In a recent appearance on Corey Graves’ After The Bell podcast, WWE NXT World Champion Carmelo Hayes discussed his journey with the company and his aspirations for success. Hayes reflected on his early days in NXT and expressed his desire to bring something different to the brand.

Recalling the transition from the black and gold era of NXT to the ThunderDome era during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hayes recognized that the brand was experiencing a decline. As a new signee, he observed the missing elements in the show and believed he could contribute something unique. Hayes eagerly awaited the opportunity to showcase his skills and worked diligently at the Performance Center for several months, honing his craft and gaining experience through live event shows.

Finally, the opportunity came when he was given his name and a chance to compete for the Cruiserweight Championship in his debut match against Kushida. While Hayes performed well, he approached Triple H afterward and expressed his belief that he could do even better. He also had a candid conversation with Shawn Michaels, conveying his desire to be more than just a wrestler on 205 Live.

Hayes shared that Michaels respected his boldness in expressing his ambitions and from that moment, he bet on himself. Hayes firmly believed in his abilities and saw himself as a top guy in NXT, determined to make an impact and rise above the limitations of weight classes.


“I knew when I first got there, I wanted to be something different. I remember black and gold era. Everybody talks about and romanticizes the black and gold era so much and it was great. It was awesome in the peak, but right after the whole thing with COVID in that ThunderDome era of WWE and NXT, it was kind of on a decline in a way. I remember watching the show as a brand new signee and I’m thinking, man, there’s so much missing here that I feel I could bring to this show. There just needs to be something like, nobody’s doing this, nobody’s doing this, nobody’s doing this. I’m like, man, I just need the opportunity. So I worked hard for like four or five months in the Performance Center just getting ready and working the little live event shows that we had.”

“Finally they gave me a shot, they gave me my name, and then two days later they gave me a shot against Kushida for the Cruiserweight title in my debut. After that match, I had done really well, but I remember talking to Hunter [Triple H] after. I was like, ‘Man, I know I could do so much better.’ Then I remember talking to Shawn [Michaels] and I was telling Shawn straight up, I said, ‘Man, I really want to be a top guy. I don’t want to get like, nothing wrong with 205 Live. I know I’m undersized, but I don’t want to be a 205 Live guy.’ Shawn will even say to this day that he kind of respected that I had the balls to come up to him and tell him that, and here we are. I bet on myself at that very moment and that was something that I just believed. It was like, I know I have a lot to offer for this brand. Just give me the ball.”

Since that pivotal moment, Hayes has continued to showcase his talent and ambition, eventually capturing the NXT World Championship. His dedication and self-belief have propelled him forward, solidifying his position as a rising star in the company.

As Carmelo Hayes continues to make his mark in WWE NXT, fans can look forward to witnessing his journey unfold and seeing how he fulfills his aspirations of becoming a top-tier talent in the industry.

What are your thoughts on Carmelo Hayes’ journey in WWE NXT and his aspirations to bring something different to the brand? Leave a comment.

Steve Carrier

Steve is the Founder of RingsideNews. He has been writing about professional wrestling since 1996. He first got into website development at the time and has been focusing on bringing his readers the best professional wrestling news at it's highest quality.

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