As much as we ever know anything about the subterfuge and misdirection that goes on behind-the-scenes at WWE, there are a number of things that so-called 'smart' fans and the wrestling 'press' think that we know about Batista's return this year.
It's a two-year deal, regardless of whether or not The Animal can work all 730 days of the contract.
And the deal included a promise of a Rumble win, a victorious championship moment at WrestleMania 30 and a run with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship belts that will take him through his promotion tour for Guardians of the Galaxy this summer.
Even before Big Dave's return landed with a thud last month, some strands in the old duder's head got tangled thinking about those two rumors. And now that Creative seems to be actively hiding their big Mania season return (when was the last time a Rumble winner and the champ have been kept so separate with less than two months until the biggest show of the year? I think Randy Orton mentioned him once last night, and Batista has been relegated to run-ins to save one mid-carder from another), I'm really wondering what he was promised and what WWE can do given what we think we know and what we've seen on screen.
Why would the company include booking decisions in a legal contract?
I could see making those kinds of guarantees to someone like The Rock or Stone Cold Steve Austin, but does anyone in management see Dave Bautista as being the wrestling draw or mainstream marketing presence that those two all-time greats are?
Obviously, based on how he was used right out of the gate, they thought he was going to get a better reception than he has. But, anyone expecting a pop similar to what Rocky got upon his return in 2011 was delusional.
Did being a friend of Aitch earn Batista favored status in negotiations? I'll bag on Hunter's favoritism left-and-right, but I can't see him bending over this far and tying up the company he and Steph are set to inherit. A cushy payday for a surprise return and a short program before the movie promotion starts? Sure, I could see Triple H greasing the wheels on that for an old friend. But tying up the creative direction of WrestleMania 30? No matter what CM Punk says, I don't think he's that big of a doofus.
Did Batista make a 2014 title run a condition of his signing? Maybe he asked, but again, why would anyone on WWE's side agree to that? Plus, this is a culture where belts are viewed as props - important props, yes, but if a woman can be ridiculed for celebrating a title win by getting the date she won her belt tattooed on her neck, what would the boys say about a veteran who made in a condition of returning to the industry?
Even if it is in his contract, why would WWE stick to it if it might mean diminishing WrestleMania 30?
Plans change. If the company sticks to a one-on-one match between Randy Orton and Batista for the title, that contest is probably going to be buried in the middle of the card between cheer-inducing moments involving Hulk Hogan. Meaning, at best, it will be a big waste of creative energy and money.
So what if they insert Daniel Bryan in the match as has been rumored? Suddenly, you have a main event caliber match and an opportunity for the "70,000 fans chanting YES" with which Vince McMahon is reportedly enamored.
What is Batista going to do: sue? I seriously doubt that he will risk damaging his relationship with the company that owns the rights to all the footage from the time in his life when he was the most famous. Whatever this current contract is worth, or his anticipated returns from being a supporting player in a Marvel movie, his greatest asset for future earning is as a WWE Legend. Even in the likely event that their relationship would eventually be re-established, he'd be handing all of the negotiating power over to Stamford - and it's unlikely The Game would intervene on his behalf after exiting under cover of litigation.
Similarly, walking out a few months into a two year deal would be urinating in the company pool - a pool that the forty-seven year old will probably want to dip into before too much longer.
With so much riding on the initial launch of WWE Network and making the 30th WrestleMania a success, why wouldn't Vince or Triple H pull Dave aside and discuss what's best for business?
And right now, forcing Batista as a main eventer and champion onto uninterested fans is playing with fire.
What do you think, Cagesiders? Did WWE contractually commit to giving The Animal the title? And whether they did or not, will they or should they stick to that plan?