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Glass Onion Just Changed The Hierarchy Of Power For Wrestlers In Hollywood (Sorry, Dwayne)

From Andre the Giant to Hulk Hogan, wrestling greats have often left the ring for various Hollywood stints. The most notable shift was by Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson, who even seemingly got approval to take over as the next action star from Arnold Schwarzenegger when the latter appeared in one of his first films. Schwarzenegger has an uncredited cameo in "The Rundown" as a bar patron who passes by, telling Johnson's character, "Have fun."

Cut to the present day, and the once electrifying man in sports entertainment is a franchise factory, from "Fast & Furious" to "Jumanji" to "San Andreas," "Jungle Cruise," and "Red Notice," all three of which have planned sequels. But the Rock was recently rumbled after his latest endeavor, "Black Adam," bombed at the box office. It's his first critical and financial flop since 2018, hinting at the possibility that his star might not be shining as brightly as it once did.

Meanwhile, another former champ of the WWE is continuing to surprise and succeed in a route that no other wrestler has taken, one that has seen his roles shift from the clichéd characters that the likes of Hogan and Johnson have played before to appearances that require him to, you know, act. But what is it that sets him apart from others who have gone beyond the mat to try something different, and could it see him going where no former wrestling champ has gone before — swapping steel chairs for golden statues?

Bautista isn't trying to make a name for himself — he's just working with big ones

In his early acting career, Dave Bautista could've easily fallen into the cracks that other wrestling stars found themselves in as muscle to the bad guy and nothing more. Bautista, however, had bigger plans and has stuck to them ever since. Speaking to Men's Health in 2021, he acknowledged the tropes he had to dodge to get to where he wanted. "I didn't want to be the guy coming from wrestling, taking these easy action roles and just kind of pumping up and putting baby oil on my arms," he shared. "I really fell in love with acting."

In time, audiences fell in love with him as well. After destroying his role as Drax in "Guardians of the Galaxy," his stint in Denis Villeneuve's "Blade Runner 2049" showed something unexpected. As Sapper Morton, Bautista stole the scene from Ryan Gosling, displaying a cliché-cracking actor wanting to test himself and continuing to do so after that.

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly in 2021, Bautista broke down his work method and his hopes from it. "If I'm being directed in a way I feel like makes me a better performer, then I get hungry for that," he explained. "That's why I set out to work with the best actors in the world, the best directors in the world, because I want to see how good I can be, and I can't find that out unless I get roles like this."

Bautista is only a few moves away from that 'genius' role

Cut to 2022, and Dave Bautista is sharpening his edge further with director Rian Johnson. Reuniting us with Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) in "Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery," the director somehow squeezed Bautista in alongside a new squad of suspects as dudebro streamer Duke Cody. Pushing beyond the bare-bones turn as a Joe Rogan-like influencer who still lives with his mother, Bautista made him more than the mundane meathead he could've been. Doing so added another notch on his acting belt, setting him apart from other wrestling stars, who have often stuck to building their brand rather than their acting muscle.

Even Johnson has been rather vocal about Bautista's rise. In an interview with The Atlantic, the director predicted that further greatness awaits his towering supporting star. "I think somebody like [Paul Thomas Anderson] is going to give him a real part and is gonna look like a genius," he stated.

Before that happens, of course, Bautista still has another trip to Arrakis in Denis Villeneuve's "Dune: Part Two," which will see his reprisal as Glossu Rabban Harkonnen in a more prominent appearance than before. Good. Collaborating with another top-level director certifies that Dave Bautista is no longer a wrestler turned movie star, but an actor above all, and his next project could see him in a genre that could prove a perfect fit.

Knock at the Cabin could be his first big hit as a leading man

Getting into terrifying territory might just be the winning tactic Dave Bautista needs to send his career hurtling as high as fans and filmmakers anticipate. In February, he'll be giving a "Knock at the Cabin" in M. Night Shyamalan's film, which sees him leading a home invasion to force its occupants to make a potentially world-saving decision. From the trailers, it feels like a hybrid of his best work, welding the reserved and restrained brute in "Blade Runner 2049" with the monster itching to be let loose in "Dune." It was the former that cemented Bautista as the right man for the job.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter in January, Shyamalan broke down what he found in Bautista's screen-filling frame and how that iconic "Blade Runner 2049" standoff sealed the deal. "He was still in a way that was powerful," he described. "There's a type of stillness where you're not doing nothing; you're doing everything and you're still. Your essence of what you're thinking is coming off your body." In truth, that's Bautista's MO, and it's working perfectly: doing everything and still just adapting to anything that comes his way. While other WWE stars are building a brand, Bautista is in the ring fighting to be something more than just the big bad heavy. Let's hope he never taps out.