Wade Barrett experienced more success as a main roster “rookie” than most WWE superstars ever will.
As the winner of the inaugural season of NXT and the leader of The Nexus, he was instantly thrust into the WWE’s biggest angles on the grand stage of Monday Night Raw.
The Barrett-led Nexus created a ton of buzz with its debut in the summer of 2010, and Barrett himself seemed like a megastar in the making almost as soon as The Nexus first formed.
Many thought that The Nexus would revolutionize the WWE and that it would quickly catapult Barrett to a WWE or World Heavyweight Championship run, much like we saw with Sheamus in 2009 and Alberto Del Rio in 2011.
But here we are nearing 2013, and Barrett has still yet to win a World title. In fact, he now finds himself a notch below the main event level in an Intercontinental Championship feud with Kofi Kingston.
While Barrett is still viewed as a future World champion by many, it’s ironic to think that having so much initial success with The Nexus and being labeled a “future star” early on might actually be what’s held him back over the last couple of years.
As the top star in The Nexus, Barrett emerged as the clear-cut leader of the group and a tremendous one at that. As someone who commands attention when talking on the mic, he fit his role as the faction’s leader damn near perfectly.
Even with a few other really talented guys in the group, Barrett was the one who stood out as the superstar with the brightest future. Unfortunately for Barrett, it was his success as The Nexus’ leader that led to him having a pretty dreadful first half of 2011.
After seeing how well Barrett performed as a stable front-man with The Nexus, the creative team decided to have him lead a new stable when the original Nexus fizzled out in late 2010.
It was in early 2011 that Barrett jumped ship to SmackDown and formed “The Corre” alongside Ezekiel Jackson and former Nexus members Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater.
Obviously, the WWE wanted to capitalize on Barrett’s success as a stable leader by having him lead yet another stable on a different brand. But The Corre prided itself on all members being “equals,” and even though it was clear that Barrett was the biggest star of the group, the WWE didn’t push Barrett or the group as a whole like it did The Nexus.
The Corre quickly became an absolute joke of a stable, one that paled in comparison to its predecessor and destroyed all the momentum that Barrett had built up in the second half of 2010.
Barrett went from being arguably the hottest act on Raw to an afterthought on SmackDown, going from WWE Championship contender to one of the worst Intercontinental Championships in recent memory in the process.
It was a huge step down the ladder, one that resulted from the creative team’s apparent need to push Barrett as the leader of a stable.
There was no real issue with moving Barrett to SmackDown in early 2011 because he had spent the latter half of 2010 feuding with John Cena and Randy Orton, who were the top two stars on Raw at the time.
But if Barrett was going to make the jump to the blue brand, the WWE was going to have to continue to push him as a top guy, preferably as a solo act. That didn’t happen.
Instead, Barrett’s run with The Corre set him back in a major way. He didn’t really start to recover until late 2011 when he feuded with Orton again and was one of the last men standing in a traditional 5-on-5 match at Survivor Series.
By this time, Barrett was building some more momentum, but just when it looked like he was about to fully recover from the suck-fest known as The Corre, he suffered that devastating elbow injury that forced him to miss a big chunk of 2012.
There’s no doubt that Barrett still has a very bright future in the WWE, but it’ll be interesting to see if creative can avoid screwing it up again.
Barrett’s success in The Nexus was all thrown away with an abysmal run in The Corre, and that set him back so much that, even to this day, he still hasn’t reached the level he was at two years ago.
He should get another chance to make it back to the top in 2013, but it’ll be up to the creative team to make it work this time around.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!