Carmelo Hayes wants to bring back “Black and Gold era” style matches to NXT

Originally published at https://www.postwrestling.com/2023/05/13/carmelo-hayes-wants-to-bring-back-black-and-gold-era-style-matches-to-nxt/

NXT Champion Carmelo Hayes wants to bring back “Black and Gold era” style wrestling to Tuesday nights.

Hayes was the guest on this week’s episode of WWE’s After the Bell podcast.

He told hosts Corey Graves and Kevin Patrick:

I remember the Black and Gold era, and everybody talks about it and romanticizes that Black and Gold era so much. And it was great and it was awesome in the peak.

But right after the whole thing with COVID and 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 like 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.”

He outlined how he got that first opportunity and that, right from the beginning, he saw himself as a top guy:

I had 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. And 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.

And 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.”

And then I remember talking to Shawn. And this is a story that I’ve told a couple of times and just telling Shawn straight up, I said, “Man, I really want to be a top guy. I know I’m undersized, but I don’t want to be a 205 Live guy. I see more from myself.”

Corey Graves asked the 28-year-old about his relationships with Shawn Michaels and Triple H. Hayes answered:

Man, I’ve been so fortunate to have a good relationship with those guys from the get-go. I know Shawn was one who was pulling for me early on, who wanted to just get me in front of Triple H.

And then Triple H, he kind of gave him the seal of approval when I worked with KUSHIDA and they gave me the trust to work with Adam Cole and the whole step with the Breakout Tournament.

Looking ahead to the future of NXT under his reign and after the 2023 WWE Draft, Hayes returned to the theme of the “Black and Gold” era:

One of the things I noticed, there’s so many studs still left on the roster.

So many good guys that, you know, can have that Black and Gold era type style that people always say that they miss and they want.

So, I look forward to having those types of matches with the guys. There’s so many — you’ve got Dijak, Dragon Lee, Ilja Dragunov, Tyler Bate, Wes Lee still, you know. I know I’m forgetting names but there’s so many good guys on that roster.

I just want to have great matches with all of them during this reign and see who’s willing or who can dethrone me at that point. But yeah, I just want to bring back good, solid wrestling to this NXT show — not that there’s not that but there’s a lot of people learning how to get their feet wet and then there’s a lot of guys who are willing to go out and kill it. And I think I’m one of those guys that want to go out and kill it.

Corey Graves also asked Hayes about the origin of the “I am him” catchphrase. He said:

It’s really the journey of my progression in a way. There was a period in time when 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, you know, “The A Champ”. And then when I had lost the championship, I’d kind of gone up to the “one of one”. I tried to call myself to kind of get that started. Like, hey, there’s only one of me.

And then on the journey to get the NXT Title it was really for me, it was like, “Hey, I’m the guy, I’m him.”

Like if anybody’s gonna be the guy, if anybody’s gonna take that title, if anybody’s gonna do it, it’s me, I am him.

So that’s where that whole “him” thing really kind of came from. It was like, “No, you can’t deny me, I’m the guy.”

And especially in sport, and it’s another thing going back to pop culture and sports. “Him” is very popular right now. A lot of guys, when they do something great, they self-proclaim themselves, “I am him. Like, I did that. I’m the one. I’m the guy. I am him.” So, I think it carries weight.