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Carmelo Hayes Isn't Looking Past His NXT Championship To WWE: 'It Tastes So Good'

The new NXT Champion, Carmelo Hayes, isn’t focused on making it to the main roster – yet!

By Chris Phelan
Carmelo Hayes speaking while standing in the ring

At NXT Stand & Deliver, Carmelo Hayes unmistakably lived up to the event's name. By the night's end, he stood tall after delivering a decisive win over Bron Breakker, capturing the NXT Championship.

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A new era has begun in NXT as years of grinding away finally paid off for Carmelo. Although he still is firmly entrenched in a rivalry with ex-champion Bron Breakker, the future has never looked brighter for one of the most talented athletes ever to grace an NXT ring.

USA Insider had the opportunity to sit down with Carmelo amidst the hustle and bustle of WrestleMania weekend. He was calm, cool and collected throughout our conversation, never letting the infamous WrestleMania weekend nerves get to him. For him, it was just another day at work.

He naturally had to address the elephant in the room. After the past year of honing his in-ring skills, he is more prepared for a promotion to the main roster than, arguably, anybody else in NXT. So, we had to ask: With the entire world predicting success on the main roster for him, is it hard for him to focus on the task at hand — being at the top of NXT?

"I'm so focused," Carmelo said, putting our fears to rest. "You mentioned it feels like I'm on the cusp of something big, and you know, everybody's trying to book my future and in reality, I'd like to focus on what's on my plate now because there's so much and it tastes so good, you know what I mean? So I'm not trying to struggle to get it down, I'm going to enjoy this while it's here."

Of course, Carmelo knows his time on the main roster will hopefully come in due time. After all, it's the dream of every aspiring pro wrestler to someday make it on one of the main WWE rosters, but he knows it's essential to keep everything in perspective.

"I know there's more opportunity when it comes to the main roster at some point and things like that," he admitted. "But to keep me grounded I'm just trying to stay focused on what's in front of me."

Staying laser-focused on his task that weekend certainly paid off, as Carmelo became the first Superstar in a year to pin Bron Breakker's shoulders to the mat for a three count.

Whenever WrestleMania season rolls around, it's common to see Superstars cross paths that never usually do, whether it's Superstars on competing brands bumping into each other or WWE Hall of Famers returning for the festivities. So, we asked Carmelo if any interactions over the weekend stood out in his mind.

"I got an opportunity to talk to Edge," he revealed. "I actually met him when I went to RAW, and it's cool because you get to meet these guys, right? And you don't have to come up to them say, 'Oh hello, I'm so-and-so' because they know who you are, and it's like 'Oh my God' because it just kind of bridges that gap where they're like 'You're great, you've been killing it, I've been watching.' So that's been the coolest thing about all of this is that you're almost in with them. Not that you're on the same level, but the respect is there."

In the weeks leading up to Stand & Deliver, there was a near-universal sentiment that Carmelo was not only ready for a run as NXT Champion but that there wasn't a more deserving person to carry the torch. He acknowledged he was aware of the general feelings of the WWE Universe.

"A lot of people tell me that I deserve it, but to me, it's not about deserving," he said. "I feel like I've earned it. I really started at the bottom of NXT, I've worked my way up and I've faced adversity. I've lost matches and I've won matches. I've gained and lost momentum along the way. Nothing against Bron, but he's just had this straight shot. Because, like I've said before, in order to be a king, you have to be battle-tested. I feel like my advantage is that I've been battle-tested during my reign as North American Champion."

As we all know, Carmelo's prophecy came true in the end. However, with every ending comes a new beginning, and we asked the NXT Champion where he sees himself one year from now. Not surprisingly, he has lofty expectations for himself.

"I see myself at WrestleMania," he said matter-of-factly. "I think that's the next step. Last year I opened Stand & Deliver and this year I'm closing the main event. So I think I'm on a steady trajectory to take that next step by this time next year."

Sounds good to us, Melo. We look forward to seeing you at WrestleMania 40 in Philadelphia next year!

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