Last night, Batista returned to the WWE Universe, reuniting with his Evolution co-horts Triple H, Ric Flair and Randy Orton for SmackDown 1000. While Evolution as a unit were a Raw unit during their run, the other three – particularly Batista and Orton – had huge impact on the SmackDown brand over the past 15 years. At the end of his speech to his hometown crowd in Washington, DC, as he was praising Triple H for all his accolades in the industry, he stated that Triple H had done everything there is to do in this industry “except beat me.” This created a tense moment, before both smiled and hugged it out. The idea of a final run in the WWE would be the icing on the cake for a hugely successful run as one of the biggest Superstars in the WWE during the Ruthless Aggression Era of the WWE in the 2000s.
In 1999, Dave Bautista went to World Championship Wrestling (WCW) to tryout for the company at the Power Plant. There he was turned away by WCW Head Trainer Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker and told he’d never make it as a wrestler. He headed to the Samoan Wrestling School and began to work for the Wild Samoans‘ World Xtreme Wrestling (WXW), where he competed for a year as Khan. It wasn’t soon before he was off to WWE’s developmental system, at the time held at Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW).
In OVW, as Leviathan, Batista became part of the OVW Class of ’02, the graduating class that also included John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton and Shelton Benjamin. Upon his initial call up to the main roster, he debuted as the new bodyguard for Devon Dudley, the menacing minister known as Deacon Batista. By the end of 2002, he had torn off his frock and turned on Devon, becoming “The Animal” he’d remain for the rest of his WWE career.
In 2003, he was handpicked to be the muscle in Evolution, becoming a main event player of Monday Night Raw, dominating Monday nights. Evolution reigned supreme for two years in the WWE Universe, before Batista turned on the group in the infamous “thumbs down” segment. Batista would go on to main event WrestleMania 21, where he would defeat Triple H for his first taste of World Championship gold. Later that year, he was drafted to SmackDown, where he would shine as a single Superstar without the rub from people like Triple H and Ric Flair. “The Animal” was loose and there was no stopping him.
Following a lengthy injury in December of 2008, Batista would return in spring of 2009 to help Triple H and the McMahon family against the attacks from Randy Orton’s new stable, Legacy, with Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase Jr. This would lead to Batista’s first reign as WWE Champion. Vince McMahon would remember Batista’s defensive work later that year, hiring him to take out Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart during the Hall of Famer’s return tot he company during the feud between Hart and McMahon. As payment, Vince gave him a title shot for John Cena’s WWE Championship immediately after Cena had won the title in an Elimination Chamber. He would embark on a vicious feud with Cena that would prove to be his last. He would quit the company in 2010 due to the direction the company was going.
In 2013, he returned for a short run into WrestleMania 30 in 2014, reteaming with Triple H and Randy Orton in Hunter’s quest to stop Daniel Bryan during the height of the YES! Movement. In the WrestleMania 30 main event, Batista tapped out to Daniel Bryan in a triple threat with WWE Champion Randy Orton. That June, he left the WWE again over creative differences.
During his time away from the WWE, Dave Bautista became one of Hollywood’s most reliable character actors, landing high profile roles in such films as Guardians of the Galaxy (as well as it’s subsequent sequel and Avengers: Infinity War), Blade Runner 2049, Bond 24: Spectre, Riddick and this year’s Hotel Artemis alongside Oscar winner Jodie Foster. But Batista still had that itch to go out on his own terms and under far more favorable circumstances than the last two times he left the company.
Last night’s declaration that Triple H couldn’t beat him was indeed true – Batista was 3-0 against Triple H on PPVs (WrestleMania 21, Backlash ’05 and in a Hell in a Cell at Vengeance ’05), as well as 1-0 on Monday Night Raw. And it could just be the spark that leads to Batista’s final run with the WWE. Hopefully this time it has a much happier ending for both sides.