The Top Three Challengers for Carmelo Hayes’s NXT Championship


Carmelo Hayes has become one of NXT’s hottest acts since his debut. He has made his name as a champion but now looks to prove himself as the NXT Champion. Who will be the next to challenge the champ?

Carmelo Hayes has a tough NXT Championship defense coming up very soon. The new champion is sure to be tested by the former champion Bron Breakker. Since Breakker turned heel after losing the title, he has been more vicious and ruthless than ever before. However, that is exactly the match that Hayes needs. While he has defended against Grayson Waller, this match is arguably bigger.

After he defeats Breakker for a second time, Hayes will be verified as the top dog in NXT. With Breakker out of his path, Hayes and the brand itself are in desperate need of a new challenger to stand up and stand out. The recent WWE draft ravaged the developmental roster of many top talents ready for the next step. Championship contenders such as Apollo Crews and JD McDonagh are just a few of those who were moved on to the main roster.

Despite losing 16 superstars in the draft, the brand still has plenty of young and hungry talent looking for a shot to shine. There are also some notable free agents that could be hungry for NXT gold. Among all the great choices, these are three superstars that could be top challengers for Hayes if he retains at NXT Battleground.

3. Shelton Benjamin

It has been a beautiful sight to see when main roster talents show up in NXT. We have seen stars like Dolph Ziggler and The New Day benefit from a run in NXT. Ziggler was a great addition to NXT when he shockingly arrived in February 2022. While remaining on the Raw roster, Ziggler was a bonafide star and a verified name among the NXT rookie talents. As a former world champion and a future WWE Hall of Famer, Ziggler shined bright on the brand and even won the world championship for a short period of time.

While Ziggler looked great, Bron Breakker gained tremendously by getting a win over a star of Zigggler’s caliber. There are many other main roster talents that could benefit as well from a run on the gold brand. Speaking of talent, Shelton Benjamin is one of the most underrated stars the company has ever hired. Since returning in 2017, Benjamin hasn’t been used to his true potential. Despite the highlight of being in The Hurt Business, Benjamin hasn’t done much.

With Benjamin becoming a free agent after the recent draft, the time is now to use Shelton Benjamin to his full potential. He is a twenty-year-plus veteran of the business who has worked around the world and has a ton of experience to be used in teaching young superstars. One of those superstars is the champ himself. Hayes and Benjamin could easily steal the show in a match with each other. As for Benjamin, it would benefit him and his fans to see Benjamin fighting for a top championship.

2. Dijak

The story of David vs Goliath is one of the most popular stories to tell in pro wrestling. Since being freed from the prison that was called “T-Bar”, Dijak has returned to a prominent form in NXT. With a fresh new look and a shortened name, we are blessed with a second chance for Diajk to showcase what a great talent he is. He has had great matches with NXT talent such as Tony D’Angelo and the North American Champion Wes Lee. He has shined in his matches and has the size and look of a man who could truly break out.

NXT Battleground could be the night for Dijak to move to the next level. A victory over former NXT United Kingdom Champion Ilja Dragunov would be huge for Dijak’s direction. He would be viewed as a top contender for the NXT Championship. The match between Dijak and Carmelo Hayes has the potential of being a blockbuster match. Dijak had a tremendous showing back in February at Vengeance Day against Wes Lee, looking like a true warrior after a gruesome finger injury. Despite coming up short, Dijak’s showing was a win for him.

Hayes and Lee have similar in-ring styles which is promising for the champion to have a show-stealing match with Dijak. While it is too soon for Hayes to drop the championship, Dijak can still come off looking strong despite losing the match. If Dijak can take Hayes to his limit and get close to becoming the world champion, he will be verified as a main eventer moving forward. The match could be valuable for both participants.

1. Trick Williams

This is the opponent that tells the age-old story of student versus teacher. In the past few weeks, Trick Williams has been stepping out of the champ’s shadow in a big way. Since receiving some helpful “goodbye” advice from Apollo Crews, Williams has stepped his game up in the ring and on the microphone. Crews put the words into Williams’s ears that he needed to hear. He reminded Trick Williams that he was a star in the making and was just waiting for that breakout opportunity.

Despite coming up short in his match against Bronn Breakker, Williams showed the fans and the management that he belonged in the ring with NXT’s big dogs. Moving forward, it would be smart for Williams to continue to try and find his own spotlight. Unfortunately, that may also entail him separating himself from Carmelo Hayes. Since his debut, Williams and Hayes have been inseparable. He has been right by his side for his North American Championship reign and is now by his side as NXT Champion.

Hayes hasn’t had a match without Williams in his corner in years at this point. While Hayes is the man with the championship, Williams has a claim to be the reason why Hayes is holding the championship. The story could beautifully write itself. Trick Williams is driven by the words of Apollo Crews to make his own star known. The jealousy of Hayes hogging the spotlight and glory could drive Williams to pull his biggest trick off yet.

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By turning heel and betraying his friend, Williams would become a huge threat to Hayes’s championship reign overnight. Knowing that Williams has the “gift of gab and the gift of jab,” there is not much that could stop Trick Williams from becoming a bonafide main eventer. If NXT is looking for a strong story to tell, we may be seeing Williams as the next big threat in NXT.