NXT: Why Tony D’Angelo is so hilariously over with the fans

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In September of 2021, Tony D’Angelo was announced as a new talent for NXT. A series of vignettes were released based on this new character in perfect WWE fashion. The vignettes showed a mobster the likes of which we’ve all seen before, but as the months passed, Tony D’Angelo was welcomed by the NXT fans with open arms, open hearts and especially open minds. In this piece, we’ll go into just why Tony D’Angelo is so hilariously over with the fans.

Just who is Tony D’Angelo?

Well, to answer that we need to look at the man behind the character, which is often the case in pro wrestling. His real name is Joe Ariola and he is a former NCAA wrestler. He is from Oak Park, Illinois, and according to a piece at whatculture.com, he was undefeated as an amateur wrestler in high school and when he went on to wrestle for the University of Buffalo, he would qualify for an NCAA tournament.

This was in 2016. He was signed to a developmental deal with WWE in February of 2021 according to the same aforementioned source.

What’s up with his character and why do we like it so much?

We’ve seen it before, really. I mean if you’ve watched any Robert De Niro or Al Pacino movies, then you’ll see so many of the character aspects that Tony borrows from them. Heck, he even states that he’s in waste management…a cover business that was used by Tony Soprano and a plethora of the characters in many mobster movies and hit TV shows.

So yeah, is he hitting a stereotypical chord? Sure he is, but it’s been taken in stride by the fans, and what more, it’s really getting over with one and all. Of course, we’ve seen these characters before or something like them in pro wrestling. FBI (Full-Blooded Italians) from ECW and later WWE come to mind as do so many others that we’ve seen over the years.

And yes, he’s doing all of the typical things that a Chicago mobster would…‘collecting,’ the Italian expletives, all of it, but it’s certainly being seen in a positive light. After all, those films do well with the public. The Italian mobster overall is often seen in pop culture as an almost loveable criminal…someone we can really root for if that makes any sense at all.

Just look at the success of Goodfellas, Casino, The Godfather, Scarface (although Tony Montana wasn’t Italian); this still rings true…in such cases, the audience loves to root for the bad guy, no matter how evil he or she is. Kind of reminds me of professional wrestling, right?

Perhaps, in the end, that’s just why we can’t get enough of Tony D. He’s the perfect heel that the audience can’t get bored with.

He backs up his words

And as was mentioned above, he is a great athlete and he backs that up every time he gets into the NXT ring. Athletically inclined obviously, and his timing and conviction in the ring are spot on. He keeps in great shape, is trim but not too bulky and he can keep up in a cardiovascular capacity with the smaller guys he gets in the ring with, which in NXT is key for sure.

His attire is perfect! I mean he wrestles in a tracksuit for crying out loud—the mobster’s uniform if ever there was one—so he’s pretty much delivering on all fronts and in the end, the NXT audience, who will tell the WWE exactly what works and doesn’t, says that they want more of Tony D, and this perhaps explains why.

What’s next?

He is currently in a feud with Pete Dunne and next week is set to face that adversary in a Weaponized Steel Cage match at Vengeance Day, so that should certainly be something to see. Their matches have been epic to date, so there’s no reason why the next one—in a steel cage of all places—shouldn’t be just as epic.

Yet it was in a somewhat recent interview that he stated he has his sights set on Bron Breakker, the current and defending NXT champion. It was back in November of 2021 that he talked about potentially facing Bron down the line on an episode of WWE’s The Bump. He also went into how his amateur background and training works into his current wrestling style.

"“That Bron Breakker guy, he’s all right. I like how he handles his business. I’m looking forward to having some good matches with that guy somewhere down the line. Maybe, we can figure something out there, you know, cross paths…Amateur wrestling really gave me all the tools to be self-aware in the ring…You see me do double legs, fireman (carries) and all that jazz. It’s easy for me to make that transition.”via WWE’s The Bump /Wrestling Inc (Transcription)"

Next. Dolph Ziggler and more would benefit if he stayed in NXT. dark

This would be a perfect match as well if ever there was one. They both have amateur backgrounds, as stated, and this should be a technical wrestling match the likes we’ve been seeing a lot of over in AEW, and perhaps is one that can happen eventually in NXT. Fingers crossed, dear readers.