WWE Creative has played a blinder in recent weeks with its tournament to crown a No. 1 contender for the WWE Intercontinental Championship. The title had gone stale during Big E's reign, but it now seems like a genuinely coveted prize.
To cement this new status, Bad News Barrett has to be the next man to wear the strap.
Barrett has been on a roll since his return to the ring. He steamrollered Rey Mysterio on the post-WrestleMania episode of Raw and has been formidable ever since. On Monday’s Raw, he is set to face Rob Van Dam in a battle for the title shot. With Van Dam in the twilight of his career, Barrett’s victory feels like a no-brainer.
He is in the middle of a great push for his current gimmick and could potentially be elevated to main event status in the next year. A victory over Big E at Extreme Rules would be the perfect starting point for his journey to the top of the WWE.
Since his debut on the WWE main roster in 2010, questionable booking decisions have marred Barrett’s career. Lacklustre angles like The Corre betrayed the fact that the company just wasn’t sure what to do with him. But in the Bad News Barrett gimmick, WWE has an answer.
Barrett's mic skills, coupled with some recent Match of the Week performances against Dolph Ziggler and Sheamus, have put him over as one of WWE's top heels. He's not a monster like Alexander Rusev. He's a brawler who can work a reliably excellent match with just about any man on the roster.
It’s inevitable that some form of extreme stipulation will be added to his match with Big E between now and Extreme Rules. With Barrett established as a former bare-knuckle fighter, a twist to the match will almost certainly be in his favour.
He has held the intercontinental title three times before, but none of those occasions can match the heat that his character has now. Bad News Barrett is an exciting, innovative niche that Creative needs to exploit as much as possible. It’s everything that Damien Sandow’s gimmick as "Intellectual Saviour of the Masses" probably should have been.
Daniel Bryan’s title reign really needs a new heel to get into the mix. There’s only so many times he can go over old stars like Randy Orton and Kane. Sheamus is an obvious contender when the WWE finally goes through with his turn, but Bad News Barrett is already over with fans as a man they love to hate.
A run as Intercontinental champion would drive him to the top of the midcard, ready to take a shot at the champion. Bad News Barrett’s time to have a real push is now. He must go over Big E and win the WWE Intercontinental Championship to achieve that.