WWE NXT champion Carmelo Hayes is confident he has the upper hand ahead of his title defence against Bron Breakker.
The pair will square off for the black and gold brand’s top prize at the ‘Battleground’ Premium Live Event this Sunday. Having defeated the 25-year-old to prize the belt from his clutches at NXT ‘Stand and Deliver’ in April, Hayes will have his hands full after granting Breakker a shot at redemption this weekend.
However, rather than regaining the title, the former champion has made it clear he is more fixated on embarrassing Hayes in front of his family and friends, as Battleground takes place at Tsongas Center in his home state of Massachusetts. In an exclusive chat with Mirror Sport, this is something Hayes believes provides him with a psychological advantage heading into the bout.
“In a lot of ways I feel like I already have this match won,” Hayes began. “I just see where his head is at and he’s not trying to win the title, he’s just trying to destroy me. The way I see it, the title seems secondary to what’s going on with me and Bron. We both want to be that number one guy. This match is the true test. I beat him that one time, if he’s able to beat me this time then we can go a third but if I beat him, it’s all said and done, I’m the man, I’m the guy.”
Breakker has been dominant in NXT since making his debut in 2021 and possesses an explosiveness very few on the brand can match. He has tried his utmost to get under the skin of Hayes by firing some physical and emotional shots in his direction. Breakker accepted Hayes’ challenge to a rematch by viciously spearing him through the stage and even visited the champ’s barbershop in his hometown.
Despite his greatest attempts to throw the champion off his game, Hayes has remained resolute and vows and defeat Breakker for a second time and end their rivalry as the man on top. “That’s where his mind is at: ‘I need to prove that he didn’t beat me, I can beat him’,” he added. “He’s never beaten me and I know that eats him alive. I’m one of the very few people who have beaten Bron Breakker, so I’m sure that’s something he is not okay with. Like I said, the championship might be secondary in this match.”
As NXT Battleground takes place on Sunday, the night before Raw and SmackDown superstars will feature on Night of Champions in Saudi Arabia, where a new World Heavyweight champion will be crowned. With Backlash taking place in Puerto Rico earlier this month and Money in the Bank due to be held in London this July, WWE are making more of a concerted effort to host Premium Live Events overseas.
NXT has yet to follow suit, but it is something Hayes would be open to and even suggested the superstars from the brand could feature on showcase matches for any main roster shows taking place abroad. “It would be cool to come out to the UK and do an NXT show the night before a premium live event,” he said.
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“I don’t know how that works as far as travelling NXT out with the main roster, but I’d love to do it. Even if they were to do showcase matches and bring on some guys from NXT and do two or three showcase matches on the pre-show or its own separate type of thing so that would be great.”
As far as being called up to compete on Raw or SmackDown himself, Hayes is focused on his time with NXT, and after becoming the first man to hold the NXT, North American and Cruiserweight titles, he is keen to continue carving out his legacy on the brand before moving on.
“It feels great,” he commented regarding his piece of history. “Everyone’s saying ‘you’re going to get called up’, but at the same time I realised I have the opportunity to leave a legacy in NXT before I get called up, and not a lot of people get that opportunity. I’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to have opportunities to compete for all of those championships and be successful.”