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Tom Fenton Reports:
-As we saw the return of Dave Batista to WWE this past Monday on RAW, his return obviously is for the Wrestlemania match with Triple H. WWE had been negotiating and talking to Batista for months, the Wrestlemania match was always the plan. That being said there were major hurdles to get this done. Originally, the first hurdle was making sure Batista was available and didn't have any conflicts with his movie schedules during Wrestlemania weekend. Once seemed that he would be available around WrestleMania weekend the tease from Smackdown 1000 was set up. The second hurdle came when Triple H tore his pectoral muscle. They needed to make sure Hunter would be able to get medical clearance and also that there wasn't a risk of re-injuring his peck. Once Triple H began training and the timeline hit Batista knew the match COULD go on, but the ball was in his court whether he WANTED it to. Bastia was courted by a top AEW talent, however, this was seen as nothing more than a negotiation tactic used by Batista. When the final hurdle was cleared the Ric Flair angle was on and the match at Wrestlemania was set. For those asking, if Triple H couldn't go the plan was to wait until Summerslam. The issue waiting was that hurdles with scheduling would likely go back up.
-WWE had tried to keep the Batista appearance under wraps, but once Batista was spotted WWE took changed tactics and sent out leaks as well so people would tune it. Speaking of tuning in, make no mistake about it, WWE set up that show to have Roman on at the 8 pm mark, Becky on at the 9 pm hour, and Braun on at 10 pm with action throughout and a hot finish. Much of this had to do with a new directive moving forward. WWE knew that it's old, predictable format of match segment commercial, reverse order repeat, was growing stale. WWE and production looked at other programs and even some reality shows that leave small introductions or cliff hangers before commercial. As we saw on not only RAW but Smackdown as well, the shows are paced much faster with little downtime on the shows. The matches going into the next segment with little to no gap and then the commercial after the segments are introduced you will continue to see. In bigger matches we will now likely see a ring entrance of one talent, then a commercial, and then the ring announcer announcing the talent. This is something they're borrowing from MMA, boxing, and other sports. The reformatting tweaks will continue until WWE gets how they want. While the viewership increase these last 2 weeks is great, this past Monday was attributed to the Roman and the Batista segment to bookend the show.
-WWE scrapping the Gargano vs. Cesaro match was a last minute change done to reintroduce Matt Hardy with Jeff Hardy. While WWE wanted to keep working with both Hardy Boys and keep their time left with the company pleasurable, I cannot confirm that the company pulled the trigger on the year extension as Jeff was unlikely to leave and WWE was likely to add the injury freeze time to Matt's deal when it expired. With all of that being said, the story attributed to this year extension is likely very accurate.