By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Here on WrestleMania Recall, I will be ranking my top 31 favorite matches in WWE WrestleMania history. A new installment will be posted every day in the month of March, culminating with my No. 1 favorite match on Thursday, March 31st, mere days before WrestleMania 32. Each article will offer an in-depth look at each match and an analysis of why it is among my favorites.
One of my earliest memories as a wrestling fan was being extremely excited for the impending clash between John Cena and Batista at SummerSlam 2008, which occurred soon after I started watching WWE in mid-2008. As someone who wasn't aware at that time of how their careers paralleled from WrestleMania 21 onward, WWE did a terrific job of catching me up and getting this viewer hyped for their SummerSlam clash. Mind you, this was the same show that featured Edge vs. The Undertaker inside Hell in a Cell, so it was a stacked card from top to bottom.
They first encountered each other at the 2008 WWE Draft when John Cena reigning supreme in a draft pick match led to The Animal returning to Raw. They went on to win the World Tag Team Championship together (a reign that lasted one week) and had a hell of a match at the biggest party of the summer that I consider to be one of my favorites in the event's history. Batista emerged victorious in clean fashion, but would Cena have won had Batista not legitimately injured his neck following a brutal Batista Bomb?
After that, I was anxiously anticipating a rematch at WrestleMania 25, which I believe was the internal plan up until Batista got sidelined at the tail end of 2008. That injury kept him out of action until the night after WrestleMaina, so Batista vs. Cena II, this time for the World Heavyweight Championship, was off the table and WWE reshuffled their plans. Thankfully, they didn't forget about the bout and instead saved it for the following year at WrestleMania 26.
They rekindled their rivalry in the 2010 Royal Rumble match when Cena tossed out Batista, though The Animal avenged the loss by taking Cena's newly won WWE Championship from him at Elimination Chamber the following month. Cena became the new No. 1 contender by defeating Batista by disqualification the next night on Raw, but Batista did that design; he was simply hell-bent on giving Cena the beating of a lifetime.
"While you're busy kissing babies and hugging fat girls, I'll be in the gym training for our match at WrestleMania!" Heel Batista was such a riot. That was only one of the many golden one-liners he had to offer during the build to his bout with Cena on the grand stage. Additionally, he brought up how whenever Cena came in contact with him, "bad things happened," referring to when he broke Cena's neck a year and a half earlier. The sensational storytelling was what I loved about it.
I distinctly remember being frustrated that Batista entered first for their match. The champion should always come out last! Similar to when John and I watched Chris Jericho vs. Edge together that same night, I tried to contain myself during all the major spots so I wouldn't wake up his sleeping parents. But I just couldn't help it. The constant reversals and rapid-fire finishers were too much for me to handle. I was enjoying every second of it! Neither guy managed to get the edge over the other as the momentum constantly shifted between them.
Needless to say, this wasn't a five star mat classic, but similar to their SummerSlam showdown, it didn't need to be. Despite not competing too much against each other, they found fun chemistry as opponents and worked to their strengths. I had no desire to see Cena regain the gold, but even I couldn't be disappointed by his performance against The Animal. I applauded their efforts and roared with elation once the contest concluded. Not everyone is going to enjoy it, but it has definitely stood the test of time for me.
SEE ALSO: "WrestleMania Recall, Match #17: Edge vs. The Undertaker, WrestleMania 24"