April 3rd, 2005. The 20,000 strong sell out crowd in the Los Angeles Staples Centre is on it’s feet to salute not one, but two new World Champions. Two products of Ohio Valley Wrestling had cemented themselves as the top two acts in the WWE. Half a decade later and Leviathan and The Prototype, or Batista and John Cena as they are now known, will go head to head at the ?Grandaddy of ?em All? in the culmination of one of the most intriguing stories of the past decade.
The story begins at the start of the 21st Century. A young(ish) Dave Bautista has just been told by Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker at the WCW Power Plant that he will never make it as a wrestler. Cena meanwhile is working for Ultimate Pro Wrestling (UPW) as semi-robotic wrestler The Prototype. Within months both men had made the journey to Ohio to begin the next phase of their careers as WWE developmental superstars.
It was in OVW where the two first bumped heads, with The Prototype relinquishing the then Leviathan of the OVW Heavyweight Title. Less than a year later and Ohio was a distant memory as both men debuted on SmackDown in quick succession, but extremely different circumstances. Circumstances which could legitimately back up Batista’s claims that Cena has been made ?the face? of the WWE at his expense (in a kayfabe sense obviously).
Upon his introduction to WWE audiences, Batista was not ?The Animal? as he is today, but rather D Von Dudley’s God fearing bodyguard ?Deacon Bautista?. John Cena meanwhile was slapping Olympic Gold Medallist and former WWE Champion Kurt Angle in the face within seconds of his debut. It was obvious for all to see who the powers that be were interested in placing the most stock in.
Whilst both men’s stars continued to shine throughout 2003, there was only one of them who had ?Future World Champion? written all over him, and it wasn?t the ex night club bouncer from Washington D.C.
Batista may have been inducted into a stable with World Heavyweight Champion HHH and Ric Flair but with a young Randy Orton very much bearing the ?future? tag of the group, big Dave looked like nothing more than muscle. A near 10 month injury layoff didn?t exactly help matters either, as did his not exactly decreasing years.
On the SmackDown side of things Cena continued to trade barbs with the big guns. He was Brock Lesnar’s first post ? Mania Title challenger at Backlash, before embarking on feuds with The Undertaker and Eddie Guerrero before finishing the year off as one of the two survivors of Team Angle following his monumental elimination of The Big Show.
Batista meanwhile was the first of the two men to taste silverware, albeit World Tag Team gold with Ric Flair. Then come WrestleMania XX at Madison Square Garden he was essentially filler in the Orton/Foley & Rock feud when Cena was soaring popularity by FU?ing the Big Show in the opening match to claim the United States Title. A year away from their first respective World Titles and the two men could not have been further apart in their pushes.
Every year the main events of Wrestlemania are quite deliberate. Take this year for example, Jericho defending the World Heavyweight Title against Edge has been on the cards since Edge’s foot almost came off back in June of last year. So the ?E? have Edge ‘surprise? us by winning the Royal Rumble and then slap the WHC on Jericho a month later and voila! You?ve got yourself a very deliberately put together Wrestlemania World Title match. You can look at practically any Wrestlemania and say the same thing about their prestige matches.
Fast forward a year and you could NOT say the same about the show being headlined by HHH defending his World Title against a guy who had NEVER main evented a PPV on his own in his career. Batista must go to bed every night thanking Randy Orton for being such an abysmal babyface, because otherwise, who knows where Batista might have ended up. But sometime randomly at the end of 2004, as Orton’s ?face run coughed and spluttered it’s way to an embarrassing demise, Batista gained what can only be described as a ‘shitload? of momentum.
Suddenly, the plan to have Orton finally reclaim the Title from the nefarious HHH at Wrestlemania could be scrapped and out of nowhere it would seem, the ?E? had a ready made challenger. Upon hearing the pop Batista received when entering the World Title Elimination Chamber at New Year’s Revolution, Vince Mcmahon had to make a decision. Shit or get off the pot. He didn?t need to deliberate long. Batista was hot, so he stuck with him and threw a World Title at him.
Cena meanwhile had been hot for a long time and was always odds on to dethrone JBL as WWE Champion over on SmackDown, so even when Batista in fact eliminated Cena to win the 2005 Royal Rumble, no one blinked an eye.
The fact was Cena was creative’s boy, hence why he was shipped to be the face of Raw in the 2005 draft and Batista, despite being put over CLEAN three consecutive times by HHH, was sent to an injury ravaged SmackDown brand with a poor TV deal. The move looked to be the right one when Batista suffered his second major bicep injury in two years in November 2005. The ageing Batista had never been a spring chicken during any point of his WWE tenure and now looked injury prone to boot. Cena meanwhile was probably barely sleeping in between Raw, house shows, PPV’s, filming movies, doing autograph signings and making talk show appearances.
The next year or so wouldn?t exactly be any easier for big Dave either. Cena equalled him by going over HHH in the main event of Wrestlemania 22 and upon making his return Batista looked, well, pretty much lost in the ring. He had buckets of rust heaped upon an ageing injury ravaged body. He dragged his way through a mini feud with Mr.Kennedy before ?treating? us to an abortion of a WHC match with King Booker at Summerslam before eventually reclaiming his crown in the main event of Survivor Series in an equally forgettable bout. Cena meanwhile was happily about to embark on a 13 month WWE Title reign after quite a career defining feud with Edge.
Then something happened. After pulling out a good match with Mr.Kennedy of all people at the Rumble, Batista met The Undertaker, and his career never looked back. Cena may have still been the face of the company, but after his own career defining year long feud with The Deadman, Batista was now the most improved worker in the WWE and was finally looking like he could stand on his own two feet without the need to be carried.
This point was proven emphatically at Summerslam 2008 when the two men finally came head to head for the first time in their six years in the WWE. After dropping the World Tag Titles to Priceless, Batista went over Cena clean and kayfabe put him on the bench for three months. All of a sudden, big Dave was in the driving seat. He went on to dethrone Jericho at Cyber Sunday for another World Title reign and rumours began to brew of a Cena/Batista showdown at the 25th Anniversary of Wrestlemania. It didn?t get much bigger than that.
Only, as has been so often the case with Batista, his body had other ideas and not long after his eight day World Title reign was brought to a close inside a steel cage by Jericho, Batista once again found himself sidelined. Then upon his return he was rather embarrassingly, well, injured yet again.
However, following four years of roughly the same Title chasing act, someone somewhere had the simple creative masterstroke of finally turning Batista heel. He was now bullying Rey Mysterio instead of protecting him and interrupting Slammy Award presentations wearing gharish pink polo tops and generally being a grade A doucher. It was glorious.
And so we arrive at Elimination Chamber 2010. Coming full circle from their days in OVW almost a decade earlier, John Cena and Dave Batista squared off in a World Title fight. Albeit one that lasted less than a minute. Batista was now Vinnie Mac’s hired gun in his campaign against Bret Hart, a campaign which was in danger of being thwarted by one John Cena, who just so happened to be the guy who for the past half a decade has been taking all the plaudits that Batista could well be forgiven for feeling he was due a big part of. So after Cena’s exhausting Chamber match Title win, in came Batista to pick the bones and for the second time in a row, pin Cena’s shoulders to the canvas cleanly for the victory.
Which brings us to where we are now. Just under three weeks away from a Wrestlemania headlining match five years in the making. Ok it doesn?t have the history of Bret/Vince, and it may even play second fiddle to Taker/Michaels in it’s place on the card, but there’s no denying the cultural and historical significance of this match. Two of Ohio Valley Wrestling’s poster boys headlining the biggest wrestling show of the year, for the most prestigious Title in all of wrestling, almost half a decade to the day when they both won their first World Titles. There’s history, hate and two of the company’s finest workers. That’s as perfect a Wrestlemania main event as you could wish for.
Until next time, arrivederci.