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 411mania » Wrestling » Columns

The 8-Ball 12.09.13: Top 8 Gimmicks for Wade Barrett
Posted by Mike Hammerlock on 12.09.2013

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Life is filled with certain unanswerable questions. What is the sound of one hand clapping? Why is there evil in the world? But does Chachi love Joanie? And of course - what's the deal with Wade Barrett, I mean, I thought that guy was going to be a megastar and instead he's just kicking around the mid-card without direction, seriously, is he ever going to win a WWE title? In the wrestling business, Barrett's one of the surest things that never happened. The oddest part of it is he makes everything they give him works. He never flops. When he's in a feud he puts it over. He looks like the guy. He sounds like the guy. Sometimes he even performs like the guy, but he never winds up being the guy.

Now he's at a crossroads. Barrett could be a potential answer to the WWE's current heel problem (outside of Randy Orton there isn't a heel in the singles division who looks like a credible threat for the WWE title). He's getting a fresh coat of paint as Bad News Barrett. Will that fix him? We're going to check with the Magic 8-Ball to find out. Two things that won't fix him are a new entrance theme and a new finisher. That's become the "take two aspirin and call me in the morning" for pro wrestlers looking to reinvent themselves. Barrett has had perfectly fine entrance themes. A new guitar riff isn't going to transform him. Yes, his finishers have been lame. The Bull Hammer is better than Wasteland, but so is a tickling submission: oh no, he's pulling out the feather! Barrett with a piledriver would be better than Barrett pretending his elbow is made of tungsten, but no one move is going to make Barrett the biggest dog in the yard.

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8. Bad News Barrett

Well, this is what they're doing. Barrett gets up and dumps all over the audience like he's Wowbagger, the Infinitely Prolonged. I guess the idea is this will get fans angry at him. Unfortunately that's not his problem. The audience already dislikes him. He's been running down WWE fans for the better part of four years. This is not exactly new territory for him. The reason why Barrett hasn't risen to the top tier has nothing to do with what he says. It's what he does (or, more accurately, doesn't do). Fans don't respect him as a legitimate threat, and don't blame the booking. Barrett's a bit generic in the ring.

No matter what his gimmick is, he's not getting over if he doesn't improve between the ropes. The bizarre thing is he knows how to fight in real life. Of course, Steve Blackman long ago proved knowing how to fight in real life does not mean you will look like you know how to fight during a staged contest. Despite that, Barrett's bare knuckles experience should have left him with some boxing skills. Incorporate some head movement. Twist your torso like you know how to deliver a punch. Show off some footwork. Undertaker does it and he's never been in an organized fist fight in his entire life.

Magic 8-Ball says: This isn't going to work. Barrett will get some air time and maybe some social media virality, but the bad news gimmick doesn't translate to the ring. Even if he gets this gimmick over, we'll want to hear him behind the mic more than we'll want to see him fight. He's going to remain in the midcard and increasingly become a stepping stone for guys on their way up.

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7. Nexus Reunion

It's a lazy idea, but Barrett, Ryback, Heath Slater, Justin Gabriel and David Otunga all are drifting at the moment. Arguably Slater is the guy with the most secure spot, as a comedy jobber. Based on the idea that our fast-paced world has cut the nostalgia cycle down to roughly three years, the Nexus boys could replay their greatest hit. We didn't even know what Gangnam style was back in 2010, now it's ancient. We were so primitive back then.

The upside of getting the gang back together is that Barrett and Ryback have main-evented and the others are now seasoned pros. A reformed Nexus would immediately be perceived as a serious entity. Curtis Axel could join as well. He's been hanging around with Ryback lately, so they don't have to go hunting for him. They could try to sell the reformation as a group of guys who feel they have unfinished business, that they're way more more dangerous now that they're no longer rookies.

Magic 8-Ball says: After the initial bounce, it would begin to feel like a farewell tour. The Nexus angle gave these guys a great start, but if they can't move past it they're going to be on the Ted DiBiase Jr. track instead of the Cody Rhodes track. These guys are who they are and putting on matching t-shirts again won't alter that. Also, good luck pushing a Nexus faction in line in front of the Wyatt Family, headed by a former Nexus member. Way to go Husky.

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6. Wade Barrett, International Man of Mystery

One thing Barrett hasn't tried is a face turn. Forget for a moment that the WWE's face roster is overcrowded. Could Barrett make it work? Well, he has an English accent. So he can recite the phone book (I think those still exist) and make it sound good. He's been stabbed in Europe, which is intriguing. I'm sure he could pull off stylish. Put him in a tuxedo (better yet, a tear away tuxedo), give him a designer scarf, add in some aviator sunglasses and he'd have the look.

He wouldn't need to go completely hokey with it. For instance, don't pretend he's a spy. He's just a well-dressed man with some culture and a way with the ladies. World's most interesting man? Sort of. Barrett could be a bit of a wild card. Stir things up for a lark. Rescue damsels in distress.

Magic 8-Ball says: Barrett has the talent to sell it from a character standpoint. What he lacks, or at least hasn't ever shown, is electrifying offense that can pop the crowd. So you'd have this massively interesting character who turns into a bit of a dud in the ring. And fine tuning his hard-nosed style won't help in this case. The net effect would be to turn him from a slightly disappointing mid-tier heel to a slightly disappointing mid-tier face.

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5. Psychotic Reaction

The meta story on Barrett at this juncture is he once seemed like a sure-fire champion and never made good on his promise. People just kind of assumed he was going to be a big deal after his initial Nexus stint. So have him play to that. Give Barrett a quick push into a title shot. Have it look like he's finally going to win only to lose in heartbreaking fashion. That's when he has a psychotic break.

In his own mind Barrett doesn't believe he's lost. No way could he lose. No way is he anything other the biggest deal in the business and the undisputed WWE champion. Have him construct an elaborate alternate reality where he is that guy, complete with a title. Now that we're supposedly getting rid of two world championships inside the same company, the E could afford to let a guy walk around with a pretend belt. Even when he loses, he can act like he won (which supposedly is part of the new marching orders to some of the roster). Wade Barrett's reality has become too intolerable for him to bear, so he retreats into fantasy.

Magic 8-Ball says: In a weird way this might work for Barrett. No matter how much he loses, he'll always viable because he'll always think he's viable. It would allow him to be that top-of-the-card guy without actually working at the top of the card. If he's able to sell his fantasy awesomeness as actual awesomeness, then he'd find his way into the title picture. And if he won a championship you'd get a great story out of him reconciling his cognitive dissonance.

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4. No Gimmicks

One thing people liked about Barrett prior to this bad news persona is he worked largely gimmick free. He was in a couple of factions, but even then he was mostly a guy with a big ego and a nasty attitude. He wanted to kick some ass, pure and simple. Why is he fighting? Because he's a large man with an alpha dog personality. He never needed a rationale for anything he did. It always seemed logical that he'd want to go through another guy or assert his dominance.

Wade, you don't need bells and whistles. Just be annoyed and you'll make sense. Something or other is pissing you off and now it's time to crush that thing. The simplest way to be a "bad guy" is to be a bad guy.

Magic 8-Ball says: Since it's not really a change, it won't necessarily get him any farther ahead than what he's done to date, but it would avoid confusing the audience. What are they doing with Wade Barrett now? Do I care this time? His focus really needs to be on his ring work. This would eliminate the distractions. No gimmicks won't make him, but at least it won't break him.

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3. The Killer Elite

The WWE has a group of current and ex-heels who are hovering in the sub-world title zone. Damien Sandow has climbed to that stratus. Barrett's been stuck in it. Miz was in it, climbed above it and now he's dropped below it. Alberto Del Rio is headed back down the pecking order from his recent World Heavyweight Championship perch. All four of those characters have top dog egos. Much as I firmly believe heels make bad friends, the do make good opportunists. Maybe some or all of them band together with the idea that they can take over the WWE.

Sandow makes the most sense as a potential ally. Both he and Barrett have come close to winning a title with no luck. They'd be relative equals. Miz would only fit in if he got a reboot. Maybe he'd decide life is easier being close to power than actually wielding it. Del Rio might consider the others to be the Funky Bunch to his Marky Mark. He'd need to see that kind of group as an effective way to take care of some immediate problems. So maybe only two or three form an alliance rather than all four. Yet they've all established themselves as brainy heels. Combining their might would create a credible threat.

Magic 8-Ball says: No way would this kind of group last very long. It would need to do its damage, give the various members a quick shot of career adrenaline, and then they'd have to revert to being standalone heels. One or two of them probably would get into the championship picture while it lasted, maybe even get a transitional title reign. For Barrett the danger would be that someone other than him would get the bigger bounce and he'd find himself back in the Intercontinental/U.S. title mix.

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2. The Butler Did It

Say this Bad News Barrett schtick goes nowhere. I know, crazy because no way is this not catapulting him to stardom. Then WWE creative has a guy on its hands who is definitely not main event material, likely will not be main event material and who needs to find a place in the midcard where he can do a little damage yet still put over talent on its way up. At a time like that someone might take notice of the fact that Barrett is still British. Since Paul Burchill already burned up the pirate gimmick for the foreseeable future, it's time to reach for another handy-dandy British stereotype: the butler. Alan Napier did it. Tim Curry did it. Mr. Belvedere did it. Why not Wade Barrett? His diction is impeccable and I bet he brews a mean cup of tea.

Obviously the trick would be to find someone who needs a kick-ass butler. Sandow would be a potential pick, but we've already used him in this list and I suspect that would help Barrett more than Sandow. Yet you know who loves to have an English butler? New money, particularly new money from former British colonies ... like India. That's right, I'm saying Jinder Mahal needs a butler. The whole thing would rely on Mahal taking an upward trajectory while the Bad News Barrett gimmick circles the drain, but if you were an ex-jobber on upswing looking for an enforcer to have your back, you could do a lot worse than Wade Barrett.

Magic 8-Ball says: It's goofy, but hired muscle might be Barrett's most viable future. As I mentioned before, Barrett can make pretty much any gimmick work. He'd make a great nefarious butler. He'd also do a primo job of selling that he's not always 100% on the same page as his nominal employer, aka the butler who knows better. As a fallback option, this would have some legs.

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1. Empire

Back when Barrett was plugging away in Florida Championship Wrestling, he and a very young Drew McIntyre formed a group called Empire. You see, there used to be this thing called the British Empire and these guys were re-establishing it by winning wrestling matches. That's how geopolitics work. If only someone could put together a championship tag team with an Israeli and Palestinian we'd have peace in the Middle East.

However, it makes sense that a group of wrestlers from overseas would band together to try to conquer the wild and woolly Americas. They have an affinity that makes sense. The thing is Barrett and McIntyre might be able to get over in the tag division, but they're not going to be an Evolution-level force. To do that they'd have to reach an accord with the problem child of the British Isles: Ireland. Put Sheamus in Empire with Barrett and McIntyre and suddenly you've got a faction with some muscle. Even better, have William Regal act as the nominal manager of the group. That would deliver the requisite wow factor. Could they reach out to farther flung outposts of the old empire like India (Jinder), South Africa (Gabriel) or Canada (Christian)? Sure, though you'd want to make sure it's guy you're ready to push, not just a guy who fits the geographical checklist. Alternately, they could incorporate someone up from NXT (Adrian Neville, Oliver Grey, Leo Kruger - please, no Mason Ryan) to give them a fresh face.

The main thing would be that they think we've become too soft and that we're ripe for the picking. "You Americans call yourselves a superpower, but you're just fat, lazy and stupid. Your best days have come and gone. Your greatest generation has just about died off and what's left? Look at yourselves. Do you think the rest of the world respects you? It certainly doesn't fear you. You're constantly infighting among yourselves to see who takes power, but the truth is it doesn't matter who wins because both sides are a pathetic joke destined to fail. We'll show you what a real superpower looks like. We're not here to make sure everybody likes us. We're going to take what we want and crush any resistance. You're just a bunch of colonists who need to be put in their place. The Empire is back."

Magic 8-Ball says: This could give Barrett direction and purpose for the next two years. He, Sheamus and McIntyre are big cuts of meat. It's not a stretch to imagine them dishing out large amounts of punishment. If the WWE actually wants to pull the trigger on a pay-per-view in London, it could build it around these guys. Would Barrett be the leader or the enforcer? It could play out either way, but the worst case scenario is he's Arn Anderson with a different accent. He's worked best in factions and this is the faction that would give him the biggest springboard toward the upper portions of the card.


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