It’s Day Two of #BatistaWeek, the 19th installment of our (patent-pending) Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week series. Today, we give you the finer points of the Dave Bautista oeuvre with some Essential Viewing.
The important parts of Batista’s legacy are perhaps best explained by videos, as much like his look and presence, his overall story is significantly more important than what he does with it. It’s not to say his actions aren’t significant, but that they are made more significant by virtue of him being involved in them.
The entire Evolution angle was essentially built him up as a monster, literally introducing him from the start as one (with JR doing the honors, ) when he collected Triple H and Ric Flair’s bounty on Goldberg’s head.
This quickly established him as a sort of amoral destroyer, and allowed them to quickly turn him into “their” monster:
It’s a classic story of the great evil of institutional oppression — playing, as Triple H stories are wont to do, on the Game using his connections to keep him in power — wielding a deadly weapon in order to maintain power. Wanting the bad guys to no longer have the thing that allows them to be not just bad guys, but bad guys who run the show is a very real thing people can connect with. Fans want to have that power on their side, even when it’s mostly theoretical, like with Batista.
So when the “Beast was unleashed”, the crowd got not just what it wanted, but with the stakes — in this case, literally the biggest deal in the company: the main event match at WrestleMania — IMPOSSIBLY high, all “earned” by Batista, not just as an actual in-ring achievement (which is fundamentally meaningless because wrestling is [spoiler alert] pre-determined) but from a character development perspective so rarely seen in professional wrestling.
The reason that they could spend so much time working on getting the crowd to care is because they knew that he is precisely the type of person that people instantly get behind, for better or worse. The slow burn involved in all this is hard to really understand unless you were there, but it should serve as the textbook example to anyone trying to build out a character (see: Reigns, Roman).
Nearly every single part of the build had importance as the story made its way closer and closer to the climax, because they didn’t have to worry about hotshotting the angle or having the fans lose interest. The crowd reaction in all of these segments, which includes some of the finest work ever for the industry when it comes to things like “dramatic staging and camerawork” (not a high bar) is clear: they not only wanted Batista to be their guy, they wanted him to go through Triple H to do it.
That he was telling the truth directly to Triple H without being directly disrespectful gave the fans the ability to live through Batista without having to be a jerk about it. He was with us, without necessarily leading us. He was us, just a cartoon version of us, who could actually beat up the big jerk who was making his life miserable.
Which is why, after he did so, he was able to keep the momentum he had gained from the monster push he had received to get to the mountaintop.
He carried this through various feuds, reaching a pinnacle with The Undertaker, at WrestleMania 23
And while he was extremely over the entire time, frequent injuries kept him from ever quite reaching the heights that he had reached at WrestleMania 21. Which wouldn’t have even been noticeable if not for the John Cena juggernaut that blew past him, on his way to what is currently 14 world title reigns. Like Triple H before him, Cena gave Batista a rabbit to chase.
After using his friendship with Ric Flair to feud with Shawn Michaels following the latter’s retirement of the former at WrestleMania XXIV that allowed him to embrace his inner BroDouche, he was off to the races with the real face of the company. This feud, while relatively short-lived, was fantastic because it allowed Batista to display the same selfishness and self-confidence that had propelled him past Triple H, but in a way that challenged the fan’s expectations of what he should do, not his opponents.
Rather obviously, it was the Evolution storyline in reverse. He — like Triple H before him — made everything about him, essentially challenging John simply to prove who was (or should be) a bigger star, but with the caveat that he was willing to do whatever was necessary to prove that it was him, whether it was bragging about hurting Cena after this match,
stealing Cena’s title,
or talking epic amounts of shit:
This was Batista at his finest, ever. Even his final moments of his initial run perfectly exemplified what made him, both as a heel and a face, great. In ridiculous sunglasses, and an even more ridiculous outfit, he explains to the audience that they are here to see him, that they pay to see him, and that they’ll be bored without him.
Like his run with Triple H, he was telling the truths we would be afraid to think about or mention if placed in the same situation. But this time he wasn’t doing it for himself, and making sure we knew about that was the reason.
Entire essays could be written on the end of Batista’s first run, and someday we might, but for now, we should just enjoy these last three minutes and try to remember it no matter how his next chapter turns out.