Grading Batista's Royal Rumble Peformance in First in-Ring Action Since Return

Brad Jones@beardjonesFeatured ColumnistJanuary 27, 2014

On Sunday night, Batista made his return to in-ring competition in fine fashion by winning the Royal Rumble. However, after nearly four years away from the WWE, there were plenty of doubts about how smooth the Animal's transition back to wrestling would be.

In truth, Batista's return last night was a little insubstantial. Yes, he went on to win the thing, but he did so with clotheslines, knees and the occasional body slam. Whilst a limited moveset like this may be enough for a Battle Royal, when it comes to a singles match in the main even of WrestleMania, it makes for a less than a compelling prospect.

That said, there were a few positives to take from his showing—his counter of Alberto Del Rio's armbreaker attempt to eliminate him and his signature spinebuster on Roman Reigns being two particular highlights. However, the lack of a Batista Bomb was a bit of a disappointment—and, unlike on Raw earlier this week, there were no skinny jeans to excuse the absence of the move.

Whilst Batista didn't show off a lot of his war crate in the Rumble, the way in which he was used might reveal a little bit of where he is going on the road to WrestleMania. For the most part, Batista found himself brawling with powerhouses like Ryback, Sheamus and Roman Reigns, only really taking on smaller competitors like CM Punk, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose when he wasn't the centre of attention.

Perhaps this is a sign that Batista is thought of as being more useful in competition with another big man? Hopefully, this would imply that Lesnar v. Batista is indeed the plan for WrestleMania, as if Batista is working with a more limited moveset than even what he had before, then a match against Randy Orton is certainly not going to do much for fans based on Orton's last few main events.

Batista's performance last night wasn't out-and-out bad, but it was hardly an outing worthy of a Royal Rumble win after four years of inactivity. As he and Roman Reigns faced off as the final two, a crowd that had been making its dissatisfaction regarding the absence of Daniel Bryan known firmly rallied behind Reigns.

In perhaps the moment of the night most damning of Batista's re-entry to the main event scene, the pair exchanged spears. Reigns' spear was impeccable as ever, whereas Batista's was something of a damp squib. For all the talk of the veteran taking on the young gun, it seemed clear which man could do the most in the ring given the opportunity in the main event of WrestleMania.

Roman Reigns may not be the ideal candidate at this point in his career to headline the biggest show of the year for WWE, but last night, he outclassed the man who does have that spot. Batista's return to the ring may not have been a disaster, but he will have to do much more than he did last night to make his title match at WrestleMania worthy of a Royal Rumble win.

Grade: C+