Remember the Rumble. If that promotional phrase hasn’t been burned into your memory thanks to Michael Cole and his band of merry men on the commentary team then you’re one of the lucky few.
With the 30th anniversary of the PPV looming over our heads, there’s time yet to reminisce about your favourite incidents from the past, and even some notably infamous moments.
Remember the man who was booked win the title at WrestleMania but was blocked thanks to a plucky fan-favourite underdog? We all remember what happened with The Animal, Batista.
This is not to say anything bad towards the man. He’s one of the biggest names modern WWE has delivered, and he evolved in leaps and bounds from his early start with Triple H, Ric Flair and Randy Orton in the Evolution stable.
His talents even established him outside of the WWE, with roles in major films like ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ where he played Drax, a muscular brute who eventually learns to tone it down and take a joke once in a while, making him a highlight of the film and truly standing out whenever he was on screen.
The film managed to reach number one in the box office upon release earning around ninety-four million dollars, proving that Marvel could take risks with its properties. This also highlighted the potential that Dave Bautista had on screen. He even secured a role in the James Bond film ‘Spectre’, showing that he’s not just a guy that can power bomb you into oblivion – though he does somewhat return to type with his more recent role in Kickboxer: Vengeance!
So it’s actually surprising that fans would actively take to condemning his in-ring performance and characteristic dominating of his opponents in the latter half of his last WWE run. You could say that one person foiled WWE’s plans, but not intentionally. The charm of the goat man himself Daniel Bryan gave fans no choice but to turn their backs on Batista.
The booking was quite simple for Batista’s return. His comeback was built around advertising his appearance in 2014’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, having him win the Royal Rumble match and challenge then-champion Randy Orton to a title match at WrestleMania.
You had these two guys who started out in the same stable now wanting to pick a fight for the championship, and the fact that they were both household names should have been easy booking, no fuss. Then entered Daniel Bryan. He didn’t look like the typical ‘Superstar’, possibly because he seemed more hair than man. But that is precisely what made him stand out to the audience and become the perfect underdog.
He basically stole the show and the fans pushed for him to succeed. This is great, except if you’re the WWE and you put all of your eggs into a Batista-shaped basket. It’s a fine basket, but people are going to boo the hell out of it if it’s not Daniel Bryan.
The first mistake WWE made was to ignore the calls for Daniel Bryan to succeed. This isn’t to say that the WWE should listen to the fans all the time, but when the outcry is this huge then maybe it would be in the company’s best interest to hear them out.
That didn’t happen sadly the night of the Royal Rumble in 2014, and as Daniel Bryan fell to the outside, no amount of muting could cover up the dissatisfaction the crowd felt that night. Batista won the Rumble and even though he celebrated, it was an empty victory as the crowd ensured their opinions were heard.
Let’s say Batista didn’t exactly feel happy with how he was being treated by the fans. Allegedly during his victory, he gave the finger to fans (and not in a family friendly Steve Austin way, more like in a “I’ll snap you in half” kind of way) and allegedly mocked Bryan’s “Yes” hand motion but with his middle fingers. Needless to say, you can understand why he became annoyed, but the people booking the match really should have seen this coming.
There were obvious issues behind the scenes. Fans were so aware of what the WWE were trying to do that they would not stand for having their intelligence insulted. Batista acknowledged this during an interview with Chris Van Vliet promoting the film ‘Spectre’, he said;
“They know what you’re trying to do, you’re being shoved down their throats. They’re not idiots and they don’t like it and they don’t want it. So it just makes them rebel more and then it just became a state of confusion where they didn’t know what to do with me, so they just sent me out every week regurgitating the same crap.”
Anyone who’s been following Roman Reign’s career will know this too well. But a backlash this huge was surely a wake-up call for higher ups and would eventually end where all roads lead to: WrestleMania. Bryan would eventually prevail, beating Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista all in one night at WrestleMania 30.
It’s safe to say that Dave Bautista’s return to the WWE could have gone better. The same is not to be said about his film career, though. The prospect of him returning to play Drax in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2’ and in an ‘Avengers’ film down the line is definitely something I’m looking forward to.
He has even been cast in ‘Blade Runner 2049’ which shows that while the low point of his career may have been particularly hard to stomach, he got through it and now it seems like people can’t get enough of Blue-tista on the big screen.
He appears happier working on these projects and I’m glad that he also had a comeback to WWE of his own. It might not be as spectacular in the eyes of hardcore fans as the career of Daniel Bryan, but it’s definitely a reason to remember the Rumble.
Kickboxer: Vengeance starring Batista out now