Carmelo Hayes made a surprise WWE Raw debut against Finn Balor leaving many wondering what is next and if there’s a long-term plan in motion.
The June 27 edition of Monday Night Raw saw a lot of action across the three hours. One of the big moments of the night was with Carmelo Hayes. He made a surprise appearance on the show, elevated due to his helping Seth Rollins during his match with Bron Breakker on WWE NXT last week. By the end of the night, Hayes was locked into a match with Finn Balor. A match that he would lose clean to the former Universal Champion and number one contender to Rollins’s title. There’s a lot of debate about whether that defeat damages Hayes as he heads forward in his run in WWE NXT, and there are valid points on both sides.
The surprise and excitement that WWE was giving away a free match between Balor and Hayes was immediately tangible with an online response. That was one indication that WWE is doing right by Hayes as they continue to develop him into a star of the future. Yes, there was concern that Hayes would lose this match, as it certainly wouldn’t make sense for Balor to drop a match heading into Money in the Bank. Hayes also didn’t need to take a defeat as he is set to face Baron Corbin during the second night of the NXT Gold Rush on June 27. That’s why many didn’t expect a clean finish, as WWE tends to be allergic to that practice often.
Instead, fans saw a nearly 10-minute match where Hayes and Balor told the story of the former not being overwhelmed by the moment and hanging on to one of the top names in the promotion. From the promotion’s standpoint, this exposure will hopefully drive more viewers to tune in to see Hayes every Tuesday. When Rollins stepped into NXT last week, he brought with him a few thousand viewers, elevating that show’s rating to nearly 800K, which is a rare number for that show. Can WWE successfully teach some of those Rollins fans to love Carmelo Hayes? It’s worth the attempt.
What if this is used to set up the story of Hayes dropping the belt to Corbin, leading to a more immediate call-up to the main roster? Understandably, there’s concern around what would be the perceived rushed nature of that switch. Hayes is only 87 days into his run as NXT Champion, and after a successful run as North American Champion, fans have wanted to see him get this shine for a while. But no one would blame the WWE for wanting to capitalize on someone with so much potential and move him to a platform where millions of fans can see him each week. Plus, what would this mean for Trick Williams who was inexplicably absent from the episode? With Vince McMahon hanging around, directing creative there is no telling where this may end up.
WWE has built a strong roster of young, talented performers. WWE NXT was the platform for those individuals to get their reps, especially those in the most need. But there’s been an effort to move some of those individuals into higher positions on the main roster. While it’s understandable to have apprehension around Carmelo Hayes taking a defeat as NXT Champion. Fans can also hope that it leads to more time in the spotlight for the A-Champion. Remember, he did lose to KUSHIDA and Adam Cole in his first two matches on WWE NXT and that didn’t hurt him long term either.