Wade Barrett, Bad News Barrett, King Barrett. Whatever persona you associate with the King of the Bullhammer, it is fair to say you most likely agree that he was one of the biggest missed opportunities that WWE has had in the last few years. Where did it start? Where is he now? Why is Otunga still on commentary? All of these questions and more will be explored as you read on.
It all began in Liverpool. Barrett, then obviously using his normal name of Stuart Bennett (Stu for the cooler kids among us), and was a bare-knuckle boxer. During his time as boxer, he won numerous fights all around Europe. He developed a hype around him and was even stabbed after winning a substantial cash prize from a fight. As we all know, his early career was eventually worked into his gimmick. I’m here to inform you that this is one of the rare instances in which WWE are telling the truth.
He soon decided that lifestyle wasn’t for him, so he had gotten some professional wrestling training courtesy of Al Snow. He spent the majority of his early 20s wrestling around the UK before signing to OVW in 2007. He formed a team with Paul Burchill and then in 2008 became one of several wrestlers that made the transition from OVW to WWE’s newest developmental territory, FCW.
His FCW run was an interesting one. He was in a tag-team with Drew McIntyre which saw them win the Tag Team Titles. He would later go solo, get injured, and fill in as a commentator before ultimately being christened Wade Barrett. He later described that character of Wade Barrett as an ‘extension of his dark side’.
Then came NXT.
Right, to provide correct journalistic context for this article, I’ll have to fill some of you in on what NXT was in 2010. It was in a sense, a reality show. Each ‘rookie’ was given a storyline mentor, competed in matches and challenges, and every week one of the rookies would be eliminated until only one was remaining. The ultimate prize was getting a spot on the main roster. Whilst interesting concept, and arguably excellent in execution during the first season, it eventually fell about as flat as Nexus’ push, but we’ll get to that.
Anyway, Barrett’s storyline mentor was Chris Jericho, and he won the first season. In a season which had stars such as Daniel Bryan, Heath Slater, Ryback (use the term stars loosely here), Darren Young (see Ryback) and Justin Gabriel (an underrated talent), this was a massive feat for Wade. But who exactly did he defeat in the final? Oh yeah, David Otunga, so we’ll just skim past that
Now here comes the interesting bit. Just a week later, Barrett debuted on the main roster, but not alone. It was as part of a new faction named ‘The Nexus’. The carnage they left the ring in during that debut was indescribable. The Nexus were the hottest act in WWE in the summer of 2010, decimating their counterparts. In doing this they were able to get some of the most organic heat you can wish for a heel faction. They were buried to some extent by Cena at SummerSlam losing the massive elimination match, but the faction did manage to recoup some momentum, with Barrett headlining a couple of pay-per-view’s for the WWE title. Eventually, CM Punk replaced Barrett as the leader of the Nexus, leaving him out in the cold.
Then he formed The Corre, which was the WWE equivalent of saying that they had nothing creative for anyone in the group except Barrett. The one thing that came from this was Barrett emerging as a genuine mainstay in the upper rungs of the WWE, winning the Intercontinental Title and legitimatized more than anyone else had in the last couple of tries.
Post-Corre, Barrett started to receive a monster-push. He went on a winning streak against main event talent, was a sole survivor in a 5 on 5 match against Team Orton, and sadly that was squashed as well. Barrett losing the overall feud to Orton would have hm retreating back to the mid card. He won the Intercontinental Title again after starting to use his bare-knuckle boxing gimmick. Following that he would be repackaged as Bad News Barrett, also known as career suicide.
With this new gimmick, Barrett won the Intercontinental title again a couple of times, making him a 5 time champ. He was ultimately buried prior to Wrestlemania 31, and dropped the belt in a ladder match. Despite winning King Of The Ring, christening himself as King Barrett, and being a part of the League Of Nations, Barrett never got back on his feet. He eventually left WWE in June 2016.
So, where would King Barrett be today?
Well, Stu Bennett is currently on a hiatus from wrestling. He is focusing on acting and other ventures including a tour talking about his WWE experience. He has also recently appeared at a WCPW IPPV event. It’s looking like he may be ready to return to the ring, so here’s my opinion on what could happen should he come back to the big leagues.
Realistically, given the fact he only left around a year ago, most fans would still remember Barrett as the guy that was completely buried. With that in mind, he couldn’t start as anything more than a solid mid-carder. However, build him up, avoid dropping the ball, and you may just have a star on your hands. People forget that Barrett was once a legitimate main-event heel, and there is no reason he couldn’t become one again. If you really want, you could put him in NXT, and give him a run with the NXT title. It would help to really get him over with the smartest of WWE fans that regularly watch NXT. This would make his main roster return a strong one. However, I don’t think Barrett will be making the jump back to the McMahon fun house, so maybe Impact Wrestling is his calling.
In summary, Wade Barrett had an up and down career in the WWE. There is still room for a talent like his, even with the ever-changing style of the product. Bring him back and use him correctly and you’ll have a great upper-midcarder who’s more than capable of stepping up to the main event scene. However, misuse him again and you’ll just have another missed opportunity.