Whether or not you believe that Carmelo Hayes is ‘HIM’, after numerous championships and accolades won in quick fashion within the WWE, it’s easy to agree that “Melo Is Money”.
Born Christian Brigham on the 1st of August 1994, Carmelo Hayes is a professional wrestler signed to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), where he performs for WWE’s developmental brand, WWE NXT, where he is a former NXT Champion as well as a former 2-time NXT North American Champion.
An American professional wrestler from Framingham, Massachusetts, Carmelo Hayes stands at 5’10and weighs 210lbs.
Hayes was trained by Brian Fury, the head trainer at the New England Pro Wrestling Academy in North Andover, Massachusetts, as well as the team at the WWE Performance Center.
Spending 5 years on the independent circuit competing under the name Christian Casanova, Carmelo found early success as he made a name for himself within the New England region of the United States, competing in established promotions within the territory such as Northeast Championship Wrestling, Chaotic Wrestling, Top Rope Promotions, Beyond Wrestling and Limitless Wrestling among others.
Hayes would continue to pick up momentum and would start establishing himself across globally recognised promotions such as Ring of Honor, ZERO-1 and Game Changer Wrestling, before he was signed to the WWE on the 21st of February 2021 as part of their largest recruit class to date, before quickly becoming a recognisable face of it’s developmental system during their ‘2.0 Era’ and beyond.
LIFE BEFORE WRESTLING & THE INDEPENDENT CIRCUIT
Hayes grew up in Framingham, Massachusetts and was a fan of the WWE during the ‘Ruthless Aggression’ era of the early-2000s. He cited Shawn Michaels, Edge, The Rock and Eddie Guerrero among others as favourites and helped fuel his desire to become a professional wrestler until an incident with a ninth-grade teacher telling him he was too small and would need to bulk up. He cited this as the reason he fell out of love with wrestling entirely until just after he graduated, when a friend had suggested they attend New England Pro Wrestling Academy’s ‘One Day Fantasy Camp’.
After initially attending for the experience, he impressed trainers and felt immediately like the spark had been re-lit, signing on shortly thereafter under the tutelage of NEPWA’s Head Trainer Brian Fury.
Debuting for Chaotic Wrestling at the Cold Fury Fallout Tour: Littleton event on the 12th of April 2014 as “The New England Thriller” Christian Casanova, in a losing effort to Mikey Webb in the show’s opening contest.
Hayes took on a gimmick that used many aspects of popstar Michael Jackson’s presentation, including a white sequenced glove, fedora, a red leather jacket as well as performing a moonwalk. He would work as a babyface through a number of other promotions in New England, such as the Independent Wrestling Entertainment out of Brewer, Maine; Top Rope Promotions out of Fall River, Massachusetts and Power League Wrestling (PLW) out of Pawtucket, Rhode Island. It would be at PLW’s Great Outdoors Tour, taking place at Pierce Field in East Providence, Rhode Island on the 19th of July 2014, where Hayes would pick up the first win of his professional wrestling career as he teamed with Brad Hollister to defeat Chris Students & Marshall McNeil.
In an interesting titbit of information, Casanova would defend the PLW World Tag Team Championships alongside Rob Araujo after Araujo’s co-champion Anthony Greene was sidelined with injury, unfortunately coming up short against The Glamorous Express, consisting of Buddy Romano and Mike Paiva. It would only take 2 days until this speedbump was forgotten about, as Casanova would secure the first victory as a singles competitor, defeating Johnny Craig during Independent Wrestling Entertainment’s August Adrenaline Tour during it’s stop in Skowhegan, Maine. He would win another 2 matches for the rest of 2014, taking his recorded win-loss record for his debut year to 4 wins, 22 losses.
It wouldn’t take long for Casanova to start finding prolonged success in the independent scene, as Casanova would go on to win triple the amount of matches the following year in 2015, including the first of many professional wrestling championship victories across the independent scene.
On the 19th of June at Northeast Championship Wrestling’s Aftermath event at Elks Lodge in Norwood, Massachusetts, where he would defeat Triplelicious to become the NCW New England Champion, a title he would go on to hold for 98 days. He would win numerous championships in his career prior to the WWE, including reigns as the Limitless World Champion as well as two reigns as Chaotic Wrestling’s Heavyweight Champion. His first run with the gold would cement him in Chaotic Wrestling history as the 12th Triple Crown Champion in the promotion’s history, while his final run with the Heavyweight Championship also garnered the longest of any of his championship reigns, as he would hold the title from the 30th of August 2019 until the 31st of December 2020 for a total of 488 consecutive days.
As Casanova’s time as an independent professional wrestler wrapped up towards the beginning of 2021, so too did a number of his last championship reigns prior to signing on with World Wrestling Entertainment. His longest standing reign with the Chaotic Wrestling Heavyweight Championship would come to an end during a 4-Way at Chaotic Wrestling’s New Years Eve edition of their Reloaded TV Program, losing the championship title to Mike Verna in a match that also featured Max Smashmaster as well as longstanding rival and partner, Triplelicious. Less than a month later, Cassanova would lose the Northeast Wrestling Live Championship, a championship he was the inaugural winner of, in a Best 2 Out Of 3 Falls match against Brad Hollister at NEW’s 7th episode of ‘Studio Wars’. His reign whilst in possession of the NEW Live Championship remains to this day as the longest reign with the championship in its history, with a length of 430 days. His final match on the independent circuit would be during Limitless Pro Wrestling’s ‘Double Vision’ event on the 19th of March, 2021, losing to current AEW star Daniel Garcia, seeing Casanova out of Limitless Wrestling after a 90-day reign on top, and in turn ending Casanova’s maiden run within the pro wrestling circuit.
SIGNING WITH WWE, BREAKING OUT IN NXT
Casanova signed his initial contract with the WWE on the 12thof February 2021 as part of the WWE Performance Center’slargest intake of developmental talent in the promotion’s history.
Reporting to the Performance Center regularly between February and June of 2021, he assimilated into his new home within the WWE, learning from the industry leaders of Sports Entertainment whilst fulfilling the last of his independent wrestling bookings for Chaotic Wrestling, Limitless Wrestling and Northeast Wrestling before his WWE NXT debut and subsequent push, which commenced on the June 1st broadcast of NXT.
Answering the open challenge of the then-reigning WWE NXT Cruiserweight Champion Kushida, Christian Casanova would be rebranded as Carmelo Hayes, and would exceed expectations after being put over to the audience watching the broadcast at home. After narrowly being defeated in an evenly fought match via Kushida’s Hoverboard Lock, it was clear that there were plans for Hayes to be a star in the company’s horizon. Just how quickly Hayes would ascend up the ranks within the black & gold brand, however, would be an entirely different phenomenon, with his 2nd appearance within the developmental program once again seizing a championship opportunity. The stakes were much higher though as it pertained to an opportunity considered make or break, as it would be against arguably NXT’s most successful superstar in Adam Cole on the June 22nd episode of WWE NXT.
Clearly an indication of the company’s desired positioning of Hayes, in an homage to the debut of John Cena against Kurt Angle, Carmelo would have his “ruthless aggression” moment before delivering an impactful slap prior to the commencement of the match. In a match that put him on the map for fans of the future stars of the professional wrestling world, Carmelo Hayes once again fell just short. The star power of Carmelo Hayes could no longer be chalked up to luck, with 2 separate and individually impressive performances in his first 2 appearances, with his barnburner against Cole garnering a public stamp of approval from WWE Hall of Famer, Chief Content Officer and NXT Founder, Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque. With the man behind the machine stating that “this isn’t the last time we’ll see Carmelo Hayes”, it was no surprise to see Carmelo Hayes announced as one of 8 competitors in the 2021 NXT Breakout Tournament.
A single elimination tournament in which participants are exclusively NXT debutants or those fresh on the scene, the NXT Breakout tournament offers the opportunity for the winner to jumpstart their trajectory within the WWE food chain. A contract for a Championship Match with any NXT Championship of their choice on the line, as well as the same cash-in stipulations popularised by the Money in the Bank Contract, meant that the same career-altering possibilities existed in both the developmental and main roster systems. After it’s inception in 2019, and following an unplanned one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 global coronavirus pandemic, the tournament returned on the July 13th episode of WWE NXT. Carmelo Hayes appeared during Week 3 of the First Round, competing against Josh Briggs in hopes to move onto the Semi-finals, with the winner going on to face Duke Hudson 3 weeks later. Hayes would earn his first victory under the black & gold banner whilst introducing the WWE audiences, as well as Josh Briggs, to his ‘Nothing But Net’ Diving Scissors Kick. With the future Chase University flag bearer in Duke Hudson being the first competitor in the tournament to advance 5 weeks prior, it was during Week 2 of the Semifinals that saw Hudson and Hayes collide, airing on the August 17th broadcast of WWE NXT.
It became apparent that much like his previous encounter against Josh Briggs in the First Round, Hayes would be as an evident size disadvantage in the semifinal as well, with Hudson standing 7 inches (18cm) taller than Carmelo, and much like his encounter with Briggs, Carmelo hit ‘Nothing But Net’ to advance into the finals of the NXT Breakout Tournament, with his victory confirming the opponent of the man that qualified the week prior, the 3rd and easily the largest hurdle that Hayes would have to face within the eliminator tournament, Odyssey Jones. It was this reoccurring theme that Carmelo himself would touch on following his victory over Hudson, but rather than feeding into the belief that he was the proverbial David figure in his role against the Goliath’s of NXT, Hayes would rather refer to his dominance against opponents three times his size as an indicator that Hayes was ‘the Final Boss’. Carmelo Hayes would roll-up Odyssey Jones during the 2021 Breakout Tournament Finals on the August 24th Episode of NXT to secure a championship opportunity of his choosing, with Hayes showing signs of humility towards his opponent in the interview that followed the victory. When asked which NXT Champion he’d be facing, Hayes declined to comment as it was too early to make a decision but promised to make his choice soon, coining one of his now more defining catchphrases “when Hayes shoots his shot, Melo Don’t Miss”. His first in-ring appearance following his Breakout Tournament Victory took place on the 7th of September broadcast of WWE NXT. Thanks to outside interference from the rest of the Legado Del Fantasma faction, Hayes would be defeated by the #1 Contender to the NXT North American Championship Santos Escobar, warning Hayes to stay away from the division he too hoped to reign over.
TRICK WILLIAMS, HEEL TURN & CHAMPIONSHIP REIGNS
On the premiere edition of NXT 2.0, a revamped and facelifted version of WWE’s developmental program that aired for a calendar year commencing on the 14th of September 2021, Hayes introduced Trick Williams to the NXT faithful.Referring to his most recent issue with Legado Del Fantasmafrom the week prior, Hayes cited that NXT was becoming a numbers game. Trick Williams, described as a longstanding associate of Hayes outside of the WWE, would be taken care of as long as Hayes’ safety and success was guaranteed. Williams was not impressed with the more recent displays of humility shown by Hayes since his emergence on NXT programming and suggested that Hayes needed to show the side that Williams had always known. Hayes agreed with Williams, declaring himself as ‘The Chosen One’ and that Trick Melo Gang were putting the NXT 2.0 brand on notice, solidifying their new pairing as a heel duo by attacking Duke Hudson from behind after he pushed past them on the way to his match. Originally scheduled to compete on the October 5thBroadcast of NXT 2.0 in an 8-Man Tag Match alongside the Grizzled Young Veterans against Josh Briggs, Brooks Jensen & the reigning NXT Tag Team Champions MSK, Trick Melo Gang unexpectedly received their first NXT Tag Team Championship opportunity. Whilst they were unsuccessful in the 4-Way Elimination Tag Match pitting all 4 teams against one another, this had no implications on Hayes and his Breakout Tournament contract.
A week after unsuccessfully challenging for the NXT Tag Team Championships, Carmelo Hayes would cash-in his Breakout Tournament contract for an opportunity at the NXT North American Championship on the October 12th NXT 2.0 episode. During the broadcast’s opening segment AEW wrestler Swerve Strickland, then known as NXT’s Isaiah “Swerve” Scott, was seen arriving to the show alongside fellow Hit Row members Top Dolla & B-Fab. Questioning Ashante “Thee” Adonis’ whereabouts for the past week, Legado Del Fantasma attack and abduct Dolla & B-Fab, leaving Scott at a numbers disadvantage going into his defence against Escobar. Following interference during the match from both Joaquin Wilde & Raul Mendoza, as well as seemingly motivated by the same numbers game mentality that Hayes himself was subjected to just over a month prior from Legado Del Fantasma, Hayes and Williams came to the aid of Swerve, assisting Isaiah Scott in retaining the title against Santos Escobar.
What looked to have been a face turn and a show of respect quickly revealed itself to be an ambush, as Hayes would blindside Scott with a clothesline before cashing in his contract, defeating Swerve with a ‘Nothing But Net’ Diving Scissor Kick to claim his first championship belt whilst signed to the WWE. With Hit Row drafted to Friday Night SmackDown the week prior to the title change on NXT 2.0, Swerve would move to SmackDown alongside his faction which allowed Trick Melo Gang to move into their next program against Johnny Gargano and Butch of The Brawling Brutes, previously known as ‘The Bruiserweight’ Pete Dunne. With both Gargano & Dunne vying for an opportunity at Hayes and his North American Championship, Dunne would score a victory over Hayes in a non-title match-up thanks to an interference from Dexter Lumis. In response, Trick Melo Gang would injure Lumis’ arm by twisting it through a steel chair before performing a diving stomp onto the chair in a move known as ‘Pilmanizing’. As a result, a Triple Threat Match was set for the November 23rd edition of NXT 2.0. With insinuations that Carmelo & Trick may have paid Tony D’Angelo to help Hayes retain the championship, Hayes would capitalise on the handywork of Pete Dunne’s ‘Bitter End’ on Johnny Gargano to retain the title. With feuds between personalities from the Black & Gold NXT and the 2.0 Era including LA Knight vs Grayson Waller and Bron Breakker vs Tommaso Ciampa already featured on the broadcast once again spilling over during the chaotic events that lead to the conclusion of the Triple Threat Championship Match, it would be announced that Team Black & Gold and Team 2.0 would face off at NXT WarGames 2021 in the event’s namesake stipulation bout. It would be 2.0’s representation of Carmelo Hayes, Tony D’Angelo, Grayson Waller and Bron Breakker that would defeat Pete Dunne, LA Knight, Johnny Gargano & NXT Heavyweight Champion Tommaso Ciampa to cement themselves as the next generation of top talent within the walls of the Performance Center.
After criticising the championship capabilities of then-NXT Cruiserweight Champion Roderick Strong, referring to Strong as the ‘Fake A Champion’ in comparison to Hayes and his run as North American Champion, Roderick Strong and Carmelo Hayes would brawl during Trick Williams’ match against Dexter Lumis on the December 21st episode of NXT 2.0. As part of the Diamond Mine stable alongside Malcolm Bivens, Hachiman, Ivy Nile and The Creed Brothers, Bivens challenged Hayes to a match on Roderick Strong’s behalf, with a Unification Match set for NXT New Years Evil on the 4th of January 2022. After hitting ‘Nothing But Net’ on Roderick Strong, Carmelo Hayes would score the pinfall to become the final NXT Cruiserweight Champion, unifying it with his NXT North American Championship and retiring the Cruiserweight Division.
TITLE CHANGES, NXT CHAMPIONSHIP, FACE TURN
Carmelo’s latest challenges would come in the form of Cameron Grimes, who he successfully defended the NXT North American Championship against at NXT Vengeance Day 2022 on the 15th of February, as well as Pete Dunne on the March 1st episode of NXT 2.0. It was after his match against Dunne that Hayes would announce that he would defend his championship in a ladder match at NXT Stand & Deliver on April 2nd 2022 as part of WrestleMania Weekend during WrestleMania 38’s festivities. With Santos Escobar, Solo Sikoa, Grayson Waller and Cameron Grimes qualifying to face Hayes for the championship, Grimes nearly missing out on the match entirely had it not been for a Last Chance Qualifier between the losers, it would be Grimes that would snatch the championship from the grasp of Carmelo Hayes, ending his first stint with the championship at 172 days. Just over a month later at NXT Spring Breakin’ on the 3rd of May, Hayes would be unsuccessful in his first attempt at recapturing the North American Championship from Grimes in a Triple Threat Match also involving Solo Sikoa, however the following month at NXT In Your House held on the 4th of June 2022 Hayes would once again become NXT North American Champion after hitting ‘Nothing but Net’ on Grimes to start his 2nd reign with the championship.
Hayes would record a number of defences against a variety of opponents, including Tony D’Angelo on the 21st of June NXT 2.0 broadcast, as well as Grayson Waller at NXT The Great American Bash on the 5th of July, Giovanni Vinci during NXT Heatwave on the 16th of August and Ricochet at NXT Worlds Collide on the 4th of September before being advertised to compete against a mystery challenger on the upcoming NXT 2.0 broadcast. When confronted by his challenger in Wes Lee, Hayes & Trick attack the championship contender, leading to Wes Lee being replaced by Solo Sikoa, who would defeat Hayes for the championship on the 13th of September broadcast of NXT 2.0, the final of the 2.0 era. Hayes would make his Main Roster Debut on the October 11 broadcast of WWE Main Event, picking up a victory over Cedric Alexander.
Hayes would attempt to regain the North American Championship due to Sikoa not being sanctioned to compete in the match, with Shawn Michaels stripping Solo of his new title and would be contesting the now vacated championship in a 5-way Ladder Match at Halloween Havoc on the 22nd of October. Carmelo Hayes would be unsuccessful in his efforts, with Wes Lee winning the vacant NXT North American Championship in a match that also featured Oro Mensah, Von Wagner and Nathan Frazier. In his last attempt to date at becoming the NXT North American Champion a month later, Hayes was once again unsuccessful in defeating Wes Lee.
Hayes would go on to participate in the inaugural NXT Iron Survivor Challenge at NXT Deadline 2022 on the 10th of December, a 25-minute match between 5 wrestlers with the winner to be the wrestler with the most points at the expiration of time, earning a future opportunity at the NXT or NXT Women’s Championship. Carmelo tied in 2nd place alongside Joe Gacy and Axiom, with Grayson Waller earning the victory and the earning the #1 contender spot. Following the events of NXT Deadline 2022, Apollo Crews and Carmelo Hayes entered into a rivalry that resulted in them trading a number of Singles & Tag Victories over one another, which ultimately lead towards a Best Two Out Of Three Falls match between Hayes and Crews at NXT Vengeance Day 2023 on the 4th of February, with Hayes picking up a shocking 2 to 0 clean sweep, a method that’s usage is a rarity and served as a fantastic twist which developed the ‘HIM’ moniker that Hayes would use as he finally prepared for his main event push.
After convincingly defeating Apollo Crews in their rivalry, Hayes attention turns entirely towards the NXT Heavyweight Championship and towards Bron Breakker, with two men that stood beside one another as representatives for Team 2.0 destined to be set on a collision course to see who the true face of the new era in NXT was set to be. The perception of Hayes & Williams had also transformed into it’s own being, with the dynamic and charisma between the pairing winning over supporters very quickly into their time together, as well as a general frustration surrounding the lack of further developments behind the Bron Breakker character, and whether or not anything further as it pertained to Breakker’stime as a face character still needed to be divulged.
At NXT Stand & Deliver 2023 thanks to an assist from Trick Williams, Carmelo Hayes would defeat Bron Breakker to become NXT Heavyweight Champion, becoming the first person in the company’s history to win the NXT Heavyweight, NXT Cruiserweight & NXT North American Championships. Carmelo’s transition to a fan favourite once more was solidified by Bron Breakker’s feigned displays of respect towards Hayes following their match, with Breakkerportraying a heel for the first time in his career and performing a double turn between the demeanours of Breakker and Hayes. Hayes would go on to successfully retain his championship in a rematch against Bron Breakker at NXT Battleground on the 28th of May 2018.
2 days later on the May 30th WWE NXT Program, Hayes successfully defending the NXT Championship against Noam Dar, before being attacked by Baron Corbin, making his return to the developmental brand after signing a free agent contract during the 2023 WWE Draft in May. It was the night before his scheduled NXT Championship Match against Baron Corbin that Carmelo Hayes would make his WWE Raw debut, losing on the June 26th Raw broadcast in a non-title match against Finn Balor. The next night during Week 2 of NXT Gold Rush 2023 on the 27th of June, Hayes successfully defended the NXT Championship against Corbin by connecting with Nothing but Net for the pinfall.
END OF NXT CHAMPIONSHIP REIGN, TENSION WITH TRICK
The next challenger in line for Carmello Hayes’ NXT Championship is revealed on the July 11th 2023 episode of NXT, with Ilja Dragunov defeating Bron Breakker to be named the #1 Contender for a match against Hayes at NXT The Great American Bash 2023. Carmelo Hayes barely retained the NXT Championship, largely in part due to Trick Williams taking a bullet for Carmelo in the form of a Torpedo Moskau, allowing Hayes to deliver Nothing But Net to retain the gold on the 30th of July. The following episode of WWE NXT broadcasted on August 1st showed Trick confronting Carmelo on the way people view Williams as a lackey rather than an equal and that he needed to be a singles competitor for himself, leaving Hayes alone for the first time since the premiere episode of NXT 2.0.
On the 30th of September at NXT No Mercy 2023 Trick Williams would defeat ‘Dirty’ Dominik Mysterio to claim his first ever Championship as part of the WWE, whereas Hayes would lose his rematch and his championship to Ilja Dragunov, putting an end to his first Heavyweight Championship reign under the WWE umbrella after 182 days. Trick Williams would lose his first championship back to Dominik Mysterio just 3 days later championship on the 3rd of October 2023 edition of WWE NXT. A match between Carmelo Hayes, Dijak and Baron Corbin set to decide the #1 Contender to Ilja Dragunov’s NXT Championship at NXT Halloween Havoc was changed into a Fatal Four-Way Match now involving Trick Williams, but before the match could begin Williams was discovered incapacitated backstage. With accusations now being made against him, it was Carmelo Hayes that would win the contenders spot, earning a rematch for Night 2 of NXT Halloween Havoc on October 31st 2023 against Dragunov for the title, in which Hayes would be unsuccessful after being distracted by the return of Trick Williams. With accusations of potential misconduct being levied against him by the rest of the locker room, Carmelo Hayes still remains the prime suspect behind the assault on Trick Williams.
CHAMPIONSHIPS & ACCOMPLISHMENTS
• Pride of New England Tournament for Tomorrow (2019Winner)
• Chaotic Wrestling Heavyweight Champion (2 time)
• Chaotic Wrestling New England Champion (1 time)
• Chaotic Wrestling Tag Team Champion (1 time – with Tripilicious)
• Twelfth Chaotic Wrestling Triple Crown Champion
Liberty States Pro Wrestling (LSPW)
• Liberty States Heavyweight Champion (1 time)
• Limitless Wrestling World Champion (1 time)
• Vacationland Cup (2020 Winner)
Lucky Pro Wrestling (LPW)
• Lucky Pro Wrestling Tag Team Champion (1 time – with Elia Markopoulos)
Pro Wrestling Illustrated (PWI)
• Ranked #77 in the PWI 500’s top 500 singles wrestlers in 2022
• Ranked #13 in the PWI 500’s top 500 singles wrestlers in 2023
Northeast Championship Wrestling (NEW)
• NCW New England Champion (1 time)
World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)
• WWE NXT Champion (1 time)
• WWE NXT North American Champion (2 times)
• WWE NXT Cruiserweight Champions (1 time, final)
• WWE NXT Breakout Tournament (2021 Winner)
PERSONAL LIFE & FAMILY TIES
Immediate family members
• Partner: Lea Mitchell (2023-present, aka Kelani Jordan
SIGNATURE & FINISHING MOVES
• Nothing But Net (Top Rope Diving Scissor Kick)
• Fedora Frog Splash
• Springboard Clothesline
Tag teams & stables
• Cashflow Killanova (Christian Casanova & Ken Broadway)
• Culture SZN (Christian Casanova & Tasha Steelz)
• Friday Night Heat (Christian Casanova & Elia Markopoulos
• Killanova Inc. (Christian Casanova, Ken Broadway, Royce Bischop, Trigga The OG, Triplelicious)
• Trick Melo Gang (Carmelo Hayes & Trick Williams)
• “The Greatest” by def rebel
• “The Thriller of New England”
• “King of Drop”
• “The A-Champion”