Perception can be deadly for any WWE Superstar, especially when it comes to the fans.
Once the WWE universe looks at a performer a certain way, it takes great strides in booking to change its collective mind. Most of the time, the crack creative staff within World Wrestling Entertainment is not strong enough, nor is it interested enough, to make those strides.
On February 23, said creative team will attempt to repair the perception fans have about two top WWE Superstars when Batista takes on Alberto Del Rio in a match that has yet to be formally announced but has been strongly hinted at on WWE programming.
Unfortunately for the men involved, no amount of hard work or no great match will change the way the fans react to them. The responsibility for that falls squarely on the shoulders of management and creative.
Batista's return has been met with hesitation by a WWE fanbase that would rather see a full-time Superstar in Daniel Bryan finally be given the opportunity to run with the proverbial ball than another part-time performer walk back into the fold and be handed a position high on the card.
That is not a knock on Batista but rather a indictment on the current philosophy in Vince McMahon's company. Fans, especially those diehard ones, have grown tired of watching certain performers return to television just in time for a big pay-per-view payday, only to leave at the first opportunity.
As for Del Rio, he has been essentially the same character since his debut nearly four years ago.
Outside of one short face turn early in 2013, he has been the Mexican aristocrat who talks about his "destiny" on an endless loop. The creative team has leaned far too heavily on his workhorse nature between the ropes and has really failed the performer in terms of character development.
As a result, fans grew tired of his act a long time ago.
Now, the company is attempting to put Batista in a match against Del Rio to help get The Animal back in the good graces of the fans. However, that line of thinking is incredibly flawed.
Fans cannot be expected to suddenly cheer Batista because they like him more than the hated, vile villain he's wrestling when that villain is not really hated, not particularly vile and really does nothing villainous at all.
Since creative apparently does not recognize the issue, the match should prove to be one of the more entertaining bouts from a crowd participation standpoint. The fans in Minnesota will either cheer Batista out of a sense of necessity, cheer Del Rio to spite the bookers, stay silent out of boredom or hijack the match with chants of "Yes!" or cheers for the announcers.
Needless to say, for two of the bigger stars on the roster, that is not the response management wants.
However, it is one they have earned.