Everyone knew, it had to happen. But when it did, it was still surprising, shocking and highly emotional: Tommaso Ciampa turned on his best friend Johnny Gargano and basically threw #DIY away – just like that. But when you think about it, it’s just another turn in the long storyline those two men live on since they arrived in NXT. In here I write about their match against The Authors of Pain at NXT TakeOver: Chicago, the turn and what to expect from it. Enjoy (well, perhaps not but you know what I mean…)!
Episode: NXT TakeOver: Chicago
Aired live: 20 May 2017
Match duration: 20:09 minutes
Stipulation: Ladder Match for the NXT Tag Team Championship
One of the main songs for NXT TakeOver: Chicago has been Judas from Chris Jericho’s Fozzy. And the main event match wasn’t for the NXT Championship this time but for the NXT Tag Team Championship. Next time you throw out hints like that, NXT, I will definitely take notice!
Unfortunately and because I only watched NXT TakeOver: Chicago a few hours after it was aired live (different time zone!) I already knew about Tommaso Ciampa having turned on Johnny Gargano. I was prepared when I watched it for the first time. But I need to admit that I didn’t expect it. Because once again NXT creative have been rather clever with preparing an imagined path I was willing to walk on. The Ladder Match seemed to be the right stipulation for #DIY to regain the Tag Team Championship because they didn’t need to pin The Authors of Pain. Becoming two-time champions and being the first who could actually win against AOP, suddenly seemed possible.
After climbing onto the throne of the NXT Tag Team division in November 2016, I always expected one guy of #DIY turning on the other. Several times I wrote about it could be great in trying for Tommaso Ciampa as face and Johnny Gargano as heel because it would be something different. In the end, NXT went for the natural version because Johnny Gargano clearly is one of the best natural faces ever while Tommaso Ciampa clearly is one of the best natural heels ever. They both are also just brilliant in selling their roles (even if it’s homoerotic as hell and not PG at all – but that’s why we are all watching wrestling anyway, right?), so it was an easy way to make the audience straight boo the Psycho Killer while they felt for poor Johnny Wrestling.
WWE really has a thing for breaking up highly popular tag teams. There are still a lot of fans out there who cry about the Shield break-up. So, I guess at one point that night of 20 May 2017, the hashtag “Why, Ciampa, why” must have been a worldwide trend.
Now, I’m one of those guys who doesn’t care about the Shield break-up. I don’t want for them to be re-united. I’m glad they broke up and annoyed about any mention or hint by WWE that maybe one day there will be a reunion. But for #DIY I’ve got this fantasy storyline in mind with a reunion at the end of it and an even stronger bony between Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano as a result.
But I will talk about that later. For now the betrayal stands firmly between the two friends. Tommaso hurt Johnny, physically and emotionally. So, why did Tommaso what he did?
It was a sick match – simply said. One of the greatest stipulation matches with all spots actually meaning something – like you would expect from #DIY. At every NXT TakeOver show they have been in so far, they always delivered match of the evening, mostly because of their great storytelling. To put it simple again: Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano wear their emotions all over their skin. Yes, we all know that wrestling is predetermined but when those guys jump off a ladder on two other guys laid out on a ladder, it definitely isn’t fake. This spot was one of the main moments of this match and it showed that #DIY would do everything together to get their titles back.
But there is also another side to the tag team of Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano. The Authors of Pain are business partners. Are they friends? Well, we don’t know. Because the one who speaks for them, is Paul Ellering. We don’t know anything personal about Akam and Rezar. It’s with reason they only got one name because it isn’t a real name, it’s just a description to separate one from the other when you talk about the guys when they aren’t present.
But Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano aren’t business partners – they are friends. And they love each other so deeply that they want to save their partner, take the punishment when there is no reason for it but just dumb love. Like Johnny Gargano did when he saw Tommaso faced by the ladder and about to get hit. Johnny pushed his friend out of the way and took the hit instead of his friend. And because Johnny Gargano is just a master of selling those hits, it looked damn real.
Because Johnny helped him before, Tommaso couldn’t leave him behind when the opportunity to grab the title belts has been offered for #DIY. I’m not exactly certain about the rules of a tag team ladder match because would it have been possible for Tommaso Ciampa to grab both belts to win the match? Anyway, he wanted to win the match with Johnny together, so he tried to pick him up. But that needed too much time, AOP have been able to recover and consequently tore Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano down to grab the titles themselves instead.
Winner: The Authors of Pain (and still NXT Tag Team Champions)
We already got a similar scene when Tommaso Ciampa hesitated because of the love he felt for his friend and consequently lose the match: it was during their one-on-one encounter in the first round of the Cruiserweight Classic last year in August. Tommaso Ciampa at one point had been able to kill off Johnny Gargano for the win. But Tommaso hesitated, waited too long, thought about consequences for their friendship or simply didn’t want to hurt Johnny. And in the end it had been Johnny who took the last step because obviously, he has been able to do what Tommaso couldn’t: being selfish at the expense of his friend.
And this time it happened again: Tommaso didn’t want to be selfish. He wanted to win this match together with Johnny, grabbing the belts together – winning as a team. And in the end he suffered again.
Two times not being selfish. Two times being weak because of his friend. Two times losing big time because his tag team partner isn’t just a business partner but a close friend. Tommaso realized it and he needed change.
After all the beating Johnny Gargano received from Tommaso Ciampa, he still tried to get close to him. He didn’t know what happened, couldn’t make any sense of it – refused to believe that this was real. And you could also see the struggle that Tommaso Ciampa suffered. He still loved Johnny but he knew what he had to do for finally being successful. He needed to throw #DIY into the trash bin, so he wouldn’t have to suffer a third time because of useless feelings. That’s why Tommaso Ciampa didn’t just beat up Johnny Gargano but also threw himself together with him upside down into the abyss.
For now, #DIY is no more. Tommaso Ciampa killed it. And quite honestly, NXT need to do a feud between Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa. The story writes itself. Being on his own now, Tommaso Ciampa could go after the NXT Championship but Johnny Gargano demands answers with hopes that he hasn’t lost his friend. Despite all the beating Johnny Gargano could well play the abandoned puppy who simply wants his friend back. While Tommaso Ciampa tries to ignore him and shove him away because he can’t handle his feelings.
It would be great if Tommaso Ciampa would win the NXT Championship first, then Johnny Gargano from Tommaso. The good thing is that #DIY already won the NXT Tag Team Championship, so Johnny could remind Tommaso that they can be successful together. Which consequently opens up a path back towards a reunion in the future.
What I fear is that the break-up was just done to bring both Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano up to the main roster as singles competitors. And that #DIY will be just swept under the carpet in hoping that the WWE Universe will forget about it entirely. As for me: that won’t happen!