Tuesday 18 August 2015

The Retirement of 'The Animal'

Dave Bautista. Remember him? He's the guy who left WWE last year to go and be a success in Hollywood based off his role in surprise smash hit Guardians of the Galaxy. He's the man who is arguably a bigger wrestler-turned-actor than Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson at this point, because really how many legitimately enjoyable and successful films has Rocky starred in and how many does he have lined up? Big Dave's been cast in a Bond film, that's pretty big business.

But I'm not writing this to directly compare Batista and The Rock. That wouldn't be especially interesting and there would be no purpose to it. The subject here is whether or not we've seen the last of 'The Animal' in a wrestling ring.

"Don't like me? Thumbs down!"
The short, lazy answer is "No." The slightly less short but no less lazy answer is "No, obviously not." The reason for this is that Batista is a pal of Triple H, a guy very high up in the WWE decision-making and creative process. On top of that there's the fact that WWE always enjoys cross-promoting with mainstream stars, and to them there is no star more mainstream than a Hollywood actor. Having one who is known just as well in the wrestling as in the acting world is an added bonus, as is having one who can actually get into the ring and wrestle a match under their own steam without being carried by someone. Which is an ability Batista has1.

But this doesn't necessarily mean Batsy will wrestle again. There's a difference between making an appearance to promote a movie and maybe Batista bombing a mid-card act and returning to the ring for the sort of short term run we saw last year. The former gets word out about a product that needs promoting whilst actually going on the road to wrestle every night sees guys run the risk of injury, which can hamper the more important (and highly-paid) acting work.

I enjoyed Batista's run last year. The guy's never been great in the ring but 2014 saw him participate in some enjoyable matches, most obviously the triple threat with Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton at WrestleMania and the two Evolution versus Shield bouts at Extreme Rules and Payback. He showed he could contribute to excellent matches if he was booked correctly and his weaknesses were hidden. More importantly he absolutely nailed his role as a man who thinks he's a big shot because he's been in films. He did some career best work once he was allowed to fully embrace his status as a heel. Plus there were the Bluetista and Wave Batista memes, things which will end up, rightly or wrongly (but, y'know, definitely rightly) as highlights of Batista's career.

It's these memes that actually make me think Batista will never return for anything beyond one or two matches at a time. They demonstrate how wrestling fans are willing to turn Batista into a figure of fun and ridicule. The guy doesn't actually need wrestling. He is, as mentioned above, a star and a success without wrestling now, and as such he has no reason to put up with wrestling fans having fun at his expense. It could be argued that that's part of the job of a heel but Batista wasn't actually meant to be a heel last year.

By all accounts Batista signed on for a return on the understanding that he'd win the Royal Rumble and be the fiery babyface to end Randy Orton's world title reign at WrestleMania. I don't imagine he'd be holding a grudge against fans for "costing" him a title reign, but I do think the treatment he received will have made me think a little harder about future returns. Wrestling seems to be something that he still enjoys but it's not something he needs for a living or, for that matter, to get people to go and see the films he's in.

If I had to put money on it I'd say we'll see Batista return and wrestle again. He's been very open about his desire for a WrestleMania retirement match. While he may not get his wish of retiring opposite Triple H I do think he's a big enough and important enough name for WWE to do a retirement match with him on 'The Grandest Stage of Them All'. A full time run seems unlikely though. Batista simply doesn't need it. Which is a shame because 2014 showed that there's plenty of mileage left in Batista's narcissistic egomaniac character yet.


1 Insert your own joke about Batista's ability here.

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