NXT 2.0, to a large degree, was defined by Carmelo Hayes.
A two-time North American Champion who spent a combined 273 days with the title around his waist, Hayes wrestled in some of the most consequential matches in the Jackson Pollock-era of NXT history, including his five-way ladder match to decide on the NXT North American Championship, his spot in the War Games match between Team 2.0 and Team Black & Gold, and his match at Worlds Collide, where he bested ex-Intercontonential Champion Ricochet in a title match that Dave Meltzer gave 4.5 stars in The Wrestling Observer. Hayes beat bigger opponents like Tony D'Angelo, secured wins over other high-flyers like Axiom and Santos Escobar, and sliced his way through the old guard of the brand with big-time wins over Johnny Gargano, Pete Dunne, and Roderick Strong to establish himself as NXT's next big thing.
And yet, on the one-year anniversary show for NXT 2.0, which, coincidentally, also turned into a series finale of sorts to usher in the new white and gold era of NXT, fans voted for Hayes' opponent and none other than Solo Sikoa, the newest member of The Bloodline, made his way back down to developmental to compete for the title that eluded him, the North American Championship, for one final time before going full-on SmackDown.
Unfortunately, at least for Sikoa, Orlando will be more of a fixture of his weekly travel itinerary, as not only did he turn in an impressive showing back in Shawn Michaels' ring, maybe even his best match in the promotion, but he was able to hit Hayes with the Flying Solo to secure the win and the belt once and for all.
Now, for Sikoa, this is a huge deal; for a time, he was the only member of The Bloodline without a championship – save the Honorary Uce, Sami Zayn – but now, Sikoa can walk down to the ring with his cousin Roman Reigns and his real-life Usos, Jimmy and Jay, with the former WCW strap around his waist. But what about Melo? After earning such a strong push over the last 12 months, is he being pushed to the background in favor of a more, shall we say, synergetic storyline? Or is this just a minor setback before a major come-up in the WWE Universe? Based on his reaction after the match on Twitter, it certainly looks a lot like the latter.
— WWE NXT (@WWENXT) September 14, 2022
Carmelo Hayes throws up the peace sign to his NXT Championship run.
Heading into the NXT 2.0 Anniversary Show, fans were propositioned to pick an opponent for Hayes' North American Championship, having to choose between Wes Lee, Joe Gacy, and Von Wagner. Though the poll wasn't referenced on RAW in the same way Pretty Deadly's pick-a-stipulation poll was by the commentary team, Hayes eventually found out that Lee, the former member of MSK and one-time member of indie darlings The Rascalz, was going to be his in-ring opponent.
For one reason or another, Hayes didn't take too kindly to that. Before his match could even begin, Hayes and his partner in crime, Trick Williams, decided to free up their evening by attacking Lee backstage, extensively eliminating his chance at the ‘chip before he could even wrestle for it.
“Wes Lee?” Hayes declared to the NXT crowd, both assembled and watching from home. “He ain’t gonna make it out here. But let’s be completely honest, I did Wes Lee a favor. I know dudes like Wes Lee, he’s not built for this. He can’t handle this life, he doesn’t know what it takes to be the A Champion. Everybody in the back, they’re praying on my downfall. They don’t want to see me win. You’ve got people from different brands coming and trying to take what I’ve built. Heavy lies the head that wears the crown, and Melo has the biggest head and the heaviest crown in NXT, and that is all it is.”
Unfortunately for Hayes, his promo was broken up by the music of Sikoa, who emerged from the back as his impromptu opponent and secured the win in a compelling clash of in-ring styles. For the second time in under five months, Melo lost his belt to an ascending challenger and this time, his run appears to be at much more of an impasse than before, as he's simply wrestled too many big matches and secured too many wins over current members of the RAW and SmackDown rosters to head back into the NXT mid-card.
Fortunately, Hayes is taking it in stride, sharing a picture of himself with Big Sean on Twitter with a big ole peace sign thrown up in the air. Is that a peace sign to the North American Championship as he turns his attention to the NXT Championship? Or could Hayes be the next performer to jump from developmental to the main roster? Fans will find out soon enough.
— Carmelo Hayes (@Carmelo_WWE) September 14, 2022