In a unique mentorship exchange ahead of the much-anticipated 2023 Royal Rumble, former NXT Champion Carmelo Hayes had the rare opportunity to train alongside Cody Rhodes. Hayes, along with fellow WWE NXT star Joe Gacy, was handpicked by Rhodes to assist in his preparation for his in-ring return after a lengthy hiatus due to a torn pectoral muscle sustained in 2022.
Hayes spoke candidly about this symbiotic experience on a recent episode of "Insight With Chris Van Vliet." According to Hayes, Cody Rhodes wasn't just a trainee but a mentor who imparted invaluable wisdom. "Cody had been giving me tips and advice well before the Royal Rumble prep.
So when he chose Joe Gacy and me to assist in his training, it felt like an immense honor," Hayes stated. "It was an incredible mix—Joe brought size and power to the equation, I provided agility, and Cody contributed years of experience.
Rather than feeling like I was aiding Cody, it felt like he was enriching my career."
Hayes' time with Rhodes seemed to provide a catalyst for his wrestling trajectory. Soon after their training sessions, Hayes rocketed to the top of the NXT echelon, clinching the NXT Championship at the "NXT Stand & Deliver" event.
Meanwhile, Cody Rhodes made a splash at the Royal Rumble, outlasting 29 other Superstars to win the whole thing. However, Rhodes would fall short in his WrestleMania 39 bid to dethrone Roman Reigns as the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion, calling it an effort to "finish the story." While the outcomes of their respective quests for championship gold varied, the mutual respect between Hayes and Rhodes was palpable.
Their stint at the Performance Center revealed not just a student-mentor dynamic but a genuine camaraderie that transcends the squared circle. Further emphasizing the significance of their time together, Carmelo Hayes teased the possibility of a future collaboration.
"Don't be surprised if you see Cody and me sharing the same ring sometime down the line. He's taught me a lot, but there's still so much more we can learn from each other in a match setting," he hinted. The training experience shared by Hayes and Rhodes clearly made a considerable impact on both men's careers, further proving that wrestling’s new wave and its storied past have much to offer each other.