Although it’s been less than a month since Batista sailed his boat back to WWE shores, I think it’s already fair to label his return as a failure. In fact, even the term “epic catastrophic failure” could be fairly applied. It seems wrestling audiences are simply uninterested in Big Dave’s second coming, despite it being forcefully shoved down our throats like a cure for cancer.
A planned match between Batista and Orton at Wrestlemania XXX will almost certainly be treated by the fans as a heel v heel match, with yours truly anticipating a super hostile reaction – similar to the infamous Goldberg v Lesnar clash at Wrestlemania XX.
This can’t have been part of WWE’s grand plans in any way whatsoever, no sirree. When a babyface heading towards Wrestlemania as the number one contender for the World Title is continuously greeted with arenas full of boos and disgruntled punters, then something has gone very wrong indeed.
But what is it exactly that has gone wrong? Because Batista was a popular, main event star once upon a time, right? If you’ll allow me to wax lyrical, I feel there are several reasons that are contributing to this wave of negativity.
Batista isn’t Daniel Bryan
This is admittedly very obvious – even to the visually impaired – but yes, Batista isn’t Daniel Bryan. He’s Batista.
Despite Daniel Bryan’s popularity soaring to uncharted heights, WWE seems intent on keeping him out of the main event picture and classing him as their “B+” star. But the fans aren’t accepting it, and their delight in cheering for the insanely over underdog gets more boisterous by the week.
Batista is just another obstacle in the road that opposes Bryan’s ascendancy to the top – and anyone who stands in the way of Daniel Bryan is going to be booed. Simple as that. Heck, I wouldn’t be overly surprised if even The Rock was booed were he to return to WWE and challenge Bryan. We’re genuinely talking manic levels of fandom here. Bryan has kickstarted a revolution. Or a “Yesolution” maybe? No… That sounds rubbish.
It seemed the obvious finale to Daniel Bryan’s journey to win the WWE title would occur at Wrestlemania XXX, giving him his crowning moment as he finally overcomes The Authority in the presence of 80’000 hardcore wrestling fans cheering his catchphrase in unison. But Batista has stood in the way of that and robbed fans of that moment, and seriously pissed them off in the process. The ass.
Lack of build-up
Sure we got plenty of vignettes informing us that Batsita was returning to WWE – but that’s all we got. Simply a name and a date. It’s difficult to get excited about that unless we’re talking about a megastar such as The Rock or Hulk Hogan.
Batista made his return on the January 20th RAW, said hello to everyone and told Randy Orton he was going to win the Royal Rumble in an ultra-generic babyfaced promo. Cutting-edge it wasn’t.
How difficult would it have been to insert him into some sort of storyline from the outset, thus injecting some instant-meaning into his return? Maybe he could have come back to attack The Authority after becoming jaded in the way they was running things. Or perhaps HHH could even have added his old pal Bastista to The Authority stable and declared him the “new face of WWE” after Orton’s failings. At least fans would be rightfully booing him then.
Even The Rock had a storyline set in place when he made his return to WWE television after 7 years in 2011. He criticised the child-friendly nature of the current era and hysterically lampooned John Cena for being so PG – sewing the seeds for a feud that lasted the next two years!
When Jericho makes one of his frequent returns, he takes the time to add an extra dimension to his character on each occasion – thus never growing stale…. Setting an example that Batista has 1000% ignored, thinking he can coast by on past-glories.
Batista comes back and it’s simply a case of: “Hi, I’m Batista and I’m back”. No wonder people weren’t excited.
Batista is better as a heel
I was never a big fan of Batista the first time round. He was really only capable of having a decent match when he was facing a quality opponent to carry the action (Undertaker, Edge, Kurt Angle etc), he rarely mixed-up his limited arsenal and his character was often as two-dimensional as they come.
But, I’ll confess, I did enjoy Batista’s last heel run before he left the company. He produced some of his best ever mic work, and his in-ring tantrums were pretty damn funny. WWE bigwigs, however, obviously felt it was better to have The Animal return as a babyface. They were wrong.
I think it was MASSIVELY naïve of the WWE to think that today’s fans would cheer for Batista in the same way it cheers for guys like CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. Modern wrestling audiences demand more from their top babyfaces – they need a magnetism, a charisma, a natural likeability, a coolness… Batista has none of these.
As previously suggested, if he’d returned and immediately aligned himself with HHH and Stephanie, there’s simply no way I would be typing a similar column right now. Batista is a mean-looking, jacked-up freak. Of course he should be playing the bad guy.
He doesn’t deserve to main event
Even the most oblivious fans in the audience (let’s say aged 10 and above) are well aware that what they’re watching is scripted entertainment.
These people have watched the likes of Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, John Cena, The Shield, Dolph Ziggler, Randy Orton etc absolutely work their asses off for the company over the last couple of years, and thus built up a relationship and understanding with them – the type of relationship that can only be formed over long periods.
But Batista returns, goes straight into the Royal Rumble and wins it (as a late entrant) and is immediately installed into the main event at Wrestlemania XXX. Where’s the fairness in that?!
Wrestlemania is supposed to be the ultimate pay-off on the WWE calendar, where key feuds and battles over the past year come to a head. Why should fans accept Batista as their Wrestlemania main eventer when he’s not been on WWE TV for 4 years? It’s insulting to fans and even more insulting to the rest of the roster. Batista needs to earn our respect, not be handed it.
Batista is old
At 45 years old, Batista returns to the WWE at an age where most before him have retired from the ring (or at least semi-retired).
Wrestlemania gave us moments in the past where guys like Shawn Michaels, Chris Benoit, Steve Austin and John Cena won their first WWE titles to much fanfare. In recent years however, WWE seems to pack the upper deck of the card with part-time talent or veterans (Undertaker, The Rock, Brock Lesnar, HHH etc), and the guys that headline all the time (Cena, Orton).
Fans clearly want to see the likes of Bryan, Reigns and Ziggler in the main event spots, but WWE seems reluctant to install them into their higher echelons. It’s a bizarre business practise when creating new stars should always be a priority – and perhaps Batista is/was the final straw. The fans have started to revolt.
Batista just isn’t cool
Okay, you may think I’m just being a bit mean with this one – but, to me, there’s nothing cool about a 45 year old man with rubbish tattoos (especially that belly button one) wearing skinny jeans and pretending to fire a heavy-artillery gun.
In recent years, fans have grown accustomed to cheering renegade characters such as Daniel Bryan, CM Punk and even The Shield. Again, I think it was massively naïve of WWE to think they these same people would also cheer for Batista. It’s like putting Michael Buble on stage at an Eminem concert and expecting the fans to enjoy it. It ain’t gonna happen.
To make matters even worse, one gets the feeling that Batista is Batista’s number one fan. John Cena has proved time and time again that he is unfazed by boos and responds with a grin and a crap joke or two. Batista is very different, and takes fan reactions to heart – as perfectly evidenced by him flipping off booing punters at the Royal Rumble. Batista has let it be known that negative reactions bother him… And as a result, he can expect even more boisterous, negative reactions from the smart fans, because nothing pleases them (us?) more than knowing their desire to annoy the “uncool” Batista is working.
So what can be done about it?
Internet rumours suggest that Batista has signed a 2 year contract with the company, so he’s here to stay. In the immediate future I think there’s two obvious ways for the WWE to rectify the failure his return has been so far.
Firstly, of course, is to turn Batista heel – then at least he can claim the boos are occurring as a result of him being a “bad guy” (which would still be untrue, but at least it sounds like an acceptable excuse).
But with Wrestlemania less than 9 weeks away and the main event already seemingly locked in, I don’t think there’s enough time storyline wise for that to occur.
Secondly, WWE could insert Daniel Bryan into the main event at Wrestlemania – either by having him win the World Title at the Elimination Chamber and have him face Batista at Wrestlemania, or by making it a triple threat match with Batista v Orton v Bryan – ensuring that the world title match won’t be greeted with choruses of “boring” and loud Daniel Bryan chants.
As much as I would like either of these scenarios to occur, sadly I just don’t see either happening.
It’s well documented that Vince hates to be proven wrong, and if he’s brought back Batsista to be a top babyface then, by jove, a top babyface he shall be.
With the departure of CM Punk hitting the headlines, fans are arguably more alienated by the WWE product right now than ever before. It’s certainly an interesting time to be a wrestling fan – but sadly for the wrong reasons.
This situation with Batista has only served to increase the notion that the WWE is hugely out-of-touch with the majority of its fanbase. I sincerely hope it can be turned around in order to gain a reaction from fans that’s actually intended – but I fear the worse.
If, like the majority of wrestling fans out there, you aren’t enjoying Batista’s return – it’s likely going to be a case of “tough luck”. He’s going to be champion and he’s going to be a constant main eventer in the coming months. Fans can continue to air their displeasure at live events, but it’s going to take more than that to make Vince change his mind. Until attendances start plummeting, merchandise sales dry up and arenas are only half full – nothing is gonna change. Money talks, people – and don’t you forget it. If you don’t want to pay to see Batista as your top star, then don’t. Save your pennies and hit Vince where it really hurts.
Over and out.