Throughout wrestling history, competitors will often face-off with one another much like Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa. What tends to transpire is a series of matches and a collective storyline that binds two competitors with one another. Rivalries will assemble several storylines from anytime or era with the purpose of reflecting, enlightening and in some cases preparing for one final confrontation. This Pro Wrestling Post series titled Rivalries focus is to encapsulate dates, matches, quotes, and feelings from those involved. In order to best understand where a relationship ended it is important to look at where first began. This week we present the rivalry of Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano.
Their relationship is as much steeped in love as it is hate. Their journey as a part of WWE’s NXT brand has seen elation and absolute destruction. This coming week Johnny Gargano will end his longstanding rivalry across the ring from Tomasso Ciampa. As ordered by Triple H the destruction these two have caused one another has to come to an end. Once friends but often better foes both Gargano and Ciampa have told the story that wasn’t just about jealousy but one of hidden angst and agendas. This is the case of the Rebel Heart against the Black Heart.
When it's over, 𝑰𝑻'𝑺 𝑶𝑽𝑬𝑹.
— WWE (@WWE) April 2, 2020
To grasp the levity of their feud one needs to reflect back on the history the two have had with one another.
The History of Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa
When the duo first came to NXT was as part of a tag team and the two competed in the inaugural Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. As time passed the two had outside the WWE was being ushered into the ring as more than simply a team. It was often seen that the duo was more like family. Ciampa was a part of Johnny Gargano and Candice LaRae’s wedding party.
Their success as a duo was evident. They were perennial top contenders for the NXT Tag Team Championship and eventual tag team title reign showed that DIY had arrived. However, after losing their titles things were not the same. After failing to recapture their tag-team championships, things changed forever. It had gone from their moment to his moment. Tomasso Ciampa attacked Johnny Gargano leaving an immobile Johnny Wrestling to recover with medics and Candice LaRae by his side.
However, it would be a match that would have to wait. Ciampa had a torn ligament in his knee. After nearly a year of recovery, Ciampa once again attacked Gargano. At the NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia, Gargano wrestled a tremendous match but was ultimately unsuccessful. While returning back to the backstage area, Gargano and LaRae stopped to soak in the adulation from the crowd. In doing so, Ciampa struck Gargano in the back with a crutch. During Gargano’s next championship opportunity, Ciampa cost him the win.
Johnny Gargano: Friend or Foe?
After some time away, Gargano had enough and would seek revenge. Ciampa and Gargano would face each other at the NXT TakeOver: New Orleans event in a match that was unsanctioned. The match in its own way was so poetic in the most destructive way. Both men harbored such ill feelings towards one another. At the NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn IV event, Gargano and Ciampa once again faced each other in a Last Man Standing Match. Once again this was a match that Ciampa won.
These losses to Ciampa had a profound effect on Gargano. He became more unstable and uncertain about himself. These actions caused him to act what appeared to be more out of character. The result was a turn resulting in him being the attack of Aleister Black in a parking lot. As time would pass an alliance appeared to be once again made. At the NXT TakeOver: Phoenix event, Gargano would capture the NXT North American Championship. On the same night, Ciampa would successfully defend the NXT Championship against Aleister Black. At the end of the night, Gargano would walk out after Ciampa had retained his title to also hold up his championship as well.
Ciampa would eventually have to relinquish his title as much as that pained him to do. However, with an injury so severe the risks of life after wrestling took precedence. With the chances of a triple threat match off the table, Gargano would face Adam Cole in a best two out of three falls match. When all the dust had settled, Gargano won the match and became the new NXT Champion. It wasn’t just celebrated by colleagues but by his wife and close real-life friend, Tommaso Ciampa.
Johnny, Candice, and Tommaso: An Unbreakable Bond?
Even from a storyline standpoint, the evil Tommaso Ciampa would want [the title] himself but if he can’t he’d probably want Johnny to have it. Even when they are entrenched in this war, he might as well have it if he can’t… It’s an emotional ride, knowing where he’s at knowing what he’s going through…It was a real moment and sometimes those are the best moments. You can’t script it and it’s the most meaningful in my opinion. – Triple H explaining Tomasso Ciampa’s appearance at the end of NXT TakeOver: New York celebrating with Johnny Gargano.
This past October (2019) with Ciampa once again back from injury he walked out to confront the Undisputed Era. At the same time, Johnny Gargano also walked alongside him as they confronted the faction. However, Balor’s turn on Gargano at the moment left Ciampa to suffer an attack at the hands of all four members of the Undisputed Era. The attack by Balor left Gargano sidelined indefinitely. However, at NXT TakeOver: Portland Gargano would face Finn Balor while also losing to him in the process. On the same night, Tomasso Ciampa faced Adam Cole for the NXT Championship. When it appeared as though Gargano was coming to Ciampa’s aid he took the title belt and struck him with it while the referee was distracted.
Johnny Gargano turned on Tommasso Ciampa.
It was supposed to end last year but fate stepped in.. It was going to end this year but fate has stepped in yet again.. In 2 weeks I take it out of fate’s hands. No grand stage, no smoke, and mirrors. It started with just the two of us and it ends with just the two of us. – Johnny Gargano via Twitter regarding his upcoming match with Tommaso Ciampa
Love and hate have a very thin line. It seems forgiveness isn’t always as simple as an apology. This wasn’t a case of letting bygones be bygones. At a moment when Gargano captured the NXT Championship fans were given one perspective. When Johnny Gargano reflects on the moment he won the title we are told something different. Ciampa’s embrace of Gargano in the eyes of Johnny Gargano was simply another attempt by Tommaso Ciampa to steal his spotlight.
We’ve only had 4 matches against each other since 2016. I’ve won 2 (Cruiserweight Classic, New Orleans). He’s won 2 (Chicago 2, Brooklyn 4) April 8th is the tiebreaker and when it’s over…it’s over. The world will know what you already do..I am the better man. #JohnnyIn5 – Johnny Gargano commenting on the result of his upcoming match with Tommaso Ciampa.
It is Ciampa who we’ve heard little from. He has gone silent on social media but that doesn’t mean he’s silent. On Wednesday, April 8th, the Blackheart and the Rebel Heart face off one last time capping off one of the most storied rivalries in NXT history.
This is the man you call "Daddy."
A coward that tries to dive through the medical room window to escape me?
To be fair – the medical room could ACTUALLY be "Daddy's Home".. he's definitely spent more time in there than in a ring the past 3 years.
Wednesday – I send 🖤 home. pic.twitter.com/1d8I4bz5Is
— Johnny Gargano (@JohnnyGargano) April 6, 2020