Ladies and gentlemen, Batista has returned to WWE.
There was a lot of speculation regarding how "The Animal" would be received once his music hit and the former world heavyweight champion stormed the ring, just as there will be a fair amount of debate as to what kind of impact it had once he finally did.
For me, everything you need to know about the return of Batista was summed up quite nicely on Monday Night RAW.
WWE spent a few weeks hyping up his second go-round inside the squared circle, which came nearly four years after he jumped ship to pursue outside interests, including a mixed martial arts (MMA) bout that ended with an ugly technical knockout win over a bloated journeyman in an arena named after a doughnut.
Four years is not a long time.
Unless, of course, you're 41. And Batista may not have looked 41 when he left, but he certainly looked 45 upon his return. That makes him roughly nine years older than Brock Lesnar, another top superstar who set sail for the fight game, only to return with a title on his mind.
That's a bit revealing in and of itself. So too, was the pop he got when he hit the ring to mouth off to Randy Orton, who is currently embroiled in a battle of belts against John Cena. The crowd was genuinely glad to see him, as was I, and he got a hero's welcome.
Though to be fair, he didn't exactly blow the roof off the joint.
What's more telling, is that shortly after he made his triumphant return, Daniel Bryan came out to a thunderous ovation, where he promptly took the crowd by its leash and walked them through a series of chants. A bit ironic, too, considering how Batista bashed the bearded brawler a few years back.
By my count it's D-Bry 1, Animal 0.
In addition, we had a glimpse of what else this era -- another sore spot for Big Bats -- is capable of when Roman Reigns hit a ridiculously epic Superman punch against Cody Rhodes in their six-man tag team match. I'm sure at first glance, it was like looking into the past, when Batista was on the cusp of an Evolution.
Or, it may have been like staring into the Mirror of Erised.
Batista is not the same wrestler he was back in 2004 and that's okay, We don't need him to be. But at the same time, he shouldn't be booked that way, either. There is a place for him in today's pro wrestling landscape with the kind of built-in feuds that would play out nicely on RAW.
There was nothing in the reaction to his return -- both live and after the fact -- that would support that decision. Particularly when guys like Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns, among others, are the "now" talent. I'm not opposed to a main event program against a top guy like John Cena or Randy Orton, especially when it keeps them from
burying beating a rising star.
But he doesn't need the Rumble for that.
Nor do the fans. Batista has always had a great physical presence and serviceable mic skills, but the more we see of "The Animal," the more apparent it will become that he's not on par with today's talent. Not at 45. Maybe not ever, but how Creative books you can go a long way in how you're received.
In this case, based on what I saw on Monday Night RAW, less is definitely more.