WWE Hall of Famer Batista's Definitive List of Must-Watch MatchesJanuary 18, 2022
WWE Hall of Famer Batista's Definitive List of Must-Watch Matches
When it comes to main event careers, few match the trajectory of Batista's.
The Animal was never intended to be the breakout star of Evolution. That role was reserved for Randy Orton. His attention to detail (facial expressions and body language), as well as raw physicality, helped him connect with fans in a way that demanded his ascension up the card.
A feud with Triple H gave way to his first world title victory in 2005, and Batista never looked back. An industry icon throughout the Ruthless Aggression era, he was a perennial main eventer and world title contender before suddenly waving goodbye to the industry in 2010 as it entered the PG Era.
After finding legitimate success in Hollywood, he would make two comebacks before retiring from in-ring competition following his WrestleMania 35 battle with The Game.
Originally slated to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2021, those plans were derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As fans and the man himself await his enshrinement, relive these 10 definitive matches that help tell the story of one of wrestling's most beloved, and unlikely, success stories.
10. 2005 Royal Rumble Match
What should have been a momentous night in the career of Batista is remembered, instead, for the late-match accident that nearly derailed the entire company's WrestleMania plans.
The 2005 Royal Rumble came to a head with The Animal and John Cena battling it out for a shot at their respective brand's world title at WrestleMania. Batista hoisted Cena overhead for a powerbomb but the two lost their balance and stumbled over the top rope and to the floor.
An irate Mr. McMahon stomped to the ring, blowing out both quadriceps in the process, and demanded the match restart. Batista would drive Cena into the mat and eliminate him, as planned, earning a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 21.
While it was still a significant moment for Batista, it was the notorious flub that is remembered vividly some 17 years later. Either way, it is a key moment in the legendary competitor's career and one that could not be left off this countdown.
9. WrestleMania XX with Randy Orton and Ric Flair vs. Mick Foley and the Rock
Batista's first dance on wrestling's grandest stage came in 2004 at WrestleMania XX, where he teamed with Evolution partner Ric Flair and Randy Orton to battle The Rock and Mick Foley.
Not a bad way to spend one's first Showcase of the Immortals, tangling with two Attitude Era icons.
Sure, the match was more about Orton and his vendetta against Foley, but it was the first inkling that The Animal could hang with any star, of any magnitude, on any stage. What could have proved to be too much for a guy who had seen his momentum stunted by injury early on in his main roster run was, instead, all of the evidence management needed to consider a monumental push for the future world champion.
Batista would go on to win the match with his teammates and combat another future Hall of Famer in the night's most anticipated bout the following year.
8. SummerSlam 2008 vs. John Cena
SummerSlam 2008 carried the tagline, "The Biggest Blockbuster of the Summer."
Whether the show turned out that way is debatable, but what wasn't was the enormity of the match between Batista and John Cena. There were no titles at stake, nor did there have to be.
The two biggest stars of the Ruthless Aggression era battled in a star-studded grudge match that split the audience and had fans picking sides like a Twilight flick.
Another "can-you-top-this" war of big move after big move came to a head with a frustrated Batista delivering his signature powerbomb finish. When Cena kicked out, The Animal booted him square in the face, hoisted him up and drove him back down with a second Batista Bomb for the clean three-count.
There was no test and nothing to prove. Batista and Cena were the top stars in the company and delivered a match that reflected it. That they turned in the quality of contest they did, with only 13 minutes to work with, is proof that not everything has to be a 30-minute epic to leave a lasting impression.
7. Backlash 2007 vs. Undertaker (Last Man Standing Match)
The follow-up to their WrestleMania classic, the Last Man Standing match for the World Heavyweight Championship at Backlash between Batista and The Undertaker was an epic encounter of two big, physical heavyweights.
There were no pretty flips or dives, no unnecessary movement. It was a slugfest with one big move after another. The competitors didn't waste time with things not pertinent to the match at hand, they simply went to the ring and had a knock-down, drag-out brawl.
Last Man Standing matches are difficult in that they generally call for periods of lying around. Some of them tend to drag on as a result but not this one. With little wasted time or motion, the combatants made the most of every second en route to a draw finish that, while controversial, protected both and set up a steel cage match a few weeks later.
Even then, it was hardly the last time the two all-timers would clash in 2007.
6. Extreme Rules 2014 with Triple H and Randy Orton vs. The Shield
Coming back to WWE in 2014, Batista easily could have played the egotistical Hollywood star behind the scenes and demanded wins every time he set foot in the ring. He could have big-timed everyone else in the company solely for his own benefit.
Instead, the star of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy did what others in his role may not have by putting over young stars and ensuring the future of the industry.
He started at WrestleMania XXX by tapping out to Daniel Bryan and ensuring the Yes! Movement received its proper celebration. A month later, he teamed with Triple H and Randy Orton to battle The Shield's Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns in a wild, chaotic six-man tag team match.
The Shield had already been an enormous part of WWE television, but a win over Evolution on a major pay-per-view put them over the top. Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose paid off a year of strong booking and main event opportunities by defeating Batista and Co.
The match, a reminder that Batista could still brawl with the best of them, helped establish The Shield as the immediate future of the company. It also enhanced The Animal's legacy as a genuine star willing to give back to an industry that helped him reach previously unthinkable heights.
5. Extreme Rules 2010 vs. John Cena (Last Man Standing)
Two years after their first major PPV encounter, Batista and John Cena waged war again.
At WrestleMania XXVI, The Animal dropped the WWE Championship to Cena in another hard-hitting, high-impact match. A month later, at Extreme Rules, they would clash again, this time in a Last Man Standing match.
Arguably their best match, the contest was a war of attrition, each man looking to keep the other down just long enough to secure the top prize in the industry. Batista's personality shined in the heel role. He was louder, more braggadocios and over the top than he ever was as the straight babyface, doing some of his finest work in the final weeks of his first run with WWE.
The controversial finish, in which Cena duct-taped his opponent's feet around the ring post, making it impossible for Batista to make it to his feet before the count of 10, was a nice touch but it was The Animal screaming and bemoaning the creativity of it that really helped sell it.
Batista from 2010 doesn't get enough credit for being one of the best villains in recent WWE history. An egocentric bad guy with a knack for spotlights, he excelled in the role. It is a shame we did not get to see more of that incarnation of The Animal because the potential for a superb run was there.
4. WrestleMania XXX vs. Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan
To say Batista's return in 2014 didn't go quite as planned would be an understatement the size of his biceps.
Instead of being welcomed back and having his second Royal Rumble victory greeted with a thunderous ovation, it was instead accompanied by a deafening chorus of boos. He ran directly into the buzzsaw that was the Yes! Movement and any goodwill that may have existed for his comeback was erased the moment it came at the expense of Daniel Bryan's championship journey.
Bryan had momentum on his side and a very large, vocal audience championing his run to WrestleMania and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. The idea of WWE bringing Batista back and trying to shoehorn him into the top spot on the WrestleMania card did not sit well with the audience.
He still got his title opportunity on the grand stage, against Randy Orton as planned, but Bryan was added to make the match a Triple Threat.
A fantastic match saw the former Evolution teammates work together to try and eliminate Bryan from the equation. After a powerbomb/RKO combination through the announce table, it appeared as though they suceeded. Bryan would fight back into the match, though, and tap Batista out to win the title.
It was in that moment that Batista enhanced his legacy.
Was he disappointed about the way his return unfolded? Sure. Did he necessarily understand the fan fervor for Bryan at the time? Maybe not. When the time came to do business and to do it the right way, he did. There was no ego, no refusal to put over the underdog babyface.
If he wasn't going to win the title, he was damn sure going to be involved in the finish and by tapping out, he made Bryan's moment that much more memorable and significant.
Just like Triple H did for him a decade earlier.
3. Survivor Series 2007 vs. Undertaker (Hell in a Cell)
The feud between Batista and The Undertaker resulted in several classic heavyweight battles and set up the Hell in a Cell match for the World Heavyweight Championship in the main event of the 2007 Survivor Series.
The Animal entered the champion, looking to avenge his WrestleMania loss to The Deadman. The Phenom had just returned from injury, hellbent on regaining a title he never should have lost. Together, they created another big-man masterpiece.
The brutal, back-and-forth war appeared to culminate with Undertaker driving Batista into the steel steps with a Tombstone piledriver. Instead, Edge returned from his own injury and cost The Phenom the match and title.
For Batista, the match was another classic in a string of them. He went toe-to-toe with his legendary opponent in a match The Deadman made famous. Given the quality of their first two encounters, they could have easily folded and failed to deliver. Instead, they improved on them, bringing forth the brutality one expects from that particular bout while Edge's interference set up the next year's worth of television in the SmackDown main event scene.
2. WrestleMania 23 vs. Undertaker
After missing WrestleMania 22 due to a triceps injury that derailed his first run as world champion, Batista entered Ford Field with the gold for a showdown with The Undertaker. Competing in any match at The Show of Shows can be a daunting task but standing across the ring from The Phenom further tests one's mettle.
Faced with his most important test since the Hell in a Cell match against Triple H in June 2005, Batista proceeded to deliver another defining performance.
That he was genuinely pissed off that the titanic clash was not the main event of the show, going on midway through the broadcast instead of further up the card, only helped.
Batista was determined to prove everyone with any power backstage wrong. The first showdown between him and Undertaker should have been the marquee bout, not the third-most important of the broadcast.
He did just that, working with his opponent to deliver a classic heavyweight battle on the grand stage. While he did not win, the match marked a pivotal moment in Batista's career. Whereas he may not have had the confidence two years earlier, he proved to himself and the doubters that he was every bit good enough to hang on with The Phenom on a stage that had become synonymous with Undertaker.
1. Vengeance 2005 vs. Triple H (Hell in a Cell)
If WrestleMania 21 was Batista's coronation as world champion and Backlash was the followup, the Hell in a Cell match at Vengeance in June 2005 was the performance that catapulted the world champion into the stratosphere of industry greats.
In need of that one performance that made his world title reign truly legitimate, Batista went to war with Triple H for the third consecutive time looking to definitively end their feud. What ensued was a hellishly physical, brutally violent encounter that included barbed wire-wrapped steel chairs, the crimson mask and an emphatic powerbomb onto the steel stairs by The Animal for the win.
Batista stood tall, his world title in hand in the aftermath of the battle. Sure, he won the match and retained his belt, but it was the fact that he and his mentor delivered on the promise of their feud with a match reflecting the hatred and animosity that existed between them.
Their first two matches were perfectly fine but did not necessarily match the emotion that existed between them. The Hell in a Cell did just that en route to becoming a modern-day classic and, arguably, the greatest version of that particular gimmick match in WWE history.
It is the best of Batista's Hall of Fame career and the moment fans and critics alike recognized he was the guy to lead WWE into the future.
The Definitive List... is an ongoing series detailing the 10 greatest matches in the careers of wrestling's greatest Superstars. Catch up now with these previous installments: "Macho Man" Randy Savage, The Attitude Era, Scott Hall, Mick Foley, Kurt Angle, Trish Stratus, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, and Beth Phoenix.