A taped episode of Raw from the O2 Arena in London meant Intercontinental champion Wade Barrett was easily the show’s biggest star.
In the alternate universe manifested by so-called “smart” crowds, it’s cool heels like Bray Wyatt and the aforementioned Barrett who are in high demand. Also helping Barrett’s case was that he is a native of the United Kingdom, proudly hailing from Preston, England.
Despite getting a boost in popularity by location, Barrett as a focal point on Raw is a theme that is destined to continue as long as he is Intercontinental champion.
In just over a month, the championship has gone from secondary afterthought to medal of honor. A lineal championship, if you will. In a division now defined by meritocracy, WWE has gone out of its way to build credible challengers.
This has proven more effective than shoehorning a No. 1 contender through the banal “champion loses a non-title match to challenger” formula that actually played out when challenger Cesaro defeated United States champion Sheamus.
Barrett was able to gain more momentum as a challenger last month by winning an Intercontinental championship tournament that spanned multiple weeks. Victories over Dolph Ziggler and Sheamus earned Barrett a title shot against lame-duck champion Big E, who subsequently dropped the title to Barrett at Extreme Rules.
The meritocracy continued Monday with a Beat the Clock Challenge, a WWE staple in establishing contenders usually reserved for world championship title shots.
Van Dam arose as the winner of this challenge, setting up a useful title defense for Barrett over a living legend.
The Intercontinental championship hierarchy should continue leading up to every pay-per-view. WWE has three hours of television to fill on Raw, and a series of meaningful matches will build toward championship showdowns on pay-per-view that will bait WWE Network subscribers.
The more contenders are built through "gimmick" tournaments and Beat the Clock Challenges, the less WWE will need to rely on gimmicks just to promote strong contenders.
In time, several stars will arise as winners of these gimmick matches. This will create value in seeing them face one another for future title shots.
And if Wade Barrett continues to successfully defend his medal of honor, he’ll eventually become the biggest star of every Raw.