NXT Stand & Deliver will feature a showdown that fans have been wanting to see for quite some time, as NXT Champion Bron Breakker will defend his Title against Carmelo Hayes. The two have been pillars of NXT ever since they debuted in NXT 2.0, and for much of that time, Breakker has been the Champion. Now Hayes, who has brought the North American Championship to prominence during his multiple reigns, has his eyes set on NXT's biggest prize. ComicBook.com had the chance to speak to Hayes about the anticipated match-up, and if Hayes walks out of Stand & Deliver as the new Champion, he will turn the page and kick off a storied new era in NXT.
"Yeah, and that's my goal as NXT Champion. I want to just usher in a new era of NXT. It's wild because I'll go back and I'll watch some of the Black and Gold stuff and I'll see those guys that were Champions before the NXT Champions, I'm like, 'Man. Dude, that's a freaking Champion. The Finn Balors, the Adam Coles, the Tommasos. Nothing against Bron Breakker at all, but there was a certain level of excellence that you had to be at to be the NXT Champion, and you were just head and shoulders above everybody else in every single aspect," Hayes said.
"So I mean, that's something that I want to bring back to NXT. And again, that's not a knock at Bron Breakker. He had big shoes to fill with the short amount of experience he had, because I mean, all those former NXT Champions were world-traveled elite guys that were just killers in the ring," Hayes said. "And so, like I said, not a knock to Bron, but I plan on restoring that type of feel to NXT, for sure."
If Hayes does usher in that new era, there will be some changes in regard to who gets to take shots at the NXT Championship. Breakker was always open to all challenges, and while Hayes isn't shying away from challenges, he wants to make sure those who get a shot at the Title have earned it through and through.
"Yeah, I feel like with Bron's reign, it was kind of, 'Anyone who steps up, I'll break them and yada, yada, yada.' But it's like, 'No, no, no. If you didn't earn this and you're not at the level you should be at, you're not getting the shot," Hayes said. "I'll be that Champion. I'll be stingy and I will be selective and picky as to who I want to go against because I only want to go against the very best."
"You're not going to see me against the guy that you're going to say, 'Oh yeah, Melo's got that one." I want every single Title match to be a challenge to where it's like, 'Man, this might be the one. Now I might not win this one.' I don't want any freebies. I don't want any easy opponents. I want the best of the best," Hayes said.
"And there are so many good guys in NXT right now that I can name off the top of my head that are the best of the best and that have had opportunities, but Bron being the dominant Champion that he was, I don't think people believed that he was going to lose. And I expect that with this reign that if you're coming to me, it's because you're good enough to potentially beat me. Not that you will, but you have the potential to possibly beat me," Hayes said. "So more or less, I'm not giving out freebies. If you're really like that, you can come and you can challenge me. But hey, we got to get to Stand and Deliver first. I don't want to get ahead of myself."
Hayes and the NXT Locker room have one of the greatest WrestleMania stars ever in Shawn Michaels at their disposal, and who better to advise you on how to handle a big moment? Michaels has delivered some of the greatest WrestleMania moments of all time, and he shared some key advice with one of WWE's brightest young stars.
"Yeah. From Shawn, his big thing is always you got to feel it here (his heart). You got to let it come from here. He gave me really good advice one day and everything. It was like we had a long talk about everything, and he was pretty much like, 'I don't care what's going on outside. I don't care what's going on leading up to the week. I don't care what's going on, this, that, that, that, whatever.' He's like, 'When you're in that ring, it needs to come from right here'," Hayes said.
"He's like, 'Every time I went out there, it came from right here. They're going to feel that. That's where you need to bring it from." That resonated a lot with me because it is true," Hayes said. "You're on the road to a big match and you're doing a bunch of media and you have, you know what I mean? You have, 'Oh, what am I going to do for an entrance? What am I going to wear for gear? All these people are making all these conclusions as to am I getting called up. Am I going to the Hurt Business?" You know what I mean?"
"It's true though. There are so many outside things happening and it's like, No, no, no. This is the most important thing. The most important thing is the most important thing. And that's the match with Bron Breakker in that ring, in the Crypto Center, main event of Stand and Deliver, WrestleMania weekend," Hayes said.
Breakker and Hayes will face off at NXT Stand & Deliver, which airs on Peacock at 9:45 AM CST.
Are you excited for Stand & Deliver, and who will be Champion? Let us know in the comments and as always you can talk all things wrestling with me on Twitter @MattAguilarCB!