WWE better be careful what they have created in Dave Batista. His new attitude has really caught the attention of the crowd, re-energized one of their most consistent draws and could possibly be the biggest name if they keep going in this direction.
It’s often been said that the best wrestling characters are those that are an extension of the performer’s personality, not some cooked up character sketch that a writer drew up in an office without ever meeting the man behind the gimmick. That goes out to whoever was the sage that put some straps on a metal case and called it a collection box, hanging it around their latest monster up from OVW and called it Deacon Batista.
This new vision of Batista’s character is dark, pissed off and looking for a fight. He’s a classic bully that not only wants to win a match, but hurt somebody, and unfortunately for most babyfaces, he has the power to back it up. As a Baltimore resident, I’ve been to a few shows at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. After each show, Batista makes a point to come out and address his hometown crowd. He talks about how he was a bouncer at a local bar before deciding to try pro wrestling. As anybody that has ever been to a bars of any size can tell you, the bouncers at the door can be some scary dudes. Often standing their in black shirt, sunglasses with their arms crossed. Does this image sound familiar? It should. It’s the look of WWE’s new bad guy
He uttered the words for the first time on Monday Night Raw this week that really encapsulate his character: The Bad Guy. For older wrestling fans, they’ll recognize that this isn’t the first time this moniker has been used. First as Razor Ramon in the mid-‘90s, Scott Hall referred to himself as The Bad Guy. It was never an official nickname, but if somebody referred to a wrestler as such, they knew it was Hall.
The character was first made (to my knowledge, comment if I’m wrong) in Japan by Masahiro Chono - a big, vicious competitor with a mean streak. With sunglasses, a leather jacket, he was black cool. He was a textbook badass with the chops on the mic and the ring to back it up. Just like Chono, Ramon was supposed to be a heel. He was a villain. A cocky, Cuban inspired by Scarface’s Tony Montoya that put people in their place. He didn’t care if the crowd liked him or not. He was there to win matches, win gold and make money. It wasn’t long before the crowd turned Razor, turning him into one of the more popular face performers in the company leading to his biggest rivalry for the Intercontinental Championship with a brash, flamboyant and condescending high flyer named ‘The Heartbreak Kid’ Shawn Michaels. If Ramon had been able to stay sober, there is no reason why he couldn’t still be on the top of the game to some extent right now instead of being an overweight drunk relying on his buddies for a paycheck. But that’s a different column. Back to Batista.
What we’re looking at in Batista has the potential to be one of the biggest draws in the company, bigger than he ever was before. Face it – when Batista headlined Wrestlemania, he wasn’t the draw. It was HHH. And since then, what has Batista really done to draw as a solo performer outside of his feuds with Undertaker. And in that, it’s not difficult to argue that Undertaker was the reason people cared about that feud, not Batista. Rarely has he ever been asked to shoulder the drawing responsibility of the company, but with this incarnation, they may have hit a chord that can carry into major success.
The key will be keeping him heel long enough so that his inevitable face-turn isn’t perceived as a hotshot change. This will not be at all simple. Unfortunately for WWE, they really don’t have many elite faces, and I’m including John Cena in that discussion. It would not at all shock me if the crowd turns on Cena on Sunday at Wrestlemania in the main event. There is such a divide among fans that either love or hate Cena that a badass villain could be enough to drive a majority of the fans against the face of the company. Aside from Cena, HHH is the next biggest face, but we all know where fans stand on Hunter. Edge isn’t established as a major face draw yet, nor is Randy Orton. With Shawn Michaels career in question this week, it’s possible he will be gone after Sunday. Undertaker routinely takes a few months off after Wrestlemania, as well. Rey Mysterio is really the only face that one could think has the support to keep Batista at bay, but remember he’s the one that Batista first turned on and the crowd cheered as he put the ultimate underdog on a stretcher.
We could be looking at a turning point period for WWE that could lead to a new top draw in the company. If given the ball to run, Batista could garner the support for a monster, crowd-forced face turn and a monumental shift in creative direction of Cena is no longer the top face on the roster. With the ‘Bad Guy’ persona, we could see an influx of 18-30 year-old male support once again, and who knows, the opportunity for Cena to finally turn heel and reboot his career fresh, as well.
We’ll see what happens on Sunday. We’ll how the crowd reacts to Batista and whether or not he is a true heel of if he gets a positive crowd reaction. And if the crowd swings, will Cena transition like he did against RVD at One Night Stand and so many greats in the past like Bret Hart against Steve Austin and The Rock against Hulk Hogan have done before. If this shift take place, we could be looking at the Summer of Batista.
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