When Dave Batista returned to the WWE for the first time in almost four years back in January, expectations were lofty. Monday Night Raw did a huge rating, especially Batista’s segment, and it was only a matter of time before Big Dave would go on to win the Royal Rumble and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XXX.
Except the latter never happened. Fans turned on Batista after he won the Rumble, seeing him as a part-timer who was stealing the spotlight from Daniel Bryan. In fairness, anybody thrown into that spot would have received the same reaction. Let’s not forget that Rey Mysterio, one of the most beloved grapplers ever, was wildly booed when he entered the same Royal Rumble in the No. 30 spot.
What hurt matters even more was Batista’s in-ring performances. He looked old, slow and the fans just weren’t into him at all. The boo-birds were out in full force, and the WWE was left with an important decision to make; Batista needed to be a heel. Interestingly enough, the vocal criticism aimed at Batista lessened by the week. He completely embraced his new heel role and seemed to be having more fun than ever.
Rather than play the part of an energetic powerhouse who delights the fans with high-impact offense (mostly because he couldn’t), Batista completely changed his demeanor in the ring. He became methodical, deliberate, measured and mean. It worked.
There’s an important lesson to be learned here. Instead of ignoring the reaction he was getting from the fans, the WWE decided to roll with it. In past years they may have gone against the grain, forcing something on the “WWE Universe” that was never going to be accepted. Learning from their past mistakes, the WWE turned a negative situation into a positive one, allowing Batista to make a completely organic switch from face to heel.
It still remains to be seen whether or not Batista will have a run with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. As most people are aware, Batista is a lead player in the new film “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which is expected to be a big hit when it hits theaters in early Aug. When he signed with WWE, the plan was to take advantage of the media crossover and run with Batista as champion. In fact, Batista was promised the title when he re-signed with the company.
Batista as champion probably isn’t best for business at all, but the WWE will be reneging on the agreement if they keep the belt off of him.
Nonetheless, Batista deserves credit for reshaping his character and helping to put over Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania. After all, it was Batista who tapped out to end the match, not Randy Orton. Given the circumstances, it was exactly what fans wanted to see.
You may not like him, but the facts are impossible to ignore. Whether or not Batista wins the WWE title, his ability to perform as a heel has saved a potentially disastrous return.