While most of the focus heading into TLC is on the main-event matches, such as Ryback and Team Hell No vs. The Shield, John Cena vs. Dolph Ziggler and even Sheamus vs. Big Show, there is always an under-the-radar match that exceeds expectations.
At TLC, that match is likely to be Kofi Kingston vs. Wade Barrett.
Amid all the commotion of WWE champion CM Punk being removed from TLC due to a knee injury, The Shield running rampant and Cena engaging in a relationship with A.J., it's easy to forget about the Intercontinental title. It honestly hasn't been very meaningful over the past several years, but it will be contested in a great bout at TLC.
Will Kofi Kingston vs. Wade Barrett be TLC's sleeper match of the night?
Kofi captured the title several weeks ago when he beat The Miz on Main Event and has since engaged in a feud with Barrett. Their rivalry is somewhat of a throwback as Barrett previously beat Kofi for the IC title while he was the leader of The Corre. Barrett is quite different now, though, and poses an interesting threat.
The general thought is that Barrett is closer to being a world championship contender than a midcard champion, but until there is a logical avenue to the main-event scene, he has to do something. Kingston has always carried the Intercontinental title well, but he is usually a transitional titleholder until someone who would really benefit from the belt takes it.
Barrett fits that description. The Intercontinental title would likely increase his exposure and prepare him for a main-event run down the road. The IC title used to be a major steppingstone in the WWE as the winner of that belt would often move on to bigger and better things.
If Barrett takes the title from Kingston at TLC and defends it successfully for a few months, it will put him in a far more advantageous position as far as a main-event push goes. It's pretty well known that Kofi is a midcarder without much hope for advancement, but Barrett has all the tools necessary to be one of the top guys in the company.
Not only should this match be important from a storyline standpoint, but the in-ring action promises to be great as well. Kofi and Barrett have opposing styles that have meshed well together in the past and should continue to do so at TLC.
Kingston is a big-time high flyer and perhaps the most athletic superstar in the entire WWE. Although his matches tend to be somewhat formulaic, he does tend to break out some surprising spots every once in a while, so there's an element of surprise and excitement.
Barrett is much more about grit, toughness and power, but I don't find him any less entertaining than Kofi. There really aren't that many skilled big men in the WWE right now as far as in-ring work goes, but Barrett is among the best. He's extremely crisp, but he also brings a certain sense of brutality to the table that makes his matches seem realistic.
The TLC match has a lot of potential. Their diverse, contrasting styles are likely to make for an unpredictable match. The implications may not be as lofty as some of the other matches on the card, but I wouldn't be surprised if Kingston and Barrett outperformed everyone else in terms of pure wrestling.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle standing in their way is the amount of time they're given to showcase their skills. The midcard title matches tend to be pretty quick at pay-per-views, but if the goal is to elevate Barrett, there is no reason why the match shouldn't be given around 15 minutes.
That would be the ideal amount of time for Kofi and Barrett to tell a story in the ring. Regardless of how long the match is, though, I expect it to be good. Not many people are going to be talking about it heading into TLC, but the odds are pretty good that fans will be mentioning it as the best match of the night the next day.