This is the best match of Batista’s career by a country mile.
Long before he became a movie star and made a fortune by playing a wacky comic book character, Batista was one of many musclebound monsters that came through the company during the long decade of post-Attitude Era rebuilding that was the 2000s.
Batista had a solid career as far as titles and drawing houses went. But how good were his matches after all the hype and promotion? Today we find out as we revisit his best match and one of Triple H’s best as well.
As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star and almost-Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.
Batista was a member of Triple H’s Evolution stable during that group’s peak. Throughout 2003 and 2004, Batista was right there alongside Triple H and Ric Flair helping them destroy everyone in their path, including Randy Orton after HHH turned on him.
Then in late 2004, Triple H’s World Heavyweight Championship was vacated after Chris Benoit and Edge had a simultaneous double fall in a triple threat that also involved HHH. To resolve this issue, an Elimination Chamber match was announced and included those three men plus Chris Jericho, Randy Orton, and Batista. And when Triple H didn’t go help Batista survive a fall, the seeds of dissolution were planted again.
Weeks later, Batista won the 2005 Royal Rumble match. Triple H didn’t want to face him at WrestleMania so he hatched a plot to convince Batista to go to SmackDown instead. He faked a car attack on Batista by dressing up a limousine with bullhorns to make it look like the limo belonged to then-WWE Champion JBL, but Batista didn’t buy the angle, especially when he overheard HHH and Ric Flair talking about the plot in a locker room. Soon afterwards, Batista made his choice, gave HHH the thumbs down gesture, powerbombed him through a table, and then beat him in the main-event of WrestleMania 21 to win his first world title.
Triple H, being at his most overbearing as a character, wasn’t one to walk away and accept such a loss. He demanded a rematch and got one at Backlash, but Batista won again despite all of HHH’s attempts at trickery and shenanigans. Still not willing to accept that Batista was better than him (or maybe he knew it and WWE just didn’t have anyone else for the champion to feud with at the time), Triple H attacked Batista one more time and declared that the only way he would accept that Batista was the better man would be if he beat Triple H inside Hell in a Cell.
Although it was considered The Undertaker’s wheelhouse, Triple H had a better record inside HIAC at the time. He was 4-0 in singles cell matches and his only multi-man match was at Armageddon 2000, but he wasn’t in the deciding fall in that one. So for all intents and purposes, Batista accepted to face Triple H in a match stipulation in which HHH had a 100% win record.
Given this detail and Triple H’s penchant for brutality and love of weapons, Batista was disadvantaged despite being champion. So could he extend his singles win streak against HHH to 3-0, or would the cell work in Triple H’s favor once again?
This match originally took place on June 26, 2005. It was rated ****1/2 out of five by the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer and ****1/4 by TJR’s John Canton.
This is for Batista’s World Heavyweight Championship. They lock-up and Batista knocks HHH down with a shoulderblock. Batista clotheslines HHH out of the ring and smashes him into the cell wall several times but gets too greedy as HHH counters an Irish whip and sends Batista into a ringpost. Batista tries fighting back on the apron but HHH hotshots him and knocks him off the apron and into the cell. He continues smashing Batista into the cell structure and then drops him with another clothesline. He tosses Batista into the ring and pulls out a metal chain, which he uses to whip and then choke Batista. Batista tries fighting back but HHH knocks him off the apron to create a hanging spot. Suddenly Batista pulls HHH closer and hotshots him to break free. He whips HHH with the same chain and then does the same spot from Undertaker/Michaels in which he goes back-and-forth between hitting HHH’s spine on a signpost and the cell wall.
Batista tosses a now-bleeding Triple H into the ring and punches his wound. He goes for an Irish whip but HHH counters and hits a spinebuster. Then he pulls out a chair wrapped in barbed wire and whacks Batista’s back with it. Batista blocks a chair-shot to the head and sends HHH off the ropes but HHH counters with his single-knee facebuster. HHH rushes him but Batista hits a clothesline. Batista grabs that same chair and hits HHH’s face with it and then grinds it into his face. HHH tries to escape but Batista stays on his heels and smashes him head-first into any solid object he can find, including, of course, the cell wall.
Back in the ring, Batista hits some corner shoulder thrusts but misses a running one and hits a ringpost. HHH teases a Pedigree onto that chair but Batista powers out. A short brawl ends with Batista hitting a powerslam onto that chair and he covers for a two-count. Batista wraps the chain around his fist but before he can swing HHH hits first with a DDT onto the chair.
Batista’s bleeding now too as Triple H gets some vengeance for earlier by grinding his face into the cell wall. HHH grabs his trusty sledgehammer but Batista cuts him off and another brawl ensues. Batista reverses an Irish whip and goes for his Batista Bomb but HHH counters and hits a sledgehammer shot. One, two, Batista kicks out.
Triple H tries another sledgehammer shot but Batista hits first with a kick to the groin. Batista grabs the hammer and charges. HHH hits first with a chain-fisted punch but only gets two. HHH tries a diving chain punch. Batista hits first with the sledgehammer and both men stay down for some time. Once on their feet they start brawling until Batista wins the exchange. He hammer throws Triple H to ringside and then throws him around some more. He tries hitting HHH with the steel ringsteps but HHH ducks. Batista responds by bringing the bigger piece of steps into the ring and set it up in a corner. He smashes HHH’s face into it. An Irish whip sends HHH careening into those steps and Batista goes for his powerbomb finisher once again. But HHH hits first with a low blow followed by a Pedigree. One, two, Batista kicks out again.
Triple H goes for a Pedigree on the steel steps. Batista blocks and hits a spinbuster onto it instead. Batista lifts him up for another powerbomb. HHH grabs the sledgehammer and looks like he’s going to hit Batista’s head with it. But Batista hits first with the Batista Bomb! One, two, and three! The champion retains!
Winner and STILL World Heavyweight Champion after 26:58: Batista
This was definitely one of the better HIAC matches, though still a cut below the original which is still the gold standard. This one didn’t have the shocking moments of KOTR 1998 or the chaos of Armageddon 2000, but it did have the kind of brutality and violence one expects from HIAC. This match served its purposes, which was to conclude this blood feud and to keep things even between the competitors by isolating them from everyone else. There was no way for Flair or anyone else to interfere so Triple H had to get creative in other ways.
On one hand, he and Batista made this match feel as claustrophobic and confined as possible by using the cell as a weapon and doing everything in their power to give off this feeling of no escape.
On the other hand, these two really did go a bit far with the weapons which came across as a creative bait-and-switch. As I’ve said in other HIAC match reviews, it doesn’t always work when a Hell in a Cell match turns into a contest to see who can introduce the most absurd weapon imaginable. The problem with most HIAC matches is that they go too far with the surrealism to the point that they insult fans’ intelligence. This was one of those cases: why would there be a chair wrapped in barbed wire under the ring unless it was specifically designed for this match? The chain made sense, and you can argue that a sledgehammer belongs under a ring to help set things up. But a barbed wire chair? What is this, a shoehorned ode to Cactus Jack? Sure it got a pop, but it just didn’t fit. Yes, it made the match more brutal but it’s not like these two couldn’t’ve gotten the same result with a different tool.
That creative flaw aside, this was still an excellent HIAC match. It looked and felt brutal. These two pushed themselves to the limit. HHH did everything within his power and then some to put Batista over and make him look like a million dollars. All of his cerebral treachery, his dirty tricks, and weapons shots, failed to put the big man down. Batista took a pretty solid beating but just came across as an absolute monster without needing to do that much.
Final Rating: ****1/4
This is what a Hell in a Cell match should be: something rare, special, and reserved for the conclusion of a bitter feud. It should not be announced for some random big show nor should it be marketed as an annual event. When Triple H spoke the words “Hell in a Cell” to a bloodied Batista, people reacted with shock and excitement at the carnage that would, and did, unfold. Nowadays, though, Cell matches are more common than ever and few of them live up to the hype.
This one did, but it was still a bit limited based on what happened. Had these guys shaved off a few minutes at the end and gone about bloodying each other via different methods then this would’ve been better.