Prior to suffering an elbow injury that kept him out for several months, Wade Barrett appeared to be in line for a major push. Barrett has since returned with an altered look and attitude, and while it hasn't paid dividends for him yet, it should lead to big things in the future.
From the first second I saw Barrett on NXT, I knew he had the potential to be a big-time star. Not only does he have great size and presence, but he is very good in the ring for a man of his stature and his mic skills are about as good as it gets in the WWE with the exception of CM Punk, John Cena and The Miz.
The WWE brass obviously saw the same things in him that I did as Barrett was immediately thrust into the spotlight by winning NXT and then leading the stable known as Nexus. For several months Nexus was the hottest thing in WWE, which led to Barrett feuding with the likes of Cena and Randy Orton.
It isn't often that a wrestler is trusted to perform in such a big spot that early in their career, but Barrett was special in that regard. For whatever reason, though, Barrett's time as the leader of Nexus remains the high point of his time in WWE as he hasn't been able to duplicate that success.
Had he not been felled by an injury then there is no telling where he would be right now, but it's not worth wondering what could have been. The fact of the matter is that Barrett is back in business and the WWE now has a golden opportunity to mold him into something special.
Barrett is noticeably different now than he was prior to the injury as he is trying to draw on his bare-knuckle boxing background in order to look like a more menacing figure. That is buoyed by a heavy beard and taped fists which give him a tough-guy, no-nonsense look. The changes may be subtle, but there are few more legitimate heels in the company than Barrett right now.
The issue is that he isn't being given a proper chance to shine, however. I realize that he has only been back for a few weeks, but the creative team had an opportunity to do something very impactful with him. Attacking World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus at SummerSlam or Night of Champions comes to mind, but Barrett did neither.
Instead, he re-debuted unceremoniously on an episode of SmackDown and proceeded to squash Yoshi Tatsu. Since then he has beaten Justin Gabriel and Tyson Kidd in more evenly matched contests, but the WWE has fallen into the same trap it always does. Having up-and-comers go over low-card guys only works for so long before the fans get tired of it.
There is absolutely no reason why Barrett shouldn't be challenging for the world title right now, but he isn't. Sheamus just got done with a long and boring feud against Alberto Del Rio, so it's the perfect time to elevate Barrett to main-event status. There is still five weeks until Hell in a Cell and it could still happen, but I haven't seen anything that would lead me to believe Barrett is in the title hunt.
Even if Barrett isn't pushed as soon as he should be, though, I have no doubt that he will one day be one of the faces of the WWE. I have no problem admitting that I'm a fan of Barrett's, but even an impartial observer would have to admit that not allowing Barrett to become a main eventer would go down as one of the company's biggest wastes of talent.
Barrett has future world champion written all over him and this character shift is going to help him in the long run. There are too many cowardly heels as it is, but Barrett brings something different to the table as he seems like he can legitimately beat the top faces without resorting to questionable tactics.
He still has a long way to go before he reaches his full potential, and there is no question that the Barrett Barrage has only just begun.