Saturday, 28 November 2015

DVD Review: Batista: The Animal Unleashed

He’s currently starring in the latest James Bond film Spectre, but long before he was mixing it up with Daniel Craig he was mixing it up with the good and the great of the wrestling business, and now that he’s carving out quite a name for himself there’s no better time than to take a look at WWE’s recent tribute to the man himself, Batista: The Animal Unleashed.

And as is the custom with these things let’s start right at the beginning with.....

Disc One
The collection begins with a forty minute documentary as our man returns to WWE in January 2014 before the Royal Rumble. As is usual with these things it’s a very well-made piece as we see Batista arriving at the arena before the show and getting ready for the Rumble match itself.

In between these segments there’s a ton of talking head moments where Batista speaks quite openly about his time away from WWE and his forays into the acting and MMA worlds, as well as a short piece with the Imperials car club in Los Angeles where he shows off his Impala low-rider.

Overall it’s not a bad piece, but personally I would have preferred something a little longer, something that looked at his entire career in greater detail instead of just the days leading up to the Rumble.

Alongside this is a special feature in which his old neighbour Titus O’Neil talks about how he met Batista. No mention of if the Animal ever borrowed a cup of sugar from him though.

But with the documentary and O’Neil piece lasting a shade over forty-two minutes it means that there’s a few matches on this disc as well, so let’s switch modes a little and begin with.....

28th July, 2001
Our journey begins in Ohio Valley Wrestling, and our man, known here as Leviathan, faces another monster in the form of Brock Lesnar.

This is the first time I’ve seen an OVW match, and it had a kind of old school vibe about it. The setting kind of reminded me of some of the old Memphis shows I’d seen, what with the local business adverts around the ring and the commentators talking about an upcoming house show. (Nick Dinsmore’s going for the OVW title everybody!)

The match itself is also something of an eye opener, especially if you’ve only seen Lesnar since his comeback. Batista....or Leviathan as I should call him, easily matched him for power as he dominated most of the match.

Leviathan took a brief trip to Suplex City, but when Lesnar took his man down with what looked like an F5-lite (an F2.5 perhaps) Leviathan’s ladies at ringside distracted the referee when he went for the pin. This gave his manager Sinn the chance to jump into the ring so she could spray something into his Lesnar’s eyes, and with the referee none the wiser Leviathan took Lesnar down with a spear for the three count.

27th June, 2002
Our man has ditched the persona of a sea creature and is now a man of the cloth as he joins the Reverend D-Von in a tag team against Faarooq and Randy Orton on Smackdown.

At first I wondered why this match was on here, mainly because it was the good Reverend who did most of the work, but when Orton had him in some trouble Batista took the blind tag route into the match and unloaded on his future Evolution buddy with a massive clothesline before taking him down with a spinebuster for the win.

But perhaps the most disappointing thing about this match was the lack of a DAMN!

22nd March, 2004
Our man is now part of Evolution as he joins Ric Flair in challenging Rob Van Dam and Booker T for the World Tag Team titles on Raw.

On the night that the Draft Lottery sent their leader Triple H to Smackdown (only to be traded back shortly afterwards) Flair and Batista were looking to regain their titles. By this time Flair was more or less running on auto-pilot as it were, doing his usual thing, throwing a ton of chops as well as the usual Flair bump off the top rope.

RVD and Booker looked pretty good as a unit, but it was during the all hell breaking loose segment that a mis-communication cost them dearly. As Batista was about to take Booker down with his powerbomb Van Dam came off the top rope, intent on taking the Animal down with a kick.

Batista saw him coming though and pushed Booker backwards, so when RVD came flying his kick caught Booker square in the back of the head. It was then that the big man took him down with the Batista bomb for the title-regaining three count.

9th September, 2005
Our man is now the World title on Smackdown as he faces the challenge of John “Bradshaw” Layfield in a bull rope match.

This was basically two big guys beating on each other with a rope and a cowbell for about nine minutes or so, and in truth it wasn’t that bad actually, although most of these type of matches have the same basic formula.

The best part came after Batista had taken JBL down with his powerbomb. He then wrapped the rope around his neck and dragged the rich man around the ring so he could touch the corners. However, he failed to notice that JBL was touching the same corners just seconds later, so when they came to the final corner JBL fought his way out of Batista’s clutches. A tug of war ensued as the champion stopped him from making the corner. A massive spinebuster put JBL out of commission, giving Batista the chance to touch the final corner and claim the win.

15th July, 2006
It’s six man action as our man joins World Champion Rey Mysterio and Bobby Lashley as they take on King Booker, Mark Henry and United States Champion Finlay on Saturday Night’s Main Event.

This was another match I wondered why they put on here considering how Batista didn’t do much. This was his first match back after a seven month absence due to an injury caused by Henry, and he spent most of the time on the apron as the hated heels used Mysterio as their own personal punching bag.

Needless to say that the ultimate underdog managed to get the hot tag eventually, and with the King left alone against three commoners a 619 from Mysterio set him up perfectly for Batista’s powerbomb and the winning pin.

Disc Two
1st December, 2006
Our man is World Champion once again as he defends his title against King Booker and Finlay in a triple threat match on Smackdown.

Now this was one I really enjoyed. It began with Batista taking both men down with an impressive display of power, but during the commercial break Finlay took control. The Northern Irishman went on to dominate both men for the next few moments, showing what a tough old so and so he was, even at that stage in his career.

Batista took the lion’s share of punishment in this one when the King took up where Finlay had left off, and even though Booker and Finlay decided to form an alliance it was a somewhat brief joining of forces as they began to argue over pin attempts.

Finlay’s came closest to winning the title after his Lil’ Bastard ran interference so he could clobber the other two with his shillelagh while the referee was otherwise distracted. It gave him the chance to work over Batista’s leg, but Booker’s intervention put an end to any advantage he’d gained.

The King’s return didn’t last long though when Batista took him down with a spinebuster, and when he took Finlay down with his powerbomb a few moments later it was all over as the champion took the title-retaining pin.

25th May, 2007
Having lost the World title our man aims to get straight back into contention by facing Kane, Finlay and Mark Henry in a fatal four way number one contenders match on Smackdown.

This one may only have been about half as long as the triple threat match but it was still jam packed with action. As World Champion Edge watched on from the commentary table these four men tore shreds off each other, and even though he was the smallest man in the match Finlay was more than a match for anyone he went against, especially when he was clobbering them with his shillelagh.

Sadly for Finlay he fell short once again, because with Kane and Henry taken out of action Batista took him down with a powerbomb to take the pin and earn a title shot.

29th June, 2007
It’s a non-title match for our man as he takes on World Champion Edge on Smackdown.

A stipulation in their previous match meant that Batista couldn’t challenge for the title while Edge was the champion, but that didn’t stop the Animal from trying to take his man apart, which was his main intention throughout the match.

Edge managed to work his way back though, and after both men enjoyed brief moments of advantage the champ looked to Batista away with the spear. Batista managed to block the move though, taking him down with his powerbomb for the winning pin.

14th December, 2007
Our man has the gold once again as he faces a non-title last man standing match against Kane on Smackdown.

I think you probably know what kind of match this was. Yep, it was basically two big guys beating on each other for about ten minutes or so as they attempted to put the other down for the ten count.

It was entertaining in it’s own way, and Kane looked great as he dominated the majority of the action. However, when the Big Red Machine tried to put his man through the commentary table with a chokeslam Batista countered with a series of elbows before slamming him on the wood with a spinebuster.

But as the referee was about to make his count Batista’s old rival Edge made an appearance and took him down with a spear, and as there were no disqualifications in this match it meant that the referee had to count both protagonists.

Batista managed to drag himself back to his feet though, just in time to backdrop Edge as the referee counted Kane out to give the champion the win.

But in the end it was Edge who had the last laugh when he smashed Batista in the back with a steel chair.

1st June, 2008
It’s a night of extremes for our man as he takes on Shawn Michaels in a stretcher match at One Night Stand.

This situation came about after Michaels sent Batista’s mentor Ric Flair into retirement at Wrestlemania, and after the Heartbreak Kid feigned injury on his way to beating him at Backlash the Animal had a few reasons to take out his frustrations.

The match itself is one of the best I’ve ever seen from Batista. The storytelling was perfect throughout as each man went all out to put the other away. Even Chris Jericho’s cameo appearances, when he came out to encourage Michaels to get back into the fight when he was down made perfect sense.

But despite this encouragement and a top notch performance from HBK it wasn’t enough to get the job done, and having delivered a ton of punishment the Animal put the exclamation point on things when he took the ring steps, put them right in the middle of the aisle, and dumped Michaels on them with a spinebuster. He then put him on the stretcher and pushed him over the line to claim the win.

20th July, 2008
Our man goes for the gold once more as he challenges C.M. Punk for the World title at The Great American Bash.

Oh Mr. Brooks, how we miss you! This was a very good match, and despite their two distinct styles they gelled incredibly well. Punk looked at his absolute best as he used speed a guile to take the big man down, while Batista did what he did best, and that’s basically take his man down with his impressive array of power moves.

At one point it looked as if either man could take the win, but when the Animal took Punk down with a spinebuster on the floor it looked all over bar the shouting. That was until Kane spoiled the party and attacked Batista before taking Punk out with chokeslam. He then began talking to himself before kicking a cameraman in the face before he left the arena.

It was then announced that the referee had ruled this a double disqualification, which didn’t sit too well with the Animal when he took Punk down with a Batista bomb to end his night’s work.

26th October, 2008
With the WWE fans choosing Steve Austin as the special referee our man gets another shot at the gold as he challenges Chris Jericho for the World title at Cyber Sunday.

Now this one had a lot going on, and it almost ended before it got started when Jericho, who looked extremely low on confidence, tried to leave. But when Austin told him that he could lose his title via count out or disqualification he quickly returned to the ring.

What followed was highly entertaining. Jericho caught a break when Batista’s leg got tied up in the ropes, and although the Animal made momentary comebacks Y2J always seemed one step ahead of him as he worked over the big man’s bad wheel.

But when Jericho ducked out of the way of an oncoming Batista and the Animal barged into Austin it signalled the start of the all hell breaking loose segment as the referees Austin beat in the vote made an appearance. First came Shawn Michaels, who apparently couldn’t complete a count on Jericho’s pin because of an arm injury before he was sent packing.

Then came Randy Orton, who gave Jericho a lot of lee-way when he clobbered Batista with the title belt. But a shot on Austin cost him dearly when the Viper fell to a stone cold stunner.

Jericho himself almost fell to a stunner, but after he pushed Austin away it left him wide open as Batista took him down with a spinebuster and followed up with a powerbomb for the title-winning pin.

Disc Three
27th October, 2008
One day later our man teams with Shawn Michaels against Chris Jericho and John Bradshaw Layfield on Raw.

Well, that was the idea. As Jericho made his entrance JBL attacked Michaels backstage, eliminating him from the action and turning this into a handicap match, much to the delight of Y2J.

Needless to say that the dastardly duo controlled the majority of the match. Batista had his moments, but they were few and far between, but one of those moments came when he avoided JBL’s clothesline from hell attempt and took the rich man down with a spear.

It was then that a limping Michaels made his way down to the ring, and even though the referee didn’t see him tag into the match his entrance caused the opposition enough confusion so Batista could take JBL down with his powerbomb for the winning pin.

24th April, 2009
Our man takes a trip to merry old England as he teams with Shane McMahon to take on the Legacy team of Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibiase on Smackdown.

It’s a short and sweet television encounter here. Big Dave and Shane O’Mac looked pretty decent as a unit early on, even breaking out Demolition’s old finisher at one point, but it wasn’t long before the Legacy boys began to use McMahon for target practice.

The hot tag to Batista almost came, but when McMahon accidentally knocked his partner off the apron it looked as if the good guys were going to argue until Batista pushed McMahon out of the way and took Rhodes down with a spinebuster as he came off the top rope, and as McMahon was still the legal man he covered Rhodes for the winning pin.

7th June, 2009
Our man goes for the gold once more when he challenges Randy Orton for the WWE title in a steel cage match at Extreme Rules.

I was a little surprised that this match was so short. It began with Orton trying to take the coward’s way out by trying to escape the cage as soon as the bell sounded, but within seconds the Animal had taken control and began to use the champion as his own personal crash test dummy.

But as the match progressed Orton’s courage began to grow, and even though he still tried to get out of the cage whenever he could the evil streak was soon back for all to see when he tried to put Batista into the middle of next week.

Even contemplating that move proved to be the champion’s downfall. Batista swept his leg out of the way, and even though Orton resisted for as long as he could Batista soon took him down with his powerbomb for the title-winning three count.

9th October, 2009
Back on Smackdown our man goes up against an old foe in the form of C.M. Punk.

Punk came into this one looking rather the worse for wear, having taken on the Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match just a few days before. He didn’t do too badly here though, negating Batista’s initial onslaught and taking him down to the mat to eliminate his power advantage.

The Animal managed to brush off the cobwebs a few minutes later, but when the action spilled out to ringside and he tried to take Punk down with a powerbomb the straight edged one held on to the top rope, just getting back into the ring before the referee finished his ten count to give Punk the win.

Batista wasn’t too happy with the manner of his defeat though, and as Punk celebrated in the ring big Dave came back in and finally took him down with his powerbomb.

22nd November, 2009
Our man has returned to the dark side as he takes on his former friend Rey Mysterio at Survivor Series.

This was your classic speed versus power scenario, all brought about following a misunderstanding during a fatal four way World title match the previous month where the masked man broke up a pin that Batista claimed cost him the title. Mysterio looked great when he used his quickness to take the big man down, especially when he targeted him with a series of 619-like blows to the body.

But when the inevitable happened and Batista got his hands on the masked man it was the beginning of the end. The Animal took his man down with three vicious powerbombs, and after the third one left Mysterio completely prostrate the referee called for the bell and gave Batista the win.

That wasn’t the end of Batista’s work though. As Mysterio was being checked over by the trainers and medics Batista grabbed a chair and got back into the ring, putting an exclamation point on proceedings with a spinebuster onto the chair.

11th December, 2009
Our man faces Mysterio once again, this time in a street fight on Smackdown.

This proved to be just as entertaining and as brutal as their previous encounter. The masked man did a great job of taking the Animal down early on, but when Batista introduced him to the ring steps the tide turned completely.

Once again it was sheer power that took Mysterio down time and time again. Mysterio had his moments, but they were few and far between, and even a couple of chair shots couldn’t stop the big man from coming back. A spear halted Mysterio in his tracks, and a chair shot to the skull took him out as Batista took the winning pin.

Batista wanted more though, but when he put the chair around Mysterio’s neck his plans were thwarted by his rival and World Champion the Undertaker. A brief skirmish followed until Batista headed for the hills.

26th April, 2010
Back on Raw, our man faces Sheamus and Randy Orton for a short at the WWE title.

Originally this was meant to be a singles match between Sheamus and Orton, but before the action began Batista came down to the ring and complained about his loss to WWE Champion John Cena at Extreme Rules, and that he should be automatically be the number one contender. Orton and Sheamus then arrived on the scene to join in the argument until Cena himself appeared on the stage and suggested a triple threat match between the three of them. How Cena came about these match-making powers I have no idea.

So with the match made what we got wasn’t really your usual kind of triple threat match. No alliances were formed throughout the contest, and there wasn’t really any three-way action until the final few minutes. Up until then there were two guys in the ring while the other recovered at ringside having been rammed into a ring post or the steps or something.

The aforementioned final few minutes were somewhat frantic, and it looked like Orton was going to get the win after he took Sheamus down with an RKO. However, an intruding Edge had other ideas as he stormed the ring and took his rival down with a spear, and as he left the scene of the crime a groggy Batista draped his arm over the fallen Orton to take the three count.

23rd May, 2010
Having earned another shot at the gold our man challenges John Cena for the WWE title in an I quit match at Over the Limit.

PG-era I quit matches really are a lot different to those from just a few years before. Don’t get me wrong, this one had it’s fair share of brutality, but just not as much as I saw from the likes of Mankind and the Rock back in the day.

It was still quite entertaining though. The match began with Batista offering Cena the easy way out, with the champion responding with a good old fashioned microphone shot to the skull. From there they brawled around for a bit and exchanged submission holds before Batista powerslammed his man through the Spanish guy’s table.

Their fight soon saw them making their way through the crowd, where Cena managed to push Batista off a balcony, where there were several handily-placed security guards to break his fall. Their brawling then took them to the stage, and after clobbering Cena with a chair Batista tried to seal the deal by backing a car into him.

Needless to say that Cena managed to escape from that perilous situation, and after taking Batista down with an attitude adjuster onto the car’s bonnet he threatened to take him down with the same move on the car’s roof. Batista was having none of it though and said the magic words to end the match.

But despite hearing those words Cena decided to put an exclamation point onto the proceedings by going ahead with the AA anyway, sending Batista flying from the roof of the car and through the stage floor.

26th January, 2014
Our man makes his return to WWE in the Royal Rumble match.

Now this must be one of the most memorable and most controversial Rumble matches ever. Not because it was C.M. Punk’s final WWE appearance, not because of Roman Reigns breaking the record for eliminations, and certainly not because of who won. But more on that later.

Batista entered the match at number 28 and eliminated Erick Rowan, Ryback and Alberto Del Rio in quick succession. He looked pretty good in there, especially when you consider he’d been out of the ring for over three years, but as the match went on, and after Big E Langston entered at number 29 things started to go sour as far as his triumphant return goes.

That’s because when Rey Mysterio was the last man to enter the match he was greeted with a chorus of boos, simply because he wasn’t Daniel Bryan. Bryan-mania was really running wild back then, and it didn’t matter who was in the ring because at that moment everyone in the crowd turned against the match.

That was until Reigns eliminated Sheamus to leave himself alone in the ring with the returning Animal, and despite the fact that he’d been promoted as the babyface hero when he returned the fans took against him immediately as they willed Reigns on. The two powerhouses went at it, taking each other down with their respective spears, but when Batista eliminated Reigns to win the match and book his spot in the Wrestlemania main event he was greeted with a chorus of “No! No! No!” before being soundly booed.

23rd February, 2014
It’s the final match of the collection, and with his main event match at Wrestlemania secured our man warms up for his title shot by taking on Alberto Del Rio at Elimination Chamber.

At one point it looked like this match wasn’t going to happen. With Batista having put Del Rio through the announcer’s table a couple of weeks before on Raw the Mexican came out wearing a neck brace and walking with a crutch, claiming he couldn’t compete. It turned out to be a massive ruse when he clobbered the Animal with the crutch, and although he was given the option to miss the match Batista decided to compete.

Now this was when it got really interesting. Even though he was meant to be the hated heel Del Rio became the default babyface, simply because he wasn’t Batista. The crowd cheered everything he did, and when they weren’t cheering him they cheered for Daniel Bryan, C.M. Punk, Rob Van Dam, Chris Jericho, and Brock Lesnar. They would have probably have cheered for Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden if they’d risen from the dead and made an appearance, simply because they weren’t Dave Batista.

As for the match it was a pretty short encounter with Del Rio dominating it for the most part as he focused his attack on the big man’s arm. The crowd were willing him on to victory until Batista countered his cross armbreaker attempt and took him down with his powerbomb for the winning pin, and as he recovered after the match Batista told the booing crowd to “deal with it.”

In conclusion – several hours and several thousand words later and we’ve finally reached the end of this collection. So what is my overall view of WWE’s tribute to the Animal.

Well, I thought it was quite enjoyable. It was nice to see how his career developed through the years, from his early days as a sea monster through his religious phase, to his time as one of the top dogs in the company, right up to his triumphant return as the all-conquering hero. Wait a minute. Perhaps that should have read right up to his return as the hated villain or something.

Anyway, it’s a nice way to look back at the career of the Animal. The matches vary in quality of course, but you do get to see just what Batista was all about during his wrestling career, even though it left a sour taste in the mouths of many when he came back.

So with all of that being said there’s just one more thing to do here, and that’s to give this release the thumbs up.

With thanks to Fremantle Media and Fetch Publicity for supplying a copy of this release. Batista: The Animal Unleashed is available to buy online at www.wwedvd.co.uk.