Though he wasn’t elevated to the main roster during the WWE Draft, it’s hard to argue that Carmelo Hayes isn’t going to be hearing his name called by Samantha Irvin and/or Mike Rome in the not-too-distant future. He’s the only performer to ever hold the North American Championship, Cruiserweight Championship, and NXT World Championship during their time in developmental, the man who dethrones Bron Breakker to become the brand’s 21st-ever champion, and, with Trick Williams by his side, has a ready-made gimmick destined to entertain RAW or SmackDown audiences for years to come.
And yet, just because Hayes’ got next doesn’t mean he’s just going to coast through his title reign like a senior after taking their finals. No, Hayes believes he has some serious work to do to return NXT back to its “Black and Gold era” when Paul “Triple H” Levesque was winning Booker of the Year honors from The Wrestling Observer. Discussing this fact and others in an appearance on After The Bell with Corey Graves and Kevin Patrick, Hayes explained how, in his opinion, COVID slowed NXT’s momentum and how he plans to get it back on track.
“I knew when I first got there, I wanted to be something different,” Carmelo Hayes said. “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 after. I was like, ‘Man, I know I could do so much better.’ Then I remember talking to Shawn, 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 respect 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.”
Fortunately for Mr. Michaels, his trust in Hayes has proven prophetic; the A-Champ has become one of the top stars in NXT, his act has become the fan favorite among fans in Orlando, and after proving himself against performers like Adam Cole, Kushida, Ricochet, and Breakker during his developmental run, it’s clear he’s destined for bigger and better things on Mondays and/or Fridays nights for years to come.
Carmelo Hayes explains the origins of his “HIM” moniker.
Elsewhere in his appearance on After The Bell, Carmelo Hayes was asked about his “HIM” ring moniker and how he landed on the nickname after tryng out a few other options.
“It’s really the journey of my progression in a way,” Hayes said. “There was a period in time where I had the North American Championship and I was calling myself the A-champ, meaning at that time, I truly believed I was the most important champion on the brand. So for a long time it was like, you know, the A-champ, the A-champ, the A-champ. When I lost the championship, I’d kind of gone on to the, One of One. I tried to call myself that to kind of get that started, like, hey, there’s only one of me. Then on the journey to get the NXT title, for me, it was like, ‘Hey, I’m the guy. I’m HIM.’ Like anybody who’s going to be the guy, if anybody’s going to take that title, if anybody’s going to do it, it’s me. I am HIM. So that’s where that whole HIM thing really kind of came from where it was like, you can’t deny me. I’m the guy. It’s another thing going back to pop culture in sports. HIM is very popular right now, like a lot of guys when they do something great, they self-proclaim themselves, ‘I am HIM. I did that. I’m the one. I’m the guy. I am, HIM.’”
Locked into the “Ace” role of NXT after The Grayson Waller Effect was moved to Fridays, and Breakker will presumably be following suit in the not-too-distant future, Hayes really is the “HIM” of developmental. How he chooses to handle that responsibility, however, will define his reign and, by extension, the foundation from which his main roster run will be built on.
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