Wade Barrett, WWE's Intercontinental title holder, is minus a worthy rival heading into Extreme Rules 2013 and his momentum will suffer because of it.
The gimmick match-heavy pay-per-view will offer finality for the Triple H and Brock Lesnar feud, clarity for the world title picture and an opportunity for Ryback to establish himself as one of WWE's top heels. Extreme Rules would be a great time for an IC title feud to escalate, but Barrett lacks an archenemy, the type of challenger who could electrify his title reign.
The slowly-building Extreme Rules card does not include either midcard champ as of yet. Whatever challenger WWE throws at Barrett between now and May 19, the result will be a battle without much fanfare or buildup. There is little time left to initiate a story, to pluck someone worthy from the roster and have him pursue Barrett's championship.
If he is indeed done with The Miz, who else is left to come after his championship?
It's not to say that the midcard portion of the roster isn't talented enough to rise to the occasion; it's just that they have all been so underused and made to look anything but championship-worthy.
Alex Riley, for example, could have a fantastic feud with Barrett. He's the ideal type of Superstar for the IC title picture—athletic and entertaining in the ring, but not a big enough star for the main event. The issue with Riley challenging Barrett is that fans haven't seen A-Ry nearly enough recently.
To have a guy who rarely appears and even more rarely wins on WWE TV leap up to title contendership would feel forced.
WWE's consistent negligence of the midcard has left guys like Zack Ryder, Yoshi Tatsu and Justin Gabriel ineffective challengers. Gabriel recently put on an excellent match against Barrett on WWE Main Event. Even as well as he and Barrett performed that night, most fans knew the outcome beforehand.
Going from benchwarming to IC title match has the challenger come off as far less of a threat.
Barrett's challengers should head into their matches with him in the midst of building momentum. Fans should believe that these men can beat Barrett. There are sparse options on the roster when it comes to finding someone to fulfill that role.
This isn't a situation unique to Extreme Rules. Barrett and the midcard champs in general haven't had enough compelling stories or opportunities for rivalries to blossom. With as much programming as WWE has every week, there has to be enough time to build some midcard feuds. Otherwise, how is Barrett supposed to succeed?
What would Batman be without The Joker? What would Razor Ramon's IC reign have been without Shawn Michaels to push him, to test him, to come after his belt?
That's what Barrett is missing.
How can he be a great champion without a series of great challengers? How can he advance without fallen bodies to climb upon? The talented champion will stay stagnant without the thrust of a developed rivalry to aid him.
Scour the roster. There's not a worthy challenger to Barrett's championship at Extreme Rules or beyond. WWE has left its midcard roster uncultivated. Therefore, it has little choice when it comes time to harvest.