"The Animal" Batista returned with a bang Monday night, taking out Alberto Del Rio and declaring his intentions to go after the WWE world heavyweight championship on the final WWE Raw before the Royal Rumble.
Batista last appeared in the WWE in May 2010, ending an eight-year run with the company. He was part of the oft-talked about Class of 2002 from Ohio Valley Wrestling -- the WWE's feeder organization before they moved it to Florida -- along with John Cena, Randy Orton and Brock Lesnar.
Batista quickly rose through the ranks as part of Evolution, and won his first world title from Triple H. After eight years, though, he decided to leave, in part because he wanted to try acting. For the most part, Batista hasn't made a splash outside of wrestling, but he will star in this summer's Marvel movie, Guardians of the Galaxy.
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On Raw, he finally made his return to the WWE. He came out when Triple H, Stephanie McMahon and Randy Orton were all in the ring at the beginning of the show, hugging the first two and refusing a handshake from Orton. He said that he was there to win the title and take part in the main event at WrestleMania XXX.
While there was no physicality between the Batista and Orton in the opening segment, Batista later came back out after Alberto Del Rio beat Rey Mysterio, and gave him a spinebuster and a powerbomb (interestingly, a regular powerbomb, and not the Batista Bomb).
The main question now is what they're going to do with Batista. If rumors are to be believed, Batista isn't just coming back for a WrestleMania run. This is actually going to be a multiyear return. Batista was at his best as a heel, particularly in his final few months with the WWE, when, in my opinion, he showed his full charismatic potential for the first time. However, I don't foresee them turning him heel in the near future, at least not through WrestleMania.
While, yes, I could see him winning the Royal Rumble like he said on Raw, and as of now he's one of the favorites, I could see them using him elsewhere on the WrestleMania card. A match between him and Lesnar, which we haven't seen in the WWE, particularly seems like an intriguing possibility.
We saw Batista have some great matches over the years, most notably against The Undertaker. With a number of fresh feuds out there, if the ring rust isn't too severe, I think we could be in for even more good matches from him in the future.
The rest of Raw
-- As mentioned above, the show opened with Triple H, Stephanie McMahon and Randy Orton. Orton expressed his displeasure in having to face John Cena on Sunday, while The Authority was not pleased with Orton assaulting Cena's father last week. They ordered him to “make things right” between him and Cena. It was another segment that seemed to show some division between the "face of the company” and the powers-that-be, so that's something to watch.
-- Orton later faced Kofi Kingston in a rematch in the main event. At the end of the match, Cena finally showed up to the arena and headed for the ring, while Kofi held on to Orton to make sure he didn't escape. After being cornered at ringside, Orton jumped through the crowd and led Cena on a chase through the crowd, up the stands, out to the concourse, and eventually outside, where he jumped in a car that was waiting for him.
-- Daniel Bryan came out and explained that he joined The Wyatt Family solely to get his chance to be alone with Bray Wyatt. He challenged Wyatt to a one-on-one match at the Royal Rumble. Wyatt accepted, saying that Bryan was a traitor, and that everything that happened to him from this point was his own fault. Interestingly, Bryan mentioned that Erick Rowan and Luke Harper were in the Royal Rumble match, but didn't mention if he was pulling double-duty, wrestling in a match and in the Royal Rumble match. I still believe he will be, possibly without ever announcing he will be, to get the surprise-pop, but it was an oddity that he didn't mention it at all.
-- Later in the show, The Usos beat Harper and Rowan when Bryan attacked Bray Wyatt ringside, distracting Harper and causing him to be rolled up.
-- CM Punk beat Billy Gunn to get a measure of revenge for last week. Before the match, Kane apologized for chokeslamming him on WWE Smackdown (something that was ordered by The Authority). Punk didn't accept and attacked him. After the match, Kane announced that Punk would enter at No. 1 in the Royal Rumble.
-- The Shield beat The Rhodes Brothers and Big E Langston when Seth Rollins pinned Langston after a stomp to the back of his head. Rollins has really been elevated over the past month or so, both in the ring and on the microphone, when it seemed like he might become the forgotten man of The Shield.
-- The Big Show manhandled Brock Lesnar again before their match at the Royal Rumble.
-- The Funkadactyls beat AJ Lee and Tamina in a tag-team match when Naomi pinned AJ.
-- Fandango beat Xavier Woods in a quick match. WWE NXT's Emma was shown in the crowd once again during this match.