Top-Down Smackdown: Batista Even Screws up His Heel Turn

By Luke Y. Thompson in TV
Monday, March 3, 2014 at 5:21 pm

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Like many of us, the WWE top brass figured on Guardians of the Galaxy being a big, popular movie. They're probably right.

Unlike the rest of us, they had a potential way to cash in, since one of their own, Batista, happens to be one of the leads in the movie. A cardinal rule of marketing your product is to try to reach new audiences, and Vince McMahon is always looking for a way to do that (while earning mainstream credibility as an entertainment company, he hopes), so of course he made a move to get Batista back in the ring, and into the WrestleMania main event. A similar approach had worked with the Rock two years running.

But this time, it has backfired. And there are many reasons why.



Firstly, Dave Bautista is no Dwayne Johnson. The Rock became a movie star organically, because people liked him, and wanted more. Batista's acting career, such as it is, was in DTV stuff before Guardians, and exists solely because he has a superhero physique and can say his lines intelligibly.

Secondly, The Rock versus John Cena was a match people hadn't seen, and wanted to see, that began from a legitimate beef Cena had with the Rock walking away from wrestling. Batista has not been gone that long, and when he was around, he wrestled Randy Orton, and everyone else on the roster, all the time.

So when WWE brought back Batista and the fans made it clear that they disliked him - not in a "bad guy" way, but in a "we're bored" way - what they should have done was reconsider their plans to let him headline the biggest show of the year. But whether they made a deal with Marvel (possible, but not reported) or simply can't admit to a wrong choice, Vince and company doubled down. And given that the course was locked in, they tried to save face as best they could, by turning the fan hatred into an angle, and making Batista a bad guy.

They succeeded at exactly one thing - by giving Batista a prime spot on Smackdown to give what was expected to be his heel turn interview, they made Smackdown relevant again. For the past couple of years it has been a show that never advances the storyline; here, it got the most important storyline element of the week.

Too bad it turned out to be terrible.

I'll give the writers credit - sensing the need to both make Batista a villain and a credible main-eventer, they came up with the storyline of having him take on and defeat every fan-favorite en route to WrestleMania. And if Batista were in the shape he used to be, a Ryback-like streak of destruction might have worked. Instead, Dolph Ziggler literally drew blood right off the bad.

And that promo...dear god, you could be forgiven for wondering how anyone ever gave this guy an acting role. WWE may actually hurt Guardians of the Galaxy if this continues. Batista, a guy with body ink so cliched (tribal, stars, flags) I half imagine him going into a different tattoo parlor every night and saying, "I'll have what she's having," insults fans by telling them they shop at Hot Topic. Really? That's like Ric Flair mocking people for dying their hair.

Give them a couple weeks, Batista, and they'll have your merchandise for sale there too. Of course WWE fans shop at Hot Topic, because it sells WWE merchandise.

Fans were barely interested enough to boo, but there were plenty holding "Boo-tista" signs. the problem with that is that it sends the message to WWE that his "heel heat" is working.

Folks, if you really want to express your displeasure with the onward kamikaze momentum of the angle, don't boo Batista. Chant "Boring" or chant "CM Punk." Do it so loudly they have to hear you.

In the meantime, the advice I'd give to Batista is to hang on to the one thing that worked in that promo...

The douchey golfer hat. I genuinely hate it in the right way.

Talk back about this, Raw, or anything else wrestling related below.

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