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MR. TITO STRIKES BACK - The Problem with Batista's WWE Return (compared to Brock Lesnar's Return)
By Mr. Tito
Jan 27, 2014 - 11:20:45 PM
First and foremost, I must credit LOP Radio for the great post-Royal Rumble show on late Sunday night that helped inspire today's topic. I was sort of thinking this way as he returned, but much of their comments on how Batista has returned to a bad situation for himself (other than monetary) is something that I easily agreed with. Much of the column you'll see today is not to rip or belittle the returning Batista, but more about criticizing the WWE Management who decided to (a) bring him back and (b) instantly push him to the top without the fans buying into him again.
Sure, Batista's WWE return on the 1/20/14 edition of Monday Night RAW helped draw eyeballs to the screens, but how much of it was from the events of the 1/13/14? Thanks to the airing of the "YES!" chants by ESPN during the Michigan State/Ohio State halftime, the WWE changed course on the Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt storyline. Reportedly, Daniel Bryan was going to remain with the Wyatts through the Elimination Chamber and breakaway from there. Instead, Bryan lasted 2 weeks and turned on the Wyatts to an epic finish where Bryan got revenge on Wyatt and sat on top of the cage to some very loud "YES!" chants to end the 1/13/14 RAW. Why isn't that getting more credit? Furthermore, why isn't the fact that it's the RAW before the Royal Rumble not getting more credit?
But, Batista returned on 1/20/14 and he appears to be receiving credit for the increased viewership. Fine... And Batista is probably commanding a 7 figure salary for his return and is a former 6-time World Champion with the WWE. He had a solid career with the WWE as a main event level wrestler from 2005-2010. Then, he left for more than 3 years... In pro wrestling, that is an eternity. Teenagers who watched during 2010 are now heading off the college or have moved on to other forms of entertainment. Newer fans who might not have watched WWE during 2010 could care less who Batista is or was. All they know is that this guy shows up on 1/20/2014 and less than 1 week later, he wins the Royal Rumble AND the #1 contendership at Wrestlemania 30. 6 days to quickly show newer fans why Batista's return was a big deal.
Batista left during June 2010 at the tender age of 41. While that might be "too old" for other sports, it's the tail end of the peak years for pro wrestlers. Batista is now 45 years old. That's right, just 2 days after his WWE return, he turned 45 years old. Thus, the WWE is putting all of their Wrestlemania 30 drawing chips on a 45 year old being able to draw well at the biggest event of the year. Again, what is that doing for the younger fan who might expect Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, or John Cena in the Wrestlemania 30 WWE Title slot? I would say nothing... Not sure what having Randy Orton vs. Batista will do for them, either. They were in Evolution together through 2004, short of 10 years ago. Many younger fans were just in diapers when Orton/Batista were a team with Triple H and Ric Flair as Evolution.
And the age, combined with the ring rust showed at Royal Rumble 2014 will ruin Batista's drawing power. He was obviously sucking wind when attempting to wrestle the likes of Sheamus or Roman Reigns. The ironic thing is that Sheamus is returning from injury yet he was in fantastic cardio shape. Sheamus didn't look like he missed a beat... Sheamus continued to prove himself to be in great shape by wrestling in the 6 man tag match to headline RAW tonight. Batista looked old and tired during the Rumble match... What are we to expect from him at Wrestlemania 30 when Randy Orton, who is in absurd cardio shape, is out working him?
Again - Let me reiterate... Batista was brought in by the WWE and pushed to the moon by the WWE Creative Team overseen by CEO/Board Chairman Vince McMahon and the new lead on the Creative Team and Talent EVP, Triple H. Both guys signed off on paying Batista and putting him over strong. I don't blame Batista one bit for taking the money and being able to easily convince Vince/Triple H that they've signed the Batista of 41 years old. He's going to be laughing all the way to the bank!
Batista's return is very much unlike Brock Lesnar's 2012 return. VERY different! I see many people, including the WWE, trying to draw comparisons. Nope... The difference is that Brock Lesnar is a DIFFERENT wrestler now than he was before. In fact, he's greatly improved and that says a lot. So far, and we're just judging by one battle royal match, Batista looks older and winded with zero changes or upgrades to his wrestling style. Go watch Brock Lesnar wrestle during 2002-2004 and compare it to his 2012-2014 style. Much, much different!
Brock Lesnar left the WWE abruptly during 2004 as he was burned out from professional wrestling and wanted to try other athletic avenues. While this was initially considered a joke, particularly with the NFL tryout, Brock would go on to bigger and better things with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) success. He was Heavyweight champion there for Christ's sakes and boosted his drawing power significantly! Had Brock returned to the WWE about 3 and a half years after he left the WWE (late 2007), his return wouldn't have been as huge as his 2012. When Brock returned after Wrestlemania 28 to confront John Cena, the hype was HUGE. He was a former UFC Champion who could command a $5 million per year, with limited matches/appearances, contract. Fans were so hyped for his return that Extreme Rules 2012, where he wrestled Cena, gained 25% in buys compared to the previous year's same name Pay Per View.
Most of all with Brock Lesnar, he's a DIFFERENT wrestler. Instead of being a mat based / power wrestler during 2002-2004, he has incorporated his UFC fighting style with highly aggressive striking moves, takedowns, and dangerous looking submission holds. He's also showing a much different character. His character is always pissed off and aggressive, as if he's put off to be in the WWE and wants to destroy anybody in his path because of it. He played the classic "pussy heel" during his 2002-2004 tenure by contrast. In addition to his UFC success, Brock Lesnar has taken radical steps in changing who he is as a pro wrestler with the WWE. His matches against John Cena at Extreme Rules 2012 and CM Punk at SummerSlam 2013 are among the all-time great matches and are bouts that his younger 2002-2004 self could not put on. Lesnar IMPROVED with time, significantly.
Doesn't hurt that Brock Lesnar is 36 years old, about to turn 37 in July. He's still in his athletic prime and with a limited WWE schedule, thanks to his contract, he is going to continue to look great in the ring.
Go back and watch WWE Extreme Rules 2012. Brock Lesnar is coming after John Cena with full force. You would figure that in constant attack mode, Lesnar would be tired and sucking wind... Nope. He returned to the WWE in great cardio shape and appeared as if he never left the WWE. Brock took his return seriously and has since given the WWE great value upon his return (that's with a $5 million per year contract!).
Brock Lesnar changed between 2004 and 2012 and was actually successful outside of the WWE. Batista between the latter half of 2010 through 2013... Eh, maybe not. Some decent acting gigs, little bit of flirting with MMA (though probably too old), but nothing significant enough to want fans to beg for his return. From the second Brock Lesnar announced his retirement from UFC, we saw endless begging from WWE fans for Brock's return to pro wrestling. Then, when it was leaked that Brock Lesnar would be the post-Wrestlemania 28 RAW surprise, fans lost their marbles. Lesnar's return was HUGE and it drew a huge Pay Per View buyrate at Extreme Rules 2012.
I'm just not sure if Batista's WWE return is even a fraction of the significance of Brock Lesnar's 2012 return. You wouldn't know that because when Brock Lesnar returned, he had to LOSE to John Cena in his very first match. Batista, on the other hand, returns and 6 days later, he is the #1 contender for the WWE World Heavyweight Title at Wrestlemania 30 and is likely to win it...
Reportedly, the Undertaker's past injuries and old age might scrap the planned Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar match at Wrestlemania 30. Undertaker suffered real injuries at the Wrestlemania 27 battle against Triple H and hasn't really recovered. A match against Brock Lesnar would be expected to be stiff and at the Undertaker's older age, a match against Lesnar could impair him for life. While Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar could still go down and remains a top drawing match thanks to their little UFC staredown, it could be too dangerous for Undertaker and might lack in quality because of Undertaker's past injuries. Thus, I wouldn't be surprised if the Undertaker wrestled either Daniel Bryan or Sting instead. Maybe a match against the Shield members as revenge for the table spot or maybe a classic hoss match with the Big Show for an easy continuation of the Streak.
Removing the Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar match from Wrestlemania 30 frees up Brock to chase after the WWE World Heavyweight Title... It's easy to see that Brock's recent promos of hyping that he's "in front of the line" to fight for the WWE Title is probably building for a 3 Way at Wrestlemania 30 between Batista vs. Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton (c). Yes, the ol' "Class of 2002" Ohio Valley Wrestling battle. In my opinion, if plans are uncertain about Batista's first 2 WWE appearances since 2010, adding Brock Lesnar to the Orton vs. Batista match could be done to essentially "save the match". Internet reaction to the early Wrestlemania 30 match-up have been very lukewarm.
In my opinion, Batista has looked bad early on by the strange metrosexual look on the 1/20/13 RAW (tight pants wouldn't let him hit a true Demon Drop), the weak initial promo, and looking gassed during the Royal Rumble, it's time for Batista to STEP IT UP and prove why he's earning lots of money and booking attention from WWE Management. Prove why he's not too old to headline Wrestlemania.
Unfortunately for Batista, and this is where I really agree with the fine folks at LoP Radio, he in the middle of "Hurricane Bryan". Based on the events that have transpired ever since SummerSlam 2013, booking wise, WWE fans won't forgive over what has happened to Daniel Bryan. Instead of the WWE listening to their fans, they pushed a guy who hasn't wrestled for the WWE since 2010 instead. If we're really going to see Randy Orton vs. Batista at Wrestlemania 30, the WWE could get embarrassed by the rabid New Orleans fans crapping all over that match. Both Orton and Batista were pushed ahead of the line despite WWE fans demanding otherwise with Bryan. Batista could perform well from here on out and have a classic match-up with Orton... Doesn't matter... WWE has screwed over Bryan in their eyes.
But I do wish Batista the best... He was an entertaining performer and it would be sad to see a bad return hurt his decent legacy. Once Batista joined the Evolution stable, he quickly matured as a wrestler and figured out the charisma and attitude necessary to act like a main eventer let alone wrestle like one. Unlike Orton, who was rushed to the World Title during 2004, Batista was ready to take the next step and remained a solid main event performer for many years after Triple H put him over at Wrestlemania 21.
Fans are pissed right now and might demand Batista's head soon thereafter. That's why I predicted in my 2014 Predictions Column posted 12/31/2013 which stated: #15 - Daniel Bryan will hold the WWE Heavyweight Title at least once, but only after Wrestlemania 30. I'm thinking after SummerSlam 2014 once the WWE gets the "Class of 2002 Ohio Valley Wrestling" love out of their system and Bryan gains momentum, yet again, from whatever new storyline they've placed him in. Many are predicting that Bryan will win the Royal Rumble and get his rightful reign at Wrestlemania 30. I don't. Brock Lesnar and Batista are going to dominate the WWE Title conversation for 2014 along with Randy Orton/John Cena. I don't think they'll give him another shot at SummerSlam, but the multiple Pay Per Views after that could be where Bryan wins the belt. From there, he'll hold the title for at least 1 Pay Per View cycle. Bryan is too durable and loved by fans to deny him a brief reign.
Might be hard for the WWE to wait until after SummerSlam for that prediction to come true. Unless the WWE gives the WWE Title to Brock Lesnar in a 3 Way at Wrestlemania instead, New Orleans fans are going to destroy Orton vs. Batista especially if it's the main event.
Batista may be an innocent bystander through all of this, but he still has to perform well himself. Sucking air at the Royal Rumble was a horrible beginning and ditto for flipping off fans on the rampway after the Rumble.
Comments and debates are welcome on Twitter. Bring it on. @titowrestling
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