It’s not very often you can say “I see what you did there” while watching the WWE. For the past couple of weeks, they have been building towards a special appearance by Rick Flair. The legendary wrestler recently hit 70. It seemed a little odd shoehorning in this segment, but I thought, as I’m sure most people did, they were just bringing him in for a cheap rating spike.
The happy birthday Rick thing turned a darker shade when Flair’s music hit and he was nowhere to be seen. Stephanie, Triple H and HBK all stood in the ring looking dumbfounded. The camera cut backstage to Dave Batista, who looks in incredible shape, even by his standards. He dragged a cameraman to the outside of Rick Flair’s changing room and dragged out Flair’s motionless body. Poor naitch.
The Animal then turned to the camera and asked: “have I got your attention hunter?” Which of course he had as The Game rushed from the ring, but by the time he arrived backstage, Batista had disappeared.
This ties in nicely with the recent storyline involving Becky Lynch. Following a skit where HHH and Steph forced the Royal Rumble winner to apologise for her recent actions, which she grudgingly, and unconvincingly did, she was let off Scot-free. The shock was evident on her face and it seemed odd, but a cool change of pace for the former authority duo.
While it did seem strange it isn’t as out of character lately. Triple H has been adopting an almost fatherly role with the NXT guys. He’s also been given Seth Rollins props and generally being warmer towards babyfaces. Authority figures when not heavily involved in stories have always tended to fill in whichever role is required for one-off segments, heel or face. Vince does this with aplomb. He strolls down to the ring with his trademark walk (which Conor McGregor blatantly stole.) and delivers news to his adulating fans, or comes with a cutting put down and delivers his news in heel mode. He flits seamlessly between face and heel with the flick of a switch. So nobody really seemed to notice that Hunter has been slowly becoming a face.
Clever, very clever
This is actually a masterstroke. Fans know that Triple H has been instrumental in the changes at the WWE. This is not a company that maintains the status quo in the way it used to. New stars do make it on to the main roster and are given a chance to shine. Sure at the top end, you still have occasional champ Brock Lesnar dominating, but you get the impression that is more Vince’s influence. Due to this, his history and the fact he’s pretty well respected, he is a natural face.
Batista should, in theory, be a face too. His work as Drax means he is a legitimate movie star and a bit of a household name. From a cross-over perspective, it makes a lot of sense to have him on the card at Wrestlemania. But they have learned from his last run when they tried to book him as a face. The crowd took a big steaming one on him. In the end, the fans forced a heel turn.
This time the WWE is taking no chances. Batista is back as an old man-abusing, brute and hopefully, he and Triple H will beat the holy hell out of each other at Wrestlemania. It will be interesting to see if Randy Orion joins in with the story in some way, it’s not like he’s doing much over on Smackdown at the moment as Kofi and Daniel Bryan lead the main event at the moment.