How Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa Will Steal WrestleMania Weekend


Why the Tommaso Ciampa/Johnny Gargano showdown will be the talk of the wrestling world after WrestleMania weekend.

On January 27th at NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia, Johnny Gargano got the biggest opportunity of his career when he got a crack at Andrade Almas for the NXT Championship. Over the course of 32 minutes, Gargano and Almas put on one of the best matches in the WWE in the past 10 years and have pretty much already wrapped up 2018 WWE match of the year honors.

But while Gargano, who came up just short in his quest for gold that night, was basking in the love and appreciation from the NXT crowd in Philly, he was viciously attacked by former friend and tag team partner, Tommaso Ciampa.

It was a near replay of events that had unfolded seven months earlier at TakeOver: Chicago. Gargano and Ciampa, then as partners and former NXT Tag Champions, were taking a second bow after they’re amazing, albeit unsuccessful title challenge against The Authors of Pain, when Ciampa, double-crossed “Johnny Wrestling” thus ending their pairing.

However, at some point during that match, Ciampa had torn the ACL in his right knee and would require surgery that would sideline him for at least eight months. The injury put any potential Gargano/Ciampa feud on hold for the time being and that’s when Gargano got back into singles competition which eventually netted him the match with Almas during Royal Rumble weekend.

But if we rewind all the way back to August of 2015, that’s really where the WWE journey began for Ciampa and Gargano as a tag team. Both former indy darlings, the duo began teaming during the first Dusty Rhodes Classic, losing in the second round.

They continued to team well into 2016 and were just beginning to create a cult following from the NXT faithful when they met up in one on action at the Cruiserweight Classic in June. In one of the best matches of the tournament, it was Gargano who came out on top and moved on.

But after that match in the CWC, it seemed like they grew as a team and they began picking up victory after victory. This success led to two NXT Tag Team title matches against The Revival at TakeOver: Brooklyn II in August and then again at TakeOver: Toronto in November. The first opportunity was unsuccessful but the second was a championship winning performance.

And both bouts, especially the second, were match of the year type wars. DIY, as the team would go by would have a somewhat short-lived title run as they dropped the belts to the Authors of Pain after just 70 days and their attempts to win the belts back eventually led to the attack and heel turn from Ciampa.

More from Daily DDT

So while Ciampa was recuperating from the injury, he sat and watched as Gargano excelled into the NXT main event scene. His anger finally boiled over in Philadelphia. But he wasn’t done with his vengeful behavior towards his former partner. Just a few weeks later, he cost Gargano another title match with Almas, and this one sent Gargano packing, as his NXT contract was on the line.

This loss from Gargano, a universally beloved superstar, was met with searing anger by the NXT fans. And the fury heightened even further from week to week as Ciampa repeatedly came to ringside to gloat over the fate of his former partner.

The natural heel in Ciampa had come to light, and the heat he is currently facing from the NXT faithful is unlike anything we’ve seen at Full Sail University. Ciampa’s constant self back pats on twitter aren’t making the fans any less enraged as not only is he touting what he did to Gargano, but talking consistent trash on how good his body looks which has been outright rage-inducing.

This all led up to the March 21st episode of NXT when Ciampa walked out to ringside again to a chorus of boos. He began his assault on Gargano’s fans which included destroying signs and going to nose to nose with a few. However, this time it was Gargano who outsmarted his former partner by hiding behind a sign and a luchador mask, jumped the barrier and reigned down blows on Ciampa’s skull. It was about as exciting a moment that there’s been on WWE television in a very long time.

So on April 7th, the former NXT Tag Champions will go to battle with Gargano’s NXT life on the line once again. And if there has even been a better build up to a grudge match, one would be hard-pressed to find an example from the past decade. The rivalry is personal, emotional, and is being contested between two upcoming superstars. Based on their past in-ring performances, this match has all the makings of an utter classic.

Next: Ranking All Of The Undertaker's WrestleMania Matches

At this point, who wins and who loses is almost moot. If Ciampa wins, expect Gargano to be called up to the main roster immediately. And if “Johnny Wrestling” wins, this feud will most likely continue and no one in their right mind would complain about that. But the most important part here is that hottest program in the company is coming to a head in New Orleans, and if these two former friends produce the type of match that most people believe that they can, they will be the envy and biggest story from a jam-packed WrestleMania weekend.