On Monday's episode of Raw, Triple H cut an in-ring promo letting the WWE Universe know exactly how mad he was at Batista.
The prior week was Ric Flair's birthday celebration. And Batista, who apparently wasn't invited to the party, went full Maleficent on The Nature Boy.
We saw The Animal dragging an unconscious, beaten Flair out of his dressing room, before turning to the camera.
"Hunter, do I have your attention now?" he sneered.
Triple H ran to the back to confront Batista and get help. By then, though, he was already gone.
On Monday, The Game turned his promo into a bit of a worked shoot. He discussed how important Flair was to him, as both a mentor as a friend. He mentioned Reid Flair, Flair's late son who suffered a drug overdose.
The WWE executive then piled a litany of threats on top of that. He would meet Batista anywhere, even at each others' homes, to settle their score.
"You want my attention, Dave? You got it!" Triple H yelled into the microphone before sauntering out of the ring.
Clearly, this is all headed towards a marquee match at WrestleMania 35: Triple H vs. Batista. A legend vs. legend match that means even more now than it would have years ago, before The Animal became a legit Hollywood action hero.
Thus far, though, this feud has the dubious distinction of being both underplayed and overplayed simultaneously.
It's underplayed by how the company revealed Batista for the first time: in a live, action-less backstage segment, after which he never appeared in front of the live crowd. Ric Flair is 70 years old and lucky to be alive; he can't be taking bumps anymore, least of all from The Animal.
But why not have Batista come out to the ring? Why not have him drag Flair out to the top of entrance ramp and taunt Triple H from a distance?
It seemed a waste to book the Guardians of the Galaxy actor to be on the show and then not have him appear in front of the live crowd. Essentially, the paying audience got exactly what we got for free: a broadcast of Batista, rather than Batista himself.
And if this was too little, Monday felt like an overly enthusiastic correction in the opposite direction.
Then, we had Triple H leveraging real-life events to forward this feud and alluding to the difference between characters and "real" life. And can we stop using Reid Flair for sympathy points? WWE has done this already, and it's more than a little ghoulish.
This blurring between real life and fantasy is better done near the end of a feud, rather than the beginning of it. It creates the perception that the stakes are getting higher, and that what may have started as a "normal" wrestling angle has gotten increasingly intimate and personal. They're giving up too much, too early on—we still have four weeks to go before WrestleMania.
What's next? Does Batista call Triple H "Paul?" Do they discuss backstage contract negotiations and Batista's days in OVW? Does Triple H go to Batista's home bearing a sledgehammer.
It feels like we're seeing the end of the feud at the same time as its beginning. And still, there's no sign of Batista, aside from the backstage segment and his Instagram taunting.
So that's the first thing WWE needs to do—actually bring Batista out to the ring and have him explain why he did what he did to Ric Flair.
Focus on what Batista said at the 1,000th episode of SmackDown: that Triple H has never beaten him in a singles match. Leave the home-invasion threats for later; they come off as forced this early on. Just having The Animal on Monday nights (or maybe Sunday's Fastlane pay-per-view?) is all the adrenaline that's needed. Less is more.
It's not necessary to overthink this storyline with prerecorded segments and worked shoots. In fact, it's tedious, despite its unconventionality.
The performers and their legendary reputations speak for themselves, and so simple, straightforward booking would be the best way to approach this angle moving forward.