Coming after the last article and how it ripped at my heart, I hope this one will be easier for all of us. I will admit that I’ve never been the hugest Batista fan. I will fully admit that he is one fine specimen and is very easy on the eyes, but while he has the look, I’ve never found him wonderful in the ring or on mic. He grew quite a bit from when he was Deacon Batista, but he never seemed to be much more than an enforcer to me. Evolution did a lot to help Batista, as well as Orton, but at that point I expected to see Orton win the Royal Rumble Match before Batista. Looking back now, it was a smart thing to do to push Batista as he handled it much better than I thought possible.
Leading up to the 2005 was my favorite Royal Rumble advertising campaign. It was the West Side Story commercials with the wrestlers singing and dancing. This just floored me the first couple times I saw it, then Ellie (my older daughter) and I started watching the commercials to figure out who was how. Certain wrestlers easily stuck out as they were in the front of had distinctive looks, but others were not so easy. JBL, Rey, and Big Show were easy, but many wore wigs so Edge, Angle, Jericho and even Batista looked very different and terribly funny. The same year the WWE did just as wonderful a job promoting WM21 with the wrestlers recreating scenes from movies. I loved Taker as Dirty Harry as it was such a perfect role for him, but I also loved ‘You talkin’ to me?’ I loved all the wrestlers, and Cole, but for me Big Show, Snitski and Batista were my favorites. I’m talking about all this because I think it’s about time the WWE gets a little creative again with their advertising campaigns for PPVs, specifically Royal Rumble and WrestleMania.
The 18th annual Royal Rumble was presented on January 30th at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California. Sunday Night Heat saw Maven defeat Rhyno. Then the Royal Rumble started with Edge defeating HBK. Taker defeated Heidenreich in a Casket Match! JBL defeated Angle and Big Show in a Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship. Triple H defeated Orton to retain the World Heavyweight Championship.
The Royal Rumble Match started with Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit as entrants number one and two. They worked together to eliminate a couple wrestlers. Daniel Puder came in #3 and was the first eliminated, by Hardcore Holly – going back to Holly not liking young wrestlers or was it that Puder was too cocky for his own good. After Booker T, #10, came to the ring, Bisch came out to ringside, then Long did the same. The wrestlers in the ring split into RAW and Smackdown groups and fought that way. Rey came in at #8 and lasted 38:25 and was eliminated by Edge who had come in at #7! Edge was eliminated 28th by Cena and Batista after 40:19. Angle came in at #20, but only because he stole Nunzio’s number. After Flair was eliminated, the final four were Edge, Rey, Cena and Batista.
Rey and Edge put on quite a show, but after Edge speared Rey from the apron, Cena and Batista eliminated him. Batista tried a Batista bomb as Cena countered with head scissors. Both touched the floor at the same time. The RAW ref decided that Cena touched the floor first, the Smackdown ref said Batista did. They went back and forth, round and round until VKM rushed down to the ring. This is where things got really screwy and confusing. Somehow as VKM reached ringside he bumped the side of the ring with his legs and managed to, legitimately, tear both quadriceps muscles. With help from the refs VKM ended up sitting in the ring leaning against the bottom rope, obviously in terrible pain. Through all the arguing Batista threw Cena from the ring, then Cena cameback in and threw Batista from the ring. VKM still sat there in the ring trying to look as blustering and authoritative as he usually does, just sitting on his bum, and decided to restart the Royal Rumble Match. VKM slid form the ring and the refs helped him up the ramp. Batista hit a spinebuster on Cena and threw him from the ring to win the Royal Rumble. I was rather surprised they didn’t go with a tie the way they did in 1994 with Bret Hart and Lex Luger, but obviously the storyline didn’t call for that.
Things had been going downhill within Evo when Orton won the Title and wouldn’t hand it over the Trip, then Trip realized Batista could be an issue and tried to keep Batista out of the Royal Rumble, but that didn’t work either. On the RAW following the Royal Rumble, Trip tried dirty tactics to get Batista to go after JBL’s WWE Championship. Batista found out about it and decided to go after Trip’s World Heavyweight Championship. Batista signed the contract to face Trip at WM21, left Evo and became a fan favorite. Batista played along with Trip that he was going to go after JBL, but at the contract signing Batista turned thumbs down on Trip and Batista bombed him through the table.
Batista went to WM21 and defeated Trip for the World Heavyweight Championship, then faced him in a rematch at Backlash and retained the Title. Batista then successfully defended against Edge, but Flair betrayed him and helped Trip savagely attack him. From this Trip challenged Batista to a Hell In A Cell Match at Vengeance for the World Heavyweight Championship. Batista was the first person to pin Trip in a HIAC.
Batista was Drafted to Smackdown, bringing the World Heavyweight Championship with him. Batista and JBL feuded for months as Batista retained his Title until Batista had to drop the Title due to legitimate injury. Through this won via DQ at The Great American Bash when the ref saw Batista use a chair. At SummerSlam Batista pinned JBL in a No Holds Barred Match. Batista went on to feud with Eddie who claimed to be Batista’s friend, but Batista knew Eddie’s sneaky ways. During their match at No Mercy Eddie struggled with being a bad guy and using a chair, but in the end he didn’t. They showed great camaraderie with a handshake and Eddie denounced his heelish ways and turned face again.
Batista then suffered a muscle tear in his back due to a double chokeslam from Big Show and Kane on the November 11th Smackdown. Batista was supposed to defend his Title in a Triple Threat Match against Orton and Eddie to air on the November 18th Smackdown, but Eddie passed away on November 13th. I’ve read in a couple places that Eddie was supposed to beat Batista for the Title, but have no proof of that.
Batista retained his World Heavyweight Championship for 282 days, the longest World Heavyweight Title reign to that point. He had to vacate the belt, as I said, when he was legitimately had a triceps injury. He dropped the belt on the January 10th taping that aired on the January 13th Smackdown.
This really was a great year in Batista’s career. He broke away from Evo and turned face, but it was also before he got tied up by Cena with duct tape. He had a solid Title reign and did a decent job of holding it. He had three solid feuds with top notch wrestlers who only helped make Batista look that much better. I guess I didn’t remember just how great Batista was through this time. It might have been the best year of his WWE career, unless he returns for more?