For almost 15 years now, there's been a pattern to big stars making their returns to WWE after long layoffs that WWE rarely deviates from: Whether a wrestler has been injured or just took a break from the wrestling business for a while, he will always return as a babyface. There may be one or two exceptions I'm forgetting, but that's just about how it always happens.
Tonight on Monday Night Raw, Batista returns to WWE after four years away from pro wrestling that included him doing an MMA fight so he could cross an item off his bucket list.
When he left, he had re-invented himself as a Kanye West-inspired heel and was doing the best work of his career. He was completely reinvigorated and left the fans wanting more when he went on his self-imposed hiatus.
Now? He's coming back as plain old boring babyface Batista. The same guy whom John Cena quickly overtook in 2005 when they got the two world titles and switched spots in that year's WWE draft.
I'm finding it hard to get too excited for Batista's return if he's not going to be the delusional combination of Kanye West and a metrosexual fashionista he was when we last saw him in 2010.
Never much of a talker, he had blossomed into a great, great promo once he finally had a character he could sink his teeth into. He became more consistent in the ring and was in the middle of a great series with Cena after they had been kept apart for most of their time atop WWE.
As a babyface, Batista had one defining characteristic: Unlike most babyfaces, who are dumb, he was smart and saw through all of Triple H's plans.
After their feud was over, though, there were never really any other glimpses of that other than the time he "let Melina seduce him" and then blew her off when she thought she had used her feminine wiles to get him to do her bidding.
Batista was just a big scary guy and ceased having a hook the way John Cena always has a hook, whether he's a rapper, a vaguely defined "nice guy" or a superhero.
On top of all that, the prevailing rumor from David Meltzer on Wrestling Observer Radio (F4WOnline.com members-only link) is that Batista's going to be feuding with Randy Orton. While I get that there's no rush, since he's sticking around long past WrestleMania season, this is still WrestleMania season. He should be in a fresh program, not reigniting an old feud with one of the stale wrestlers he was around for years during his first run.
While there is a major match on the table for him as a babyface (versus Brock Lesnar), being a heel would open up potential runs with Daniel Bryan, CM Punk (their feud was before Punk's ascension to a "made guy"), John Cena (they had barely scratched the surface together, and all of their matches were great) and so on.
Above all else, though, he was never more entertaining than he was during the last several months of his original run. Whether it was outright parodying Kanye West in a Slammy Awards skit, dressing like an idiot or cutting serious promos, he was never better. As a babyface in 2014 who may be hampered by injuries and age, he risks being a generic big guy and underwhelming everyone.