A story that has been rumored for several months was more or less confirmed over the weekend, as ads promoting Batista's return to WWE were accidentally released by the company. So far, the sequence of events goes something like this:
- On Friday night, a house show was announced for February 16 at the Thomas and Mack Center. On the event page (since changed) at UNLV's website, fans were encouraged to "see the special return of 'The Animal' Batista, LIVE!"
- PWInsider.com (h/t WrestlingInc.com) confirmed that it was not a mistake and Batista is indeed coming back for WrestleMania season. Once source pegged his return for the Royal Rumble.
- As noted by PWInsider.com, one of the Twitter accounts of the Phoenix Suns organization announced the Batista would also be appearing at the house show in Phoenix the night before the Las Vegas show, but the tweet was quickly deleted, as was the note on the UNLV website. However, Dave Meltzer reported yesterday at F4WOnline.com that radio ads mentioning Batista were still playing in Las Vegas.
Last night on Wrestling Observer Radio (F4WOnline.com members-only link), Meltzer added that it looks like Batista will be returning at the Royal Rumble, winning the Royal Rumble match itself, and facing Randy Orton for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 30. Whatever happens, it would figure to be a limited run between Batista's age (he turns 45 a week before the Royal Rumble) and his need to promote Guardians of the Galaxy, which hits movie theaters on August 1st.
One one hand, I'm happy to hear Batista is returning. His last several months of his first run in WWE, where he turned heel after a long run as a top babyface, was easily the best work of his career. Feuding mainly with former tag team partner Rey Mysterio and long-time fellow top babyface John Cena, he reinvented himself as Kanye West-inspired character and cut the best promos of his career. He got rave reviews and left everyone wanting more.
I'm not crazy about him coming back to face Randy Orton, though. While the former "Evolution" allies only crossed paths for feud together during Batista's original run, it doesn't feel fresh at all and is far from the best use of him. In a way, it's similar to how John Cena vs Randy Orton still feels stale even though they didn't face each other for four years.
I don't want to see Batista come back for a feud with somebody he's feuded with in the past. The best use of Batista as a returning attraction is to match him up with brand new opponents.
To me, the best possible match-up for Batista is Brock Lesnar. Their only meeting was when both were in WWE's developmental program in 2001, as they never crossed paths after being called up to the main WWE roster in 2002.
Not only is it a fresh match between two huge (physically and otherwise) stars, but it's an interesting stylistic match since Batista has spent much of his time off doing legitimate mixed martial arts training and even had a professional fight. Batista would get to play MMA fighter (and I don't mean that in a negative way) against a former UFC Heavyweight Champion and would likely be ready and willing to have the type of physical match Lesnar excels at. In 2014, Batista is likely a better opponent for Lesnar than The Undertaker would be since he's very broken down and was clearly slowing down vs CM Punk at WrestleMania 29.
Otherwise, I'd rather see Batista against a newer star. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of those, and the ones that are there are not great match-ups for him. CM Punk, for example, mainly wrestled Batista in a few lukewarm babyface matches during his first World Heavyweight Championship reign in 2008.
I suspect that the more established main eventer version of Punk would have much better matches with Batista than the "undeserving champion" of over five years ago. The promos would also be better: Punk didn't talk much then and Batista didn't hit his stride until right before he left two years later. With both having gotten deeper into training Gracie Jiu Jitsu, they could even throw in some MMA/shoot-style moves, but that could infringe on Lesnar's gimmick.
Daniel Bryan doesn't really work, as even though I'm sure they could have a great match, the size difference is a little weird for a top WrestleMania match. Besides, Bryan is clearly heading in a different direction, and while his actual opponent is in question, barring Batista returning as a Triple H ally, it wouldn't make much sense storytelling-wise.
Who should Batista face at WrestleMania?
Someone like Roman Reigns could be interesting. If Batista isn't going to stick around for a while, using him to get over a rising star could be the right move. It could even serve as a torch-passing moment: Batista was originally trained by Reigns' family at the Wild Samoans Training Center and Reigns is going to be the first real "monster" type to get a big push since Batista.
Still, while it depends on where the other top stars fall, I don't see anything possible that's more appealing than Batista vs Lesnar. It's fresh, but it's also kind of a "dream match," and I suspect they'd be more than willing to beat the hell out of each other to steal the show.
What does everybody else think? Who do you want to see Batista work with? Or would you rather not see him come back at all? Let us know in the comments.