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Melo & NXT Don’t Miss A Trick – get all the details on this mega feud

By 21 February 2024Featured

By Andrew Spoors

“This was never a collaboration Trick. You were always my hype man. That’s all it is and that is all you’ll ever be.” – Carmelo Hayes, NXT

A large percentage of wrestling fans will no doubt carry the mental scars of anguish caused by the dissolution of their favourite tag team. It’s a tale as old as time. Biblical almost. Champions, brothers, fathers and sons, best friends, lovers. It’s a sad fact of professional wrestling that teams and factions are simply not built to last.

First we have the shocking betrayals no one saw coming like Seth Rollins wrapping a steel chair around the backs of his Shield brethren, or Kevin Owens delivering his own gift at the Festival of Friendship.

Then there’s the ones eagle eyed viewers can see coming and can at least brace themselves for the inevitable, emotional gut-punch. We’re talking Shawn Michaels throwing Marty Janetty through a barber shop window or Triple H revealing he was the one that attacked HBK backstage.

A few short weeks ago at NXT Vengeance Day, the WWE Universe were subjected to a new stab in the heart that firmly falls in the latter of those two categories. But it certainly didn’t hurt any less. For a couple of years, the team of Carmelo Hayes and Trick Williams has enjoyed fantastic individual success on the black and gold brand.

Trick Williams NXT

Whoop that Trick

Now the majority of that success admittedly belongs to Carmelo, but in recent months Trick captured not only the North American Championship, but the hearts of the WWE Universe. The calls of  “Whoop that Trick” grew louder as the weeks went by (aided by Booker T’s exuberant commentary editions, “Uhh…okay…I like it”) and Trick’s popularity seemed to rise to peaks that not even Carmelo had previously enjoyed.

A backstage attack on Williams by an unknown assailant threatened to derail the solid partnership enjoyed with Hayes, as the latter was accused by members of the NXT locker room as the perpetrator. Red herrings were thrown into the mix, Lexis King and NXT Champion Ilja Dragunov chief suspects.

But as the weeks went by Hayes fought his corner and any suspicions Williams had towards his long-time friend seemed to melt away. At NXT Deadline, Trick enjoyed his coming out moment by becoming the Iron Survivor and earning a shot at the NXT Championship. Perfectly executed from start to finish, the match proved two things. First, new and exciting gimmick matches can be created in 2024. Secondly, Trick Williams is a star that the NXT Universe is ready to back.

Well, that’s not strictly true. On the evidence of a cameo appearance on SmackDown to help out his partner, Williams received an incredible reception. The WWE Universe is ready to back him.

Fast forward to NXT Vengeance Day and inside the F&M Bank Arena, Clarksville, Tennessee. After injury pushed ruled out NXT Champion Dragunov from their scheduled match at New Year’s Evil and a run to the finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, Trick Williams faces the herculean task of pulling double duty in one night.

First the cup final, teaming up with Carmelo against the odd pairing of Bron Breakker and Baron Corbin. It’s a glorious mess of a match in the best sense possible. Breakker running at full tilt nearly decapitates himself on the top rope. Trick’s lip is busted open and pours blood over the sacred ring mat and anyone else that he comes into contact with.

In the closing stages Breakker lines up one of his devastating spears, Williams caught firmly in his crosshairs. As the young Steiner hars across the ring, Carmelo Hayes shoves his friend out of harm’s way, taking both the blow and pinfall himself. It’s a bruising encounter for egos, bodies and momentum in one go.

A couple of hours to heal up and prepare for another opponent would be difficult at the best of times. Roughly 100 minutes standing between you and the ‘Mad Dragon of NXT’, Ilja Dragunov is nigh on impossible.

But minutes into his match with the NXT Champion, adrenaline seemed to be fueling Trick Williams. Busted lip be damned, a towering dropkick finds its mark flush on Dragunov’s nose. It’s a game changing blow that levels the playing field inside the first 60 seconds.

With Hayes at ringside willing Williams to victory, the impossible suddenly seems possible until an overzealous Hayes gets in Dragunov’s face and is shoved accidentally into the back of Trick’s knee. It’s the beginning of the end. The NXT Champion, smelling his own blood and now his challengers, delivers a couple of H-bombs and a deadly Torpedo Moscow just as the NXT Universe rallies behind their man. But in typical NXT fashion, the end of the match doesn’t mean the end of the show.

As the champion takes his leave, Carmelo comforts his friend before taking a step backwards. Seasoned wrestling fans know what’s coming. As the Tennessee crowd gasps, Hayes chopblocks the weakened knee of Trick before grabbing a steel chair and crashing it into the same spot over and over.

Cue commentator Vic Joseph delivering a well timed “Dammit!” and close ups of a horrified crowd looking on. We all knew it was coming, but perhaps hoped it wouldn’t. Professional wrestling can hit tropes, patterns emerge and fans long in the tooth may feel like they’ve seen it all before. Maybe there really are only 7 stories to be told in the world.

But when the characters involved are captivating it really doesn’t matter. There is after all a familiar feel to the Trick and Carmelo story. You don’t have to travel back too far in NXT history to find the infamous DIY implosion. These days both men feature on the Mount Rushmore of the brand, but their bitter rivalry was what put them there.

Such was the brutality and hatred, their first match against each other in their feud closed out NXT Takeover: New Orleans. The championship match between Andrade and Aleister Black (now Malakai Black  in AEW) was forced into the penultimate match slot of the night, such was the level of interest in Gargano vs Ciampa.

In 2024, it seems likely we will see a similar story, as Trick Williams vs Carmelo Hayes becomes the must see match and Dragunov’s path and opponent remain unclear heading towards Stand & Deliver.

It is testament to both Trick and Carmelo that although the betrayal seemed inevitable, the delivery elicited the desired reaction. NXT may push the line that Carmelo Hayes and Bron Breakker are the future of WWE and that prediction may well come to pass. But in Trick Williams, NXT and eventually the main roster, have a potential ace up their sleeve. To quote the late great Bob Ross, a happy little accident.

Tall and rangy, but built just as well as any other muscle bound Superstar. Charismatic and improving every time he steps in the ring. Trick has quickly become a potent combination of being able to walk the walk while talking the talk. Equally Carmelo Hayes has every tool at his disposal to rise to the very top too. 

Adept at playing both a cocky heel and a lightning quick fan favourite, Hayes’ additional time spent in NXT when many thought he was ready to move full-time to the main roster hasn’t been wasted. The decision to drip feed his presence on SmackDown is in stark contrast to the sink or swim mentality NXT graduates have faced in years gone by.

Fans have already seen him take part in tournament matches for a shot at the US Championship, as well as a mini feud with Austin Theory and Grayson Waller. Realistically once WrestleMania weekend is in the rear view mirror, the hard work for Hayes to shine on the main roster will surely increase.

That is however, a discussion for another day. Right now it’s time to move through the next stages of grief all the way through to acceptance. An odd match against the masochistic Joe Gacy did little to push the story on further in the immediate aftermath, but with a few short weeks until Philadelphia, each episode of NXT becomes box office viewing.   

After all, the history of the black and gold brand is littered with rivalries that will live on in infamy. It’s now time for everyone involved here to ensure this becomes, ahem… a Trick no-one can miss…