WWE Batista – The Animal Unleashed (Cert 15)
3 Discs DVD/ 2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 40 minutes approx. (Documentary only)
Sometimes you have an idea that in theory should work but in practice ends up failing.
In January of this year Batista make his big return to the WWE after a four year absence. One of the top names from the post-attitude era Big Dave’s presence was hoped to help boost the WWE’s current fortunes while given Batista some extra clout in promoting his role in the upcoming Guardians Of The Galaxy, the latest live action adaptation of a Marvel comic book.
When Dave came out to his old music, wearing tight skinny jeans and doing his old shtick from before, the fans welcomed him back with a healthy but hardly overwhelming reaction. A week later Batista won the Royal Rumble and earned himself a WWE World title match in the main event of Wrestlemania 30. This was when the bottom truly fell out of Dave’s big return, less a triumph more a damp squib.
The Animal Unleashed is a short documentary (hence the inexplicably brief run time for a multi-disc collection) and a selection of Big Dave’s matches from his early days in OVW to his long (and best) forgotten run as Deacon Batista, taking in his Evolution run, his successful period as the World Champion on Smackdown and his last run on RAW before “quitting” in 2010.
Despite its disappointing brevity the documentary is quite interesting, following on from the format of other recent release to show us Dave’s comeback from the other side of the curtain. After a very quick history of his childhood (check out his long hair as a kid) we jump right into a look at his wrestling career, explaining the reasons why he left in 2010. Batista is very open that a part of the reason was because he didn’t approve of the PG direction the company was taking but we also learn that Dave’s had broken his back in a match against Cena and needed surgery, courtesy of Dr. Maroon – who is a real surgeon and not a TV character to further the current Daniel Bryan angle.
MMA fans will enjoy the look at Dave’s foray into this particular fighting arena as we are privy to some (albeit brief) footage of his MMA training under the Gracie school as well as comments from his teacher and other known MMA fighters. There is a moment when Dave graduates from his class and the tradition is for that person to walk the line while his peers all whip him with their belts across his chest and back, which Dave calmly takes, no selling every single one of them – twice!
Batista may only have had one MMA fight but had he incorporated some of this into his move set upon returning to WWE and spiced his persona up a bit, coming out as a real killer instead of the same guy from four years ago, the fans may not have turned on him so quickly – although him walking straight into a Wrestlemania main event when the fans were screaming out for Daniel Bryan didn’t help either!
Dave’s film career (for what it is worth) is briefly mentioned then it’s back to his WWE comeback. The footage is all shot on that rather fateful day of the Royal Rumble, and takes us on backstage tour of his first PPV in four years. We see him being greeted by many faces familiar to both us and Dave from his previous run as well as the new class of wrestlers. The big story however is the series of mishaps that threaten to blight his Rumble match appearance – from an ankle injury to ill-fighting trunks to a broken boot to losing his way to the Gorilla position (Spinal Tap lives folks!), which in hindsight appear eerily prophetic.
To their credit the WWE didn’t try to spin the negativity which greeted Batista’s comeback (Bootista anyone?) nor have they erased the soundtrack (as they have done in the past). Dave comments on this, saying he feels insulted that he didn’t earn his win when he believes he did. This is the only acknowledgement of the fan rejection presents since the footage concludes once the Rumble night is over.
The rest of this set is made up of a huge chunk of matches, most of which aren’t really major career highlights – such as his first World Title win at Wrestlemania 21 – which have been featured elsewhere. Of historical interest is the first match which is from OVW in 2001 where a green Dave known as Leviathan faces a green Brock Lesnar. A few years later this could have headlined Wrestlemania purely on star power but here we have five minuets of two big lugs falling over each other in front of 100 people.
Dave’s first WWE in-ring appearance in a tag match with Rev. Devon (another Wrestlecrap worthy gimmick) against a fresh faced Randy Orton and veteran Ron Simmons from Smackdown in 2002 is here as is his first RAW match against Justin Credible. From here on in everything is prime Batista and while he worked hard there is no denying that Dave’s limitations in the ring are badly exposed when watching his matches back to back.
One cannot help but have a wry smile on their face when viewing this latest WWE home video release, knowing it was supposed to be a celebration of Dave’s big return as well as a chance to deliver a showcase of his matches for newer fans or those who now watch their wrestling in HD, when it is pretty much the opposite. And with Batista being forced to turn heel just weeks after returning the fickle WWE fans will more than likely avoid this release as a result.
If you are still a Batista fan then this release is a treat; if not the main documentary will likely be the only thing of interest to you.
Disc 1 Only:
A Brotherly Bond
Monday Night RAW – 4th November 2002 – Batista vs. Justin Credible
Monday Night RAW – 25th November 2002 – Batista vs. Kane
Armageddon – 14th December 2003 – WWE Tag Title Match – The Dudley Boyz (c) vs Evolution (Batista & Ric Flair)
Monday Night RAW – 5th April 2005 – Batista vs. Randy Orton
Smackdown – 23rd September 2005 – Batista & Eddie Guerrero vs. MNM
No Mercy – 7th October 2007 – World Title Punjabi Prison Match – Batista (c) vs. The Great Khali
Elimination Chamber – 21st February 2010 – WWE Title Match – John Cena (c) Batista
Monday Night RAW – 1st March 2010 – “The Name & Face of WWE”
Monday Night RAW – 24th May 2010 – “I Quit!”
Smackdown – 28th February 2014 – “Deal With It”
Rating – ***
Man In Black