Batista's ultimate opportunity

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July 22, 2007

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- For months, fortune has favored SmackDown's Ultimate Opportunist over The Animal, to the point where our fans wondered when -- or even if -- Batista might earn another chance to win his third World Heavyweight Championship. But now opportunity has knocked an injured Edge out of the competitive picture and stripped him of his title, thereby allowing Batista to position himself into championship contention once more.

With that, The Animal's latest title bid is anything but a sure win. To capture the gold at The Great American Bash tonight, he must somehow prevail in what is literally the biggest Triple Threat Match in WWE history, against two of the most monstrous Superstars in sports-entertainment: Kane and the current World Heavyweight Champion, The Great Khali.

You won't hear Batista complain, though. Exuding a calm confidence more powerful than even his massive, chiseled frame, he's grateful that fate has welcomed him back into the forefront of a title chase which only a month ago had seemingly left him behind.

"Any World Heavyweight Championship opportunity…you just can't it put into words," Batista said. "It's such an honor to hold that title…to even have an opportunity to fight for that title. Most people in our business will never have that honor, and it's something that I will never take for granted."

WWE.com respectfully points out that Edge's pectoral injury has, in many respects, enabled The Animal to become an "ultimate opportunist" tonight. After all, based on a Last Chance Match stipulation at last month's Vengeance: Night of Champions, he couldn't compete for the title so long as the Rated-R Superstar continued wearing it. Batista appreciates the comparison, though he draws the line upon hearing another similarity shared between himself and Edge: surrendering the World Heavyweight Title due to injury.

"Some people compare how Edge relinquished his title this week to the way I had to [in January 2006]," he said, "but it's not even close to the same thing. I earned and treasured my championship. I think he stole his, and it was something that he never really treasured. He didn't respect the title, and I didn't respect him as a champion."

Now that The Great Khali holds the gold in his oversized hand, Batista's restrictive proviso is erased. And since The Animal was already training for his originally scheduled Bash bout against the giant, our fans won't find him unprepared this evening. Then again, he realizes that the task ahead of him is still incredibly formidable -- especially now that he's competing in a Triple Threat Match, and against someone as potentially lethal as the 7-foot-3, 420-pound Indian juggernaut.

"I had a strategy all worked out for Khali going into The Great American Bash," Batista told WWE.com, "but now Kane's an extra opponent in the equation. Kane throws a whole new twist into things; he's very unpredictable and dangerous, so I've got double the challenge on my hands. But I won't stop until I regain the World Heavyweight Championship, which I still feel is rightfully mine."

One possible advantage Batista has going into The Bash -- if you can call it an advantage -- is that he has beaten Kane before, first at Armageddon in December 2002, and most recently in a fiercely contested pre-WrestleMania 23 match on SmackDown. Our fans might say that he even had the Big Red Monster's number during their No. 1 Contender's Match on SmackDown this past week, which could have prompted The Great Khali to interfere. Having also bested Kane at WrestleMania 23 last April, perhaps the giant thinks his best chance to retain his new prize lies with someone he has conquered before, rather than an Animal that has never shown any apprehension being in Khali's presence.

"I won't say that the new champion is scared of me," Batista admitted, "but I've been definitely getting under his skin. If I wasn't busy dealing with Kane in the Battle Royal the other night, Khali knows that he would never have been able to sneak up from behind and just lift me over the top rope. That's the only reason why he's going to The Bash with the title, and not me."

WWE.com can't say with any certainty whether or not Khali fears Batista, though we do remind The Animal of another potential benefit going into tonight's three-for-all contest: Because Triple Threat rules state that one needn't pin the champion to win the match, Batista could go for Khali's title by focusing his rage on the smaller of two behemoths -- a description we honestly never believed would be used to describe Kane.

The Animal doesn't play to win that way, however; the only opportunities he sees are the ones he creates for himself…and he plans on creating plenty this evening.

"My sights are on the prize, and I'm going to come out on top," Batista proclaimed. "I'm in the best shape of my life, and I'm really confident that The Great American Bash will be a good pay-per-view for me. I'm looking forward to it."

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