Three Kings. Part 2.
The New Face of The Regime.
'America is culturally retrograde. It gorges itself on fatty fast food, wallows in tawdry mass entertainment, starves the arts and prays to one God, which is Mammon. Instead of subsidizing the good and high-minded, as do the Europeans, the United States ruthlessly sacrifices the best of culture to pap and pop. Its great universities (for the rich and well-connected only) conceal vast illiteracy and ignorance of the world. In matters sexual, America is both prurient and prudish, a far cry from the wiser ways of Europe.' Josef Joffe, The National Interest, summer 2001.
(listening to: 'Fresh Tendrils' from Soundgardens' 'SuperUnknown' record. Slamming.)
It has been reported by survivors of White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) attacks that-just before the initial strike- an unnatural and eery calm takes place...with the whole ocean seemingly emptying of life. But then, a faintly approaching rumble-not unlike that of a locomotive, a subway train, building to a physical sledgehammer of sound, directly preceeds the attack.
This event has its human counterpart. He has the most spectacular physique in all of the WWE. He is one of the most spectacular physical specimens in company history. His cult following is growing on a weekly basis, morphing into something of a much more all-consuming level...indeed the cult is turning into the majority, into the body public, and it threatens to become legion.
He is BATISTA, and he is coming...thundering as if from the very depths of the ocean*...as formidable as some great and grand weapon of war, casting his ominous shadow from horizon to horizon...and roaring in triumph.
(*I hope you caught the Leviathan reference.)
...that told a story, huh? Even so, with his inexorable ascent to the top of the Raw card, his seeming ready absorption of the lessons he has learned in his short time in the WWE could very well make him the top dawg in the company sometime around, oh...say, WM21? Unlike the last guy to hold that mantle (Randy Orton), Bat seems ready for the ascent and-perhaps even more importantly-is being handled extremely well so far. His current program with Trips/Flair is excellent. But again, I re-state that Bat merely seems ready.
At first glance, his work in the ring has gotten better. He seems to have a little more command than the guy I first saw not so terribly long ago in that 'Deacon Batista' gimmick. He seems to be much more polished, much more ready for a stay at the top of the card than the guy I saw back in January 2003. And-even more frightening-Batista is in BETTER SHAPE NOW THAN AT ANY OTHER POINT IN HIS WWE CAREER. Much like The Ultimate Warrior and Goldberg before him, Bat seems ready to turn the wrestling world into his own personal, private playpen...as far as the bookers are concerned. I can see where the above comments might be misconstrued as compliments. Believe this: they are most definitely not. Bat is well below the Hogan level in the ring. Don't believe me?
Believe this: Hogans' psychology was top-notch, at the elite level. And despite his size, Hogan sold like his life depended on it...which, in a cyclical way, was very much the case. Selling helps make your opponent look legitimate and gives you more viable people to make money with. This also makes the Hulkster ridiculously UNDERRATED in the ring as far as his work is concerned. Batistas' spinebuster/Batista bomb cavalcade will most definitely wear thin when it begins to dawn on the majority that that is ALL he can do. There's no psychology..! And there is most certainly NO SELLING OF ANY KIND ON HIS PART. And I don't want to hear about how big men should not be selling much at all. I just reminded you all about Hogan and damn...selling was not one of Brock Lesnars' weaker points, now was it? And-contrary to Vincenzo's mind-numbingly sycophantic loyalty to big men-big men, with the exception of Hulk Hogan, have been flash in the pans, at best. Here today...gone tomorrow. The pop don't last forever. Forget about forever. The pop usually dies out after a handful of months. Remember Lex Luger, Sid Vicious, Goldberg aaaaaaand The Warrior, for that matter.
And, of course, saying that Bat 2005 owns Bat 2003 isn't saying much. He bounces around more when he comes to the ring. He's more animated. He's finally figured out the spinebuster. And that's about it. He is the exact same fellow from this same time around 2004 that he is right now. The improvement has been solely cosmetic. And now he's gonna main-event a WrestleMania. Oh boy.
But...IS HE...FIT FOR OFFICE?
Firstly, this guy has an amazing look (I am embarrassed for myself every time I look at this guy)...and it just makes you want to book him straight to the top. Everything visual about this cat owns.
I can't talk about his choice for intro-music nearly enough, but I'll make it short: Bats' theme RULES. Juliya C. (the 7th hottest woman in entertainment) should be paid by Raw to come out every week and tell the truth: The Bats' theme kicks ass. KICKS ASS. This is how an intro theme is supposed to rock, just how God originally intended.
The physical/visual package, therefore, IMO, is without discernible flaw. But the contents within the package?
Let me tell you something about the bandwagon. Let me tell you what I know about the bandwagon.
There's a lot of people jumping on right now. And there's gonna be a lot of people jumping off. And a little sooner than you might think.
This guy, very quickly, became one of the 7 reasons I watched Raw (the others being Jericho, Christian, Molly, Trish, Shelton and La Resistance)...if no other reason than to see how this guy had gone from being a complete mud fence to being a 'demi-god' in terms of charisma-most of which is shown in backstage exchanges and most vividly in his entrance. Now this is not his strong suit, I simply state this to contrast his former very taciturn presence. Except on closer inspection, one might find a time when he wasn't so taciturn. When he was a regular freakin' chatterbox. I'm talkin' from about the time right after he pillmanized Goldberg, for about the next 2-4 months after. Oh, Bat was talkin' up a storm, you couldn't get Big Dave to shut up. And he wasn't good at it. Oh, he could look menacing enough, and stare a hole through you. But his promos were about as exciting as watching an apple brown. Now, from the start of the HHH program to right now (3/14/2005) Batista has not improved one iota on the microphone. Not one bit. Not that I can tell. Forget Rock/Austin/Foley/Vince/Jericho. This guy ain't BROCK LESNAR on the mic. Trish/Molly run circles around him speaking-wise. As a matter of fact, the WWE would have been better off keeping him as the silent assassin. It worked for Goldberg, until WCW started letting him cut promos.But the WWE seems set on not only turning him face, but letting him dominate the entire roster (Bat is even squashing Trips on the house show circuit, in an attempt to get him ready for the Granddaddy of them all). While he has been built up enough to the point that the WWE could now do this pretty much whenever they want and get it over-theoretically-the real question here is this: Can Bat cut babyface promos week after week, and still draw one of the top 3-5 pops of the night as he is doing now? I don't think he can. The only drawback here is that the babyface persona-especially one being booked to the top of the company-should be particularly strong in this area...unless you are Chris Benoit, who is so dominant-even at this point of his career-in other areas that charisma/mic skills can afford to be overlooked.* In other words, the heel role really serves to mask weaknesses, particularly in 'green' wrestlers like Batista...and the role of heel really masks weaknesses big-time in this area. The babyface role generally seperates the 'good stuff from the junk' so to speak. But, we'll see.
(*Takes into consideration that Benoit has been cutting vastly improved promos the last half of 2004, in particular, some really strong promos following the post-Survivor Series 'Faces Run Raw' angle, and the WM21 Goes Hollywood promo he was in-the one that spoofed Basic Instinct. Was really blown away by his command on the mic and his comedic presence in the WM21 spoof promo. Benoit >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Batista on the mic.)
So, once again, we've learned that all we've really seen are backstage vignettes featuring one of the greatest speakers of all time (Ric Flair) and a strong speaker in his own right (HHH). Is he being carried in these segments, or is he just that good on the mic? In fairness, it's got to be some of both. But in even further fairness, I'd say its got to be mostly Flair/Trips. Bat has gone from being the quiet man in Evolution to a virtual chatterbox overnight, so some carrying is going on there to some degree. This guy seems to have a natural on-screen presence, a charisma, that speaks volumes...but its that illusory, manufactured 'charisma' possessed by flash in the pans like Nick Cage and Vin Diesel. This guy is no Jake Roberts in this capacity...this guy is no PAUL ROMA in this area.
Now, this could be the face of Raw for years to come (*notes that Bat is 36 years old). Once again, see above. We'll have to wait and see to see if this guy can hold an entire arena cutting a babyface promo. And that's the rub. We'll have to see the real push to see if this cat really has the 'goods,' so to speak. Can he do it on his own, or is a masterful carry job being done by Trips and Flair? Bear in mind, again, that Bat really is doing nothing more than playing off these two.
This is easily Big Daves' weakest area, and in this era of 'sports-entertainment' and the cloying readiness of many casual fans to accept big men-irregardless of their failings and foibles-it is also the easiest to overlook. At least until you have to start booking these people into the main events of Wrestlemanias'...and then you may find that things become cloudy.
As ready for the main-event as Bat seemingly is in every other area, this is the one that could not only make or break him, but could also make or break Raw as we know it. He has simply got to be able to work more than the standard squash that he has been doing if he's gonna inherit the role of top (?) babyface in the company. Let's face it, the last time the WWE had a face in that role-the role of the physically overpowering badass-it was 2002 and the man was HHH...and the company has still not recovered from that. Faces that squash are no fun to watch long-term.
Bat is overly reliant on rest holds when he is put in a position when he has to work a match longer than 2 minutes. Could it be that the Big Man is still more than a little 'green' in this area? Does he repeatedly footchoke his opponents because he really doesn't have the wherewithall to do much else than that at this point in his career? Is this the real reason he was the final entrant in the Elimination Chamber and The Rumble...because the WWE is playing up to his strengths (short matches, lots of heavy power moves) because he blows up rapidly, because he doesn't have the cardio, because he can't go the distance like say a HHH, Benoit, Jericho or Shawn Michaels? Or even a Randy Orton, for that matter?
Yes...this is the one area where Orton clearly overshadows Batista. Orton, while overrated in the ring, is still capable of being carried to respectable showings by Raws' elite. Batista has yet to show any sign of this, which makes the implications regarding his push somewhat 'chilling' to say the least. Especially in matches (1/17/2005) where it seems that Viscera, of all people, is calling the match. Especially when he can put on a poor match with Chris Benoit. And Chris Jericho. AND Shawn Michaels. And (not surprisingly) a true yawn-fest with Ric Flair. However, Bat has his 'Three Moves of Doom' (Sit-Down Powerbomb, Spinebuster and Clothesline from Hell) that put me in mark mode. As a face, he could go the route of The Rock or Austin and simply have a small number of spots-say 4 or 5-in addition to his 3 big moves and get along fine, theoretically, in 2005. So, Bat is fairly graded as a below-average big man wrestling-wise (he is no Test or A-Train. If he WERE in this area, I'd have no complaint) with average charisma and speaking skills, an upper-echelon physique, and the benefit of being the recipient of the most carefully and well-booked program since Austin joined up with Vince at WM17. Will any of this, though, in the long run translate into something approaching the definition of 'perennial main-eventer?' Does he have the wrestling skill to convey this? Just something to think about.
Bat shows the potential of being a somewhat upper-echelon guy in this capacity, perhaps in a HHH/'Taker capacity in time. Again, this guy in January of 2003 looked like another muscled-up mud fence with no ability to portray anything other than the in-ring squash monster, and in 2005, he looks like a muscled-up squash-monster with some acting ability...albeit of a very general kind. I don't doubt that anybody else on Raw (or SD, for that matter) could do what Bat does in this area. Let's be frank, here. Everyone in the company has 'potential' in this area. Guys like Scott 'Flash' Norton-who I liked better than Bat-had taught me to steer clear of this; cancerous elements like Goldberg hammered that image of the all-squash, no-charisma big man home. Big Dave lives up to these stereotypes.