There are nights in any aspect of life capable of forever changing the course of history.
For WWE and professional wrestling as a whole, the 2005 Royal Rumble was one of those nights.
On that night, two Superstars rose to prominence and took the first steps toward greatness. They would deliver impressive performances that took them one step closer to the top of the industry.
By the time the Rumble had been completed, it was clear to everyone watching that the two Superstars they had just bore witness to were being charged with carrying the entire business into the future.
Those two Superstars were John Cena and Batista, and this is the story of the 2005 Royal Rumble match.
The departure of top Superstars such as The Rock and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin left Vince McMahon's promotion struggling to find the next performers to carry the company on their backs. McMahon signed former WCW standouts such as Goldberg and Scott Steiner, pushed Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero and went back to the well with Undertaker and Kane for the umpteenth time to try and make up for their absences.
Triple H, one of the great heels from the Attitude Era, was positioned as the top star of the company in a manner eerily similar to the way his childhood hero Ric Flair was during his days in the NWA and WCW. But fans were growing bored with the act.
They wanted something new and fresh.
Enter Dave Batista and John Cena.
Batista had started as a bodyguard for Reverend D'Von but soon found himself a member in the elite group known as Evolution. Triple H and Ric Flair had handpicked two of the top young stars in WWE to join them in the faction, and Batista was one of them.
Oftentimes portrayed as the muscle of the group, Batista brought with him a quiet intensity. He rarely spoke, but when he did, each word he used had meaning. Despite the fact that management had targeted Randy Orton to be the star of the future, fans took to Batista and the way that he spoke softly and kicked ass between the ropes.
The slow build to his face turn made for some of the best television in late 2004 and early 2005, and the constant increase of fan support only made it that much more fun to watch.
John Cena, on the other hand, had worked his way up from the very bottom.
Left for dead late in 2002, a release from his contract looking more and more likely, Cena spit a few rhymes on a bus ride during an overseas trip and word got back to management about his talent. Soon, he was appearing on the Halloween episode of SmackDown dressed as Vanilla Ice and rapping for on-screen general manager Stephanie McMahon.
From there, he would go on to thrive as the arrogant white rapper type who used his rhymes to insult some of the most respected Superstars on the roster. Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Brock Lesnar and the Undertaker all felt the wrath of Cena's words.
But something happened along the way. The edginess that Cena brought to his raps caught the attention of the fans, and those same men, women and children who had booed him before had suddenly begun to cheer the West Newbury native.
Cena became one of the hottest acts in wrestling in 2004, and it became apparent that he was well on his way to the top of the card.
For both men, the 2005 Royal Rumble would be a milestone moment. The momentum was building and both were expected to compete in high-profile title matches at WrestleMania 21. But which Superstar would add "Royal Rumble winner" to their resume first, and, more importantly, would they shine in the spotlight or falter on one of the biggest stages of their careers to that point?
As great as performances from Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio and Edge were in that year's 30-man war, as awesome as the beginning of the Shawn Michaels-Kurt Angle program proved to be and as memorable as Paul London's sick bump off of Snitsky's big boot was, the eventual showdown between Batista and Cena was what fans had wanted to see.
And they got it late in the match.
The two surging stars battled back and forth for a few moments before Batista lifted Cena overhead for a Batista Bomb attempt...then stumbled, and both men fell out of the ring, drawing the very real fury of company chairman McMahon, who angrily rushed to the ring, tearing both of his quadriceps at once.
As he sat on the mat, intense pain shooting up his legs, he ordered the match restarted.
Seconds later, Batista tossed Cena over the top rope and won the match, guaranteeing himself a shot at either the WWE or World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 21.
Batista would go on to defeat mentor Triple H to win the World title in Los Angeles' Staples Center at WrestleMania, while Cena would end JBL's near 10-month reign as WWE champion. The victories would usher in a brand new era for WWE, an era that saw the new titleholders switch brands (Cena to Raw, Batista to SmackDown) and lead them over the course of the next five years.
Cena would become the top star in all of professional wrestling, a role he maintains to this day. Batista, on the other hand, left WWE in 2010 amid concerns over the creative direction of the company and an expired contract.
On January 20, 2014, he returned to the company and will compete in this Sunday's Royal Rumble match.