As Carmelo Hayes prepares for the biggest match of his professional wrestling career thus far, defending the NXT World Championship against a newer, badder Bron Breakker near his hometown in Lowell, Massachusetts, the “HIM of NXT” stopped by Cheap Heat with Peter Rosenberg to discuss his current title reign, his New England origin story, and, most interestingly of all, his relationship with Cody Rhodes, who is set to wrestle Brock Lesnar at Night of Champions in Saudi Arabia.

… wait, what was that last part? Yes, you read it correctly, when Rhodes was recovering from his Hell in a Cell pec injury, “The American Nightmare” explicitly requested Hayes and Joe Gacy as sparing partners, and, as it turns out, the practice sessions were beneficial for “The A-Champ” too.

“They mentioned to me, ‘Hey, Cody requested to train with you and Joe Gacy.’ I was like, ‘Yea, cool.’ Cody had reached out to me like two or three times before just giving me critique on my work and stuff like that, so I already had a back-and-forth relationship with him, and I had met Cody in the past,” Hayes said via Wrestling Inc. “I thought it was like, wow, out of all the people that he knows, and he’s picking me and Joe Gacy. I was like, okay, let’s go. A lot of people are like, we helped Cody, but I learned a lot from Cody in that time working with him. It was fun. I think he just needed clearance from medical to go through, so we had worked for like three or four days. We did matches on the fly. We were working, and we were just having fun.”

Though it may not show up in the ring, as Hayes isn’t hitting Cross Rhodeses or incorporating Cody Cutters into his aerial repertoire, the NXT World Champion did secure the strap after his time working at The Nightmare Factory with Rhodes and has just generally carried himself as more a confident star than a hungry challenger. If Hayes can secure the win at Battleground, it’ll go a long way to establishing him as a Rhodes-esque presence at the top of developmental.

Carmelo Hayes explains the genesis of his partnership with Trick Williams.

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For WWE fans who don’t know much about NXT programming, you will nary see Carmelo Hayes on Tuesday nights without Trick Williams following close behind.

A pair of high school friends who got into wrestling together after Williams transferred into Hayes’ school – at least from a Kayfabe perspective – the duo have formed a nearly unstoppable tandem in developmental, with the former playing a major part in the latter securing the win at Stand and Deliver on WrestleMania 39 weekend. Asked by Rosenberg how the duo came together, Hayes pulled back the curtain on a story that is surprisingly simple.

“I had just won the breakout tournament, and that whole 2.0 thing was getting ready to start,” Hayes said. “We had about four or five guys that came in the same class that were not ready to get on TV just yet, but they had to find something for them. I remember Trick came up to me. Me and him weren’t really super cool. I was kind of still just doing my own thing. He came up to me and said, ‘Hey man. I think they are going to put us together as a team or something.’ I was like, ‘Oh cool. Let me know.’ It was as simple as that, and we ended up on TV with him coming in as my heater in a way because they were getting ready to turn me heel. We formed our chemistry as we went. I don’t think they knew what to do with us. We had to figure out like, let’s bring in pop culture. I told him straight up, ‘I’m not going to be funny. I’m trying to be serious and different. I’m not trying to be silly. You do funny, and I’ll do serious, and we’ll balance it.’ That was our idea to make it work together.”

… what? Hayes and Williams aren’t life-long best friends who have been in the trenches for the last decade together? Well, considering Williams is from South Carolina and never wrestled a match before he landed in NXT, whereas Hayes is a Massachusetts native with a seven-year independent career under the moniker Christian Casanova, this relationship is unfortunately too good to be true. Still, just because the dynamic duo doesn’t go way back doesn’t mean they don’t work well together. If anything, the Trick and Melo show appears ready for primetime in the not-too-distant future.