A Look Back At Batista's Problematic & Controversial Return To WWE

Tumultuous, chaotic, disappointing are among words that can be used to described Dave Batista's return to WWE. Since returning to the company on the January 20, 2014 episode of Monday Night Raw, it's been a rough road for the former WWE/World Heavyweight Champion. Actually, Batista's problems started a month before "returning home" to WWE after leaving the company in June 2010.

News broke on December 20, 2013 that Batista was returning to WWE before the company had a chance to start running vignettes for him. The slip-up was a result of WWE sending advanced promotional material to venues that included Batista's name. The mistake infuriated WWE officials and left the Public Relations department telling us they had "no clue" about Batista's status with the company.

With the secret already spoiled, WWE began running for vignettes for Batista's return on the December 23, 2013 episode of Raw, announcing The Animal would be back on January 20, 2014 - less than a week before Royal Rumble and the official start of the Road to Wrestlemania 30. The secret was spoiled and the announcement was made but the controversy only continued.

During an exchange on Twitter with Alberto Del Rio, Batista drew heat for the following statement on January 8, 2014:

Seems 2 me that some C level stars in a B level star era have bought into their own hype. Don’t turn a work into a shoot. #realitycheck

January 20, 2014 finally came and Batista made his long-awaited return to the company. In the show's opening segment, Batista told Randy Orton he was back to win the Royal Rumble and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania and that he could just "deal with it."

The response was anything but positive and even though Batista finished up with WWE nearly four years earlier as a successful heel, the company was intent on making him a babyface. The reactions upon his return weren't great and Vince McMahon was none too pleased with Batista choosing to come back in skinny jeans.

The Animal made good on his promise to Randy Orton, entering #28 and winning the 30-man Royal Rumble. The problem is Daniel Bryan was running red hot and wasn't even an entrant. The crowd turned hard, highjacking the show and leaving the match one of the worst in WWE history. The following night on Raw, WWE was in "damage control" mode as they lost the crowd on one their biggest nights but that wasn't their only problem. CM Punk decided he'd had enough and quietly retired from the company, leaving fans with the following cryptic Tweet:

Batista did little to nothing to quell controversy coming his way, Tweeting the following on January 23, 2014:

Just wanted to thank everyone who supported my return. I missed you guys!! All you other negative Smarks can suck my balls! Haha!!! #onelife

The Road to Wrestlemania continued with Randy Orton successfully defending the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Elimination Chamber, setting up a title match against Batista at Wrestlemania XXX.

WWE did everything they could to get Batista over as a babyface -- even a last ditch effort against Alberto Del Rio -- but were unsuccessful. Reluctantly, Vince McMahon turned The Animal heel on the February 28, 2014 episode of Smackdown.

A legitimate fan incident notwithstanding and plans for Wrestlemania 30 were finally changed and Batista vs. Randy Orton for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship was changed to a triple threat match involving either Daniel Bryan or Triple H. The possible addition of Daniel Bryan in the title match at Wrestlemania 30 helped tame the audience but did little to nothing for Batista. Problems continued at a rate that only a picture could describe:

Batista refused to shy away from talking about how he was being received and even clarified he didn't make any major demands upon returning. He even admitted to warning WWE officials about bringing him back as a babyface.

None of it mattered. The hits kept coming even after Daniel Bryan overcame the odds by beating Triple H and winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania 30.

The Animal Tweeted nearly a month later he looked forward to the day without the negativity.

A new direction led Batista into the spring as WWE decided to resurrect Evolution, ultimately leading to the breakup of The Shield. Surely Batista "doing the honors" for Roman Reigns in a main event match pitting Evolution against The Shield at Extreme Rules would alleviate some of the heat? Not exactly.

Batista -- fully protected by fellow heel performers Triple H and Randy Orton -- decided to wear bright blue ring attire on the program's blowoff at the company's Payback pay-per-view, only fueling jokes and ridicule. Rather than The Shield over Evolution being the key talking point, the Internet was abuzz with a new term used to describe Batista. This time, the guy that told critics to suck his balls, ended up being infamously known as #Bluetista.

Finally, Batista was written out of storylines by "quitting" WWE on the June 2, 2014 episode of Monday Night Raw. In reality, he was granted time off so he would be freed up to do media for the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film in which he plays the role of Drax the Destroyer. He'll continue to make summer appearances on behalf of WWE but the company will have to find a new way to re-introduce him to their audience.

While one can make a clear and valid argument that Batista has been unfairly used as a scapegoat for fans unhappy at the overall direction, there's not much positive to say about his return to WWE in 2014. The Animal will look for the mainstream spotlight and the reliance on fans having a short memory to help rejuvenate his position in the company. At a time when WWE is in need of top talent, one has to wonder what it will take to get Batista back to that level.

  • Zack

    I feel bad for big Dave. He was the victim of crappy booking mostly. I didn’t get the huge blow up about his wearing blue at Payback. Yes, he didn’t match Triple H and Randy Orton, but who gives a crap? Honestly are we at a point in wrestling where we critic wrestlers more on their outfits than their match? Welcome to the PG era where 6 men go to war and put on one of the best matches I have ever seen and we talk more about Batista’s attire.

    • Nathen

      I agree. I didn’t exactly miss him and didn’t care that he came back, but I started to feel bad for him after Wrestlemania. Much of the heat he got wasn’t due to anything he did. As has been mentioned, Daniel Bryan’s rise really put Batista in a bad spot. But I think the fans’ part-timer fatigue fell on Batista too, which is unfair since he worked a busier schedule than most part-timers. But the thing that got me to feel better about Batista was that he did the honors not just to Daniel Bryan(via tap out no less!) but also to the Shield. It is hard to argue that the man is here only for his ego when he has been putting over younger stars since Wresltemania.

      • Bob’s Diner

        It also shows that those reports he was unwilling to lose to Daniel Bryan are just ridiculous; I’m no fan of the man, but to say he was leaving because he didn’t want to put over Bryan makes no sense, considering he’d already done so at WrestleMania.

  • Mike McCarthy

    Another great article!

  • Mike McCarthy

    The only way they could’ve prevented what happened with Batista would’ve been to make him a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble rather than bring him back with vignettes.

    • Bob’s Diner

      Or he wasn’t such a complete tool

      • J Vomkrieg

        I actually like Big Dave, for the most part. I mean, hes not an all time great, but he has had his moments (I actually quite enjoyed his heel turn vs Rey a few years back)

        I think they could have made his return work, if a.) Bryan wasn’t white hot at the time and b.) They had pushed him just short of the main event.

        Basically, If he didn’t win the rumble that everyone wanted Bryan to win, the hate would be a lot less for him.

        • Bob’s Diner

          I do agree it was really poor timing… but his attitude for the first month didn’t help him either. Or WWE pushing ahead for a whole month pretending fans loved him. He should have turned heel as soon as they saw the reaction to the Royal Rumble win.

          For some reason all I can picture is HHH and Vince McMahon sitting around telling Batista “No, the fans aren’t booing you! They are saying Bootista – it is a loving nickname!”

          • J Vomkrieg

            His attitude would have worked if he was coming back as a heel and I think he is far better as a heel. Why Vince stuck to his guns for so long in the face of such an overwhleming fan reaction is just bizarre. The whole thing unfolded in such a way as we no longer have X-Pac heat. We now have Bluetista heat.

  • Bob’s Diner

    I’m guessing from the ‘quitting’ they are going to try and have him come back as a babyface again at SummerSlam… that will be exciting.

    These are good articles, Richard. Great way of capturing every that has been going down (there were some bits I had missed, and others that just reminded me how hilarious Batista is)

    • Thanks! I’m trying to focus on doing at least 3 of these a week to give everyone a complete perspective.

      • Bob’s Diner

        I look forward to seeing more, then. Thanks heaps for doing these.

    • James Larochelle

      Well, they would at least have a reason for him to be considered a babyface if he opposes the Authority. When he came back it’s like they just assumed people would want to cheer for him without giving them a reason to do. He didn’t seem prepared for his return (his promos were terrible and his ring work was bad) and they stuck him in a program with ADR who generates a lot of apathy. When people start cheering ADR beating you up, you know something’s up. If he comes back ready to work and he’s given the right role to play, it’ll be a whole different ball game.

  • John

    Batista getting “upset” on twitter and wearing the blue ring gear was clearly him trolling the wrestling fans hard, and the majority fell for it. He knew his return wasn’t working out so he decided to have fun with it.. I can’t believe some people thought Batista was legitimately upset when he went on his twitter rants.

  • Bron

    Batista should’ve been written off with an injury. Evolution disbanding wasn’t a good idea. There’s so much more they could’ve done.

  • Jay El Bee

    I can’t believe how badly the WWE screwed up with Batista. There was plenty of excitement for his return which is backed up by the rating Raw got that week, and while they did have him win the RR they didn’t capitalize on it and did pretty much absolutely nothing with the guy for the next 2 months.