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Giving up the gold

Giving up the gold

It has been said that there's nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal. However, on January 13, 2006, Batista succumbed to a severe shoulder injury, forcing him to relinquish his World Heavyweight Championship. It's difficult for any Superstar to give up such a revered prize, but for The Animal it was especially torturous. Batista was heartbroken as he handed his coveted gold over to then-SmackDown General Manager Theodore Long, revealing a more sensitive Animal than the WWE Universe had seen before, and making this WWE.com's No. 3 "Rough Side/Soft Side Moment."

Batista had held the World Heavyweight Title for over nine months and seemed nigh invulnerable as he defeated the likes of Triple H, JBL and Eddie Guerrero. Despite making it through all this fierce competition, a chink appeared in The Animal's armor during a match with Mark Henry less than a week before, as Batista tore his right triceps. Though WWE Superstars often suffer through injuries, the World Heavyweight Champion reluctantly admitted, "It is a severe injury that I won't be able to work through. It will require a surgery that will leave me sidelined indefinitely."

As Batista expressed his gratitude at being able to follow in the footsteps of champions such as Ric Flair, Triple H and Harley Race, our fans at Philadelphia's Wachovia Center -- and around the world -- broke into tears, weeping for the ring warrior who had defined their Friday nights. Knowing that it was the honorable thing to do, Batista choked back his tears as he stated, "I have no choice but to surrender the World Heavyweight Championship."

For an athlete so well-known for his ferocity in the ring, it was especially touching to see The Animal moved to such a degree. Recognizing that the fans were as broken up as he, Batista left the WWE Universe with one last heartfelt message -- a message he has since made true twice more: "I will be back. I will reclaim that title. I will be World Heavyweight Champion again."

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