It wasn’t that long ago that most wrestling fans had labeled Wade Barrett as a potential main-event player in WWE.
In 2010, Barrett took the company by storm when he won the inaugural season of NXT and then emerged as the leader of one of the most talked about stables in recent memory, The Nexus. It was during his stint as the frontman for the faction that Barrett tangoed with both John Cena and Randy Orton and came oh-so close to winning the WWE Championship.
It’s hard to believe that it was more than two years ago that Barrett was WWE’s most must-see rookie. It’s even harder to believe how Barrett’s career has gone since then.
Ever since Barrett jumped ship to SmackDown in early 2011, his WWE career simply hasn’t gone as planned. Instead of going to the promised land, he’s been saddled with start-and-stop pushes and hasn’t quite reached the level that most expected him to.
After all the success he had during his rookie year in 2010, most wrestling fans thought that Barrett would have at least won a world title or two by now. But a combination of injuries and bad booking has Barrett in a lower spot on the card right now than he was in two years ago.
Yes, Barrett is the Intercontinental Champion. But as someone who was feuding for world titles in late 2010 and getting a major push in the fall of 2011, a midcard title cannot be seen as anything but a major step backward.
Rather than feuding with the likes of Cena or Orton in the main-event or world title pictures, Barrett is instead in the midst of a very underwhelming run as Intercontinental Champion, which has made his future in WWE very unclear.
At this time a year ago, Barrett looked poised to have a major role on the road to WrestleMania and possibly get involved in the world title mix. But an unfortunate injury caused him to miss the biggest pay-per-view of the year, and his run since returning back in September 2012 has been pretty disappointing.
While it initially looked like Barrett would be in line for a major push as a world-title contender on SmackDown, he instead returned in less-than-stellar fashion by defeating lower card workers for a few months. He then transitioned to an OK feud with Kofi Kingston, which resulted in him winning the Intercontinental Championship.
On paper, winning the Intercontinental title seems like a monumental moment. That’s not the case for Barrett, though.
His Intercontinental Championship victory and subsequent title reign has been considered by many to be a blip in the road rather than a stepping stone to something bigger. After all, he hasn’t exactly been booked all that well since becoming champion.
Barrett has gone one-on-one with Randy Orton a handful of times over the past few months, and outside of one victory on Raw, that “rivalry” of sorts has been absolutely dominated by “The Viper.” In fact, it seems like we get Barrett vs. Orton at least once a week these days, with Orton almost always emerging victorious.
Orton isn’t the only superstar that Barrett is busy with these days, though. He’s also dealing with the recently debuting Bo Dallas.
At the Royal Rumble last month, it was the underdog Dallas who “shocked the world” by eliminating Barrett from the Royal Rumble match. The next night on Raw, Dallas surprisingly beat Barrett cleanly in a match that lasted only about two or three minutes.
Is this the same Barrett that was once the top heel on Raw? Yes and no. Yes, it’s technically the same guy, but no, he’s not being booked the same way he was two years ago.
In a twist that not many saw coming, Barrett is in a significantly worse spot now than he was during his rookie year. He’s in the midst of a lackluster Intercontinental title reign, he’s consistently losing and he’s been leapfrogged on WWE’s heel pecking order by more than just a handful of guys.
Barrett is still incredibly talented, and in fact, has drastically improved since his days with The Nexus. But over the last two years, Barrett has fallen far short of expectations, and now, he’s got more competition to deal with.
In a WWE that now features a boatload of up-and-coming studs, especially on the heel side, Barrett now finds himself surrounded by young, hungry superstars who are looking to make it to the top of the company just like he is.
Two years ago, no one would have expected to see Barrett stuck in the midcard, losing consistently and hardly ever getting the opportunity to stand out. Yet, that’s exactly what happened.
Barrett has become one of the most poorly booked and underutilized characters in the entire WWE, and the longer he goes without reaching the top of the company, the less likely it looks that he will actually do so.
Five months ago, Barrett told us that the Barrett Barrage was coming. But we’ve waited and waited and waited, and the winds of change have still yet to blow.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!