With WrestleMania a mere two months away, several big stars have emerged in the WWE, ostensibly to punch their ticket for a match at the Show of Shows. For some, like Brock Lesnar and The Rock, their returns were obvious due to the unfinished business that still lingered over their heads from SummerSlam and Raw 1000. For others, like Chris Jericho and Goldust, their returns were kept so clandestine that hardly anyone could have guessed that they would be returning at the Royal Rumble. Jericho's return in particular was masterfully done, since Jericho stated on his Twitter that he had begun planning his return in November. It was kept so hush-hush that, though there was speculation and wishful thinking, no one really thought Y2J would return for a short-term stint. Yet there he was at the Royal Rumble, ready to reprise his rivalry with the man who continued to boast that he was "Y2J's retirer," Dolph Ziggler. There was Goldust, who, upon entering the ring at the Rumble, made a beeline for his half-brother Cody, possibly hinting at a match between the two at 'Mania, a match that should have occurred two years ago. With all these surprise returns, there is always one name that is on the tip of the WWE Universe's collective tongue, one name that is hardly spoken. He is a six-time world champion, a man whose charisma and chiseled, massive physique caused fans to leap out of their seats the second his theme music hit. Given the nature of his departure, he is also a man who has plenty of unfinished business in the WWE. He is the Animal, Batista.
After he quit the company in 2010, Batista made it clear that the reason he had left the WWE was because he disliked the direction the product was moving in. Though he never said so outright, many fans took this to mean that Batista preferred the edgier, more controversial product, and not the PG era that the WWE was currently in. After participating in an "I Quit" match against John Cena the night before at the Over the Limit pay-per-view, Batista quit his job live on Raw just 24 hours later. Coming out to the ring in a wheelchair, sporting a black eye and his arm in a sling, it was a pathetic, pitiable last appearance, one certainly not befitting someone of Batista's caliber and popularity. Since then, Batista has dabbled in mixed martial arts, competing in his first match just last October. However, in the three years since his final WWE show, the product hasn't been as staunchly PG as it was when Batista was wrestling. The return of The Rock has encouraged edgier dialogue, and some of the backstage segments are no longer primarily geared toward children. Even the sight of blood due to hardway injuries is not as taboo as it once was. John Cena, The Miz, CM Punk and The Rock have all bled on Raw in the past year, and although the sight of blood was not superfluous, it wasn't treated as something so horrible that it required immediate censorship.
With the WWE focusing on bringing in past stars in an attempt to increase viewership and draw the former or casual fan, the time is ripe for Batista to return to the company. The Rock and Brock Lesnar are on abbreviated schedules, and both will probably be gone from the WWE before the end of April. Jericho, who will be honoring his Fozzy commitments even while wrestling full-time, has made it clear that this return is just temporary. With the return of Mark Henry and behemoths like Ryback now on the roster, should Batista return, there will be no shortage of men for him to feud with. With preliminary reports suggesting Lesnar will lose to Triple H at WrestleMania, should Lesnar want to return for SummerSlam, there will be no reason for him to fight Triple H again. Batista would be the ideal opponent for someone like Lesnar. Both men are physically imposing, and boast an MMA background, though Lesnar's is far more extensive. Batista has never faced Lesnar, and if the WWE's goal is to attract non-wrestling fans or UFC fans, promoting Lesnar vs. Batista, "First Time Ever," is sure to pique interest and generate PPV buys. Since Lesnar's schedule requires him to only work certain shows, this could work in Batista's favor, since it could be worked into the storyline that Batista was responsible for driving Lesnar out of the WWE.
Another reason Batista needs to return to the WWE is so that he may take his revenge on John Cena. After Cena won the Royal Rumble, many fans reasonably assumed that he will be leaving WrestleMania as the WWE champion. With The Rock departing after 'Mania to focus on promoting his movies, Cena will need a high-profile rivalry, and a match against a returning Batista would have the storyline already built in. Batista deserves to finish off his WWE career in a far more celebrated manner than back-to-back pay-per-view losses to Cena and a depressing, defeatist in-ring segment. Though he is in his mid-forties, there is no doubt that Batista's MMA training has kept him in good physical condition, and has likely increased his speed and ring awareness. This would certainly be beneficial against someone like Cena, and may be instrumental in helping Batista wrest the title away from Cena should they meet in a championship match.
It would also be interesting to see how Batista responds to his former Evolution teammates, particularly Triple H, who is now featured primarily in an executive capacity as opposed to an in-ring performer. Even Randy Orton, who has been in a rut as of late, may be threatened by Batista's arrival. Although whispers of Ric Flair returning permanently to the WWE have died down, his managerial services may be useful to Batista, and he may seek to recruit him. Should Batista return to a full-time schedule, there would be plenty of Superstars eager to fight him, or tie up any loose ends that may have remained from his previous WWE tenure.
Simply, the WWE needs Batista to abandon his MMA career and return to wrestling. Though he debuted a trimmer physique in October against Vince Lucero, Batista's performance was rather disappointing, and not as impressive or as dominating as many believed it would be. It may be too early to assume that Batista's calling is not in mixed martial arts, but it may be in his own best interests to come back to the WWE as well. After the bout, CM Punk stated in an interview that "Dave just wanted the experience. It's definitely a bucket-list kind of thing," which makes it seem that Batista was simply looking to explore his other interests, as opposed to making a career out of mixed martial arts.
Additionally, his wrestling fans want closure; they want to see him win more championships, and finish off his career in a way that is memorable for all the right reasons. If the WWE is focusing on bringing older stars back, they need to set their gaze on someone who will be around for a year or two, and won't vanish after WrestleMania. Batista is the ideal choice, and will entertain fans whether he is booked as a heel or a face. With numerous surprise returns only a month into the new year, it is anyone's guess as to whether 2013 will be the year that The Animal returns to the squared circle. If he does, it will likely be the most dynamic and anticipated return of the year, and fans will know to expect hard-hitting, intense matches. The WWE landscape isn't the same as it was in spring of 2010, and Batista will use this knowledge to his advantage. Although there haven't been any reports explicitly stating that Vince McMahon is actively pursuing Batista, one would have to assume that as soon as his CES contract is up, Vince will be back in contact with The Animal. After all, it's good for business, and it's something the WWE Universe has been waiting for three years to see.