Tommaso Ciampa recently spoke with Brian Fritz of SportingNews.com to promote this week's WWE NXT episode on the USA Network. Ciampa made his in-ring return from neck fusion surgery on the October 16 NXT episode, where he defeated Angel Garza. Ciampa was asked how he felt getting back in the ring. He talked about why he was happy with the match against Garza, and also commented on the recent bouts against The Miz and The OC.
"Man, I'm happy that that match ended up being as short as it did," Ciampa said. "It was awesome when I returned from the ACL surgery and Johnny (Gargano) and I had that unsanctioned match and that was the first one back. That was 30 some odd minutes, 40 minutes, whatever it was. But coming back from the neck, for some reason in my head, it was so different than the knee where I was like, "I don't think I want to do 30 or 40 my first one back. I think I'll go with the short one and kind of see how it feels. A couple bumps instead of 100 bumps." So far, I'm happy with how gradual everything has been. It's just been little bits at a time and it's allowed me to get over that mental game of every time you fall, you're not going to get numbness and a stinger and whatnot.
There's a comfort when the surgeon tells you all the images look good and titanium is stronger than bone and yada yada, but there's a whole different comfort when you're actually in there live. You're going through it and then come back through the curtain after and you're like, "OK, there's no problems." And wake up the next day, "Oh, I feel good." That's a whole different level of confidence, so it's been perfect the way it's been going. I wouldn't have booked it differently if I could have as far as a short match. I had the tag match with OC, I had the match with Miz which was slightly longer. So far, it's just been a very gradual progression and it's definitely helped me feel more comfortable inside the ring."
Ciampa has had his eyes on the NXT Title since returning, which is currently held by Adam Cole of The Undisputed Era. Ciampa was asked what the NXT Title means to him after his initial title run that meant a lot to him at over 235 days. Ciampa went on about the title being the pinnacle of the industry. He also talked about the feud with Johnny Gargano and promised his next NXT Title run will be much longer.
"It's the best, most prestigious, most coveted ... it's the pinnacle in this industry," Ciampa said. "It genuinely, truly is. I totally understand how somebody can think that maybe I'm playing a character when I say it, but I think it's why the character was so damn believable, because I didn't have to make up anything. Everything I was saying, I believe truly, to the core. The wrestling that I grew up on was this; it was NXT. Definitely not the athleticism factor or the in-ring factor — that's evolved tremendously. But the storytelling part of it, that's what grew up on. I grew up on these long, drawn-out stories with four pay-per-views a year where things paid off. Everything was done for a reason. Then all of a sudden, I find myself in NXT and I get to play that out. I'm playing out my childhood.
The thing with Johnny Gargano was over one year, two years long. That's just stuff you don't see anymore, and the fact that we're delivering that and now on USA, people are starting to see on a weekly basis that we're delivering it. We've been delivering it for years. I think our audience is going to grow and grow and grow. I keep in tune with as much as I can. I saw the rating numbers and everything. I think that NXT, when we get through that three-to-six month phase, when people start to get familiar with this product and they start to understand and see how different we are, how unique we are in our storytelling ability, people are going to get hooked. This thing is going to grow like wildfire. The second this thing starts to catch — I already have a hunch it's starting to right now — it's going to get ridiculous and it's going to get ridiculous really fast."
Ciampa continued, "As far as the NXT title goes, for me, I went 15 years never being the guy. Ever. Some of that time, four years or whatever it was, was spent in Ring of Honor, a lot was spent on the indies, a lot of it overseas. Through all that time, I was in the same promotions as Adam Cole, Kevin Owens, Kyle O'Reilly, Bobby Fish, Roderick Strong, Ricochet, Aleister Black, all these different guys and I watched all of them have their turn and it just never happened to fall on my lap. And all of a sudden, NXT, which I consider my home, it's the hottest promotion going, and I finally got the ball. And dammit, that meant the world to me. It's why I had neck surgery and said I gotta get back. I think I definitely had the option to walk away from it and maybe take on a role backstage.
For me, this career, it's not over. I'm not done telling stories yet. The idea of getting back into a ring, which I've now done, the idea of getting back to the TakeOver stage, which is two weeks away, and then going forward from that, getting that damn title match that I've been waiting so patiently for. I have a lot stories left to tell. Even this Tommaso Ciampa character, persona, whatever, there's an art to this character and it's not close to being done yet. I know how many layers I have left, and I know how many things I haven't even touched upon yet. I love the idea that it's all right there in front of me and I can see it. I feel like I'm so many steps ahead with what I want to do. I'm kind of watching slowly as each thing unfolds and it just happens to be unfolding exactly the way I want it to. I'm in a real good spot right now. I had a 237-day title run and the next one is going to be even longer and it's going to keep adding up. I want to have that title for more days than anyone has in the history of NXT and I just have to get it one more time, because if I get it one more time, I ain't going to lose it."
Ciampa has to lead his team through WarGames before he can get another NXT Title shot. He is currently scheduled to team with Keith Lee, Dominik Dijakovic and one other Superstar to face The Undisputed Era (NXT Champion Cole, NXT North American Champion Roderick Strong, NXT Tag Team Champions Kyle O'Reilly & Bobby Fish) in the men's WarGames match at "Takeover: WarGames 2019" on November 23. Ciampa was asked what's it going to be like to be on the Takeover card, especially with a WarGames match. Ciampa says he wasn't in the previous WarGames matches he was around for, but finally he gets to be a part of one. Ciampa also said he believes Takeover will be really special, and talked about WarGames being his personal playground.
"I've been in NXT for two of these, and I haven't been able to be a part of one," Ciampa said. "It bothered me, and I finally get to fulfill that and be a part of one. I don't think there's a performer in this world who makes better use of their surroundings than I do. I kind of have a little playground at TakeOver: WarGames and I already have a million ideas (laughs). It's going to be the best TakeOver: WarGames in the history of NXT, and it's going to be the best War Games match in the history of NXT. There's not one doubt in my mind that both of those are going to be true. Undisputed Era is very experienced with War Games. They've been in two; they've won one, they lost one. They're batting .500. In baseball, that's really good. 50/50 in the NFL, that doesn't make the playoffs so it's all about perspective and how you look at it.
The way I look at it is we're four dudes who are brothers who work really well, cohesively together. It's myself, it's (Matt) Riddle, it's Keith Lee and a to-be-determined superstar. It's four dudes who, we're not the best of friends. I don't think that's a secret. We have a common enemy. That's what's going on here. Shoot, me, if I was going to go to war and you told me I could have Keith Lee, I'll sign up on that one. And you told me I could have the freaking UFC madman Matt Riddle — he's like the new Goldberg — I'll sign up on that one too. I love the guys. I've got on my team and side-by-side, I'd rather have them with me than against me. TakeOver: WarGames, I have a hunch it's going to be really special, and the fact that I finally get to stand inside those damn cages, damn, it's about time. I've been looking forward to that for a very long time. So, it's going to be like my own personal playground."