The shocking return of one of WWE’s biggest crossover stars, Batista, capped off an episode of WWE Raw that felt like the official kickoff of WrestleMania season.
In this day and age, it’s hard for WWE to pull off a surprise return practically no one legitimately sees coming, yet that’s exactly what they did on Raw.
While most people were waiting for Becky Lynch to bust out of the slammer after the McMahon’s throwback to 1999 Nitro earlier in the night, WWE decided to pull a fast one on all of us.
When Ric Flair’s music hit and ‘The Nature Boy’ didn’t strut down the ramp, it seemed like we were in store for another memorable moment from ‘The Man’.
Instead, just as a few chants echoed in the background for the returning world champion, Batista was seen dragging a beaten Flair unceremoniously across the backstage area.
“Hey Hunter, do I have your attention now?” a breathless Batista ominously asked as time seemed to stand still for just a moment. It was one of those moments in WWE that words can’t really do justice to.
Fans have been anxious for a return from ‘The Animal’ for years now, and this was finally it.
Batista’s return certainly feels like the sign people wait for this time of year that signals business will be begin to pick up on WWE’s flagship show as we head towards WrestleMania.
For weeks now, the red brand has relied on importing star power from SmackDown by featuring Becky Lynch on both shows in order to build that hype. While Lynch’s story is arguably the hottest angle in wrestling today, there has to be more than just her rivalry with the McMahon’s and Charlotte Flair to support a weekly 3 hour program.
It should come as no surprise that Brock Lesnar’s remained absent for too long now, leaving the entire men’s main event scene feeling unexciting and in need of a shot of adrenaline.
Roman Reigns return will certainly help build intrigue there for sure, but it initially appears like he’ll be hamstrung by being stuck in the same feud with Baron Corbin’s heel stable that the entire show has been forced to slog through over recent months.
I would imagine it won’t be until after the upcoming Fastlane pay-per-view that we see Reigns get his own chance to shine in a rivalry truly befitting of a returning megastar.
Thankfully, in the meantime though, we now have Batista versus Triple H.
The quality of storytelling in that rivalry could be staggering. Batista and Triple H’s careers have been intertwined for most of the 21st century. The sheer amount of material and callbacks to build on is almost mind-boggling. Its immediately easy to see how their feud could become one of the best in wrestling today leading up to a climatic showdown at WrestleMania.
Its also therefore easy to see how Raw will become more than just a one newsworthy angle show going forward. Now, there’s two red hot rivalries to immediately begin building on during the Road to WrestleMania.
That’s what I think makes this return feel so explosive. Not only is it a return many fans have clamored years for, but it’s coming at exactly the right time too.
Batista’s return is precisely that shot of adrenaline Raw needed right now to feel like the must-watch show it should be before the biggest WWE event of the year.