Wade Barrett (or King Barrett, or Bad News Barrett, depending on the way the wind blows I guess) is officially done with WWE after nine years of being employed by the company and six of being on television. Barrett leaves WWE as an afterthought, having been kicked out of The League of Nations the night after WrestleMania 32 in his final appearance.
In a way, it’s fitting that Barrett’s final appearance ended with him being left to take the fall for his teammates. In his final year with WWE, his primary role was to lose, and to make others look good (or at least not as bad as him) whenever he wrestled. Around these parts, he adapted the moniker of King Take-a-pin. For the life of me, I can’t remember the last singles match Barrett was even in, much less actually won.
But that was not always the case. In fact, Wade Barrett was once a surefire future WWE Champion, someone who was expected to be a top heel for years to come as WWE entered a new decade. Due to a combination of injuries, bad gimmicks, and misuse, though, by the time Barrett joined The League of Nations in late 2015, he was a shell of his former self.
Back in 2010, Barrett made his debut on WWE television on the first season of NXT, and quickly became the standout of the show in the non-Daniel Bryan division. Barrett won the competition, and it wasn’t hard to see why. Not only did he have the frame and look of a WWE talent, but he was smooth on the microphone and had in-ring skills to match.
When The Nexus made their debut, it was Barrett who led the pack, and it was Barrett who was the most involved in the following storylines, becoming a main event level player within months of him coming onto the scene.
Even after John Cena took the steam out of The Nexus’ run by pinning Barrett to win the seven-on-seven match at SummerSlam 2010, he still looked like he had a bright future ahead of him. At both Bragging Rights and Survivor Series of that same year, Barrett wrestled Randy Orton for the WWE Championship, but an overly convoluted storyline with Cena joining Nexus prevented him from winning either time.
Looking back, it’s odd that it was The Miz who was chosen to main event WrestleMania 27 against Cena, as Barrett could have easily been slotted into that position. Instead, Barrett was shuffled off into the failed Nexus spinoff The Corre.
Alas, even without receiving the company’s top prize or a WrestleMania main event in his first year, it seemed like it would only be a matter of time before Barrett held the gold. He had won the Intercontinental Championship (for the first of his eventual five times) in March of 2011 and he still had momentum, even if the questionable Nexus and The Corre storylines had halted it a little bit.
In the fall of 2011, Barrett was on his own for the first time. Although the “Barrett Barrage” was a somewhat bizarre gimmick, he still scored wins over the likes of Sheamus and Randy Orton during that time and looked poised for another main event push.
By the time WrestleMania season came around in 2012, Barrett was heavily rumored to have been set to win the Money in the Bank briefcase at WrestleMania 28 in Miami, but he suffered a partially dislocated elbow during a battle royal on Raw and was forced to miss the event.
It wasn’t until August of that year that he returned, this time donning yet another new gimmick promoting his bare-knuckle boxing background. At this point, Barrett’s rise had been completely stalled, but he was still able to capture the Intercontinental title on two more occasions in early 2013.
After problems with his work visa, Barrett returned in December of that year with yet another new gimmick. After testing it out partially on The JBL and Cole Show, Barrett ran with a gimmick of delivering bad news to the audience whenever he would appear on TV. In the hands of many wrestlers, this gimmick would have fallen completely flat and been viewed as yet another failed attempt at a goofy comedic character. With Barrett though, his charisma made it shine.
Pretty soon, Bad News Barrett was one of the most over acts on Raw. He had a catchphrase. He had a podium. He had a freaking gavel. It was wonderful. He also won the IC championship again, except this time he had a ton of momentum backing him.
Yet, as with every other push in Barrett’s career, he was soon derailed. It was another injury this time that forced Barrett to vacate his championship. When he finally returned, a lot of what made Bad News Barrett a great character had been abandoned (he wasn’t even allowed to use his catchphrase anymore since he was supposed to be a heel) and once again the former NXT winner barreled down the card.
There was one last opportunity, even if it was half-assed, at making Barrett a thing when he won the King of the Ring in 2015, but the “King Barrett” character was a dud, and his KOTR win meant virtually nothing.
Barrett eventually got hurt one more time and then joined The Lads, but by that point, all hope of him ever being a world champion in WWE was lost. He announced he was leaving in February of this year and made it official on Friday.
Barrett’s fragile body is part of the reason he never made it to the apex of the WWE, but there still felt like there were opportunities to pull the trigger on him that were never taken. Barrett is undeniably talented. He has had great matches with top talent in WWE and remained one of the best promos in the company up until the day he was released.
However, he was just one of those guys that, for whatever reason it never all came together. Barrett may very well find success on the independent scene or in Japan if he can stay healthy, but it’s unlikely he will ever return to WWE. If he does, it will take a miracle for his once red-hot momentum to be reestablished.
It’s mostly through no fault of his own, but unfortunately, the first thing most people will think of when they look back at Wade Barrett’s WWE run will be wasted potential.