Monday, 30 March 2015

Batista: The Animal Unleashed

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 410 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: June 23 2014

The second DVD on Batista was released to mark his 2014 return to WWE, and consists of a documentary and a selection of matches, as is the norm. The timing was a bit awkward, as I shall explain, but it doesn't detract too much for the pre-2014 events featured here.

The documentary is fairly short at 40 minutes or so, but in hindsight it didn't need to be much longer. We had the full life-and-career inspection on Batista's first DVD released in 2009. Here, the focus is on his return as cameras follow him from his Raw comeback on January 20 2014 to his Royal Rumble win six nights later. Along the way, he covers why he first left WWE, what he did during his time away, his ongoing projects and his initial thoughts on his return. It's told with a positive slant, and by and large Batista is quite honest (he notes how he disliked WWE going PG), plus the story ends on a high note for Batista fans as he wins the Rumble.

But there's just one problem: fans greeted Batista extremely negatively from the Rumble match onwards. On another performer, this would be a feel-good comeback but not here: The Animal triumphing was booed massively at the Rumble, and whilst Batista calls that crowd "weird", the response continued for long enough, and loud enough, that Batista turned heel and Daniel Bryan ended up becoming WWE World Heavyweight Champ at WrestleMania XXX. That isn't acknowledged here, which hinders the documentary a fair amount. This feature us alright, but nothing special. There is an extra clip where Titus O'Neil explains how Batista helped him into the wrestling business.

We then move onto the matches, beginning with a rare OVW match where Batista, as Leviathan, beats a young Brock Lesnar surprisingly easily considering what Brock would go on to do. Two tag bouts from Batista's early days follow, as he and Reverend D-Von dispatch of Faarooq and a pre-personality Randy Orton, and he and Ric Flair win their second World Tag Team Titles from Booker T and Rob Van Dam. The focus then shifts to Batista's main event career, although his classic feud with Triple H isn't covered: instead, we go to an okay Texas Bull Rope match against JBL and a six-man tag from a 2006 episode of Saturday Night's Main Event (incidentally, look out for the moment where Mark Henry quietly disappears; having suffered an injury, he would be out of action for ages after this).

Disc two opens with a 3-way between Batista, King Booker and Finlay for the World Title. It's actually really good, but why this is here when it was on Batista's first DVD is a question I cannot answer. A 4-way from SmackDown against Kane, Mark Henry and Finlay is good but not as good as the preceding clash, whilst a Last Man Standing bout with Kane is fine for a television match with this stipulation.

We then get some PPV matches. The Stretcher match against Shawn Michaels from One Night Stand 2008 is the best of this release although the back-story was a bit confusing. A World Title match with then-new titleholder CM Punk at that year's Great American Bash is better than expected but felt strange at the time and feels even odder when watching it again here. Disc two ends with a World Title win over Chris Jericho at Cyber Sunday 2008 (Stone Cold stars as special guest referee), and disc three starts with a tag bout from Raw the next night pitting Batista and HBK (who were friends now) against Y2J and JBL. Having two matches linked like this is something different and is a nice touch.

Including a tag between Batista and Shane McMahon and Legacy is a bit pointless, but it kind of feeds into his Steel Cage WWE Title win over Randy Orton at Extreme Rules 2009. A SmackDown meeting with CM Punk feels like filler, before the Animal turns heel on Rey Mysterio and we get two matches from their rivalry: their bout at Survivor Series 2009 and a Street Fight from SmackDown a few weeks later. We then see him win a 3-way against Sheamus and Randy Orton to earn a WWE Title shot against John Cena at Over The Limit under I Quit rules (included here), which was Batista's last bout before leaving WWE.

The DVD ends with Batista's comeback wins at Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber (against Alberto Del Rio). On any other release, this would have been a good idea, but the reactions to both matches are so overwhelmingly negative that it only harms the Animal's image. In the Rumble, you almost feel sorry for Batista as the reaction to him was more about Daniel Bryan not being involved, but I feel worse for #30 entrant Rey Mysterio; the beginning of a negative end to his legendary WWE career was the negative reaction to his inclusion, based on a situation that he had no involvement in whatsoever. (By the way, this DVD unintentionally feels like a mini-CM Punk bio: we see a clip of his first World Title win, his first PPV World Title defence, a match from his SES run, and his final moments in WWE.) And the Chamber match reaction built on this, negating what was actually a decent effort.

The DVD serves as an interesting way of seeing how much things had changed in regards to Batista. During his initial main event run, this release proves that he was very popular, and he did good work as a heel too and was missed by fans when he left in 2010, hence why WWE brought him back. But when he did return, he was overwhelmingly booed and when he left again in mid-2014, many were happy to see him go. As a now-established big name in movies, with a key role in the next James Bond film, "Boo-tista" clearly got the last laugh.

By the way, I completely understand why fans booed Batista upon his return and agreed to an extent. But the boos were aimed more at WWE and their booking department; Batista seemed like the public reason for their frustration, and so it seemed right to boo him. The same thing is now happening to Roman Reigns (who, as this DVD shows, was wildly cheered in 2014), actually for the same reason; but I'll look at that in more depth some other time.

As for the DVD: Batista fans will enjoy it, although it isn't as good as his first DVD from 2009. Those who have little time for the Animal will not have any reason to buy this. And those with neutral feelings on Big Dave would probably not be massively inclined to get this DVD. Overall, I found it to be decent, but not something to rush out and buy. If you're a DVD completist (like me), you will have reason to get it. Otherwise, if you're not a Batista fan, your only real reason to purchase this is to see how 2005's flavour of the month became 2014's public face of fan discontent.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10 - Okay

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