A circle of strife for The Animal?

A circle of strife for The Animal?

An incredible six-month odyssey ended for Batista at Unforgiven Sunday night, an odyssey that culminated in his third World Heavyweight Title. But The Animal may not have long to celebrate his climb up sports-entertainment's summit; even as we speak, many SmackDown Superstars are lining up to knock him off the mountain top.

"Winning the World Heavyweight Championship…it's an indescribable feeling," Batista told WWE.com only minutes after ending Unforgiven's Triple Threat contest by nearly driving The Great Khali through the mat with a Herculean spinebuster. "I've got all these emotions running through my head. It's really something."

As elated as he is to wear the gold again, The Animal admitted to feeling somewhat "torn" that earning the pinfall on Khali also meant having to Batista Bomb his friend Rey Mysterio on top of the Punjabi colossus. "Rey is someone I respect tremendously, but in a Triple Threat Match, it's every man for himself. And when it came right down to the finish, I had to make a choice: Do I go for the win against Rey, my good friend, or against Khali, a man I despise? Thinking about it that way, it wasn't a very hard decision," he laughed.

WWE.com certainly hopes The Animal savored his shining moment; from here on out, the stakes are literally going to be higher than ever. On Tuesday, through translator Ranjin Singh, The Great Khali exercised his rematch clause for the World Heavyweight Title. That rematch is now scheduled to take place at No Mercy, three weeks from Sunday -- inside the sharpened bamboo encasings of a Punjabi Prison Match. Our fans who witnessed the last (and only) such contest -- Undertaker's battle with Big Show at 2006's The Great American Bash -- can testify to just how barbaric and bloody a match this is. Needless to say, it won't be for the squeamish, and Khali may not be satisfied until The Animal's hide is speared atop one of those bamboo walls.

As for The Phenom, who returned to ring action at Unforgiven after a four-month hiatus in Death Valley, how does he fit into this new title chase? Remember, Undertaker claimed the championship from Batista in a classic WrestleMania 23 confrontation last April, and somehow managed to stay The Animal's attempts to win it back in the weeks that followed. Besides, if Undertaker's vanquishing of Mark Henry last Sunday wasn't indication enough, one need look no further than The Deadman motioning to our fans that he wants the World Heavyweight Championship back around his waist.

Then there's the World's Strongest Man to consider. Henry's soul may indeed belong to The Deadman after Unforgiven, but his near 400-pound frame remains a dominant physical force to contend with. The self-proclaimed Silverback put Batista on the shelf for eight months back in January 2006, forcing The Animal to relinquish his first World Heavyweight Title. Who's to say that he won't try to do so again?

Last, but certainly not least, is Rey Mysterio. The returning high-flyer had earned the sole No. 1 Contender spot in the weeks building toward the pay-per-view, until the Punjabi colossus' Vise Grip nearly eliminated him altogether. There's no question that Rey and Batista are tight, even after trading blows at Unforgiven. But like Batista said, it's every man for himself, and in the ultra-competitive world of sports-entertainment, how much does friendship truly weigh when championship gold is on the line?

That said, when The Animal left Memphis's FedEx Forum last Sunday, he was already quite aware of the competitive surroundings on the Friday night brand. "I'll never forget Triple H once telling me, ‘When you're the man wearing the World Heavyweight Championship, you might as well put a bull's-eye on your back,'" he said. "You're just a target…and right now, I'm the biggest target in the world."


Find Batista's punishing new T-shirt at WWE Shop

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