Boos and Internet grumbling have been the soundtrack for Batista's latest WWE run, but count on that changing.
With WWE providing fans with the WrestleMania ending they had been demanding, namely Batista becoming involved in a compelling angle and getting additional opportunities to thrive, the audience will warm to him. It will appreciate the intensity and star power he brings to the product.
The Royal Rumble in Pittsburgh was supposed to culminate in a returning star's triumph, a hero emerging through a 30-man Battle Royal to the sound of a cheering crowd.
When Batista eliminated Roman Reigns to win the Rumble, 15,000-plus fans united in disgust, generating a much different kind of sound. In the Baltimore Sun, Aaron Oster described the scene as a "crowd raining boos down on him—after spending the better part of two hours booing whoever was in the ring and chanting for Daniel Bryan."
The Pittsburgh fans weren't the only ones who were upset. Negative reactions overran the Internet:
It wasn't Batista whom fans were necessarily angry about. He was just the scapegoat for WWE continually refusing to give Bryan a position atop the company.
WWE putting "The Animal" in WrestleMania 30's main event instead of the man fans had been roaring for was a giant miscalculation.
It was a bad idea thinking that fans would welcome back Batista as a favorite. As he mentioned in an interview with David Malitz of the Washington Post, Batista told WWE that a babyface run wouldn't work.
He was right.
They booed him. They cheered for Alberto Del Rio when the two battled. They made fun of his skinny jeans.
WWE realized that and had Batista turn on the audience and mock fans for supporting Bryan.
Now that WrestleMania 30 is over, perception of Batista will shift. The reason to resent him isn't relevant anymore. Bryan is the WWE champ and was the star of WrestleMania's final moments.
Satisfying the audience's desire to see that makes Batista a symbol of WWE stubbornness no more. If Bryan gets a long reign, Batista becomes just a Superstar again, no longer the fall guy for WWE's error in judgment.
The longer Batista sticks around, the less he will seem like some outsider invading the ring.
His schedule is not as sporadic as The Rock's was. He's already been more active than Brock Lesnar. Working in the ring as often as he has leads to respect rather than bitterness.
After Monday's Raw, it appears that WWE is setting up some kind of stable vs. stable match involving Batista, The Shield, Triple H, Randy Orton and Bryan. Whether that comes in the form of a War Games variant or an elimination bout, it promises to be awesome.
Fans are tossing out the words "dream match":
If that match turns out to be a classic and Batista contributes greatly to it, it will be hard to stay upset with him. The best way to sway disgruntled fans is to deliver in the ring.
Batista is going to get a chance to do that at Extreme Rules and beyond.
After four years away from wrestling, he not surprisingly has been the victim of ring rust. His showing at the Royal Rumble and against Alberto Del Rio at Elimination Chamber were not nearly as good as his best work.
With every match, a little more of that rust comes off.
He look much improved at WrestleMania, adding to what was a stirring in-ring drama. That kind of result is exponentially likelier from this point forward as he returns to top form and works more matches.
If Batista produces magic with Bryan on Raw, a thrilling bout against Reigns at Payback and a memorable brawl against Sheamus, memories of him getting booed in Pittsburgh will begin to fade.
When he first came back, the answer to "What have you done for me lately?" was "Nothing." The answer is changing. Batista is becoming integrated into WWE and into a compelling feud.
With Bryan's fanbase happy and Batista adding to his resume, the disdain for him will eventually morph into recognition.