WWE | Pro Wrestling

Goodnight, Big Dave – For Now, At Least

BatistaThis 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.

Before long, Batista was chasing Triple H for the World Championship in an angle that was praised by many. The Animal as he was becoming known as was the first guy to really outsmart the “Cerebral Assassin”. It was compelling television. Many thought that Batista would become one of the best and brightest characters in the WWE. Did he? Well… he made the company a lot of money I’ll say. Quite frankly, from that point until around Bragging Rights last year, I found Batista to be utterly dull for the most part. Aside from his feud with Shawn Michaels immediately following WrestleMania 24 (which was short-lived and really ended up giving us the EPIC Michaels/Jericho feud from 2008), his character has been pretty dull, a far cry from how compelling he was chasing Triple H. For aficionados of internet memes, he reminded me of the infamous Happy Cat from icanhascheezburger.com, only instead of cheeseburgers, it was like his character revolved around saying “I can has title shot?”

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.

Of course, he had to go and show this side of his talents as he was on his way out the door. It always happens like that. Just when I was getting to enjoy him along with a large portion of my compadres on the Internet, he had to go and leave. It figures. Still though, I’m not entirely convinced he’ll be gone forever. It takes a special kind of willpower to leave wrestling while still being able to perform and never come back, and that willpower seems to be directly correlated to prowess in another career. The Rock hasn’t come back full time because he makes bank like a mofo as a leading actor in Hollywood. JBL hasn’t come back because the guy knows how to invest money. Batista? Well, best of luck to him, but I don’t see his movie career going exactly like The Rock’s. Once his third leading role in a row goes to direct to the $5 bin at Wal-Mart, I think he’ll rethink his career choice. And no, don’t even entertain the thought of him going to TNA. They can’t pay him enough, and he’s well-aware of the drop in exposure one gets downsizing companies.

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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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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