Batista, Lesnar, Cena, Orton & Benjamin - OVW class: 1999-2000
Ohio Valley Wrestling may not be WWE’s primary developmental territory anymore, but there is no denying WWE came up with real talent from the Kentucky-based promotion. This is no more evident than the class of 1999-2000, which gave rise to many fine wrestlers, none more evident than Randy Orton, Batista, Shelton Benjamin, John Cena and Brock Lesnar.
But which one of these five was the most successful in WWE? This article looks at this question, and ranks, from least successful to most, these five wrestlers in terms of their success in the company, and how far they have made it in their careers.
Shelton Benjamin was offered a contract by WWE in 2000, and to start with, was sent straight to OVW, where he was immediately placed into a tag team with his wrestling teammate at his university, Brock Lesnar, in an alliance known as the “Minnesota Stretching Crew”, since the university they went to was in Minnesota. The team held the OVW Southern Tag Team Championship on three occasions, in February, July and October of 2001. After Lesnar was called up on to the main roster in November 2001, Benjamin formed another tag team, this time with Redd Doug Begnaud, called “The Dog Pound”. Benjamin won the Tag Team Championship again in this team in July 2002.
For the remainder of 2002, Benjamin wrestled several WWE house shows and had a brief stint on Sunday Night Heat as a babyface. In September 2002, Benjamin was called up to the main roster, where he debuted in December as part of ‘The World’s Greatest Tag Team’, alongside Charle Haas, initially with Kurt Angle as their on-screen mentor. The team held together for two years, until Benjamin was drafted to Raw.
In this next three years, Benjamin would win the Intercontinental Championship three times, and had feuds with Evolution, Chris Jericho, and Rob Van Dam. Following this, Benjamin was drafted to ECW in 2007, SmackDown in 2008, where he became United States Champion, and back to ECW in 2009. During all this time, Benjamin was mostly always a feature in the Money In The Bank ladder match at numerous WrestleManias, including his last, WrestleMania XXVI. In April 2010, his contract with WWE ended, and he was released. After this, Benjamin found himself in the independent circuit, where he was quickly signed by ROH, where he was for three years, and then NJPW, from 2012. He has also been scheduled to appear on the roster for the up-and-coming Global Force Wrestling.
Batista, in OVW, was known as Leviathan, and he was immediately joined into a stable headed by Synn called Disciples of Synn. He went undefeated until he was beaten by Kane, who had help from Steve Austin. He would go on to capture the OVW Heavyweight Championship, before losing it to The Prototype. After this, he was called up to the main roster, where he initially debuted as Reverend D-Von’s henchman, Deacon Batista. This carried on until 2003, when he changed his name to Dave Batista, and became a part of the infamous group, Evolution, alongside Triple H, Ric Flair and Randy Orton. Injury took him out for most of 2003, but when he returned, he became the World Tag Team Champion alongside Ric Flair. After a while, tension began to stir between Triple H and him, towards the end of 2004, which carried on to 2005, when Batista won the Royal Rumble and challenged Triple H for his World Heavyweight Championship, headlining WrestleMania 21, and coming out victorious. His feud with Triple H would continue for a while, but Batista remained on top.
After this, he was drafted to SmackDown, where he had feud with JBL, and after which he was taken out due to an injury. After his return, he led the SmackDown team to win at Survivor Series, and then formed a tag team with Rey Mysterio, and then suffered another injury, which took him out of WrestleMania 22. After this, he did return and won back the World Heavyweight Championship, losing it to The Undertaker at WrestleMania 23, in what was considered the match of the night. Following this, he would remain in the World Heavyweight Championship frame with The Undertaker, Edge, Kane and The Great Khali.
For the next two years, his career was going up and down, with a brief WWE Championship run in 2009, which ended because of injury, until, in 2010, he won the WWE Championship again, controversially from John Cena, who he would lose to at WrestleMania XXVI, and the following two Pay-per-views, after which he would retire.
After a short stint in MMA, Batista returned to WWE in January 2014, winning the Royal Rumble, which was poorly received. He lost the main event of WrestleMania to Daniel Bryan, and then would go on to feud with The SHIELD as Evolution, with only Randy Orton and Triple H this time. After two pay-per-view losses in this feud, Batista left the company again.