In March of 2011, I initiated a new column here on Bleacher Report entitled "WWE Pushed to Punished," where I analyze the controversial careers of past and present WWE Superstars who had major potential but somehow lost their way over time due to a variety of reasons. This past Friday, my collective slideshow recapped each of my past topics in light of today's official return of the series.
Of the many talented performers being underutilized at the moment, the most noteworthy name that comes to mind is Wade Barrett. Don't let the Intercontinental Championship belt around his waist fool you; he has lost more televised matches over the course of 2013 than any other year of his WWE career.
That might be acceptable for anyone named Yoshi Tatsu or JTG, but certainly not for Wade Barrett, who was once (and still is) seen as a future World Heavyweight champion. How did this sudden fall from grace come about, you ask?
Well, let's find out by taking a trip down memory lane and recapping Barrett's WWE career from the very beginning.
Following the closure of the ECW brand in early 2010, a new show called NXT was set to debut, which focused on building new stars and introducing them to the WWE Universe. Eight rookies were called up from WWE's developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling to compete in the competition, with Wade Barrett being one of them.
With then-World Heavyweight champion Chris Jericho as his pro, there was no stopping Barrett. He ran rampant through the competition and was almost always ranked first in the pro polls in the latter half of the season.
On June 1, Barrett emerged victorious over David Otunga and Justin Gabriel to win the inaugural season of NXT, which didn't come as much of a surprise to most viewers. What happened next, however, certainly did.
On the Viewer's Choice edition of Raw, Barrett took part in an interview backstage and said he was on the verge of accomplishing something that had never before been accomplished in WWE. Later in the evening, Barrett was seen walking toward the ring during the main event match between John Cena and CM Punk, but he wasn't alone.
From different parts of the arena, the other seven competitors from NXT emerged and surrounded the ring. Within mere moments, pure chaos ensued as the newcomers initiated an attack on everyone in sight.
From Cena to the commentators to the arena security, no one was safe. The vicious vigilantes destroyed everything at ringside and even took apart the ring, where Cena was on the receiving end of multiple finishers from the NXT rookies.
Needless to say, it was one of the most controversial conclusions to Raw in years. Fans worldwide were in utter disbelief by what they had just witnessed, and what they witnessed was the start of something new.
At the start of the subsequent edition of Raw, Barrett explained their actions by saying that they were sick and tired of being abused at the hands of WWE management. Raw general manager Bret Hart fired Barrett from the Raw roster shortly thereafter, but that wasn't the last time we would see the evil Englishman on the show that night.
Despite being asked to leave the arena earlier in the evening, Barrett and the other NXT rookies (save Daniel Bryan, who had been legitimately released from his WWE contract that prior weekend) abducted Bret Hart and stuffed him into the back of a limousine. Due to the injuries Hart sustained from the attack, he was removed from his position as general manager, which meant that all members of the sadistic stable (later known as The Nexus) were given Raw contracts by the newly appointed anonymous authority figure.
That Sunday at the Fatal 4 Way pay-per-view, The Nexus interfered in the WWE Championship main event, costing Cena the title. History repeated itself the following month at the inaugural Money in the Bank event, where The Nexus prevented Cena from regaining the gold from Sheamus inside a Steel Cage.
The next night on Raw, The Nexus attempted to convince Cena to join them by promising him that their attacks would cease, but the Cenation leader retaliated by forming a team of his own to rival the black-and-yellow group at SummerSlam. In what was the beginning of the end of the group, as The Nexus was unsuccessful in defeating Cena's dream team at the biggest blockbuster of the summer.
Many people credit this loss as the turning point of the Nexus angle, which is true to an extent. Barrett and company certainly shouldn't have lost here, as it did significant damage to the group in the long run.
However, Barrett was still considered to be the top villain in the company, despite not emerging victorious at SummerSlam. To go from inexperienced rookie to WWE's most hated heel in six months time is incredibly impressive, and Barrett's feud with Cena was far from over.
In following months, Barrett trimmed the fat from The Nexus by exiling Darren Young, Skip Sheffield and Michael Tarver from the group. At Night of Champions, he cashed in his shot at the WWE Championship that he earned from winning NXT but came up short.
Nonetheless, Barrett was the one who eliminated Cena from the bout, which only furthered Cena's hatred for the feared foreigner. The two were set to clash at WWE Hell in a Cell, where both parties had something at stake.
If Cena emerged victorious, The Nexus would have to permanently disband. However, if Barrett managed to score the victory, Cena would be forced to join The Nexus.
During the match, two faceless figures (later revealed to be Michael McGillicutty and Husky Harris) attacked Cena behind the referee's back, thus allowing Barrett to pick up the scraps and the win. The WWE Universe was shocked by what they had just seen unfold before their very eyes: Cena was now a part of The Nexus.
In the weeks that followed, Barrett forced Cena to do his dirty deeds for him, such as helping him become the No. 1 contender to the WWE Championship. With Cena in his corner, Barrett contended against then-WWE champion Randy Orton in his first one-on-one title shot at Bragging Rights.
Before Barrett could win the match, Cena got him intentionally disqualified, thus living up to his end of the bargain by helping Barrett win the match. The evil Englishman received another shot at the gold in the main event of Survivor Series, where if special guest referee John Cena deemed him the victor, he would grant Cena his freedom from the The Nexus.
Regardless, Cena still called the match down the middle and raised Orton's hand in victory, meaning Cena was now fired from WWE. Barrett received one final WWE title match the next night on Raw but came up short thanks to an interfering Cena.
At this point, many fans believed that Barrett was ready to win the gold, but it sadly wasn't meant to be. He wasn't given the satisfaction of being the one to blame for Cena's firing since Cena kept coming back each and every week despite not being an official member of the roster.
At WWE TLC, Cena defeated Barrett in a Chairs match, thus ending the feud. In the storyline, Barrett was injured from being buried by multiple steel chairs that fell from the ceiling at the hands of Cena, so he was kept off television for the remainder of the year.
On the premiere edition of Raw in 2011, Barrett returned to confront CM Punk, who had taken control of Nexus in his absence. Punk made a wager that Barrett could have control of the group if he won the Steel Cage match later in the night, but he would be banned from Raw if he were to lose.
As Barrett ascended the steel cage during the main event, Punk emerged from the back to aid him, only to kick him off the top and ensured he lost the match. No longer a part of The Nexus, Barrett had no business on Raw and instead jumped ship to SmackDown.
Mere days later, Barrett interfered in a Fatal 4-Way match to determine the No. 1 contender to the World Heavyweight Championship, attacking Big Show. In his debut match on SmackDown, Barrett fought Big Show to a no contest before Justin Gabriel, Heath Slater and Ezekiel Jackon entered the ring, joining Barrett in his attack against Big Show.
It was confirmed the following week that the four individuals were a newly formed group, calling themselves The Corre. Barrett stated that they were all equals and there was no designated leader, unlike The Nexus.
The faction quickly wrecked havoc on the blue brand, targeting the likes of Edge, Big Show, Kane and others. Although Barrett failed to win the World Heavyweight Championship at Elimination Chamber, Slater and Gabriel were successful in capturing the WWE Tag Team Championships later in the show.
On the March 25 edition of SmackDown, Barrett soundly defeated Kofi Kingston to win the Intercontinental Championship, his first singles title in WWE. He made his debut on The Grandest Stage of Them All at WrestleMania 27 alongside The Corre, losing to the team of Big Show, Kane, Kofi Kingston and Santino Kozlov in a mere minute.
Although The Corre was pushed as a force to be reckoned with early on, the group was quickly relegated to enhancement talent by April. Three of the four members held gold, yet they lost almost every match they competed in and were no real threat to anyone on the roster.
In June, Gabriel, Slater and Barrett mutually decided to part ways (Jackson had been removed the group the previous month and had since feuded with Barrett). At Capitol Punishment, Barrett's reign as Intercontinental champion came to an end when he dropped the strap to Jackson.
For the first time in his WWE career, Barrett was now flying solo as a singles competitor. This was the best move for the NXT winner, as he no longer had anyone holding him back from reaching his full potential.
He competed in SmackDown's version of the Money in the Bank Ladder match in July but was unsuccessful. However, he ended up defeating the eventual winner and former NXT stablemate Daniel Bryan in a singles match at SummerSlam.
From that point forward, Barrett declared the "Barrett Barrage" was underway. He backed up his sentiments with victories over Randy Orton and Sheamus, respectively, that fall, signaling a strong push from officials backstage.
At Survivor Series, he did the impossible by leading his team to victory, lastly eliminating Randy Orton. The two reignited their rivalry in the weeks that followed, which saw Orton even the odds by defeating Barrett in a Tables match at WWE TLC.
Disregarding the loss, Barrett went on to shove Orton down a flight of stairs on the final edition of SmackDown in 2011. Unfortunately, Barrett's removal of Orton from the active roster did nothing to further his push, as it was treated like an afterthought going into the new year.
The former Intercontinental champion had just taken out one of the biggest stars in all of WWE but was still being overlooked by management. Upon Orton's return to the ring in late January, he defeated Barrett in a No Disqualification match to conclude the feud.
For the second straight year, Barrett competed in the World Heavyweight Championship Elimination Chamber match but was eliminated by Santino Marella. The next night on Raw, Barrett took part in an over-the-top-rope battle royal to determine the No. 1 contender to the WWE Championship but was thrown out by Big Show.
Not only was he eliminated, but he was injured as well when Big Show tossed Dolph Zigger at him at ringside. Barrett was sidelined indefinitely in order to undergo elbow surgery, meaning he would miss WrestleMania.
It was reported that Barrett was originally scheduled to win the Money in the Bank Ladder match at WrestleMania 28, but his injury forced plans to change. The match was nixed from the event altogether and he wasn't able to return in time for the Money in the Bank pay-per-view that July.
On the August 6 edition of Raw, vignettes began airing promoting Barrett's return to WWE. The vignettes depicted him as a ruthless brawler that had no mercy over anyone who dared to step in his path of destruction.
He returned to the ring with a new look, entrance theme and finisher on the September 7 edition of SmackDown, defeating Yoshi Tatsu. He proclaimed that he was "open for business" and that he had set his sights on the World title.
He continued to stack up victories in subsequent weeks before suffering his first pinfall loss since returning against then-World Heavyweight champion Sheamus in a Lumberjack match on SmackDown.
After The Miz was removed from Team Heyman at Survivor Series, Wade Barrett took his spot as a "favor" to Heyman. His team went on to emerge victorious against Team Foley at the event.
In the match, Barrett pinned then-Intercontinental champion Kingston to eliminate him from the bout and repeated the task the next night on Raw in a non-title match. This earned Barrett a title shot at December's WWE TLC pay-per-view, where he was unsuccessful at winning the gold.
Despite that, the rivalry raged on for the remainder of 2012, leading to Barrett defeating Kingston to win his second Intercontinental title on the New Year's Eve edition of Raw. He successfully defended the strap against the Ghanaian grappler four days later on SmackDown.
Aside from a clean victory over Orton on the 20th anniversary of Raw, Barrett lost nearly every match he competed in as champion. He was even eliminated from the Royal Rumble match by NXT's own Bo Dallas, whom he lost to a non-title match on the subsequent edition of Raw.
To make matters worse, Barrett's feud with Dallas went nowhere. Dallas has yet to resurface, meaning that Barrett's losses to the rookie were a complete waste of time.
From Orton to Sheamus to Alberto Del Rio, it seemed like everyone was getting the better of Barrett. These various losses ruined any momentum and credibility Barrett had built up upon returning to the ring in late 2012.
While he managed to maintain possession of the gold on the March 18 edition of Raw in a Triple Threat match against The Miz and Chris Jericho, he lost the strap to Miz in the pre-show match at WrestleMania 29. The Awesome One's time with the title was short-lived, though, as Barrett invoked his rematch clause the following night on Raw and embarked on this third reign as Intercontinental champ.
Dropping the title at 'Mania proved to be pointless, as he has continued to lose meaningless matches against the likes of Sin Cara, R-Truth and Fandango. He has since entered a feud with Miz and Fandango, whom he will face in a Triple Threat match for the IC title at Payback.
For his sake, I truly hope Barrett drops the title to either Miz or Fandango at Payback, as it has done nothing but hinder him up to this point. He was much better without it and is worth much more to the company than how he's being treated at the moment.
His in-ring skills are solid and his mic work is excellent, so I fail to see why he isn't already in the main event scene. Bringing him back as a bare-knuckle fighter was smart booking, but having him lose every match he competes in defeats the purpose of his renewed push.
WWE is in desperate need of top stars on its Raw brand, as the only individuals that have competed for the WWE Championship in the last year include John Cena, CM Punk, Ryback and The Rock. Why not insert Barrett into that position at some point in the foreseeable future?
Of course, he would need to be built up a bit more before he can be considered to be a threat to either of the main titles again, but it's worth a shot. Barrett can easily be a valuable asset to WWE like he was in 2010, but the Creative Team must starting booking him accordingly.
So, had Barrett not sustained that injury, would he have been World Heavyweight champion by now? We may never know the answer to that question, but one can only hope that he captures the gold and becomes the first British wrestler to hold a WWE World Heavyweight title sooner rather than later.
Thanks for reading, Bleachers, and be sure to drop a comment below with your thoughts on Wade Barrett and his descent over the last few years. Also, include any other potential topics you'd like to see me analyze on upcoming editions of WWE Pushed to Punished.
Read every archived edition of Pushed to Punished here.