For Batista, the truth hurts JBL
UNITED KINGDOM -- More than a century ago, G.F. Northall's Folk Phrases of Four Counties listed the familiar English children's taunt, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Thankfully, neither Mr. Northall nor his junior associates lived to utter inflammatory comments in the way of the World Heavyweight Champion, Batista -- especially ones that concern his Cyber Sunday opponent, Undertaker.
John "Bradshaw" Layfield, SmackDown's color commentator and potential guest referee for the World Heavyweight Title Match at Cyber Sunday, wasn't so fortunate when the Friday night brand pond-hopped over to Birmingham, England, this past week. Granted, he definitely got what was coming to him following his less-than-objective in-ring interview with SmackDown's Animal. But that isn't to say JBL's words were entirely false, which is perhaps what provoked Batista into making a possible tactical error that could backfire on him come Cyber Sunday.
At first, our fans in the National Indoor Arena (NIA) wondered if JBL would ever shut up about himself, or his claims that he currently leads "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Mick Foley in the guest referee Internet voting for the Oct. 28 pay-per-view. Yet even the egomaniacal "wrestling god" acknowledged that Batista-Undertaker IV would be every bit the epic confrontation as its three predecessors earlier this year. "It's a rivalry that rivals Ali-Frazier, Gotti-Ward, Cowboys-Steelers, England-…well, you never could make your penalty kicks," he said, eliciting an avalanche of jeers from the sold-out crowd.
Moving away from his callous reference to England's 2006 World Cup quarter-final loss to Portugal, JBL returned to his favorite topic -- himself. That is, until he was suddenly interrupted by Batista's entrance theme, much to the delight of our fans. With the World Heavyweight Championship proudly slung over his shoulder, The Animal entered the ring and snarled back a warning for his possible guest official: "When I face Undertaker at Cyber Sunday, I'm going to tell anyone who's chosen to ref the match the same thing I'm going to tell you right now: Stay. Out. Of my way."
Instead, the longest reigning champion in SmackDown television history chose to poke a sharp stick of reality into Batista's side. "The problem is not going to be with me, Champ. The problem is going to be with yourself," he said, reminding The Animal that despite going pillar to post with Undertaker at WrestleMania 23 last April, he lost his championship to The Phenom on sports-entertainment's grandest stage. "In fact, you've never beaten Undertaker, have you?"
Batista wanted to know what JBL's point was -- other than the one under his 10-gallon hat. That's when Layfield held up a copy of Batista Unleashed, The Animal's autobiography that became available everywhere last Tuesday, and stated his case.
"You wrote something in here about Undertaker that's very telling about your soul," JBL explained. "It said -- and I quote -- ‘I wanted people to know I could stand up to him.' You didn't say, ‘I want people to know I can beat him,' or ‘I want people to know that I'm better than him.' All you wanted to do was be in the same room with him, because quite frankly, you're afraid of The Undertaker, and you know damn good and well you can't beat him."
Batista tried laughing off the accusation, calmly insisting that he wasn't afraid of The Deadman, or anyone for that matter. JBL, knowing that he had landed a solid verbal blow, answered, "OK, we'll see at Cyber Sunday," and began motioning away from the champion. But as Batista began exiting the ring, his potential guest official uttered one final word that drew a collective "Whooaaa" from the sold-out NIA crowd:
If you were home watching SmackDown on The CW Network Friday night, rest assured that there was nothing wrong with your TV's volume. You really could hear a pin drop as Batista turned back toward Layfield with a glare in his eyes that could pierce through steel. Then, after several interminable moments of deafening silence, The Animal speared his antagonistic interviewer nearly out of his boots. JBL rolled his crumpled self out of the ring, while the visibly incensed champion held his title high for all to see.
There's no question that Batista is a worthy champion; his incredible six-month odyssey back to the World Heavyweight Title is testament of that. However, with Cyber Sunday only a week away, perhaps our fans should ask what really infuriated The Animal last week -- JBL's taunts about not being able to beat Undertaker…or the possibility that JBL is right?
Think about it. After their WrestleMania 23 classic, Batista and Undertaker's respective follow-up confrontations -- a Last Man Standing Match at Backlash, then a Steel Cage Match on SmackDown -- were amazingly brutal battles that ended in stalemates, with The Phenom remaining as champion. On those two occasions, despite coming incredibly close, The Animal simply couldn't land the final blow that spelled victory as well as validation. Now, when he is once again World Heavyweight Champion, Batista must again go toe-to-toe with The Deadman who bested him. How can it not weigh on his mind?
Judging from the way he folded JBL in half last Friday, it's increasingly apparent that he can't. And like the SmackDown commentator pointed out, that may be The Animal's biggest problem to overcome at Cyber Sunday.