Batista is set to leave a trail of fallen enemies en route to headlining WrestleMania XXX.
Alberto Del Rio, the Royal Rumble field and Randy Orton will play the part of victims as Batista rises to the top. Whispers from backstage and foreshadowing onscreen point to the former world titleholder making a return to championship status.
While it may be wiser for the future to use Batista to build a promising star, it appears that he'll be getting the bulk of the momentum heading into the premier event. His star power will beget major opportunities between now and then.
Backstage reports will have Batista fans smiling. PWInsider, via WrestlingInc.com, reports the following:
WWE's plan going forward is to push Batista heavily in the storylines. Plans do change but the idea since signing him was for him to win the Royal Rumble match and go on to headline WrestleMania XXX.
One doesn't even need rumors and reports to see the path WWE is setting up for Batista, though. His first appearance with the company in years provided a wealth of hints. Batista's first target that night was Orton.
On the Jan. 20 edition of Raw, he pointed at Orton's championship and stated matter-of-factly that it was the reason he was back.
When Triple H talked to Orton a few moments earlier about the WWE title picture, the COO mentioned only Brock Lesnar, John Cena and Batista. Take that as an announcement of the top three contenders for the championship.
Both Lesnar and Cena are going to be busy with other rivals come WrestleMania. It will be Batista who challenges "The Viper" instead, capping off a trek that begins on Jan. 26.
Two-time Rumble Winner
Batista enters the 2014 Royal Rumble as the favorite. A thinned-out field and the amount of hype he's been receiving points to that.
Orton, Cena, Lesnar, Big Show and Daniel Bryan all have singles matches at the pay-per-view, and none of them are scheduled to be a part of the Rumble match.
While CM Punk would normally be a good bet to be the last man standing that night, his chances of winning are now greatly diminished as of Monday's Raw. It was then that Kane announced that Punk is the match's first entrant.
That leaves fewer big stars to choose from, placing Batista on top of the short list of potential winners.
In 2002, Triple H returned from a torn quad and punctuated that comeback with a Rumble win. Expect Batista to follow a similar path. WWE has hyped his entry into the Rumble more than any other Superstar.
As Batista said on Monday's Raw, he's coming after Orton and the WWE title. Count on that being more foreshadowing than empty promise. Although Batista is not The Rock in terms of star power, he offers a marquee name, one that appeals to a more mainstream audience, to enter into the WrestleMania main event.
He will earn that spot by outlasting Sheamus, Roman Reigns and Punk, tossing a handful of foes out of the ring and becoming just the fifth Superstar to win the Rumble multiple times.
Alberto Del Rio, Appetizer
As much trash talking as Del Rio did before Batista's arrival, a single spinebuster and powerbomb doesn't feel like a sufficient way to end that story.
The narrative has been that Del Rio is upset over how much attention Batista is getting. The Mexican braggart won't stand by and let the spotlight be taken away from him, and he won't let his beatdown on Monday's Raw go unanswered.
Count on Del Rio ruining Batista's victory celebration after the Rumble.
Whether it be by steel chair or cross armbreaker, Del Rio will find a way to ambush The Animal. His underhandedness will briefly get him the advantage over Batista, but it will anger a bull in the process. Batista will devour Del Rio at Elimination Chamber while the WWE champ is asked to survive against Lesnar.
It's a long road to WrestleMania, and Batista is going to need some tuning up before the big event.
This is where Del Rio comes in as a ring general capable of getting an excellent match or two out of the powerhouse. He offers Batista an opportunity for a memorable match and serves as prey with a championship pedigree.
Batista will come out of that battle no longer wondering who Del Rio is.
After acquiring new respect for the former world champ, Batista will move on to a bigger target. He will do so armed with momentum and a pinfall victory on pay-per-view.
Feud with Randy Orton
WrestleMania XXX is going to feature a stacked card that includes Orton vs. Batista for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Lesnar vs. Undertaker is one of many matches rumored to be in the works, per Wrestling Observer (h/t WrestlingInc.com). According to F4WOnline, via WrestlingInc.com, Bray Wyatt is reportedly set to face Cena. Punk's recent feud with The Authority is strongly hinting at a Triple H vs. Punk battle.
Look for Batista and Orton to be a part of that star-studded lineup as well.
Fans might gripe that we've seen that feud before, but WWE is clearly not against revisiting old rivalries as we've seen with Orton and Cena in the last few months. Orton and Batista's previous clashes as well as their Evolution ties offer the company animosity to build upon.
WWE knows that those two wrestlers can produce compelling, hard-hitting action, as evidenced by their clash at Judgment Day 2009 and their cage match at Extreme Rules 2009.
Batista will call out Orton for how much he's changed as of late, damning his cowardice and dependence on The Authority. He'll talk about being tired of seeing someone he's defeated in the past call himself the greatest star of all time.
Orton, who will have had to get past both Cena and Lesnar at that point, will claim that Batista is his last test. The Animal is the last warrior from the pantheon of WWE greats that he has had to best before proving his claims of being history's finest wrestler.
So sets up one marquee showdown of many at WrestleMania XXX, the site for the beginning of Batista's next title reign. The journey to that victory begins at Royal Rumble.
Punk, Sheamus and Del Rio stand in his way, but there will be no stopping this rushing tide.
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