10 Years Later: A Look Back at NXT’s First Breakout Star Wade Barrett

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Wade Barrett
All Photos Courtesy Of WWE

Ten years ago we watched the culmination of the first season of NXT’s reality show format. Season’s favorite Wade Barrett managed to ride his momentum to win the inaugural season, being dubbed WWE’s next breakout star and awarded a title shot of his choosing. While Barrett wouldn’t capture the stardom the show seemed to promise, he managed to have a fairly successful run on WWE’s main roster.

There’s no doubt others from the show have gone on to have more success, it also can’t be argued that he is the most successful winner of the show’s five-season run. Rather than fantasy book and look at what might have been, I’d like to use this time to appreciate the success the bright star managed to have in his time with WWE.

Winner of the first season of NXT

Though many aren’t fans of NXT’s early days as a reality show, you cannot deny the talent level some of these seasons possessed. The first season included the likes of Skip Sheffield (better known as Ryback), Justin Gabriel (now known as PJ Black), and of course, Daniel Bryan. Lead by industry great Chris Jericho, Wade Barrett managed to stand out from the talented pack from the start.

There was almost no doubt after Daniel Bryan’s elimination that Wade Barrett was a lock to win and on June 1st, 2010 he would beat out the earlier mentioned Justin Gabriel and David Otunga to claim the win and the coveted title shot.

Leader of The Nexus

Photo: WWE

It is impossible to discuss Wade Barrett’s WWE run without mentioning the Nexus. Their debut alone forever left an impression on those watching at home. Never had a group had such an impactful debut before or since that glorious June episode. You could easily write an entire article on this group alone, though that’s not what we’re doing here this is strictly focused on Barrett.

However, if you are interested in learning more about the significance of this group keep an eye on our site. We will be releasing an article on June 7th, 2020 to coincide with the group’s 10th anniversary of their earlier mentioned spectacular debut.

Leading the Nexus alone is a career highlight for the former bare-knuckle boxer, it is not his only accomplishment during this time. He would frequently find himself opposite top babyface John Cena and at the time WWE Champion Randy Orton. He challenged the latter several times for the title, sadly never emerging with the said title around his waist. Fortunately for the talented Barrett, there would be another title in his future.

Winning the Intercontinental Championship

After being ousted from the Nexus by CM Punk, Barrett would move to Smackdown to start a new group known as The Corre, that included fellow NXT/Nexus alumni Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater. The group also recruited enforcer Ezekiel Jackson, in hopes of becoming a dominant force on Friday nights.

Though Barrett’s new group never had the impact of the Nexus, it would give him his first taste of main roster gold. On March 25th, 2011 Barrett would defeat Kofi Kingston and capture the Intercontinental Championship. This would be the first of five Intercontinental Title reigns for Barrett and firmly establish him as a talented upper card heel.

The Barrett Barrage

While Barrett did not win a title during this period, it is arguably the closest he had come since The Nexus to being a true main event heel. He went on a rampage, brutalizing his opponents and embarking on an impressive winning streak.

His streak would end at the hands of old foe Randy Orton, this would be the start of a series of matches that is fondly remembered by this writer. Though he would ultimately lose his feud to Orton, Barrett would find himself back in World title contention competing in a few number one contender’s matches and an Elimination Chamber for the big gold belt.

Rumors began swirling that WWE was planning on tuning the Money in the Bank ladder match back into a WrestleMania attraction and Wade Barrett was largely being discussed as the winner of the career-changing briefcase. Sadly Barrett would suffer an elbow injury and all talks of the match were scrapped, leading many to believe this was solely being done to push Barrett back to the main event.

Barrett would return playing off his background as a bare-knuckle boxer and go on to capture the Intercontinental Championship two more times throughout this run. Despite the success, he never seemed to be as close to the main event as he was during “The Barrett Barrage” phase of his career. Another hiatus due to visa issues allowed Barrett to undergo possibly the most successful transformation of his career.

I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news!

Wade Barrett

What started as a comedy act on the JBL & Cole Show, quickly turned into the most popular character of Barrett’s entire WWE career. He would return in December of 2013 and would quickly catch fire with the WWE universe using the catchphrase, “I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news!”

Barrett would ride this momentum to a fourth Intercontinental Championship reign, being fully embraced by the WWE universe along the way. Sadly WWE would force him to stop using his popular catchphrase as he was a heel and felt it was affecting his ability to gain any heat with the fans.

Though he would go on to have one more reign as Intercontinental Champion and even be crowned King of the Ring in the competition’s return, it felt as if the writing was on the wall for Barrett’s career. Barrett would request his release from WWE following the unsuccessful run of the League of Nations, in an attempt to pursue ventures outside of wrestling.

Wade Barrett may not have reached the heights many thought him destined for, or capable of achieving. Still, you cannot deny Penwortham native achieved levels of success many in the industry could only dream of.  He ended his career as one of the most prolific IC champions of all time and was involved in some of the biggest moments of the 2010s.

Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. WWE fan? You can check out an almost unlimited array of WWE content on the WWE Network.

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