Wade Barrett is a stalking panther of a wrestler, a confident predator waiting around to use his unsheathed claws.
To see him continue to run in place is surprising; Barrett is fully capable of being one of WWE's top heels right now.
Instead, the panther watches the other beasts have their fill as he's forced to wait patiently for his own opportunity as king of the jungle.
Early on, it seemed that Barrett's trajectory would go ever upward. The first winner of NXT, a former bare-knuckle boxer with a towering physique, fought John Cena early in his career. Just months into his WWE career, Barrett was battling for the WWE title at Night of Champions 2010.
Barrett has since tumbled down.
A pair of disappointing recent Intercontinental title reigns saw him on his back too often, losing to everyone from R-Truth to Bo Dallas. Many fans picked him to win the 2013 world title Money in the Bank ladder match, but instead watched as Damien Sandow pulled down the briefcase.
As one of the best brawlers in the company, a talented mic worker with a great look, Barrett has all the tools wrestling bookers look for. When WWE alum and company insiders describe his talent, though, it feels as if the discussion turns to the future rather than the present.
Looking to the Horizon
When a fan asked former Superstar Lance Storm his thoughts on Barrett, Storm used a word one hears a lot about Barrett: "potential."
That's a review an NXT prospect wants to garner, not necessarily a 33-year-old wrestler who has had his toes hanging on the cusp of the very top of WWE.
Jim Ross in an interview with DigitalSpy.com said of Barrett, "he's got a great skill set. He's continuing to evolve and get better in his game." Joey Styles threw out the idea of Barrett accomplishing something that Dynamite Kid, Davey Boy Smith and William Regal never did.
Styles is right on here as Barrett would make a fine world champ.
It seems though that WWE officials' opinion of Barrett is more in line with John "Bradshaw" Layfield's.
Again there is more deference about when Barrett will be a major player. One wonders if WWE officials are telling Barrett that his time is coming or if seeing his work against Cena in 2010 was enough to show them that the highest rungs will be off limits for him.
The Barrett Barrage
Need a physical match complete with blows that echo through an arena? Barrett's your man.
Barrett is 6'7'' and 246 pounds, an intimidating presence in the ring.
He employs a nasty, intense style in the ring that is fun to watch. He could certainly turn that element up some and benefit from emulating Bruiser Brody's viciousness, but Barrett is just behind Sheamus in terms of brawling skills.
Watch those two battle here on SmackDown in 2011.
Barrett is as effective in reacting to Sheamus' blows as he is delivering his own punishment. The Englishman seems to be enjoying choking Sheamus with the ring rope and pounding on his chest with forearms.
He moves fluidly in the ring for his size as well.
He blends brutality with athleticism, mixing sledgehammer-like punches to the ribs with a swift, graceful back kick. He grunts as he battles and provides moments in his matches that force the crowd to marvel at his brute force.
Barrett is a compelling warrior just as capable of delivering marquee matches as recent headliners Ryback and Mark Henry. His work against Daniel Bryan at SummerSlam 2011, opposite John Cena at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2010 and vs. Randy Orton at TLC 2011 show us glimpses of that talent.
In determining his upside, his ability to draw us in while fighting is big, but one has to also factor in his ability to captivate with his words.
A Leader of Men
It was clear why WWE chose Barrett to lead Nexus. He not only looked like the natural leader, but he had the most charisma of any of the stable's members.
Barrett's expression is often a blend of snarling and smugness, arrogance beaming from his mug.
He is the ideal villain; ruggedly handsome, sinister and dismissive. Even when given a short amount of time, Barrett shines.
He's clearly comfortable on the mic here, not overacting nor bleating from a script robotically.
This is Barrett's strength in a world where decent acting is rare. His stage presence got him an early shot in the main event as the leader of Nexus and he's too infrequently received a chance to show those skills off again.
With the right narrative, Barrett can be the criminal mastermind, the heartless villain captain or, simply put, a top heel.
It's not often that someone holds their own in war of words with CM Punk, but Barrett did just that in a segment surrounding the splintering of Nexus.
There is desperation in Barrett's voice as the group slips out of his grasp, but it's not overdone. He still sounds like a commander and the star of the show. This is where WWE can maximize Barrett's potential, by returning him to a similar role.
Barrett isn't as great as Orton in the ring, but his charisma would have him thrive in The Viper's current position.
He has struggled to find a standout finisher, he's not as athletic as Orton or as skilled a technician as Bryan, but Barrett's approach to the art form of pro wrestling is attention-grabbing. He could be the heel version of what Sheamus was in 2012, the fight-loving world champ.
WWE has been patient with bringing Cody Rhodes to the top, but Barrett doesn't have as much time as Rhodes.
He's five years older than Rhodes.
The former bare-knuckle boxer's ceiling is a world-champion heel, the No. 1 villain opposite the company's biggest hero.
Given a cadre of men to lead, a storyline that emphasizes his viciousness and opponents who can handle themselves in a bar fight of a wrestling match, Barrett would flourish. Otherwise, talk of his potential will turn into talk of what might have been.
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