Follow Mr. Tito on Twitter.com: @titowrestling
MR. TITO STRIKES BACK - Were Vince McMahon and Triple H Right About Pushing Batista over Daniel Bryan?
By Mr. Tito
Aug 4, 2014 - 2:17:22 AM
Well, the numbers are in! The Marvel Comics film, "Guardians of the Galaxy" did an estimated $94 million in domestic box office sales while pulling in another $66 million from international markets (source: Yahoo! Movies & Nikki Finke). Wow... And guess who is in it? Current WWE wrestler, Batista, and he's not just a supporting cast member. He's co-starring in the movie as one of the 5 Guardians of the Galaxy members, Drax "the Destroyer.
During late 2013, the WWE was searching for star power. Vince McMahon was still counting the cash that the Rock brought him for Wrestlemanias 27, 28, and 29 while also counting money that Brock Lesnar brought in for Extreme Rules 2012 and SummerSlam 2012, maybe Wrestlemania 29 as well. Even though both wrestlers cost the WWE an arm and a leg, they helped pour money into the Pay Per View model that the WWE now deems obsolete. Combine the Pay Per View buys, live gates of the events, and DVD/Blu-Ray sales, 1 or 2 events paid for those hot commodity wrestlers from the past. The WWE looked around to see what other superstars could return and they found one more guy who could have a quick impact.
Last seen in the WWE around June of 2010, Batista had been trying his hand at other activities such as mixed martial arts and acting. Thanks to Batista's unique look, he landed his role of the lifetime when Disney/Marvel Comics cast him as Drax "the Destroyer" for the 2014 film Guardians of the Galaxy. Granted, it was a comic book that even the most casual observer have never heard of... But Marvel has been ON FIRE lately with their movies, particularly with the cast surrounding the Avengers movies. That, and Sony has made money off the Spiderman series (even with reboot) while FOX has done well with the X-Men series. Even if it's an unknown brand and unproven to succeed, it was still a heck of a role for Batista to land. Pro wrestlers don't land those type of co-starring roles, especially in films with $170 million budget.
During late 2013, Vince McMahon sought Batista because he was a known WWE commodity from 2002-2010 and for the fact that he was going to be in a big Marvel Comics film. Vince remembers the days of stealing Hulk Hogan from the American Wrestling Association (AWA). Hogan landed the role of the "Thunderlips" pro wrestler in Rocky 3, a major box office hit and the most successful Rocky film to date through 1982. Funny thing is that Vince's dad, Vince Sr., was furious at Hogan for getting the Rocky 3 gig and let him go from the WWE. WWE's then loss was AWA's gain... But then AWA took Hulk Hogan's sudden star power for granted and favored their older AWA wrestlers instead. When Vince McMahon Jr. took the reigns from his father and had his first chance at Hogan via free agency, Vince stole him during late 1983. By early 1984, Vince made Hogan WWE Champion... The rest was history.
Not saying that Batista is the next coming of Hulk Hogan, but I'm using history as an example... The Rocky 3 film drew interest from casual fans!
Triple H, who doubles as a personal friend of Batista as well, began negotiating with Batista as well as planning the creative side of things. Reportedly, Batista signed a 2 year deal with the WWE (financial details not disclosed) and the early plan was for Batista to (a) win the Rumble match at Royal Rumble 2014 and (b) defeat Randy Orton at Wrestlemania 30. Then, Batista would hold the WWE Title through SummerSlam 2014 and possibly promote the WWE Title while promoting Guardians of the Galaxy set to debut on August 1st, 2014. At SummerSlam, the early plans were to have Batista to lose to John Cena and I remember even hearing a news report that WWE officials would try again with Daniel Bryan at SummerSlam. Everything that I've just said was reported regularly by wrestling insiders and you can Google it if you wish. Plans for Batista during 2014 were huge and serious by WWE management (Vince & Triple H, particularly).
Batista's plans, however, were derailed... WWE, like CM Punk during 2011, was playing games with the hardcore wrestling fanbase's favorite wrestler, Daniel Bryan. After pinning John Cena cleanly at SummerSlam 2013, which was an amazing feat, the WWE had Bryan immediately lose to Randy Orton. Fine... It could set up a strong feud between Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan that would see Bryan get immediate revenge, right? Wrong... Another false WWE Title win later, with the result reversed, and Randy Orton got the better of the feud in the end. Orton went on to unify the WWE Title and World Heavyweight Championship while Daniel Bryan was immediately inserted into the Wyatt Family storyline. In fact, Daniel Bryan BECAME a Wyatt family member... But then fans at a Michigan State basketball game chanted "YES!" loudly at halftime and it was focused on ESPN's Sportscenter. This reportedly changed WWE's minds on Bryan being a Wyatt family member and caused him to turn on Bray Wyatt to set up a match at Royal Rumble 2014. Fine... BUT Bray Wyatt won 100% clean AND Daniel Bryan was NOT in the Rumble match to get a #1 contendership shot at the WWE Title.
Batista returned to the WWE on the RAW before Royal Rumble 2014 and then won the Rumble match just as the WWE was shitting all over the hardcore wrestling fanbase over Daniel Bryan. Hardcore wrestling fans revolted hard against the WWE and booed Batista heavily in the Rumble match. For the RAW episodes that followed, the heat was on... "Bootista" became Batista's new nickname and it became quickly apparent that Wrestlemania 30's main event, reportedly Batista vs. Randy Orton, could be at risk. The WWE had WWE Network on the horizon and with CM Punk walking out of the company following Rumble 2014, the WWE felt it needed to make a snap decision to "save" Wrestlemania 30: push Daniel Bryan HARD.
Weeks before Wrestlemania 30, it appeared that Batista vs. Randy Orton was still on as the Wrestlemania main event. But Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H was also booked and stipulations were added that if Bryan beat Triple H, Bryan would be added to the Batista/Orton match for the WWE Heavyweight Title! Quite a turn of events and a major snap judgement on WWE's part to rewrite Wrestlemania. Worse yet for Batista, the booking was changed in Daniel Bryan's favor. Thus, at Wrestlemania 30, Daniel Bryan was now going to (a) defeat Triple H cleanly and (b) win the WWE Title by beating Batista and not Orton. To Batista's credit, he didn't protest the Wrestlemania 30 booking but was a bit stubborn on any future rematches with Bryan. Bryan was champion and Batista was not... Bryan went on to feud with Kane (LOL) while Batista helped reform the stable Evolution to have an exciting feud with the Shield. After the 2nd straight Pay Per View loss to the Shield, Batista had enough and "quit" the WWE in the storylines. In reality, he decided to leave earlier than expected to begin promoting Guardians of the Galaxy.
And promote it he did... Disney/Marvel put on a marketing blitz that stirred up demand to see this superhero flick that didn't have any household names. $94 million and counting.
Meanwhile, Daniel Bryan suffered an unfortunate neck injury which caused him to vacate the WWE Title and might cause him to end his career (we'll see). We cannot determine whether or not Daniel Bryan was a draw or not as WWE Champions with just 1 Pay Per View defense under his belt, but let's consider some facts about Daniel Bryan as a draw:
(1) Bryan was unable to exceed John Cena and CM Punk on merchandise sales, even after CM Punk left the WWE.
(2) Much of the disappointing WWE Network subscriptions occurred during the Daniel Bryan push and after his huge Wrestlemania 30 win.
(3) SummerSlam 2013, in which Daniel Bryan headlined with John Cena in its main event, lost 60,000 buys versus the previous year.
(4) No difference in RAW ratings when Bryan was champion or going after the WWE Title.
(5) Some of the houseshows headlined by Bryan did not significantly draw when he was the headliner.
Those are facts, most of which are backed by actual numbers. Now, the real debate is how much blame goes to Daniel Bryan or the WWE environment he's in. I'll agree that he got ****ed by WWE Creative during much of 2012-2014. Go read my columns in my LoP Columns Archive and you'll see me repeatedly defending Bryan. But at the end of the day, Daniel Bryan is a 5'10" billed wrestler (I've heard as low as 5'8") that would pass as a Cruiserweight in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) during the 1990's. Large and in charge is still what rules the business especially if Vince McMahon is still running the show.
This is where I'll piss off many fans, but this is the honest-to-God's truth on how the wrestling business GROWS in size. The hardcore, dedicated fan... You've already got them hook, line, and sinker. Especially now with TNA about to die and no other competition to challenge the WWE, those hardcore wrestling fans are NOT going anywhere. WWE is their only choice! 4 million households going strong every week for Monday Night RAW and 700,000 individuals willing to pay $9.99 per month to see bad non-Big 3 Pay Per Views and to watch older stuff. WWE has your money and your time and thus can piss you off all they want. Bury CM Punk and drive him out of the business. No problem... Reject your cries, repeatedly, to put over Daniel Bryan strong. No problem. WWE will make Daniel Bryan champion and then stick him with Kane as a nice "**** you" to those fans to prove Bryan can't draw. WWE was seriously going to book a BURIED ALIVE match between Bryan and Kane if Bryan didn't get hurt!
Where Vince McMahon was RIGHT on pushing Batista strong was on the CASUAL FANS. That's right... The people who pick up on things that are trendy, hip, or popular. Thus, he was probably thinking ahead that IF this Marvel Comics movie Guardians of the Galaxy was a big success, he had 1 of the co-stars under WWE payroll! Thus, many new audience members who LOVED Guardians of the Galaxy might want to check out Drax "the Destroyer wrestle in a WWE ring! I bet that Vince McMahon sees many children in his WWE audience wearing Avengers, X-Men, and Spiderman gear and he figured that having a Marvel Comics movie star on his roster couldn't hurt. In fact, it's quite logical and smart for business...
But here was the true problem with Batista during early 2014. Yes, his MEGA PUSH from his return pissed off many Daniel Bryan fans or the hardcore wrestling base. No doubt... But where Batista and the WWE really ****ed up was Batista's physical conditioning. Batista was OUT OF SHAPE upon his WWE return. He was completely gassed during his brief moments in Royal Rumble 2014 and was sucking wind in multiple matches following that event and before Wrestlemania 30. Once Bryan was added to the Wrestlemania 30 main event, the WWE actually held Batista vs. Randy Orton on RAW and it was terrible! Orton is in superior athletic shape and was working circles around a very tired Batista. THAT'S where it went wrong for Batista.
Had Batista been in great physical shape and busted out great matches upon his WWE return, just like he capable of during 2005-2010 (he has some good PPV main event matches under his belt, check them out on WWE Network!), things could have been different... Sure, the hardcore wrestling fans would have still screamed about Daniel Bryan, but they could have at least accepted Batista as WWE Champion if Batista was a legitimate competitor and not the out of shape bum he appeared as. Wrestlemania 30 could have featured Batista vs. Orton for the WWE Title and then have Daniel Bryan win a WWE Title shot against Batista for Extreme Rules 2014 if Bryan beat Triple H in a one-on-one match. Nice, consistent booking would have been in place instead of the half-assed rushed booking effort that we saw to "save" Wrestlemania 30 from ruin.
Funny thing is that the WWE now boasts a state-of-the-art developmental training facility in Florida. That's where NXT wrestlers train as well as any WWE wrestler who chooses to use the facility. Batista could have worked a few months down there before returning to the WWE to knock off the ring rust and strengthen his physical conditioning. And I'm not talking about muscles, as Batista has that covered... I'm talking cardio. The ability to do something for more than 1 minute and not try to suck wind.
WWE messed up bigtime on Batista by not preparing him for his in-ring return after being out of action for over 3 years. They didn't learn their lessons from the Rock who returned looking the role with muscles everywhere but lacked the physical conditioning to wrestle more than 1 minute without sucking wind. WWE management should demand a physical training regimen of their top stars, particularly of the ones being paid million to be part-time wrestlers. You can't get lucky and have someone dedicated to physical training like Brock Lesnar who has been amazing in the WWE ring so far.
In hindsight... The whole Batista return was handled poorly by WWE management. They brought in an out-of-shape 45 year old former superstar and tried to force him ahead of the wrestler that many hardcore fans wanted to see as champion, Daniel Bryan. Sure, the idea was there... Batista will be in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy and could be a potential draw to obtain much needed casual fans. However, WWE is still called World WRESTLING Entertainment even if they renamed themselves "WWE" recently. They are still a pro wrestling company first and everything else second. Batista just can't appear and win the WWE Title. He has to convince an audience of 4 million at home and 10,000+ at live shows that he looks decent in the ring. Like he belongs there... But he failed and WWE management didn't do their homework.
I thus conclude that making Daniel Bryan become WWE Champion at Wrestlemania 30 was the RIGHT decision because Batista was in poor physical condition to be champion. However, I'm seeing enough facts to somewhat agree with Vince and Triple H on their stance about Daniel Bryan. He's NOT the top superstar they need to grow their company or to even replace or be a substitute for John Cena. Looks and presentation matter and looking like the younger brother of the guys from Duck Dynasty just won't cut it in the WWE. Sorry to say that and I'm a HUGE fan of Daniel Bryan, but that's reality.
Now, if Batista gets his ass in shape and returns to the WWE as a known commodity, thanks to Guardians of the Galaxy being a raging success, that's the type of main event superstar that the WWE needs to DRAW in casual fans. "Hey, there's that guy in the Marvel Comics movie and he's fighting Brock Lesnar at Night of Champions 2014?!??! Let's tune in! Let's buy WWE Network to see it!"
Think I'm full of shit? Just look back at the 1980's... WWE was built on Rocky 3. Fact! Both Hulk Hogan and Mr. T were big headliners in Wrestlemania 1 AND 2. Yes, many forget about that boxing match with Roddy Piper on #2. Many individuals who had zero desire to become a wrestling fan suddenly became one during the 1980's. All about the casual fan... When casual fans see NFL players wearing NWO or DX shirts, they'll look into the source of those shirts. Hey, it's pro wrestling. Why would the cash-strapped WWE during early 1998 spend reported millions to Mike Tyson to appear in a non-fighting role at their shows? It's to draw those casual fans in and get them hooked! It worked! After Wrestlemania 14, WWE grew in leaps and bounds.
Batista's return was NOT for you, hardcore wrestling fans... It was for anyone starstruck by the man being in a Marvel Comics film. Just be thankful that he didn't take his WWE return seriously. Neither did WWE management during late 2013/early 2014.
SO JUST CHILL... 'TIL THE NEXT EPISODE!
Comments and feedback are welcome. Follow and Tweet me @titowrestling or login in below to post comments.
© Mr. Tito and LordsofPain.net/WrestlingHeadlines.com - 1998-2014