“Ladies and Gentlemen, that is a career-altering win for Bo Dallas…”
Michael Cole, Raw, Jan. 28, 2013
WWE’s 2013 Royal Rumble pay-per-view was a remarkable event.
Featuring a tremendous amount of star power with the participation of such performers as The Rock, John Cena and Chris Jericho, the 26th edition of the annual January extravaganza was an entertaining event that successfully showcased the abundance of talent that can be found in WWE.
However, on a night full of predictability (Cena’s second Royal Rumble Match victory, The Rock defeating CM Punk to lift the WWE title for the first time in 10 years, etc.), it was, surprisingly, left to the emerging Bo Dallas to provide the shock of the night.
Relative WWE newcomer Dallas, a stand-out player in the NXT developmental sector, entered the 30-Man Battle Royal at number 16, impressively lasted over 20 minutes and proceeded to eliminate current intercontinental champion Wade Barrett.
With Barrett currently lighting up the midcard and, along with other competitors like Dolph Ziggler and Daniel Bryan, the clear heir to the WWE main-event throne, his Royal Rumble elimination at the hands of an NXT rookie was certainly a shock indeed.
Development of Talent
In truth, it should actually be of no real surprise that Bo Dallas was booked to shine in his first pay-per-view appearance for WWE at the Royal Rumble.
Dallas, real name Taylor Rotunda, is the product of a professional-wrestling family tree that includes several high-profile names. Blackjack Mulligan (grandfather), IRS (father) and Barry Windham (uncle) are all immediate family members, and even Dallas’ older brother, Windham Rotunda, under the pseudonym Husky Harris, had a brief run at the top of the WWE back in late 2010 as part of the original Nexus angle with, ironically enough, Wade Barrett.
As evident in the manner in which such superstars as The Rock and Randy Orton were promoted in their early days with the company, Vince McMahon and WWE are clearly fond of celebrating family lineage in the form of pushes. Most recently, Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes received this treatment upon entering the full-time roster in 2008 and, shortly afterwards, found themselves working main-event programmes with the likes of Triple H and Batista.
As promising as it may be, to say that Bo Dallas was awarded his current spot solely due to nepotism would be significantly misleading.
Dallas has been routinely impressive in his high-energy performances on the NXT show and previously in Florida Championship Wrestling, particularly in matches with the likes of Seth Rollins, Kassius Ohno and a pre-3MB Jinder Mahal.
Therefore, it is completely possible and perhaps even probable that family had little impact on the decision to push Dallas and that creative firmly believes that he has the ability to warrant a full-time position on Raw and/or SmackDown.
Wade Barrett, conversely, has been a staple of the WWE roster for several years now.
Prior to joining WWE, Barrett built a reputation as a prospect through tenures on the independent scene in his native United Kingdom, particularly in stints with the All Star Wrestling promotion.
Upon joining McMahon’s company, Barrett rose to international prominence in the ranks of the original NXT series and later through the aforementioned Nexus storyline that included main-event spots at A-shows such as the 2010 SummerSlam and Survivor Series. A consistently high-quality performer, Barrett has adequately carried bouts with limited workers like John Cena and the Big Show and has shown ample ability on the microphone in jousts with the likes of Randy Orton.
Barrett, as mentioned previously, is the current intercontinental champion, earning the title through a fantastic midcard series with long-time opponent Kofi Kingston. Exuding the natural arrogance of a heel in his “Barrett Barrage” gimmick, Barrett seems to be relishing the role of a heel champion whilst laying the essential foundations for a fully fledged headline career.
Together, Wade Barrett and Bo Dallas may seem like an unlikely pairing for a storyline, with Barrett looking for an opening in order to enter the headline scene whilst Dallas, a full-time roster performer for less than two weeks at time of writing, will be attempting to find his bearings on national television.
WWE, however, may have shown an unusual amount of foresight in placing these two together, as the potential for them to deliver, both in and out of the squared circle, is abundantly clear.
Underdog vs. Bull Hammer
The 2013 Royal Rumble Match was a solid offering from WWE, yet somewhat flat at times. Despite the obvious high spots (Kofi Kingston’s usual acrobatics, Chris Jericho’s return, the Goldust/Cody Rhodes showdown, etc.), this year’s melee lacked a true standout moment.
Cue Bo Dallas and Wade Barrett, entering at numbers 16 and 18, respectively.
In fairness, cynical fans could be forgiven for expecting a short and somewhat unceremonious stint in the match for Dallas, as numerous other Royal Rumble debutants have suffered in the past. Significant examples of this lie in the treatment of Tazz, the former pride and joy of ECW, who lasted a less-than-flattering 10 seconds before being eliminated by (an albeit ravenous) Kane in 2001, and Muhammad Hassan, a performer who was hotly tipped to become a world champion in 2005 but was jobbed out by eight entrants before he could even remove his entrance attire.
Happily, Dallas was given the opportunity to showcase his merits. Looking comfortable in exchanges with the more-experienced heads of Chris Jericho and Dolph Ziggler, the newcomer delivered an impressive appearance—something that was, importantly, acknowledged by commentators Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler. Also, leading into the elimination spot with Wade Barrett, Dallas was seemingly over with the crowd, an admirable feat considering NXT’s limited coverage in the U.S. meaning that the average WWE crowd would have had little exposure to him previously.
In the weeks preceding the event, Barrett had been touted as an impact player and a strong contender for a spot in the “final four,” as he was in his debut Royal Rumble match back in 2011 (eventually won by Alberto Del Rio).
Barrett, as previously mentioned, is currently looking for a route into the main-event realm, and strong showings in matches such as the Royal Rumble bout would enhance his reputation going forward.
In the Rumble Match, Barrett suitably impressed, albeit somewhat briefly. Participating in memorable spars with Daniel Bryan and others, the Bare Knuckle Brawler looked solid, and eliminated a fellow big-name performer in Rey Mysterio with conviction.
Shortly after a returning Sin Cara entered at number 29, the big spot got the green light. After a brief exchange, Bo Dallas countered Wade Barrett’s Wasteland and hooked him over the top rope and out of the match (in a spot similar to the conclusion of the 2004 Royal Rumble involving Chris Benoit and the Big Show).
Barrett, however, didn’t take his elimination kindly and, in true heel style, cheated the rookie Dallas out of a dream performance by literally dragging him out of the contest. To add insult to injury, Barrett leveled the newcomer with his powerful Bull Hammer manoeuvre at ringside. Superbly executed, the angle was basic pro wrestling and created the desired effect: empathy for the wronged babyface Dallas and heat for the despicable heel Barrett.
WWE cleverly capitalised on the events from the Royal Rumble on the Jan. 28 Raw by booking a match between the two, courtesy of the “Player’s Choice” roulette concept. A short bout that was, after an initial flurry of offense from Dallas, inevitably dominated by the intercontinental champion, the showdown adhered to the face-versus-heel script, with Barett showing little mercy to the floundering Dallas.
To their credit, Dallas’ first-class selling of his opponent’s power moves accentuated the drama whilst Barrett played the bully role to perfection.
The surprising yet welcome finish saw Dallas upset Barrett via pinfall in a twist to rival the conclusion of the famous Razor Ramon/1-2-3 Kid bout from May 1993.
Looking Toward the Future
Reminiscent of the angle involving the Undertaker and Maven from early 2002, the feud between Bo Dallas and Wade Barrett is clearly a litmus test of sorts for both men. For Dallas, the current programme is a definitive “sink or swim” moment, with WWE offering an incredibly gifted performer in Barrett to test his skills against.
Barrett, on the other hand, is evidently being tested to see if he can carry green talent through programmes and matches, an attribute essential for a WWE performer to climb the ranks towards the main event.
At this point, following the events at the Royal Rumble and the TV spots since, Dallas and Barrett seem to be heading towards an intercontinental-title clash at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view or perhaps even WrestleMania.
For the confrontation to realise its full potential, however, more time needs to be invested into the buildup.
The backstage brawl from the Jan. 30 SmackDown was a step in the right direction, as it amped up the intensity, but both men need increased air time (including time with a microphone) in order to truly emphasise the animosity between the two and, as a result, build audience anticipation heading into the big showdown. Happily, this is likely to happen as we edge closer towards the upcoming events.
If Bo Dallas was to come out on top of the Barrett storyline and enter the post-WrestleMania season as intercontinental champion, it would establish an interesting scenario for the WWE midcard. Dallas would develop well in IC title feuds with the likes of Antonio Cesaro and The Miz, and potential action with former champion Kofi Kingston would surely be dynamite in the ring. Dallas, by adding an intriguing amount of flair to the increasingly stale WWE midsection, has the potential to lay the groundwork for a competitive title scene around the almost irrelevant IC strap in a similar manner to Cody Rhodes’ length reign between August 2011 and April 2012.
Convincingly defeating Barrett would be the first steps towards achieving a reinvigorated title picture, and would also place Dallas on the road to mirroring the professional-wrestling success of his celebrated family members.
Conflictingly, it has been previously suggested that this feud with Bo Dallas is an unnecessary distraction for Wade Barrett as he looks to begin his inevitable promotion to the top tier of WWE. After the conclusion of the programme with Dallas, Barrett is bound to begin long-rumoured rivalries with the likes of Sheamus and a post-Hell No Daniel Bryan, and in truth, Barrett should already be occupying his time with such performers.
However, it is apparent that the Englishman needs to drop the notoriously midcard IC belt before he can authentically evolve into one of the WWE’s top assets.
In this writer's opinion, there is no better way for Wade Barrett to relinquish the intercontinental belt than looking at the lights for an upcoming athlete that would benefit greatly from defeating someone of Barrett’s calibre. Bo Dallas fits this description, and a high-profile victory over Barrett would prove significant in solidifying his name as one of the WWE’s most promising undercard performers. This would also allow Barrett the freedom to begin his ascension towards heavyweight WWE championships and resulting marquee storylines with the likes of John Cena, Sheamus and potentially The Rock.
Bo Dallas and Wade Barrett are in the midst of transitional periods within their WWE careers. Both men are clearly investments for the future, and this feud may be the key to propelling them into the next stages of their development in a bid to discover whether or not they are suitable for the next step.
Either way, it is bound to be entertaining.
Thank you for reading!
Comments welcome below and on Twitter: @matthewtsquires
Matt Squires is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, and covers other sports such as UK Soccer for various other websites. For more on Matt, please visit his personal website Matthew T Squires.