This past Monday, Batista did in storyline what he was rumored to be doing for the last two months now; he quit WWE. The legit reasons for him leaving aren’t completely clear. Some think it’s because he wants to be a legitimate actor, that he wants to preserve his body so he’s not a cripple like other wrestlers are in their twilight years or that he’s a bit butt-hurt that he had a WWE Films role snatched from him in favor of the Almighty Son-in-Law, Triple H. Regardless of the reason, his exit from the company marks the end of one of the most erratic but fascinating careers in the last decade.
Dave Bautista was signed to a developmental deal back around the turn of this century, and immediately, he was set apart from the others because of his age. Very rarely to guys in their 30s just break into the business, but here was this hulking frame, the kind of guy Vince McMahon salivates over. He was given a faux-Undertaker gimmick in Ohio Valley Wrestling, and then when it came time to initiate the brand split, he was brought up to compliment D-Von Dudley’s new preacher style gimmick. The Deacon Batista was born. When that experiment tanked, he was pegged to be a member of a new, Horsemen-styled stable with Ric Flair, Triple H and fellow rookie Randy Orton. While Evolution was relatively short-lived, it was fairly influential as it not only provided the template by which the WWE would model all their other stables on, it launched the careers of both Orton and Batista into the stratosphere.
That all changed in the fall of last year, when Batista inexplicably turned on long-time friend Rey Mysterio. His rage towards Rey was interesting, but what came next was a revelation. It started with a Kanye West-like interruption of Maria’s Diva of the Year Slammy presentation. Everyone wrote it off as lame comedy, a pop culture rip off in the line of terrible pop culture rip offs done by WWE way past their expiration date. But afterwards, Batista kept acting like that, demanding the spotlight shine on him when he came down to the ring and acting out in similar fashion. Douchebag-tista was born.
And it was beautiful.
As Batista segued from Rey to John Cena, his heel character took off and easily became one of the top two most entertaining bad guy acts in the company (CM Punk being the other). Who knew that the big guy had it in him? I’ll be the first one to admit that I didn’t, and I’ll be the first one to admit that I was wrong. I mean, every aspect of his character improved, including his ring work. Many people are going to dogmatically say that Undertaker/Michaels was the best match at this year’s WrestleMania, but I thought that the Cena/Batista tilt smoked it, and I liked UT/HBK II. It was just amazing theater, and it was in large part to Batista, a guy that I had written off as a steroid-addled stiff-machine just six months prior.
But until then, or just in case he does hit big, here’s to that big lug who may not have been the best in the company during most of his tenure, but hey, he was undeniably a part of pro wrestling for this decade, for better or worse. Goodnight and good luck, Big Dave. And thanks.
Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.
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