re hitting my elbows!” Sharmell reportedly kicked Batista with a low blow at that point, and it was then broken up by Finlay, JBL, Kurt Angle, and a few others. As they dragged Booker away, Batista got in a good suckerpunch that swelled up Booker’s eye. Booker shouted back that he was going to get him back, saying “I’m an OG!” which was slang for Original Gangster.
Batista then told Booker he was a “cancer” to the locker room, which is a very surprising choice of words considering Batista’s ex-wife suffered from breast cancer. Booker then asked anyone there to raise his/her hand if they thought he was a bad influence on the locker room. Batista was surprised that nobody came forward. Booker in particular asked Bobby Lashley, and Lashley said Booker had always helped him out and advised him. Sharmell had some harsh words for Batista during all this as well.
Finlay in later interviews said Batista won the fight because Booker had a swollen eye, but that is misleading because that injury came from a suckerpunch. No one else who witnessed it said Batista won, although there were no witnesses to the first part in the empty room. Booker later years said the story was not blown out of proportion and that Batista took a good beating.
Booker had a visible eye injury on the taping the next night, which on commentary they blamed on a fight at the commercial shoot without saying Batista’s name. Batista attended the “See No Evil” premiere later that night with swollen eyes. The injuries finally convinced most (but not all) everyone that it wasn’t a work like many had initially believed.
There were no further problems between the two, and they worked matches later on just fine. Batista later said they had to fight it out, and that once they did, things were fine. Politically, Vince McMahon was personally disappointed Batista lost the fight and at first held back on pushing him as the top guy because in his eyes, a top guy shouldn’t lose street fights. That was at least a better viewpoint than Bill Watts would’ve had, as he would’ve fired Batista for losing.
Booker said in later interviews that he had fought his whole life, that he had a passion for it, and was very good at it. At the same time, he said he wasn’t a fan of UFC because it was too barbaric and that he wouldn’t have done it if he was younger because the injuries can lead to lifelong physical ailments. Batista actually did go on and fight in MMA, winning against a lower level competitor. With the way Batista has trained, if the fight happened today, it would almost surely go down differently. He’s since gone on to become a movie star on the rise, with bigger and bigger roles coming his way.