WM Top 25: #18 – The Ascension of Cena and Batista

Please check out the original posting of this article on Examiner.com, as it features embedded clips of Batista's win over Triple H and the fantastic Cena-JBL "A Few Good Men" parody from the build-up to WrestleMania 21

WrestleMania has always been as a place known for creating new stars. Think Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI, Bret Hart at WrestleMania X, Stone Cold Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIV and even Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III to a certain extent.

In the era of the WWE brand expansion with two World Championships it meant that there would be two guys on top of proverbial mountain. At WrestleMania 21 in Los Angeles in 2005 both John Cena and Dave Batista became made men.

John Cena was a product of WWE’s developmental territories that become a rapping anti-hero who the fans took to within a year of his debut. He continued to gain momentum and fan support before he picked up the United States Championship at WrestleMania XX in 2004. The US Championship allowed Cena to continue to grow in the eyes of the company and the fans.

Meanwhile, Dave Batista was also a product of the developmentals who debuted on WWE television about the same time as Cena back in 2002. Like Cena he toiled at the bottom of the card before he found his niche as the enforcer of Triple H’s “Evolution” stable of wrestlers. Batista was able to learn both on and off-screen from legends like Triple H and Ric Flair as he grew as a performer.

By 2005 both Cena and Batista were huge in the fans’ eyes and were ready to take the next step up the company ladder. They were the final two men in the 2005 Royal Rumble, where the winner would earn an automatic World Title match at WrestleMania. Batista won the Rumble match and had the choice of challenging either John “Bradshaw” Layfield for the WWE Championship or his mentor Triple H, who was the World Heavyweight Champion. Rather than deciding to challenge JBL for the WWE Championship, Batista opted to challenge his mentor Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship.

Meanwhile Cena won an eight-man tournament for the right to challenge JBL for the WWE Championship. John “Bradshaw” Layfield was a Texas tycoon-turned-Wall Street millionaire who had held the WWE Championship for nearly a year by this point, which was a lifetime in this day and age of pro wrestling. To further build the feud, Cena ended up losing his United States Title to Orlando Jordan, JBL’s associate.

The stage was set for the two young heroes to challenge the established villainous veterans at the grandest stage of them all. Cena and JBL went on second-to-last in a modern day battle of the common man challenging the rich tyrant. And like any good story Cena pinned JBL clean as a whistle to become WWE Champion for the first time. The match itself was fairly short and abysmal for main event standards but it was worth it for the end result.

The Batista-Triple H main event had a much more epic feel to it. The World Heavyweight Champion, Triple H, rose from under the entrance stage behind the band Motorhead, as they played his theme song live in person. The two men stood nose-to-nose center ring before the match started like two prizefighters. The match itself was pretty much two muscle-bound monsters laying into each other, looking all the world like what any non-wrestling fan would expect a pro wrestling match to look like. And just like the previous match the hero came out a winner, as Batista pinned his former mentor clean in the center to claim hi first of many World Heavyweight Championships.

Judging by the booking of the event it was apparent at the time that even though Cena and Batista both became Champions that night it was Batista who was to become the bigger star of the two. He was on Monday Night RAW, (which was the “A-show” at the time), he had beaten the bigger star in Triple H to win his Title and his match got to end WrestleMania. But by a couple short months later, Cena and Batista, as Champions, which shows and touring brands. Cena became the face of the live RAW show and got a customized “spinner” championship belt in his image that is still used to day while Batista took over taped b-show SmackDown as its Champion and flag bearer.

To this day both men are still huge stars in the WWE Universe, but Cena has clearly surpassed Batista as the face of the company. The kids and family love and he sells more merchandise than anyone else in the country. That night four years ago WWE was successful in creating two hugely successful stars that have made themselves and the company more money than anyone could have imagined.

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