Tommaso Ciampa is great. He’s been great for ages, but a whole bunch more people are about to realize it. Ciampa is an NXT veteran, sticking around WWE’s formerly black and gold brand for longer than most, headlining pay-per-view after pay-per-view in a long-running feud against Johnny Gargano. He has progressed to the big leagues (if NXT can even be considered a little league any more), and despite his adversary leaving the company, Ciampa still has a bright future ahead of him.
You probably don’t remember Ciampa’s first run in WWE. He was called Thomas Whitney, for a start, which is much more boring. He was a lawyer (again, boring) for Muhammad Hassan and was in the ring with Undertaker once. Not to wrestle, to read an announcement. I’ve got all this from Wikipedia because I guarantee you nobody in the world remembers this Ciampa. Sorry, this Whitney.
Ciampa really started making waves when he wrestled regularly for Ring of Honor. Four years after his WWE career had apparently ended, he joined the likes of Adam Cole, Jay Lethal, and Adam Page in regular matches. Even an only-watches-PPVs wrestling fan will know those names from their regular main events in AEW, so why has Ciampa not reached those levels of stardom yet?
Injuries are the major thing. His RoH run was littered with minor quibbles – broken ribs, torn ACL – but nothing compares to a serious neck problem that required surgery during his time in NXT.
The other thing holding Ciampa back was his own success. His love/hate relationship with Gargano – the classic tag-team partners to enemies storyline – was NXT’s best pairing since Samoa Joe and Finn Balor. His run as heel NXT Champion with ‘Goldy’ (his name for the title belt) was sublime, and then you run into NXT’s age-old problem. Do you keep your champions around to continue the great stories, or do you move them on from the so-called developmental brand to the main roster? Ciampa lingered in NXT for just the right length of time, but like many superstars, WWE creative didn’t know how to best utilize him when he got promoted to RAW.
Granted he only made the move in April, but CEO and head of creative Vince McMahon clearly didn’t know what to do with Ciampa, and he ended up as The Miz’s lackey. He was there, doing naff all, as The Miz fought Logan Paul – who himself is a suprisingly good wrestler. He’d come full circle, 17 years after being a part of Muhammad Hassan’s ensemble, he was back in the big leagues. As a part of The Miz’s ensemble. But that’s just changed.
Vince McMahon has stepped down from his role as head of creative, and Triple H has filled the gap. Former head of NXT Triple H. The man who let Ciampa hold the NXT Championship for 237 days and 112 days on two separate occasions. The first time around, he only dropped the belt due to his neck injury. It’s no secret that Trips loves Ciampa, and it’s therefore no surprise that he’s emerged from Miz’s shadow the moment HHH has taken control of proceedings. Ciampa was immediately set on a warpath with Bobby Lashley’s United States Championship as the target.
In the spotlight once again, Ciampa showed his skills on the mic straight away, with a cutthroat promo that cut his opponent larger than life down to size. He may have got squashed pretty quickly on Monday’s episode of RAW, but that doesn’t matter. Lashley’s a great champion and one defeat doesn’t spell the end of Ciampa. He’s just started getting title shots, and he sure as hell won’t stop there.
A future with HHH in charge will likely mean we see some changes in WWE. We’ve already seen improvements to the storytelling, with fewer matches being repeated again and again for no apparent reason. Ciampa’s push is a statement of intent from the new boss, and re-signing released talent shows WWE’s intentions from here on out. Will Gargano, whose contract expired last year and has since taken some time out of the ring to raise his newborn son, return? Some fans think a cryptic Ciampa tweet may nod to his rival’s return, and Triple H would do well to renew that rivalry. Whatever the future of WWE holds, it’s certain that Ciampa will play a big part in the new era.
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