Dave Bautista, or Batista as he's known in the WWE, has gotten to be a pretty big name in the ring over the last few years. Thanks to his early affiliation with superstars Ric Flair and the late Eddie Guerrero and then later his rivalry with The Undertaker and more recently his friendship with Rey Mysterio Jr. (which, WWE fans know, is under some serious pressure at the time of this writing) he's grown in popularity and despite some injuries and the fact that, in the eyes of some fans, he's still a newcomer, he's now the recipient of his own WWE three-disc retrospective collection. Often times the WWE will just slap together a collection of matches and call it a day, but this is one of those releases where they've included a feature length documentary as well as a collection of brawls, which almost always guarantees a more interesting watch.
Here's what you'll find in the set...
Disc One: I Walk Alone
This ninety minute documentary basically starts at the beginning, showing us the rough Washington D.C. neighborhood where Batista grew up and by supplying us with interviews from his mother and many of his childhood friends with whom he still remains close. From there we learn how his mother moved the family to San Francisco but once Dave started getting into trouble, he wound up back in D.C. living with his father. It was around this time that he discovered wrestling and bodybuilding in high school, which lead to some jobs as a bouncer until he wound up working his way into wrestling. A WCW try out didn't get him too far but eventually he landed a gig in the Ohio Valley Wrestling league that proved to be his pathway to the WWE.
As his professional career was taking off, his personal life was proving to be its own can of worms. He got married, had two daughters, and then met a woman named Angie who he eventually left his first wife for and married, though they split up a few years later because of the fact that he wasn't ever around. Interviews with Angie and one of his daughters shed some interesting light on this point in his life, as does input from Batista himself who is quite open about his regrets and mistakes.
From there the documentary covers his rise to WWE Superstar status through his involvement with Ric Flair and Triple H early on to rivalries with a few other wrestlers such as The Undertaker and Booker T (which was supposedly about as real as they come). He eventually would wind up the Heavyweight Champion though, after tearing his triceps he'd have to surrender it while undergoing surgery. Of course, once he made his comeback he made it his goal to win it back, which he did.
Along with a retrospective look at his wrestling career, this documentary also gives us a look into his personal life thanks to the input from those who know him outside the ring. It also gives us a look at the charity work he's done, his trips to the Philippines where he's about as big a star as is humanely possible, and other bits that you don't necessarily get when you only look at him as a wrestler. He comes across as quite humble, giving credit to those who helped him along the way and seemingly without the ego his wrestling persona carries around - and quite frankly you're left with the impression that he's just a pretty down to earth and genuinely nice guy. You can't help but feel for him when he tears up talking about Guerrero's death or about the loss of a family member and you can't help but respect him when he talks lovingly about some of the other wrestlers who have helped him get to the top. His story is an interesting one, a hard luck kid done right thanks to some hard work and a good streak of luck, and this documentary does a fine job of explaining it all.
Disc Two: Matches
-OVW Heavyweight Championship Match with Leviathan vs. "The Machine" Doug Basham from Ohio Valley Wrestling - November 28, 2001
-Batista vs. Kane from WWE Armageddon - December 15, 2002
-Batista vs. Shawn Michaels from WWE Armageddon - December 14, 2003
-World Tag Team Championship Tables Match with Batista & Ric Flair vs. The Dudley Boyz from the WWE Royal Rumble - January 25, 2004
-Batista vs. Chris Jericho from WWE Vengeance - July 11, 2004
-Thirty-Man Royal Rumble Match from WWE Royal Rumble - January 30, 2005
-World Heavyweight Championship Match with Batista vs. Triple H from WWE WrestleMania 21 - April 3, 2005
-Hell In A Cell Match For The World Heavyweight Championship with Batista vs. Triple H
from WWE Vengeance - June 26, 2005
-No Holds Barred Match For The World Heavyweight Championship with Batista vs. JBL from WWE SummerSlam - August 21, 2005
-World Heavyweight Championship Match with Batista vs. Eddie Guerrero from WWE No Mercy - October 9, 2005
Disc Three: Matches
-World Heavyweight Championship Match with Batista vs. King Booker from WWE Survivor Series - November 26, 2006
-Triple Threat Match For The World Heavyweight Championship with Batista vs. King Booker vs. Finlay from WWE Smackdown! - December 1, 2006
-World Heavyweight Championship Match with Batista vs. The Undertaker from WWE WrestleMania 23 - April 1, 2007
-Steel Cage Match For The World Heavyweight Championship with Batista vs. Edge from WWE One Night Stand - June 3, 2007
-World Heavyweight Championship Featuring Special Referee "Stone Cold" Steve Austin with Batista vs. The Undertaker from WWE Cyber Sunday - October 28, 2007
-Six-Man Tag Team Match with Batista, Triple H And Ric Flair vs. Randy Orton, Edge, And Umaga from WWE Raw - December 10, 2007
-Batista vs. John Cena from WWE SummerSlam - August 17, 2008
-Batista vs. Randy Orton from WWE Armageddon - December 14, 2008
A quick skim through the match listing shows that there's a lot of Batista's best matches contained in this set (with, as almost always seems to be the case, a few omissions). The early footage of him wrestling in the OVW league is great to see, though it would have been nice to see a fair bit more of it included in this set, as there's some definite historical significance to the OVW material that doesn't really seem to have been milked as effectively as it could be in terms of getting it out there on DVD for those who want it. The matches against The Undertaker are all rock solid and very entertaining as are the matches where Ric Flair and Eddie Guerrero are involved. You can tell these guys really enjoyed working together in the ring and they've all got some great chemistry. The match with Sean Michaels and Kane would be the weaker entries but even still, they're not bad and they do at least represent that early part of his WWE emergence, where he was really starting to build a name for himself and prove himself as a contender.
Will this set change your mind if you're not already a Batista fan? The matches probably won't, but if you check out the documentary with an open mind and without any preconceived notions about his skills or his frequent injuries and how they affect his WWE status, it just might win you over. The WWE has put together a really nice package here and while his fanbase will obviously eat it all up, his detractors ought to give it a shot as well.
All of the material in this collection is presented fullframe, which is how the matches would have been originally shown, so the format is fitting. The documentary makes use of some older footage going to Batista's early days, some of which was shot on consumer grade video and isn't in the bets of shape, though all of the newer material looks just as fine as you'd expect it to. Colors are nice and natural and there are no problems with print damage, dirt or debris. Skin tones look good and there aren't any compression artifacts or edge enhancement issues to note either. All in all, it's a pretty standard WWE transfer - it's not reference quality, but it looks good enough.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is of decent enough quality, though there isn't really all that much to it in terms of channel separation, nor does there need to be. You can hear the interviews and narration on the feature just fine and there is no audible hiss or distortion outside of some of the older archival clips used in the documentary. The matches vary in quality here, just as they do where the video is concerned, meaning that the older ones don't sound quite as clean as the newer ones but there's nothing here to be concerned about, it all sounds fine.
Technically you could probably consider all of the matches included with the documentary to be extras, but they're not marketed that way. So aside from that, you get some deleted scenes from the I Walk Alone documentary, some of which are actually pretty cool and worth watching. Want to see Dave head back to his old neighborhood some more? Want to check out his extensive collection of vintage lunchboxes and hear how and why he started collecting them in the first place? His ex-wife explains it all. None of this stuff is really essential, but if you're a fan you'll enjoy it. You also get the standard menu screens and match selection options.
Not having been much of a Batista fan going into this set, it was a pleasant surprise to see that the documentary was as well put together and interesting as it was. Watching it gives you a new appreciation for the man, not only as a wrestler but as a person, and his good nature and genuinely humble demeanor make him likeable and show him in a completely different light then how he's portrayed in the ring. The collection of matches is a solid one and the A/V presentation is acceptable, making Batista - I Walk Alone a must own for Batista fans and recommended for anyone else with an interest in the modern history of the WWE.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.