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Carmelo Hayes Defeats Roderick Strong, Unifies Titles at WWE NXT New Year's Evil

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 5, 2022

Photo credit: WWE.com

Carmelo Hayes defeated Roderick Strong at NXT New Year's Evil on Tuesday to unify the NXT North American and Cruiserweight Championships.

WWE @WWE

.<a href="https://twitter.com/Carmelo_WWE?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Carmelo_WWE</a> has done it! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NXTNYE?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NXTNYE</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WWENXT?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WWENXT</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UnificationMatch?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#UnificationMatch</a> <a href="https://t.co/fPqqTbbZQj">pic.twitter.com/fPqqTbbZQj</a>

Hayes earned the pin after hitting an ax kick on Strong. Some highlights can be found below:

WWE NXT @WWENXT

.<a href="https://twitter.com/roderickstrong?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@roderickstrong</a> turns <a href="https://twitter.com/Carmelo_WWE?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Carmelo_WWE</a> inside out!<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NXTNYE?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NXTNYE</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WWENXT?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WWENXT</a> <a href="https://t.co/SxaU0Zw8lD">pic.twitter.com/SxaU0Zw8lD</a>

WWE @WWE

.<a href="https://twitter.com/Carmelo_WWE?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Carmelo_WWE</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/roderickstrong?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@roderickstrong</a> are putting it all on the line in this <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UnificationMatch?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#UnificationMatch</a>!!<br><br>Who will walk out of <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NXTNYE?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NXTNYE</a> as <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WWENXT?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WWENXT</a> North American Champion? <a href="https://t.co/ccFn3u353b">pic.twitter.com/ccFn3u353b</a>

WWE @WWE

😱🀯😱🀯<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NXTNYE?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NXTNYE</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WWENXT?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WWENXT</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/Carmelo_WWE?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Carmelo_WWE</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/roderickstrong?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@roderickstrong</a> <a href="https://t.co/1uWvEMGqi7">pic.twitter.com/1uWvEMGqi7</a>

Bravado is at the center of the rivalry between Hayes and Strong, as both Superstars claimed in the weeks leading up to New Year's Evil that they were in possession of the top title in NXT.

Strong in particular had been in search of the biggest money matches possible, which led to him beating Joe Gacy in a cruiserweight title match at NXT WarGames and subsequently losing to Bron Breakker in a non-title match on NXT.

Meanwhile, Hayes has been dealing with challenges from many of the top stars in NXT ever since winning the North American Championship from Isaiah "Swerve" Scott in October.

Most notably, Hayes beat Johnny Gargano and Pete Dunne in a Triple Threat match in November to retain, setting the stage for his eventual clash with Strong.

While Strong has been a key figure on NXT 2.0 as the leader of Diamond Mine, the cruiserweight division has clearly been deemphasized, so it was seemingly only a matter of time before WWE phased it out of existence.

Doing so through a massive unification match between two of the best workers on the brand was a sensible way to do it, especially given how boisterous Hayes and Strong have been.

That trend continued during the contract signing last week when both men claimed to be the "A-champion" of NXT before signing on the dotted line.

Hayes and Strong are both fully capable of handling their own business, but they are surrounded by backup as well, and they made their presence felt during the contract signing.

After Hayes left the ring, Trick Williams was confronted by Ivy Nile and then put through a table by The Creed Brothers, illustrating how dangerous Diamond Mine can be.

Hayes had a lot to contend with at New Year's Evil, but he showed once again why he is one of the fastest-rising stars in wrestling, as he beat a respected veteran in Strong and unified two of NXT's top titles.


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