As great as Seth Rollins and The Shield have been over the last week, Bad News Barrett was every bit as active and consistent. With only one world title in WWE, the Intercontinental Title has become the second most important title in the company. Although the elevation of that belt has been more incremental than instantaneous, Barrett has led a more defined mid-card and has regularly put together very solid matches. This week was no exception, and he earned Wrestler of the Week with his workmanlike accomplishments.
On Smackdown, Barrett was part of a very fun triple threat match for his Intercontinental Title. He squared off with his recent adversary Rob Van Dam and Cesaro, who has also floated around the margins of the secondary title picture. For much of the match, Barrett took bumps from Van Dam and Cesaro, who tried to one-up each other with strength and agility. Every time one or the other would get close to a win, though, Barrett would get in the way and prevent a pin. Toward the end, it looked like Van Dam might have the victory with a Five Star Frogsplash, but before he could make the cover on Cesaro, Barrett hurried in with a Bullhammer Elbow to put Van Dam down for the three count.
Barrett had a different sort of match on Raw where he faced Sheamus in a qualifier for the Money in the Bank Ladder match for the WWE World Heavyweight title. This champion-vs-champion match was especially intriguing because it was not clear who was more likely to end up in the ladder match. They wrestled an entertaining style in which they answered one another with signature moves that were similar to one another. While many fans complain about Sheamus, most acknowledge that he has the ability to wrestle some very good matches, and Barrett certainly kept up with him in this instance. Either one could have ended up with the victory, but Sheamus got it when he hit the Brogue Kick while the referee pulled Barrett off of him. I thought the result kept Barrett looking strong because the referee got in the way of a potential win.
Barrett had an inauspicious re-debut a few months ago with a one-dimensional, promo-only gimmick, but he has since evolved into a much more compelling character. More importantly, the caustic, sarcastic boisterousness of his current persona seems like an amplified version of his personality that is much more entertaining. Barrett has been a top prospect in WWE since he arrived in the first NXT season with all of the tools to be an eventual main eventer. His strong start with the Nexus was sidetracked by a poor result in his feud with John Cena and gave way to bad developments in The Corre and his bare-knuckle fighting gimmick. An injury and a visa problem had the silver lining of a natural chance to reboot and Barrett has made the most of the opportunity. His always-strong wrestling has improved incrementally to the point where almost all of his matches are good or better. His mic work has become more focused and direct, and his persona clearly resonates with the fans. I am not certain whether he is a long term face or heel, but he has quickly regained momentum and might be at his highest point to date right now.