Breaking Down the Best and Worst of the WWE for Week of March 31
Batista's time in front of the mic produced both a highlight and a nadir during a busy WWE week.
As the company geared up for WrestleMania XXX, "The Animal" prospered on SmackDown and bumbled later in New York. Daniel Bryan showed he can be a versatile star, the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal added a curious entry and Corey Graves played the role of a spider pouncing on his fallen prey.
As few would have predicted, Heath Slater earned a spot in the week's best offerings as well.
From Batista wearing his villainy well to Slater shocking even himself, the following is a look at what most entertained and what most annoyed fans from the world of WWE.
Best: Batista Talks Trash on SmackDown
Daniel Bryan and Triple H have demanded the majority of the audience's attention in the storyline surrounding the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. On Friday's SmackDown, though, Batista stood on center stage.
He thrived as the cocky, dismissive Superstar he has become since his return.
Promising to walk out of WrestleMania as the champ, he said that Stephanie McMahon hits harder than any of his opponents. He was then calmly snide to Triple H when the COO came out to the ring.
Batista doesn't get enough credit for his stage presence and comfort level on the mic.
He and Triple H incorporated more of their history together in Evolution and Batista's record against "The Game" to add more layers to this story. Bryan may be playing the lead, but Batista nailed his role on SmackDown.
Worst: Brad Maddox in Battle Royal over Bad News Barrett
The lineup for the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal has just three available spots left. Brad Maddox, though, is already signed up to compete.
If little-used Maddox is a part of that match and not Bad News Barrett, it will mark another instance of wasting the Englishman's talents. Barrett has been asked to stand behind a podium and deliver bad news, keeping him from battling in the ring.
Last year, Cesaro was WrestleMania's biggest snub. Barrett may earn that title this year.
The Battle Royal has its share of marquee names, but going will filler like Justin Gabriel, Brodus Clay and Maddox is an odd choice. Fans just have to hope that WWE makes the most of its final three spots.
Inserting Los Matadores instead of Alexander Rusev or Hornswoggle over Tyson Kidd would be a mistake.
Best: Daniel Bryan Fighting, Dreaming
Daniel Bryan delivered at every at-bat this week.
On Raw, he attacked Triple H in what was one of the most compelling brawls we've seen in a long time. It felt fantastic to see the wicked executive flop around as an enraged Bryan peppered him with punches.
Bryan then gave an impassioned speech on Backstage Pass that fans are raving about on Twitter.
He seemed to be pouring his heart out onto the mic , the same way he approaches wrestling. He's not as magnetically charismatic as some of WWE's best ever, but it's this kind of genuineness that has helped create such a great connection with fans.
At the WrestleMania press conference, Bryan was one of the more engaging speakers.
He gave an understated speech about dreams, Triple H and opportunity. That capped off a great week for him, leading into a night that could become the pinnacle of his career.
Worst: Batista's Awkwardness at Press Conference
Batista's performance was the strangest thing to come out of the WrestleMania press conference.
Early on, he seemed disinterested and disengaged. Seemingly offended by a lack of interest in what he had to say, "The Animal" then began what felt like a one-man show.
He played the part of himself and the fans who have booed him since his return. Awkwardness and skinny jeans jokes ensued. It became one of the most talked-about moments from the event.
It was entertaining, but only in the way that watching a drunk family member at Thanksgiving talk about not wanting to be married anymore is entertaining.
Batista seems to be letting the negativity being thrown his way affect him. Veering off the script, he turned the press conference into a showcase of discomfort.
Best: Corey Graves Ensnares Sami Zayn
Corey Graves' master plan is unfolding perfectly.
It began when Graves felt slighted that he was not a part of NXT Arrival. He made Sami Zayn his target, looking to make a name for himself by toppling the popular prospect.
On March 20, Graves attacked Zayn before he was supposed to face Tyler Breeze. Bashing his head into the ring post caused a storyline concussion.
Although Zayn was cleared to compete on the April 3 NXT, it became clear quite quickly that he wasn't well. Graves played the predator, zeroing in on his weakness and clocking Zayn in the head several times.
The result was a dramatic match that, like Dolph Ziggler vs. Alberto Del Rio at Payback, was hard to watch at times. Even knowing that his concussion symptoms were scripted, watching Zayn wobble around the ring and wear a dazed look for most of the bout was an emotionally powerful experience.
Graves earned the biggest win of his career, flourishing as a wicked opportunist.
NXT fans can rejoice in the fact that this promising feud appears to only be getting started. Look for these two foes to deliver some great matches together in the near future.
Worst: Word on Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker Buildup
The build to Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker has been the most disappointing of WrestleMania's major matches.
It's been one-sided and had Lesnar play a coward and a victim. Words is that it was Vince McMahon's poor choice to have things play out that way.
Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t Marc Middleton of Wrestling Inc) reports, "McMahon made the decision that in the build for this match, Taker never gets touched."
McMahon made a costly error in this storyline. As a result, what could have been one of the best feuds of WrestleMania XXX has been a flop.
The match itself, though, could be so amazing that fans would soon forget about all the stumbling that led up to it.
Best: Heath Slater Upsets Kofi Kingston
Fans who saw Heath Slater and Kofi Kingston scheduled for the April 3 edition of WWE Superstars likely assumed that Kingston would win and the match wouldn't be worth their time. They were wrong on both counts.
A surprisingly entertaining match saw Kingston deliver a crossbody to Slater's back, Slater hit a jaw-rattling kick and each foe earn a number of exciting near-falls.
It took an assist from his 3MB teammates to distract Kingston, but Slater got the upset win. He now heads into the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal with plenty to brag about and momentum on his side.
Having him look so surprised after pinning Kingston was a great touch.
Men like Slater are often made to be pushovers, which prevents them from producing quality ring work like this. The under-the-radar nature of WWE Superstars allowed Slater and Kingston ample time to tell a story in the ring and give fans an unexpected treat.