The opinions expressed in this column are those of the authors and do not reflect the opinions of WrestlingInc or its staff
After nearly a 4 year absence, Batista will make his return to WWE in a few weeks. Batista is just the latest former World Champion to come back to WWE after a long absence. First it was The Rock, and then it was Brock Lesnar, then Rob Van Dam, and now Batista. WWE getting back a guy that was as popular as Batista should be a good thing, but there is a possibility that Dave Batista coming back to WWE is a negative more than a positive.
First, I think it should be made clear that I have nothing in particular against Batista. When he wrestled full-time, he was a big man that moved pretty well, at great explosive power, good charisma and was decent on the microphone. The problem with Batista coming back actually has nothing really to do with Batista the performer at all. The problem is that WWE just continues to over-rely on past-talent to come back and work part-time, instead of focusing on full-time talent and trying to create new stars.
Wrestlemania is obviously the biggest day on WWE's calendar. If there is a single place that can make a star, it is on "The Grandest Stage of them all." Because Wrestlemania is so huge, any wrestler who is employed by WWE wants to make sure that they somehow get on the card. WWE has a buffet of part-time wrestlers that range from borderline main-eventers, to iconic legends. All of those part-time wrestlers are going to want to get in on the action, and since they are all considered top draws, they are going to get in, and in a big way.
Batista, Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker are almost guaranteed to get matches in Wrestlemania, since Batista and Lesnar made/are making returns right when the "Road to Wrestlemania" is beginning to unfold. The Undertaker of course, is arguably as big of a draw at Wrestlemania as the WWE World Heavyweight Undisputed Unified Champion of the World or whatever they are calling the main title these days.
In addition to those threes, it is likely that both Rob Van Dam and Chris Jericho will be returning soon, possibly as surprise Royal Rumble returns. Triple H will likely also get himself involved in Wrestlemania, rumored to be a match against CM Punk. So now we have a grand total of six guys who work WWE part-time (Triple H only wrestles part-time) who are all likely going to be on the card for Wrestlemania.
Wrestlemania only has had 8 matches on the card the last few years, so six spots on the card being taken up is a pretty significant total. In addition, because the guys like The Undertaker, Triple H and Brock Lesnar are so important, their matches are likely going to be amongst the biggest on the card, and are not going to be your opening match or standard card filler.
Because there are suddenly so many of these guys, and because they are mostly all going to be in big spots for Wrestlemania, it really does damage to all the other talent. A few established guys, like Randy Orton, John Cena and CM Punk will most likely get to work with the part-timers and therefore are safe, but for the rest of the roster, they are in for a future of rapidly booked feuds and pre-show matches.
As stated above, Wrestlemania is a perfect place to make new stars. In fact, there was a time when Wrestlemania was all-about making new stars. Wrestlemania was were Randy Savage won his first WWF Championship, ditto for The Ultimate Warrior, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, Chris Benoit, John Cena and Batista. Now, it seems like Wrestlemania is just a place for part-time wrestlers to get in their wrestling fix, and then leave for the rest of the year.
When Wrestlemania is filled with part-time wrestlers, and most of the other wrestlers are relegated to less-important matches, then WWE is setting themselves up to fail as a company. When all the part-timers are taking up all the important matches, then you get PPVs like Battleground. You get PPVs like Survivor Series, and PPVs like Hell in a Cell. When all those part-timers leave for their other interests and their hibernation, then you are left with a bunch of guys who nobody cares about trying to make up a PPV card.
See, WWE is stuck wondering why their ratings are down and why they don't have a ton of new stars, when in reality, they have nobody to blame but themselves. Instead of saying "Who can we elevate and make a main eventer out of?" they end up just looking around to see what past-main eventer that no longer works for them but isn't in a wheel-chair and bring them back. Will Batista vs Randy Orton for the world title draw more buys for Wrestlemania than Daniel Bryan vs Randy Orton for the world title? Perhaps. But that really shouldn't be the question WWE is asking themselves. The better question would be "What is the better matchup for our business down the road?" Batista can main-event Wrestlemania and win the world title, but come September/October when Batista is absent because he is filming another movie or he just wants a break, then WWE is suddenly out the guy who was the biggest star at Wrestlemania. If Daniel Bryan was in the main event, then they would be set because Bryan is a workhorse that only wants to be a professional wrestler.
One last thing I would like to say is that it is okay for these guys to be back, but only if they are used correctly. They can actually help WWE prepare for the future by working with younger guys. I really don't have a problem with Chris Jericho coming back because he actually wants to build-up other guys and he knows that he is capable of helping. RVD has also shown that he can do the same. But outside of those guys, the part-timers mostly work either amongst themselves, or with the same people. The Undertaker has faced Triple H twice in the last three years at Wrestlemania. Brock Lesnar has wrestled HHH more times than he has worked with anybody else since his return. Batista is probably going to work with HHH, Lesnar, Undertaker or Cena. Just like WCW, the established veterans seem to be wanting to work exclusively with each other while all the young guys with potential have to fend for themselves in the undercard.