Carmelo Hayes must have a great showing during the WWE United States Championship Tournament on WWE SmackDown.
WWE continues to do a strong job rebuilding the mid-card title scene on the main roster. While there’s much to criticize about Logan Paul being the WWE United States Champion, his status as a crossover star does bring the potential for additional reach for the WWE. Shawn Michaels announced that it will be Carmelo Hayes from NXT who steps into the US Title Tournament and WWE must give Hayes a strong showing during the tournament.
The tournament originally featured Santos Escobar, Dragon Lee, Karrion Kross, Bobby Lashley, Grayson Waller, Austin Theory, and Kevin Owens. Lee and Kross have been eliminated, with Escobar and Lashley picking up wins to move on.
Hayes’s first match has yet to be announced, but it will either be Waller or Theory. Both men are wrapped up in an angle with Kevin Owens, which has been entertaining so far. However, that sets up Hayes to be in a peculiar spot heading into this tournament.
If he’s slotted against Waller, do not expect Hayes to pick up the win. It seems like the direction of Waller/Theory versus Owens is to get Waller over as Owens’s main opponent. If that is the case, Waller will pick up the victory over Hayes, with Owens most likely going over Theory to move them forward in the tournament. If Hayes is paired off against Theory, then there’s a bigger hope for him picking up an important main-roster victory. Theory’s place has certainly dwindled since Vince McMahon’s departure. Even though he has improved as an on-screen character in some ways, he’s far off from the golden boy that McMahon was really to tag him. Hayes could pick up a victory over him as a fantastic way to re-introduce him to the main roster.
The re-introduction is important because Hayes has been featured on the main roster. As Seth Rollins was building steam early in his WWE World Heavyweight Championship run, Hayes stepped in as an ally against The Judgement Day. That led to him losing to Finn Balor on WWE Raw, and The Judgement Day causing him issues on WWE NXT. Did it have the effect of drawing interest in Hayes? Probably not, but Hayes’s presence on the main roster was met with a positive response from fans. Giving him a big win and a decent push before bringing him up full-time would be the right call to make, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the story direction is going to create that opportunity.
Carmelo Hayes is a name to watch for WWE’s future and perhaps all of wrestling. He’s an excellent talent with fans already investing in everything he does. Now that he’s a part of the United States Championship Tournament, WWE needs to use this time to give him a strong showing with so many eyes on the product.