Animal bound for extinction?

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November 14, 2007

Judging from his tag team victory with Undertaker on Raw Monday night, it has already been a wild week for Batista. But it's going to be one hell of a weekend -- literally.

Think about it. In a WWE.com exclusive from last weekend (WATCH), the World Heavyweight Champion challenged Mark Henry, the World's Strongest Man, to a No Disqualification Match on Friday Night SmackDown. And he has done so knowing that less than 48 hours later, at Survivor Series, The Animal will step inside "Hell in a Cell" with The Phenom who made that type of confrontation famous, the one and only Undertaker.

Needless to say, in a society where terms like "Thank God it's Friday" and "Workin' for the Weekend" are revered, even immortalized in song, these can't possibly be the best of times for Batista. However, rather than dread the immediate future or be intimidated by past history, The Animal remains steadfast and determined to conquer whatever crosses his path, come Hell or Henry.

Before we focus on next Sunday's fifth and, almost certainly, most epic encounter with Undertaker, let's first address The Animal's No Disqualification contest with the self-professed Silverback. In WWE.com's exclusive footage from last Friday's SmackDown, Batista told our fans that he couldn't wait to lace up his boots and start "whipping Mark Henry's ass." However, as Batista and anyone else in the WWE locker rooms must admit, the near-400 pound World's Strongest Man is no one's pushover.

The champion's vitriolic comments were based on more than Henry's involvement in a brutal beatdown on SmackDown two weeks ago. There's still that matter of a triceps injury he caused The Animal back in January 2006 -- an injury that would force Batista to relinquish his first World Heavyweight Title. The Animal would respond in kind when he returned to the ring several months later, and put Henry out of commission for nearly a year. But from the look in his eye and anger in his voice Friday night, 22 months has clearly not erased Batista's utter hatred for the World's Strongest Man. It has also not erased the facts, nor has it stopped Henry from emerging as a king of monsters during SmackDown and ECW's recent working agreement.

Batista would do well to remember one other important fact: That in addition to costing the champion his title and putting him out of action for more than six months, Mark Henry did a very similar thing to Undertaker on SmackDown last May. Edge benefited by virtually stealing Undertaker's World Heavyweight gold, but it was only because the World's Strongest Man had first softened up The Phenom, who moments before had emerged from a grueling Steel Cage stalemate with Batista. The surprise assault badly injured Undertaker, putting him on a shelf in Death Valley for more than four months. Therefore, the potential for history repeating itself -- especially when there's No Disqualification involved -- is all too real.

For the sake of argument, let's just say that The Animal prevails over Henry on Friday, or at least emerges from their SmackDown confrontation relatively unscathed. He still has to defend his World Heavyweight Title against the Superstar who already took it from him once this year, at WrestleMania 23. And he has to do so within the Hadean confines that is regarded by fans and Superstars alike as "the devil's playground." Without question, Hell in a Cell is precisely that for anyone who steps into the steel enclosure. For The Undertaker, it is, in many frightening respects, home.

True, Batista has been in Hell once before, and he'll always be the first WWE Superstar who bested Cell veteran Triple H. It's also true that The Animal won more than a title defense when he pinned Undertaker at Cyber Sunday; he won the right to definitively state that he can beat The Deadman. Yet Undertaker did a lot more than make his legendary sports-entertainment bones inside the structure; his blood -- accompanied by a lot more from his opponents -- forever colored Hell in a Cell as something where survival in and of itself is a victory. Even those who physically exit the steel structure never truly leave it; a part of their careers, their souls, will always be imprisoned within.

During Hell in a Cell's decade of brutality, Undertaker has established himself as the ultimate survivor. And that may be the sole obstacle Batista may not be able to overcome at Survivor Series this Sunday.

Like we said, it's going to be a hell of a weekend.

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