Guessing What's Next After Batista and Triple H's SmackDown 1000 Staredown

Compared to the robust Raw 25, SmackDown 1000 felt like a sleepy Tuesday night. Regardless of reviews, the celebratory episode will remember for the return of Dave Bautista and his face-to-face with Triple H.

At the moment, Triple H is occupied as the patriarch of NXT and writing his final chapters with The Undertaker. However, after Crown Jewel (provided it happens), Triple H will have crossed off one of those and will be open for bookings.

And it appears a major match with The Animal is next.

While it may not seem this way at times, everything WWE does on camera has a purpose. Would they tease a blockbuster match during a historic episode of SmackDown and not follow through? No, you can bet all of your Bitcoin this is happening. But deciphering when and where that match will be is a little slippery.

Bautista's return to WWE comes four years after a so-so run that saw him tap to Daniel Bryan to cap off WrestleMania 30. In his absence, the six-time WWE Champion has bolstered his Hollywood resume nabbing roles in Spectre, Blade Runner, and his calling card, Guardians of the Galaxy. The point of that exposition is this: Bautista is a household name outside of WWE. This means Vince McMahon will want to maximize his presence and we all know the best way to do that is at WrestleMania.

Throughout 2018, the 49-year Bautista has been publicly adamant about making a final run in WWE. Not just a single match either, Bautista's indicated he'd like to even hit the Live Event circuit and give WWE a long kiss goodbye. But the best part is that he's specifically mentioned Triple H as an ideal WrestleMania opponent.

As we all know, Triple H likes to do big things during WrestleMania season, and a retirement match with his old Evolution running mate is his best option at the moment. WWE likes to use Triple H in pivotal matches for 'Mania, ones that are typically heavily advertised. It's a certainty he wrestles at WM 35, and the short list of candidates would include oldies like The Undertaker (not happening again) and Shawn Michaels (possible, but unlikely) and main eventers like Kevin Owens or Drew McIntyre.

Even though we're still six months from WrestleMania, it certainly looks like Bautista vs. Triple is our frontrunner. There's always the chance it happens sooner, but both men's schedule may mandate otherwise.

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During SmackDown 1000, Bautista happily reminded Triple H and the wrestling world of their 2005 storyline that saw the Game go 0-3 in his attempts to beat The Animal. Before he could try again, Bautista was shipped to SmackDown.

WWE certainly has a rich backstory to capitalize on, and if Bautista vs. Triple H is in our future we'll likely get another incident before 2018 closes.