In 2002, Batista left WWE’s Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) developmental system and debuted in WWE as an enforcer for D-Von Dudley. He later formed alliances with Randy Orton, Ric Flair, and Triple H in Evolution before breaking out as a singles competitor.
Eugene, who performed on the same OVW roster as Batista (fka Leviathan), spoke on Talk Is Jericho about the early days of their WWE careers. He said Batista repeatedly suffered injuries in OVW, prompting the company’s higher-ups to question whether he had a future in WWE.
“Batista, he kept getting injured down there. I’m not sure but I think they felt like his job might be in jeopardy because he kept getting injured. But then he just took off. That [Leviathan gimmick] was good, it was the best thing.”
Batista’s Leviathan character had yellow eyes and vampire fangs. Although the over-the-top gimmick appeared to be working, WWE moved away from that type of character presentation in the 2000s. Many people in Batista’s OVW class worked under their real names, including Brock Lesnar, John Cena, and Randy Orton.
Eugene on Batista’s OVW co-workers
It is well known that WWE had a talented group of future Superstars to choose from in the OVW system in the early 2000s. Eugene said Randy Orton was “good off the bat” as a young wrestler, while Shelton Benjamin was “spot on” from the moment he debuted.
Brock Lesnar always had the ability, according to Eugene, but he needed to adjust his work and transition to a pro wrestling style. Eugene added that John Cena and Victoria had limited ability at the time and they had a long way to go to progress.
Please credit Talk Is Jericho and give a H/T to SK Wrestling for the transcription if you use quotes from this article.