This past weekend, Dave Bautista co-starred in the number one film in America, Riddick. The man known formerly as Batista in the rings of World Wrestling Entertainment, has found success in Hollywood and will star in 2014's Marvel Studios production Guardians of the Galaxy.
Prior to his transition into acting, Batista—as he is known to wrestling fans across the globe—was one of the marquee stars of Vince McMahon's wrestling empire. He was a larger-than-life figure that had the look of a Superstar and was one of the more underrated and under-appreciated stars of his era.
Debuting as Deacon Batista, the right hand man of D'Von Dudley on SmackDown, the Washington, D.C. native overcame the poor gimmick and soon found himself a member of Evolution: a faction reminiscent of the legendary Four Horsemen and whose goal it was to elevate two deserving young talents.
Batista was the good soldier, standing quietly in the background while Randy Orton was given the majority of the attention but soon, his no-nonsense attitude won over the fans and the massive competitor nicknamed The Animal would break out on his own as one of the top two babyfaces in the sport.
Batista would reach new heights as a singles competitor and would carry the SmackDown brand as its top star, its face if you will. Always in the title picture, always expected to carry the proverbial banner for the Friday night program, he did so admirably and proved to be one of the top draws in the business.
As his contract came to an end in 2010 and he underwent a character makeover, becoming a selfish, narcissistic villain, Batista opted not to resign with World Wrestling Entertainment. He left the business on top and as one of the most entertaining characters on WWE programming.
Until that time, here are a few of the greatest moments and matches of his career.
The Deacon Debuts
In his SmackDown debut, Deacon Batista accompanied Reverend D'Von to the ring for his match with Triple H, which is ironic considering that The Game is the one man Batista is most closely associated with.
He would become physically involved on a number of occasions and his distraction of the official late in the match allowed Chris Jericho to attack the Triple H and cost him the match.
It was an impressive debut for the future World champion, who was treated as the physically imposing monster-of-a-man that he was.
The Evolution of the Business
In the fall of 2003, Triple H lost the World Heavyweight Championship to Bill Goldberg and put a bounty out on the new champion. No one knew who would collect, nor did they know when but all questions were answered on the October 20 episode of Raw, when Batista made his return from a triceps injury and attacked Goldberg.
He delivered an impressive Batista Bomb to the World champion before grabbing a steel chair, wrapping it around his ankle and stomping down on it. Goldberg's ankle was "shattered" and Batista was Evolution's latest member.
Batista Plays The Game
The final months of 2004 saw Batista become smart to Triple H's game (pun intended). Unlike Randy Orton, who was blindsided by the Cerebral Assassin's betrayal, Batista knew just how selfish and self-serving everything the leader of Evolution did was.
On a memorable Raw moment, just weeks before WrestleMania 21, Batista revealed himself to be the smartest man in the room, outsmarting Triple H and powerbombing him through a table. He would then sign a contract to challenge his former mentor for the World title at the sports-entertainment spectacular.
The World Heavyweight Championship
WrestleMania 21 was an important show for the future of World Wrestling Entertainment. For years following the end of the Attitude Era, the company tried seemingly everything to recapture the magic Steve Austin and The Rock brought to Raw and SmackDown.
They brought in major WCW stars such as Scott Steiner and Goldberg. They pushed Rob Van Dam, Kane and Booker T. Shawn Michaels made his triumphant return. Triple H dominated Raw as its top villain and most recognizable star.
The company even pushed Brock Lesnar to the moon. Unfortunately, Lesnar's passion for the sport proved to have an expiration date.
Longtime workhorses Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho were given runs with the company's top two championships and former tag team wrestler Bradshaw underwent a major makeover and had a title reign of his own that lasted for over seven months.
No matter what they tried, nothing seemed to work. Ratings were stagnant and business was nowhere near the heights it had been years earlier.
At Wrestlemania 21, the company did the one thing it had resisted: it created two new, top stars. John Cena defeated the aforementioned Bradshaw while Batista put an end to Triple H's reign of terror in the night's main event.
Cena was the surefire pick to unseat Bradshaw but Batista's rise was more organic. The fans chose him, their cheers for The Animal growing on a weekly basis until he destroyed Triple H at the pre-WrestleMania contract signing. From there, it was obvious that he was "the guy" and would help carry the company for the second-half of the decade.
His win in the main event of WrestleMania 21 capped off an improbable run.
The Animal Unleashed Inside of the Cell
In the greatest Hell in a Cell match ever (at least in this writer's opinion), Batista and Triple H brought their rivalry to a definitive end. It was a brutal, barbaric match that saw the two titans of the ring use everything they had in their arsenals on one another.
In the end, it was a Batista Bomb onto the steel ring steps that would spell the end for The Game and would solidify The Animal as the better man.
Viva La Batista
One of the most interesting angles of Batista's first title reign involved Eddie Guerrero. Guerrero tried to deceive the World Heavyweight Champion, claiming to have turned a new leaf while fans knew he was still the same old lying, cheating and stealing Eddie.
Batista, as he was with Triple H, remained one step ahead of Guerrero.
The interesting and layered story came to a head at No Mercy in 2005 when Batista defended his title against Guerrero in the main event.
It was Batista's first chance as champion to defend against a truly great wrestler like Guerrero. Unlike his matches with Triple H and JBL, Batista would be tasked with keeping up with one of the finest technicians in the sport.
He rose to the occasion, defeating a game Guerrero following the spinebuster.
Unfortunately, the angle between the two never got its proper conclusion. On November 13, 2005, Eddie Guerrero passed away in his hotel room in Minnesota.
Unfortunately, in early-2006, an ill-timed injury caused Batista to relinquish the World title. An injury is never something an athlete refers to as a greatest moment but the manner in which Batista handled the situation, not to mention the passion he showed in handing the title over showed just how much he cared about it and his role as champion.
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Batista entered Detroit's Ford Field on April 1, 2007 as the World Heavyweight champion. He would headline WrestleMania 23 in one of three huge main event matches. His opponent? The Undertaker.
The Dead Man rode an unprecedented undefeated streak into that show having won in his first 14 appearances at the Showcase of the Immortals. He would provide Batista with the greatest challenge of either of his two title reigns and give The Animal the opportunity to deliver a career-defining performance.
And he did just that, stealing WrestleMania 23 out from underneath the other two main events. He and The Undertaker demonstrated a rare chemistry that night, a chemistry that made for a series of outstanding rematches over the course of the next year.
Batista would lose his title but would gain the respect of some of his harshest critics as he had, arguably, the best match on the sport's biggest stage.
The Biggest Blockbuster of the Summer
At 2008's SummerSlam, the two biggest babyfaces of their era squared off in one of the few big money matches WWE had left to offer.
It was a back and forth display of signature power moves and nearfalls that was ultimately won by Batista, who flattened Cena with a Batista Bomb for the win.
The end of 2009 saw Batista undergo a character change. He became a heel, a villain more considered with himself, his wants and his own career advancement than his friends or fans. He turned on Rey Mysterio, brutalized him to complete the turn, then defeated John Cena for the WWE title just moments after Cena competed inside the Elimination Chamber.
His series with Cena would prove to be the last major angle Batista was involved with in the world of professional wrestling. Their "I Quit" match for the WWE title at Over the Limit in May of 2010 would be his final match.
The following night on Raw, a beaten and battered Batista sat in a wheelchair and professed his disgust for the WWE Universe for accepting Cena as a hero given what he did to him the night before.
In one of the great heel promos in recent history, Batista played his egotistical bad guy to the tee. The brilliance and humor of the promo came in the sight of the 6'6'', 275-pound athlete sitting in the center of the squared circle and whining like a spoiled brat.
Dave Batista exceeded all expectations with his run in World Wrestling Entertainment.
While no one ever questioned whether he had the look of a star, there were questions about his passion and in-ring skills. He answered all of those questions over his eight-year stint with the company and became one of its most marketable and popular stars.
When the time came for him to change his character, he did it in spectacular fashion. He never worried about looking inferior to his babyface counterpart. More importantly, he went out on his terms, at his in-ring and creative best.
The Animal will one day return to the company that made him the international star that he has become. When that time comes, he will have the chance to add to his already impressive resume and to introduce a whole new generation of fans to his intense and ferocious performances.
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