It’s going to take a lot to pull Wade Barrett away from the WWE commentary table and back into the ring – but the Brit legend has said Austin Theory might be the one to do it.
A former Intercontinental champion in his in-ring days, Barrett is now firmly established as one of the voices of SmackDown – one of WWE’s top weekly shows.
The Lancastrian has settled nicely into the role alongside Michael Cole where he brings his own style – and an air of Britishness – to the action on the blue brand.
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Barrett was an accomplished performer in his own right but hasn’t wrestled for WWE since leaving 2016.
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Given he’s still only 42, it’s not unreasonable the former Bad News Barrett could make a comeback. Although he told Daily Star he has no major itch to do so – despite being adamant he’d love to "slap the hell out of" fellow Brit Drew McIntyre.
In an exclusive chat with Wade, the Daily Star asked whether there was a rising talent impressing him enough to tempt him into stepping between the ropes once more – and one answer quickly emerged.
Current WWE United States Champ Austin Theory has many of the traits Barrett proudly displayed when bursting on to the main roster scene in 2010 as a brash, arrogant upstart.
It’s little surprise, then, that the 2015 King of the Ring winner has taken quite a shine to one of WWE’s top young stars.
He explained: “There are so many youngsters coming through right now that I’ve been really impressed with.
“I’m going to cherry pick one that I worked with a bit in NXT. He’s young, up and coming and I think he’s got a huge future, and that’s Austin Theory.
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“That guy’s ceiling is as high as any [in] this young pack of Superstars coming through right now.
“I think Theory probably has another 15-20 years at the top if he wants it and can keep going, and stay fit and healthy.
“In terms of his personality, his confidence on the mic, his smarts behind the scenes and of course his athletic ability, he’s a guy who could really go to the top.
“That’s the kind of person I would certainly be looking at if it was to be a youngster I’d step in the ring with.”
On seeing much of his early self in the emerging Theory, Barrett says he sees the starlet making it all the way to the top of WWE.
“He has such brilliant athletic skills and that’s counter-balanced by the fact he’s such a deplorable character on the show,” he went on to say. “He’s easy to hate.
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“In terms of being easy to detest, early in my career a lot of people probably really hated me, too, when I was with Nexus… so I have some admiration for that – that impresses me even more about him.
“The average fan isn’t supposed to like Austin Theory and I think he’s doing a good job of being the antagonist on the show.
“I think, over time, he’s going to keep climbing the ladder and get to those main event type roles where the focus is more upon him than it has been over the past year or so.
“But the growth curve for Austin Theory is just going up and up.”
Tempted as he might be by Theory, it’s clear Barrett isn’t planning to reach for the boots and spandex again just yet.
The Brit says he’s loving life at the commentary table and insists it would take a special set of circumstances for him to work as an active wrestler again.
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He insisted: “I’m not ruling it out – maybe one day it will happen.
“I’d be surprised if I ever got to a point where I wanted to do it full time like a Sheamus or a Drew is still doing it.
“But on a part-time basis or a spot match, if the storyline made sense, it’s not something I’d rule out.
“In terms of my future within the industry, I 100% see it in commentary.
"I am probably having more fun now in my current role than I ever have in any point in my career, from the independent scene [to] the main roster of WWE and main eventing shows like SummerSlam and Survivor Series in 2010.
“I’m having more fun sat at the desk commentating and, I guess, being a fan of the business again.”
WWE presents WrestleMania Goes Hollywood, the 39th instalment of its grandest annual show, across the weekend of April 1 and 2. Fans in the UK can watch it live on WWE Network – visit wwe.com for more.
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