About three or four weeks ago former WWE star Dave Bautista, more commonly known as simply “Batista“, bragged to TMZ reporters that he had signed a lucrative deal with Strikeforce. I finally thought that Scott Coker had jumped off the deep end and was wondering when the promotion was going to start the hype for Herschel Walker vs. Jose Canseco on PPV.
I’m inclined to guess that Strikeofrce CEO Scott Coker made some serious considerations about bringing in Batista and giving into whatever demands that the massive former professional wrestler desired. He could probably ask for stock in the promotion, picking whoever he wanted to fight, receive a certain percentage of the gate, and whatever else he wanted. About a week ago, Coker spoke to Sherdog about the possibility of bringing Batista into the promotion:
“They have the desire to fight in MMA and we’re trying to put together a deal that makes sense. Is he signed right now? No. But is he somebody we’d like to see in the cage in the future fighting for Strikeforce? It’s a possibility.”
“Just like we did with Herschel (Walker), we’d have to put him into a gym. It doesn’t matter what gym, as long as it’s a reputable mixed martial arts academy. He has to go in there and train because if he didn’t, we’d probably have a short relationship.”
“[A fight against Bobby Lashley] That would just be a fun fight to watch”
“We’re not the guys that are putting all the circus fights on. But in all fairness, look at Brock Lesnar. He made the crossover. Why not Batista?”
“I think Kimbo’s had his run, so to speak. He’s kind of had his time in the MMA business whereas Batista hasn’t and Herschel hasn’t. We already know how Kimbo will do, so, to me, there’s a little curiosity factor (with Batista).”
Folks, there are a lot of issues about Batista that we must cover, so let’s begin, shall we?
Age: At the age of 41, Batista is entering into MMA and is eight years older than Bobby Lashley and nine years older than Brock Lesnar. While that isn’t a necessarily evil, it doesn’t help that both Lesnar and Lashley took significant time off to let their bodies heal. Lesnar periodically wrestled in Japan, but he had a two year period to re-heal his body and begin serious training. Lashley essentially did the same thing, but he spent nearly year training after rehabbing a serious shoulder injury.
Another aspect that should be noted is the amount of time that Batista was a wrestler. The man wrestled for nearly a decade ranging from his debut in 2000 for Ohio Valley Wrestling (the WWE’s then developmental territory) to the end of his run with the WWE. In 2000, Lesnar went from amateur wrestling at the University of Minnesota directly to training in professional wrestling and spent a total of four years in wrestling. In 2003, Lashley suffered an injury while training for the Olympics and a year later was in wrestling. Lashley did a four year tour of duty and left the business until he joined TNA.
Experience: Much has already been written about Batista’s experience….or lack thereof entering into MMA. His bodybuilding experience brings up the horrors of watching Mariusz Pudzianowski with minimal skills and turning different shades of red and purple after three minutes of fighting. At least Lesnar and Lashley had the wrestling background, and Lesnar nearly made it into the NFL. You have to teach Batista everything from the ground up: Striking, Grappling, Jiu-Jitsu, Conditioning Wrestling, and minuscule things like teaching him how to use the cage, and possibly the ring. By sending him to a gym, Strikeforce is expecting the trainers of said gym to specifically devote time to him and get him battle ready by a certain date.
Injuries: Bautista makes Kerry Wood look like Brett Favre when it comes to injuries. Adding in the common injuries that a wrestler will suffer (bruises, muscle pulls, etc) and the possibility of suffering numerous concussions, Batista has suffered six injuries from 2003-2009 with only 2004 and 2007 being injury-free years.
March 1, 2003: Torn right triceps at a WWE house show
Later in 2003: Re-torn triceps, delaying his return to the ring
November 11, 2005: Muscle torn in his back at a television taping
January 6, 2006: Torn right triceps at a Live WWE Event
August 17, 2008: Hamstring Tear, would have surgery later
June 2009: Torn Left Bicep
How can a guy whose right triceps has been torn on three different occasions going to survive a full three-to-five month training camp? With the battery of injuries that he has suffered over the years, sticking him in a gym and hoping for the best ala Herschel Walker? When Walker began at the University of Georgia, he was a freak of nature due to his mixture of size and speed. When counting down the greatest running backs in college football history, a reporter summed him up perfectly: The body of Earl Campbell, the speed of OJ Simpson, and the presence of Archie Griffin. Go and type Herschel Walker into You Tube and spend some time watching his highlight reels and you’ll see the comparisons. After his career was over, Walker still kept himself is shape by working out and the way he looked at the Strikeforce event is the way the he’s looked since he retired from football. Add in no heavy drug usage and a strict diet, you can see that Walker could do very well for himself working in a gym like the American Kickboxing Academy.
Bret Hart wrote in his book that most wrestlers need help going down after the adrenaline high from a match and something to get them going in the morning. Most wrestlers began to rely heavily on mixing uppers and downers with whatever drugs they would usually intake. Overindulgence of drugs has lead to most wrestlers from the eighties and nineties dying before the age of four due to drug overdoses thanks to the availability of uppers, downers, painkillers, alcohol, amphetamines, and cocaine. Painkiller usage is especially high in the industry, with a common practice of wrestlers finding “mark doctors” to prescribe them copious amounts of painkillers and whatever else they wanted.
The WWE’s drug testing program that was suspended from 1997-2005 when Vince McMahon cited that it was too much of a financial burden for the promotion. A new “Wellness Program” was introduced after Eddie Guerrero’s death in 2005 and much has been written about how shallow the WWE’s Wellness Policy truly is. Anecdotes range from top stars reportedly not testing, top stars, rumors on non-wrestlers being asked to provide urine (A practice that ended when the company hired somebody to watch them urinate, and a practice that was made famous in the eighties) to the promotion suspending whom they wanted to suspended if they tested positive. The drug testing reportedly isn’t random, giving time for wrestlers to get a hold of masking agents or in extreme cases, siphoning in new urine.
If Alistair Overeem was nearly crucified before his American debut, how much flak will Batista get before his debut?
It’s obvious that Strikeforce wants their version of Lesnar. A futile yet admirable a want. By hoping that their pro wrestling careers will sell tickets and draw in great ratings on CBS and Showtime. While this sounds fine, you have to remember one fine, tiny detail: Lashley and Batista were replaceable in the WWE, Lesnar was not. A year after Lesnar left the WWE, fans wanted to see Lesnar return to the promotion. They were willing to pay 39.95 on PPV to watch him, or pay to see him at the arena; Lesnar was truly a true ticket-seller for the promotion. That’s why the promotion signed Lashley up, hoping to replicate the success with the blue-print they had built with Lesnar. But Lashley lacked the presence, charisma, and connection with the fans that made Lesnar so popular.
The problem is that both Lashley and Batista are interchangeable, as the promotion could replace them with somebody already on the roster or somebody from one of their developmental territories in three months. When Lashley left the promotion (While he was injured) he was practically forgotten by summer time. Everybody thought that Batista leaving the WWE would make a huge impact, but he’s already just a distant memory. A faded thought in the eyes of the fans. Will they draw in decent ratings? Probably, but you can’t replicate an original.
Strikeforce is a terrific promotion, and “Strikeforce: Houston” will have some great fights (Lawal vs. Cavalcante, Kennedy vs. Souza) but the event likely won’t draw well at the gate or in the ratings. Strikeforce is facing problems: Gina Carano’s return unlikely, Frank Shamrock’s retirement, Walker maybe having one more fight before he retires, and Cung Le not wanting to face top competition. Signing Batista is starting to look like a good idea. Have him fight somebody like Tim “Big Perm” Percy and then promote a Battle of The Champions fight with him and Lashley on CBS as apart of a last ditch card to stay on the air. It might not be the best thing to do, but business is business.