So THE ANIMAL is back!!! And whilst Dave Bautista is indeed somewhat of a legend in WWE and a worldwide known name now given his Hollywood exploits guarding the galaxy and trying to stop James Bond he has had a surprisingly low number of previous matches on the grandest stage of them all. He missed out on Wrestlemania’s 19,22 & 25 due to injury and not long after the biggest WWE shows in 2010 and 2014 he left the company. But in just six Wrestlemania matches Batista came up against some of the biggest names in WWE history: The Rock, Mick Foley, Triple H, The Undertaker, John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton… and Umaga… So to get you in the mood for Batista’s dream match with Triple H at Wrestlemania 35 this year I will now look back and review at the previous Wrestlemania outings of THE ANIMAL!!!
Wrestlemania 20: ‘Evolution’ (Batista & Ric Flair & Randy Orton) defeated ‘The Rock ‘N’ Sock Connection’ (The Rock & Mick Foley) in a 3 on 2 Handicap Match
Batista’s debut on the grandest stage of them all saw him team with Evolution running buddies Ric Flair and Randy Orton against two of the biggest names in WWE history. But somehow it was in the middle of the card and just one of the under-card offerings. The match itself was fine without it being great. Orton got the pin after an RKO on Foley as we were just months away from the Legend Killer leaving the group after being rejected for winning ‘Triple H’s’ World Heavyweight Championship. At this stage Batista was just the muscle of the group and had ended 2003 with a few short runs as tag champion with Flair as well as costing Stone Cold Steve Austin his position as Raw Co-GM. At this point Batista was pushed as a monster heel, and he was protected (you could say he was in the Drew McIntyre spot if you were to compare him then to someone now position wise) but it this match Batista really was a 5th wheel as Rock and Flair worked well together and Foley and Orton had a real blood feud going on at the time so in what was a fine enough match The Animal was kind of left out in the cold. He was not yet close to the main event… although 12 months later…
Wrestlemania 21: Batista defeated Triple H (C) with Ric Flair to win the World Heavyweight Championship
Remember around maybe 10 seconds ago when you read me saying that Batista was not close to the main event at the time of Wrestlemania 20? Well erm… that was just a tad different by the time Wrestlemania 21 in the Staples Center. An event that was billed as ‘Wrestlemania goes Hollywood’ the main event was the end of a story that was at least as good as any epic summer blockbuster. As many who will know from the time the now infamous ‘reign of terror’ of one Hunter Hearst Helmsley over the WWE as World Champion was full of help and interventions from his Evolution stablemates, and mainly his muscle man Batista. But towards the end of 2004 it started to become clear that Batista was beginning to come up in terms of popularity and all-round star power, to the point he (in somewhat infamous circumstances) won the 2004 Royal Rumble Match. But as Batista pointed out himself it was still all about Triple H… The Evolution leader even heavily pushed the idea that Batista would use his championship opportunity to challenge WWE Champion JBL instead of The Game and that Evolution could rule WWE… but as I’m sure you’ve all seen when it came to decision time Batista did what absolutely everybody watching dreamed of and Batista Bombed Triple H through the table and the Mania match was set. Triple H was played out by Motorhead, but that seemed to pail in comparison to the sheer sight of Batista. And for as much as the 2002-2005 domination of Triple H is rightly criticized, the match where it ended couldn’t have happened on a bigger stage. It was a pretty even match until Triple H was busted wide open, Batista hit a spinebuster but then HHH responded with a low blow. He went for the Pedigree but Batista was able to block it and eventually powered up, hit the Batista Bomb and got the pin. A new top star was born. Jim Ross’ commentary of the moment is particularly great. As was the moment after where Batista roared whilst holding the big gold belt as a fallen Triple H looked on absolutely caked in blood. A great story, an OK match, an amazing finishing moment. And I should add for those who don’t know that Triple H (in the months leading up to this) had to apparently beg Vince not to blow the fued off any earlier, not to let Batista get that big win until Wrestlemania for maximum effect. So for those who say HHH buries people, he certainly went out of his way to put Big Dave over here, in the main event of Wrestlemania for the title nonetheless!
Wrestlemania 23: The Undertaker defeated Batista (C) to win the World Heavyweight Championship
This was a bit good… The Undertaker was very arguably at his best, Batista was about to reach the point of his career where he’d be solidified by this very feud as a main eventer, and in Ford Field these two put on the first of what would be a series of seven consecutive Wrestlemania classics. Taker had finally won the Royal Rumble Match and chose the Smackdown title holder as his championship opponent. The two then had a tremendously thrilling build up to their epic encounter that even included them both TWICE taking on fellow Wrestlemania championship opponents John Cena and Shawn Michaels in tag team matches. Those who watched Smackdown at the time (me included) would’ve argued this match should have gone on last that year over Cena – HBK but nonetheless these two, who definitely had their doubters going in by all accounts in terms of their in-ring chemistry, put on a match that saw both men get all their signature offences in, and as became customary in the years to follow ‘The Streak’ looked very much in jeopardy. Batista even hit a Batista Bomb that got a very close pinfall attempt, but in the end The Animal succumbed to a Tombstone Piledriver and The Deadman would win the big gold belt for the very first time to thunderous reaction. Unfortunately Taker would not hold the belt for all that long, but this was the first in what across 2007 became a historically-renowned series of matches between the two which really was (much like former Evolution stablemate Randy Orton some years before him) another showing of Taker getting somebody to that next level. Wrestlemania 23 may not have ended as well as Mania 21 for Batista, but in terms of his long term WWE career and his standing it was arguably as important.
Wrestlemania 24: Batista (SMACKDOWN) defeated Umaga (RAW) in an “inter-promotional brand vs brand match” (whatever the fuck that is)
Oh boy… Wrestlemania 23 1 year prior: both Batista and Umaga are in possibly the top 2 or at worst 2 of the top 3 featured matches of the show (Batista vs Undertaker and Umaga representing Vince against Trump)… at this point these two suffered what many top stars do and are a victim of not having their top runs co-inside with Mania. Batista was pretty much in every World Heavyweight Championship match for 2007 as was one of the final four in the Royal Rumble 2008 and the final man eliminated in the Elimination Chamber match to decide who would challenge Edge for the world title at this Mania. That phrase about being the Bridesmaid and not the Bride comes to mind… as for Umaga I think he’s looked at unfairly. He had really great character aspects and got a big push, if anything his character limited his ability in-ring. His match with Cena at Royal Rumble 2007 is testament to how good Umaga could be given the chance. But at this stage after a 2007 spent facing Cena and then being Vince McMahon’s hired gun he was now off the back of a losing feud to Triple H and was not far away from being drafted to Smackdown (it should also be noted it was Batista who eliminated Umaga from the 2008 Royal Rumble Match). So he certainly wasn’t as big a star as he was. The match itself was pretty much what you’d expect, 2 guys probably a bit bummed with where they found their-selves on the biggest show of the year, it was…OK… but was your typical middle of the show match between two big guys. It went just over 7 minutes, they went 50/50 for the majority and it ended with Batista countering an attempted Samoan Spike with a Spinebuster and then a Batista Bomb for the win. This was… a match…
Wrestlemania 26: John Cena defeated Batista (C) to win the WWE Championship
So we finally got a big singles match on a big show between two of the biggest stars of that decade. We got to that point with Batista (now on Raw and a heel; probably because he was pissed off at being dropped from the main event scene after his injury some time before that meant he just missed Mania 25) being hand picked by Vince McMahon to take the WWE Championship from John Cena and this was his rematch. Vince’s beef with Cena stemmed from Cena siding with Bret Hart in his feud with McMahon heading in to their (abomination of a) match after Batista attacked Hart after he went after Vince. At the previous PPV Cena had won the WWE Championship in the opening match, but was soon interrupted during his celebrations by Vince who immediately ordered Cena to defend the title against Batista (for absolute no reason it seemed other than Vince liked Batista and didn’t like Cena). Batista beat him of course and eventually Cena got his rematch. As I said this is a pretty huge match star-power mind, but if it’s possible to be in a tough spot as the WWE title match between two massive names at Wrestlemanai this match was… as it came just before the Taker vs HBK; Streak vs Career match so people were kind of just waiting for that. Cena won the title of course, the match was fine (slightly less good I’d say than their Summerslam 2008 match). Cena, after getting the big Mania entrance coming out, was dominated in the early part, got back into it with a Suplex and later hit a Five Knuckle Shuffle off the top rope. The two then traded finishers and nearfalls before Cena finally reversed a Batista Bomb into an STF for the win.
Wrestlemania 30: Daniel Bryan defeated Randy Orton (C) & Batista to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Here we go, the one you’ve all waited for!!! I’m sure you know the story here but as this blog is about The Animal I’ll tell you it from his point of view; so Batista, after years away from WWE breaking into Hollywood, returned ahead of the 2014 Royal Rumble Match and as heavy favourite going in he would win the match to a chorus of boos (simply because he wasn’t Daniel Bryan). Eventually WWE saw this and turned Batista and gave the people what they wanted; Daniel Bryan. So EVENTUALLY WWE realized their fantasy of Batista vs Orton in the main event just couldn’t happen and Bryan was in. And a lot of people speak about the Wrestlemania 20 triple threat was better, I disagree. This match was fucking incredible. Maybe the best match of Orton or Batista’s career. Of course it had much to do with the 3rd, bearded element in this match but regardless the story that was told, and the amazing finish all came together to produce a classic Wrestlemania main event. And to be fair both Orton and Batista played their roles very very well. The spot where Orton and Batista came together to deliver a Batista Bomb-RKO/kneckbreaker combo to put Bryan through an announce table was excellent. The finish of the match was exquisitely played out; with Bryan out of action Batista set Orton up for a Batista Bomb to the fury of the New Orleans crowd, and suddenly after hitting the move and going for the pin Bryan came flying from out of shot with a running knee as the crowd roared in relief and delight. Bryan then put The Animal in the Yes Lock and Batista TAPPED OUT! Daniel Bryan had performed “a Miracle on Bourbon Street” as Michael Cole called it (should mention that this was Michael Cole’s best performance as an announcer, he really made the moment seem as big as it was). The crowd exploded it happiness, Daniel Bryan was on top of the world. Everyone was happy. And to be fair to Batista he told WWE he should be made a heel from his return, and that Bryan was the guy, and it took WWE time but they got it in the end. Batista wouldn’t stick around for many months after but credit to him for having the foresight to see what the people wanted, and to be willing to tap out in the main event of Wrestlemania to a guy maybe half your size, and your a Hollywood movie star, that takes plenty of humility. So credit where credit is due. But yes this was Batista’s best Wrestlemania match by along way and it’s not even close. An all-time great match.
So there you have it; as you can see Batista has had a mixed bag in terms of match quality, but always seems to be up against some huge names. And of course in his return this year it is no different with his blood rivalry match against old mentor Triple H. I think with them both getting on so well irl, and I presume they will practice the fuck out of it, I expect it to be a good match. I think Triple H will win as I don’t see Batista sticking around too long (he’s a legit Hollywood star now so he’s not going to be short of work) but as I say I think it’ll be a good match. If anything it’ll just be cool to hear Batista’s absolute BANGER of an entrance theme music again on a big stage.