As of Monday Night Raw, the unpredictability of a return that few would have foreseen a few months ago seems to have turned into certain inevitability—"The Animal" Batista looks set to repeat his 2005 Royal Rumble win in 2014.
Whispers of Batista coming back to the WWE have resurfaced now and again since his hiatus began in 2010 but never really came to anything until a live event advertisement spilled the beans on his return a few weeks ago.
The story developed to suggest that Batista's deal wouldn't be the now-standard brief run for a past star, but a longer-term arrangement with more regular appearances.
The deal works out well for Batista, who can support his burgeoning film career by making regular TV appearances in the build to his starring role in this summer's Marvel blockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy, but there has to be something in it for the WWE as well—and it seems more than likely that it's a WrestleMania main event.
Having Randy Orton lose the WWE World Heavyweight title so close to WrestleMania would be a strange decision, so it's more than likely that he will be making a defense in the main event come April.
His opponent, however, was a far more unpredictable matter until a couple of weeks ago. CM Punk seemed like an option, but having already faced Orton at WrestleMania XXVII, it might be seen as a rather underwhelming main event.
Daniel Bryan seemed like a good possibility, but after being inducted into the Wyatt Family last week on Raw, it seems like he'll have his hands full for quite some time.
The perennial main eventer John Cena is always a safe bet for WrestleMania, but since he has a title shot at the Royal Rumble you would hope that he wouldn't win the Rumble itself as well. Batista seems like a far more solid pick than any of these men at this point in time.
Making his return after a near four-year absence lends a face-off with Randy Orton something of a "big-fight feel," but what will really have WWE creative tongues wagging is the fact that Orton and Batista both started making headway in the WWE as part of the Evolution stable.
That's to say nothing of the fact that the leader of that stable was none other than Triple H, and rounding out the group was the venerable Ric Flair—who made an appearance on this week's Old School Raw, perhaps to keep him fresh in the minds of audiences ahead of an Evolution-centric WrestleMania build.
With Batista's film career about to hit the mainstream, a pre-built storyline entrenched in moderately recent history and, to be frank, with no better option that the WWE feels comfortable taking the risk on, it seems that Batista winning the Royal Rumble and going on to challenge Orton at WrestleMania XXX is all but a certainty.
One question remains, though—despite all the internet column inches discussing Batista and the considerable pomp layered onto his WWE-produced videos hyping his return, is he a big enough star in 2014 for this to work out? Only time will tell.