Uncrowned Champion?

Up until January of this year, there was only one King on SmackDown, and that man was the World Heavyweight Champion, Batista. Ever since WrestleMania 21, the Animal had been unleashed, but that all changed on one night in early January when Batista was injured at the hands of Mark Henry. As a result, the Animal was forced out of action and left with no choice but to relinquish his gold. Since then, King Booker has become King of SmackDown, and Batista has spent every day since craving the Championship that sits around King Booker's waist. As first reported by WWE.com, Batista will get his chance at redemption when he challenges King Booker for the Championship at SummerSlam. WWE.com spoke with the combatants regarding their impending showdown.

On January 10th in Philadelphia, Batista was forced to surrender the World Heavyweight Championship. That day, says the former Champion, was one of the toughest of his entire life.

"It was absolutely heartbreaking to give up the Championship," says Batista. "It was one of the saddest days of my life. For a man like me who was very proud of everything that I earned, I'd rather get beat for it. I held and carried that Championship with a lot of pride, and I'm looking forward to my shot at getting it back."

SmackDown General Manager Theodore Long announced in an exclusive press release to WWE.com on Tuesday afternoon that Batista will get that shot at SummerSlam. While the Animal has been dominant since his return a month ago, he admits that he didn't expect to get his shot at the King so quickly. But, at the same time, he thinks his opportunity is well deserved.

"I'm surprised this is happening so soon," said the former Champ. "But I still feel like I never lost the Championship. I was forced to surrender it under unfortunate circumstances, so I still consider myself to be the uncrowned Champion. I'm looking forward to my shot at SummerSlam."

On the other side, current World Heavyweight Champion King Booker, who captured the gold at The Great American Bash, is not dreading his SummerSlam encounter. Instead, the royal Champion welcomes the challenge.

"The Animal, he wants the Championship," said the King. "But, is he willing to do what it takes to get it? See, King Booker is a gracious King. He is an honorable King. He is, the benevolent King. But first and foremost, he is the fighting King. So Batista, I welcome your challenge."

The King and the Animal are clearly two men with different styles. King Booker has relied on experience and ring savvy in his run as Champ, while Batista preferred to power his way through the competition. King Booker believes he has the advantage heading into SummerSlam.

"He's a big guy, he's got all the muscle," said the self-proclaimed ‘Benevolent King'. "But he has a brain the size of a pea to challenge the King. The King has done it all. The most decorated Champion in wrestling history. The man who has won every major Championship there is. At SummerSlam, Batista will have his work cut out for him."

The Animal is well-aware of the challenge that awaits him in the battle-tested King Booker. Batista may lack in experience compared to his foe, but he does have a game-plan to overcome the red-hot Champ.

"He's got a lot of experience and that's something I can't match," said the Challenger. "I'm going to go in there strong and make up for it with physicality. I also know (King) Booker has a lot of endurance. He gets stronger as the match goes on, so I may trim down a bit for SummerSlam. Whatever advantages he has, I will make up for with heart and determination, just like I did in the past."

King Booker threw a grand celebration, or as he put it, "an opulent coronation" after winning the gold at The Great American Bash. The King told WWE.com that he plans to host similar festivities for the peasants and loyal subjects after his victory at SummerSlam.

"It's going to be the celebration of all celebrations," said the SmackDown royalty. "I will beat the Animal right in the middle of that ring and pin him for the one, two, three. This will be my greatest triumph when I slay the Animal, and cook him like a stuffed pig."

One thing to keep in mind heading into SummerSlam is the well-documented scuffle between King Booker and Batista at this year's SummerSlam commercial shoot. What impact if any will that have on their big showdown?

The war of words will come to an end on August 20 at SummerSlam. At the end of the night, there will either be the re-crowning of a rightful Champion, or a celebration full of royal splendor. See it for yourself at the biggest party of the summer, live and only on pay-per-view.

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