Today's World Wrestling Entertainment is brimming with bright young stars prepared to carry the industry into the future. The Shield, The Wyatt Family, Rusev, Big E, Cesaro and Paige are all competitors looking to carve their own legacies and, in the process, leave the business better off than it was when they found it.
For current Intercontinental Champion Bad News Barrett, maintaining the wave of momentum he has been riding since returning to the ring on the April 8 episode of Monday Night Raw is his first objective. A resilient performer who has overcome failed pushes, poor booking and a months-long layoff, he is as hot now as he has ever been thanks to a character that has struck a chord with the audience.
So over the top is the Bad News Barrett persona that fans instantly gravitated to it. The catchphrase is great, and the conviction with which he speaks and the fun he appears to be having have made him one of the most enjoyable characters on WWE programming.
Sunday night at Payback, Barrett will have the opportunity to work with Rob Van Dam, an elite-level Superstar whose resume is eclipsed by few. One of the most popular stars of his generation, Van Dam has squared off with every major star of the last decade and has beaten most of them.
It is a major advantage for today's young stars to be able to work with and learn from Van Dam.
The key to Van Dam helping to legitimize Barrett's Intercontinental Championship reign lies in his reputation. Commentators Michael Cole, John Bradshaw Layfield and Jerry Lawler, on the direction of Vince McMahon, treat Van Dam like the future Hall of Famer he is. They make sure to put over what a big deal it is to beat someone of his stature.
As a result, when a young star such as Barrett or the aforementioned Cesaro does beat the former ECW star, it instantly legitimizes that competitor.
Fans respect Van Dam. They know what he's done in the industry, all of the championships he's won and the all-time greats he's put down for the count. They admire his ability to come back at his age and still pull off the athletic offense that he does.
Most of all, they love that he does not take things seriously. His laid-back attitude is a welcome breath of fresh air in a company where everyone is so serious, aggressive and intense all the time. He just goes with the flow, winning some and losing some, taking to the ring because he loves to compete.
Van Dam is recognized as one of the leaders of an entire era and the breakout star of one of the most revolutionary promotions in history. One of the few to experience major success everywhere he has been, RVD has proven to be one of the most adaptable performers ever.
All of that adds up to him being one of the most respected and influential stars of the last 20 years.
At Payback, Barrett has the opportunity to add to his recent string of successes by defeating Van Dam in a major championship clash. If he can beat Van Dam, which many expect him to, it will be one of the biggest wins of his career.
If he is allowed the opportunity to compete against and beat other highly touted Superstars throughout the rest of 2014, there is no reason to believe that Barrett will not finally break through the glass ceiling that has separated him from where he wants to be throughout his WWE career.