Nine years ago, at WrestleMania 21 in Los Angeles, both of the world titles that now make up the WWE World Heavyweight Championship were on the line: John Bradshaw Layfield defended the WWE Championship against John Cena, while Triple H defended the World Heavyweight Championship against Batista in the show-closing main event.
Both challengers won their first world titles that night, but Cena won a short match that felt like an afterthought and Batista got the longer, more dramatic match with the big celebration at the end of the show.
A few weeks later, Cena (then SmackDown's champion) and Batista (then Raw's champion) switched places in the then annual WWE draft. Cena picked up a lot of momentum and pushed ahead of Batista, but the man they call "Big Dave" was a very solid 1-A to Cena's No. 1 until his departure in 2010.
What a difference a few years off makes, huh?
This whole run has been a disaster for Batista. He came back looking disinterested with no enthusiasm in his promos and a horrible gas tank in the ring. The fans immediately turned on him.
Now, Batista is leaving for his "Guardians of the Galaxy" publicity tour at least a month earlier than planned. On the post-Extreme Rules edition of Wrestling Observer Radio (behind the F4WOnline.com paywall, partial h/t to WrestlingInc.com, which summarized some but not all of the details), it was explained that while one of the things Batista doesn't want to do is lose another pay-per-view match—this time a singles match to Daniel Bryan—it's not specifically about that.
Apparently, Batista feels that "everything he got told when he was coming in" was changed, which includes disappointing payoffs. He was going to leave in June anyway, so since he has money and is unhappy, he decided he could cut off his current run a month early.
Regardless of his reasons, I can see why he'd be unfulfilled right now. He's not being given much to do other than fill out Evolution. Still, a lot of this is his own fault.
He's the one who showed up unable to even work the Royal Rumble as a late entrant without huffing and puffing. Remember, it's not like Daniel Bryan needing to win the title at WrestleMania is necessarily the only reason plans changed: Batista could not have had a WrestleMania main-event-worthy singles match with anyone a month ago. If he can't work up to WWE's current standards, then they don't need him.
This held him back as a babyface, and it holds him back as a heel, too. I'm hesitant to say that even Bryan would have been able to get a quality main-event singles match out of him. I liked the idea of Batista teaming with Randy Orton that was teased a few weeks ago, as it it would be good for both: Orton needs a change of scenery away from main events and Batista needs someone to carry the workload in his matches.
I have no idea if that was proposed at all, but I would have enjoyed it. It's possible that kind of role wouldn't have made Batista nearly as much money as he was hoping to make in this run, though.
As it turns out, there just may not be a place for Batista in 2014 WWE. It's not an issue of muscled-up guys vs. smaller wrestlers or anything like that. Ryback wasn't blowing up like Batista has when he was in main events. John Cena never blows up like that. Only The Rock looked close to as bad when he came back too heavy last year, but he was able to get away with it because he's The Rock. Batista ain't The Rock.
If Batista had returned doing great promos and having great matches like he hadn't lost a step since 2010, we probably wouldn't be having this conversation.