When a WWE Superstar makes their big return to the squared circle it is usually met with a roar of excitement from the crowd. The second their music hits everybody jumps to their feet, unable to contain themselves – their hero has returned, fully recovered from their injury or itching to perform again in a WWE ring after some kind of career break.
Remember when “Stone Cold” Steve Austin came back and delivered some steel chair justice to the McMahon-Helmsley's at Backlash in 2000? When Ric Flair made his first WWE appearance in eight years the night after WCW collapsed and it was announced that Vince McMahon now shared the company with “The Nature Boy”? Every time Shawn Michaels or The Undertaker have popped up unexpectedly after a period of inactivity? It's a beautiful thing. These are the kind of moments that give you goosebumps and a grin that stretches the entire width of your I-shouldn't-be-up-at-2am-on-a-weekday face. It makes you think “this is why I love wrestling, and it's only going to get better from here on in”.
Batista, the four-time World Heavyweight Champion and two-time WWE Champion, surely deserves the same response? Apparently not. Once a fan favourite, Batista made his return to WWE in January this year after a four-year absence and took part in the Royal Rumble match to determine who would compete for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania XXX. Entering at number 28, Batista was not met with the positive reaction you might have expected and was booed heavily when he eliminated Roman Reigns to win the match.
A huge factor in this was that the WWE Universe had hoped to see Daniel Bryan participate in the main event and when all thirty competitors had entered, he was nowhere to be seen. Batista was shunned as a result of somebody else's popularity, and because nobody was interested in witnessing someone they consider a has-been pinching Bryan's spot whilst on a short break from his life as a Hollywood movie-star.
It must be assumed that the WWE expected Batista's return to be a huge success, but the timing was completely wrong and led to what has to be one of the most poorly-received comebacks in professional wrestling's history. Granted, the likes of The Ultimate Warrior, The British Bulldog, Trish Stratus and Scott Hall have all suffered from pretty dismal returns, but Batista's saw him thrust into main event status at a time where fans were already beginning to lose faith in the direction the company was heading.
Whether the writers had always planned for Bryan to be added to the title match at Wrestlemania XXX or it happened as a result of the Universe's dissatisfaction is something we will never know. The plan may very well have been for Randy Orton and Batista to headline the spectacle in a one-on-one bout but the idea was met with such hostility that WWE's creative team desperately had to “Deal With It”. They were left with no choice but to turn Batista into a super-heel, arrogantly embracing jeers from the crowd and claiming not to be interested in what anybody thought about him as he only came back to win gold.
Fast earning the nickname “Bootista” and being mocked heavily through social media for frequently wearing skinny jeans and a flat cap were almost certainly not what the star of the forthcoming “Guardians Of The Galaxy” had anticipated.
Batista's run consisted mostly of getting himself disqualified, trying too hard to come across as the bad guy, some pretty average promos, matches that nobody was that bothered about (Alberto Del Rio, Dolph Ziggler) and hashtags – the most recent of which trended worldwide on Twitter after his decision to wear slightly different ring attire than usual at the Payback PPV and be embarrassingly dubbed “Bluetista”.
Batista 'quit' the following night on Raw and probably got his biggest cheer this side of 2010. Will he return with a more suitable storyline, at a more suitable time? Or will the WWE try and forget about this mistake and keep “The Animal” far away from their future plans?
Sometimes it seems that Vince McMahon and Co have completely lost touch with what the fans want, and others it seems that they may be simply stoking the fire in order to engage people and create a greater social media presence? It's something we will never know the real answer to.
There's only one question we can all answer confidently – Was Batista's return to WWE a success? No.