Wade Barrett’s recent Intercontinental Championship victory has been viewed by many as one big step backward.
A case can certainly be made for that. After all, Barrett was main-eventing and competing for World titles in late 2010, and now, he’s nothing more than a midcard champion.
But if you dig a little deeper into Barrett’s Intercontinental Championship victory, it might not be such a bad thing after all.
While fans of Barrett are undoubtedly ready to see the former bare-knuckle brawler in the main event picture, having a superstar win a midcard title can often be the first step that gets him here.
Just over the last few years, we’ve seen a few major superstars win a midcard championship and then use that as a stepping-stone to work their way into the World title picture.
In June 2010, The Miz won the United States Championship. Just one month later, he won a Money in the Bank briefcase at the inaugural pay-per-view.
In September of that same year, The Miz would go on to lose the US title to Daniel Bryan at Night of Champions. Only two months after that, he would cash in his MITB briefcase on an episode of Raw to become the WWE champion.
As we all know, The Miz would then go on to have a lengthy title reign and defend the WWE Championship against John Cena in the main event of WrestleMania 27.
Another major star, Sheamus, followed a similar path to the top of the WWE.
In March 2011, Sheamus won the US Championship before dropping it two months later to Kofi Kingston. The Great White would turn face shortly thereafter and he spent the rest of the year being built up as one of the WWE’s top good guys.
By January 2012, Sheamus had won the Royal Rumble, and as we all know, he would capture the World Heavyweight title in just 18 seconds at WrestleMania 28. He held that title for a whopping seven months.
Similarly, Dolph Ziggler won that very same United States title in June 2011 and held it for 182 days before dropping it to Zack Ryder at WWE TLC that December. A little more than a month later, Ziggler would face CM Punk for the WWE Championship at the 2012 Royal Rumble.
Within the next six months, Ziggler had challenged for the World Heavyweight title, won the Money in the Bank briefcase and emerged as one of the WWE’s top heels.
There’s a very obvious pattern here: Talented heels win a midcard title, drop the title and then quickly rise to the main event picture.
In most of these cases, the heels were deemed as “above” the midcard championship level, which was especially true in the case of Ziggler and now in the case of Barrett.
As someone who was a main eventer and World title contender during his “rookie” year in 2010, Barrett has long been viewed as a guy who is ready to challenge for and win World titles, not midcard ones.
It hasn’t happened for Barrett as of yet, but as weird as it may sound, his Intercontinental Championship victory means that we should start paying attention to him. Right now.
For whatever reason, the WWE has made a habit out of using its midcard titles as launching pads that instantly catapult midcarders to the top of the card.
Over the last few years, it’s happened with The Miz, Sheamus and Ziggler. Heck, it even happened with Big Show earlier this year.
Although Barrett’s big Intercontinental title win certainly doesn’t guarantee that he’ll follow in the same path as those guys, he’s in almost the exact some position that they were in before they rose to the main event picture.
He’s a well-rounded midcard heel who can work the mic and has made drastic improvements as a performer over the years.
With all the similarities between Barrett, The Miz, Sheamus and Ziggler, he might just have one more thing in common with them very soon: a spot in the main event.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!