Monday, July 5, 2010

Smarkass Reviews: Batista: I Walk Alone (Disc 2)

The second and third discs are just matches, so let's dive in...

Match #1: OVW Heavyweight Championship Match -- "The Machine" Doug Basham (C) vs. Leviathan (Ohio Valley Wrestling -- November 28, 2001)
Before he was Batista, he was Leviathan, a mythical monster of a man raised from the Ohio River by a witch or something. This match isn't really anything special. It doesn't flow too well, but it does have Jim Cornette on commentary making it seem like the biggest thing to ever happen. Batista does most of the stuff that he would do in the WWE: powerbomb, spear, maybe a spinebuster thrown in... He did use the chokeslam at the time, too, which I don't remember ever seeing him use in the WWE. The match was no dq, so there was plenty of interference and even the use of two refs. You really get the sense of watching two guys still learning and improving, trying to make the basics work before doing anything too complicated. All of which is fine, just nothing too amazing.
Winner and NEW OVW Heavyweight Champion: Leviathan [*1/2]

Match #2: Batista vs. Kane (Armageddon -- December 15, 2002)
Jumping ahead a year, Evolution hasn't begun yet, but Ric Flair is mentoring Batista, so things are moving in that direction (the group would form officially a month later). This was Batista's first PPV match and it's a fine outting where the point is to make him look like a force against Kane. It's a good way to put over Batista since Kane is also a big man and beating him puts you at a certain level immediately. Flair interferes quite a bit, which helps Batista gain the win. It's a solid little match, nothing special. Batista is still pretty dull in the ring and an agile Kane can't drag him to a good match yet.
Winner: Batista [*1/2]

Match #3: Batista vs. Shawn Michaels (Armageddon -- December 14, 2003
Jumping ahead another year, Evolution is on its way to dominance with Randy Orton winning the Intercontinental Championship earlier in the evening and Batista and Flair to win the World Tag Team Championship later in the evening. But, in between, we've got Batista versus Shawn Michaels. In the documentary, Batista mentions this as the first match that felt like a success for him, the first one where he showed that he can make it in the WWE, and put on a good show. I don't know if I would go that far, but it's definitely a step up from the first two. Batista is more fluid in the ring, more in command of his character, and is carried somewhat by Michaels. Flair interferes again, but Michaels does well against him, including on of my favourite things to see: a guy running at another only to be put down with a single punch. Michaels is one of the best sellers in the business, so he makes Batista look great by selling how beat up he is by the end of the match. Things end with Michaels getting out of the Batista Bomb and hitting Sweet Chin Music, which allows Michaels to not lose to a relative newbie while still making Batista look like he was close to victory. Pretty much all you could ask for.
Winner: Shawn Michaels [**]

Match #4: Tables Match for the World Tag Team Championship -- Batista & Ric Flair (C) vs. the Dudley Boyz (Royal Rumble -- January 25, 2004)
I'm kind of surprised they went with this instead of Batista and Flair winning the belts at Armageddon since that would be a nice follow-up to the Michaels match. Anyway, this is pretty short and nothing too impressive. The Dudleys dominant at the beginning, taking advantage of Batista's inexperience to take him out and, then, double-teaming Flair until Batista can power he and Flair to victory rather quickly. Kind of a pointless inclusion and lame even by tables match standards.
Winners and STILL World Tag Team Champions: Batista and Ric Flair [1/2*]

Match #5: Batista vs. Chris Jericho (Vengeance -- July 11, 2004)
This was a nice little match with a typical big man/little man dynamic. Batista dominated with a few outbursts of quickness and strategy by Jericho thrown in. It was built around the idea that Jericho couldn't take Big Dave off his feet, so when he did, the crowd went wild. Batista showed some good ring intelligence by countering a few Jericho moves in ways that he wouldn't have earlier in his career. Not advanced stuff or anything, but more subtle ways that don't rely on simply overpowering Jericho. Batista got the win as he continued his rise to the top. A solid match all around.
Winner: Batista [**1/2]

Match #6: Except from the 30-Man Royal Rumble Match (Royal Rumble -- January 30, 2005)
We begin this moments before Batista came out at #28. He came in with some presence by delivering a Batistabomb on Kane and taking out some other guys. The next two guys were Christian and Ric Flair with Flair providing the best moment of this short bit when he attempted to grab Batista by the back of the head to pull him to the ropes and eliminate him, but Batista didn't move and Flair just fell down. Flair turned on Batista pretty quickly, which contributed to his turn against Trips and Flair. It eventually came down to Batista and John Cena (I loved how the final four were all guys who had never won a world belt -- remember when the Rumble was about elevating someone new to the main event?) with a botched finish where both men went over and Batista clearly hit first a little bit. I liked the whole story with the Raw refs saying Batista won and the Smackdown refs saying it was Cena, with Batista then throwing Cena out again -- followed by Cena throwing Batista out, too... until McMahon ordered the match restarted and Batista won. That wouldn't stop Cena from winning the WWE Championship off JBL at WrestleMania 21, but it did set up Batista going after Trips's World Heavyweight Championship.
Winner: Batista [N/A] (since I didn't see the whole thing)

Match #7: World Heavyweight Championship Match -- Triple H (C) vs. Batista (WrestleMania 21 -- April 3, 2005)
I wasn't expecting to like this match as much as I did since neither one of these guys blow me away in the ring anymore. As well, the story to this match is so key with Batista's slow turn against Triple H -- and while I know the story, that's not the same thing as experiencing it. But, the storytelling was strong with Batista as the clear underdog while Triple H uses his experience and ring-savy (and cheating) to make up for Batista's superior power. Batista is tenacious, but Triple H controlled the first half to two-thirds of the match pretty much until Batista hit the slingshot off the steps on the outside, sending Trips flying into the ringpost. That was the turning point with Triple H doing a good blade job. Michelle doesn't like blood, but she admitted that it worked here. I'm not the biggest fan of blood either -- but, like any storytelling tool, when it's used well, it works. The problem is that it isn't used well far too often. Here, it was a tangible sign that Batista has struck a meaningful blow against Triple H, that maybe he could win despite the odds being against him. After that, Batista was in control a lot more and even kicked out of a pin attempt after Triple H hit him with the belt behind the ref's back. Cheating wasn't enough to beat the Animal here as he eventually overpowered Triple H to win the title. It felt earned and was a great victory, partly because of the storytelling where Batista slowly gained the upper hand, culminating in that one move that turned the tide and put momentum on his side.
Winner and NEW World Heavyweight Champion: Batista [****]

Match #8: Hell in a Cell Match for the World Heavyweight Championship -- Batista (C) vs. Triple H (Vengeance -- June 26, 2005)
I've seen this match a couple of times already since it's on the Triple H DVD set I have. But, I liked it more this time having seen the WrestleMania match. I'm a little disappointed that they didn't include the match at Backlash just to give us all three of these matches. I know why they didn't obviously, but it would have been cool to see the whole story from the Royal Rumble through all three matches against Triple H. There were a few things that I found interesting here. First off, it was very back and forth from the get-go. Batista was on more equal footing with Triple H, leading into Triple H always being the guy who brought in a weapon. He was the first to use the chain, the barbed wire chair, and the sledgehammer. Batista was confident and knew he could beat Triple H, so Trips was more likely to look for something to give him the edge. They still played up Trips's experience edge, especially since he'd been in numerous Hell in a Cell matches. After two losses, the match stipulation gave him back his edge, but it wasn't enough. They also played up the idea that there was no way that Batista was going to beat Triple H for a third time in a row by giving Triple H a lot of pincovers after finisher-quality moves only for Batista to kick out. People expected the match to end at those times, especially near the end. Batista won the match by finally using the ring steps as weapons, but the sort where it was to work with his power moves. By the way, Batista can't blade for shit. Though, his back acne worked well with Trips's use of the chain and barbed wire chair. I really liked the small touch of Triple H sucking in some blood from his face, so when he came off the top rope and Batista raised the sledgehammer to hit him in the chin, he could spit blood out. The finish was good with Triple H trying to use the sledgehammer only for Batista to hit the Batistabomb and retain the belt. I'm surprised how well this worked right after the WrestleMania match.
Winner and STILL World Heavyweight Champion: Batista [****]

Match #9: No Holds Barred Match for the World Heavyweight Championship -- Batista (C) vs. JBL (Summerslam -- August 21, 2005)
I have no idea why this match is on the DVD. I really don't. The next match provides a good enough account of Batista being a fairly dominant world champ. I guess they needed two. Listen, if you read the participants in this match along with the stipulation and immediately thought of what the match would be like, you'd be right. It's exactly what you'd expect from a no holds barred match between Batista and JBL: they brawl, they use a weapon or two, Batista eventually overpowers JBL. The only interesting thing was Batista hitting the Batistabomb and, then, instead of going for the cover, noticing the steel steps that had been brought into the ring and then Batistabombing JBL onto the steps. I'm fairly certain that spot happens only because either Batista or Triple H realised after their Hell in a Cell match that that spot would have been awesome and were pissed off that they didn't think to do it then. This isn't a bad match, it's just mediocre.
Winner and STILL World Heavyweight Champion: Batista [**]

Match #10: World Heavyweight Championship Match -- Batista (C) vs. Eddie Guerrero (No Mercy -- October 9, 2005)
The final match of the disc and it's pretty good. The story (from what I can piece together) is that Eddie Guerrero is trying to be a good guy, to no longer lie, cheat, and steal in order to win, and he wants to earn the respect of Batista by winning or losing cleanly. That aspect of the match isn't used much at the beginning where it's Guerrero using speed and skill against Batista's power and... er, power. But, as the match progresses, Guerrero goes outside to get a chair, but then stops and throws it away. Later, he unties the tag rope in the corner, but stops and throws it away. Even later, the ref is down, Batista is down, and it's the perfect chance to use the chair: Guerrero gets it, brings it in the ring, and hesitates, almost uses it a couple of times, but throws it away. Throughout this part of the match Guerrero was dominant through various holds and submissions, just beating Batista down with skill. There's a funny moment where Batista counters a Texas Cloverleaf attempt by rolling Guerrero up and Michael Cole comments on the rare finesse move from the Animals, calling it an act of desperation -- this, friends, is a small example of Cole not doing his job right. You want to sell it as Batista seeing that his regular strategy doesn't work, so he manages to dig deep and pull off a move beyond his normal skillset in order to stay alive -- he's not desperate, he's determined, and improving mid-match. The final use of the chair bothers me a little, because Batista sees him throw it away, but still acts like he was going to use it and gets pissed off. I hate shit like that. It's like when Wrestler A goes to hit Wrestler C with a chair, but Wrestler C ducks, so Wrestler A winds up hitting his buddy Wrestler B who was standing behind Wrestler C and Wrestler B gets pissed off and attacks Wrestler A assuming he did it on purpose. It's lame and tries to sell us on the idea that these guys are idiots. I would have preferred Batista seem happy and then kill Guerrero anyway, because they're still in a match. But, Batista goes full force on Guerrero, but Guerrero manages to gain the upperhand only to miss a Frog Splash (more like see Batista getting ready to move, so he rolled through it) and get hit with a Spinebuster (his second in pretty short order). After the match, Batista pulled up Guerrero and Guerrero offered his hand, which Batista accepted. A great moment when Batista turned his back and Guerrero got his shiteating, evil grin on only to lose it immediately when Batista turned around. A solid, fun match all around even if I didn't like the odd thing.
Winner and STILL World Heavyweight Champion: Batista [***1/4]

While the first few matches of this disc were what you expect from an early Batista, I was really impressed with his two matches against Triple H. Give Batista and quality opponent and a decent in-ring story to tell and he can work that match. Here's hoping the second disc has some great ones.

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