Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano made their NXT debuts in 2015 as part of the tag team DIY. They would eventually split up and feud with each other with both becoming NXT World Champions.
Ciampa was asked if he ever realized that he would become a big singles star when he joined the State of Combat podcast.
“Johnny Gargano, to me, and I think a lot of people agree, he is the best professional wrestler in the world today. No doubt about it. Inside the ring, bell to bell, there is nobody better,” said Ciampa. “Having him as a teammate for years as part of DIY helped me tremendously, it helped me elevate my in-ring game. I just knew the entire time during my time in DIY, that I, unlike Johnny Gargano, am a sports entertainer, he is a professional wrestler. It sounds like it’s the same thing but it is slightly different and I just knew that I needed a slightly different platform and a different stage to highlight all of the things that I can do; whether it would be on the microphone or just my presence and aura.
“So, once we separated I just knew that it would be a matter of time before the world saw what I already knew and unfortunately the neck injury happened, just like unfortunately the ACL injury happened. But sometimes injuries can be the best thing that can happen to you because it allows you to freshen up. It allows the crowd to miss you and to go from the top ‘heel’ taking some time away to heal up my neck and allow the people to miss me and understand what the people had with me and just how special that I am. It allowed me to come back. I haven’t changed anything about me, I am what I am, but I think the people understand exactly what they have with me and they seem to be embracing every step of the way now.”
In 2017, Ciampa tore his ACL on the same night he turned on Gargano. That injury forced him to the sideline and it forced his feud with Gargano to be put on hold. He mentioned that the injury likely turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it provided even more time to build up his rivalry with Gargano.
“It forced us to not pay off things right away and it forced the crowd to wait in that time away, about nine months total. Johnny Gargano took on a life all on its own in one of the best single’s runs probably in NXT history and that match with Andrade was just icing on the cake that he had at the TakeOver in January. So, it was just kind of like a perfect storm, and then this time around [with his neck injury] it was a blessing in a completely different way,” said Ciampa.
“I don’t think it is a secret anymore that I actually have a family away from the business. My wife and I just had a baby girl in September and I went down with my neck injury and took some time off in March. The baby was six months old at the time and it allowed me to be home to kind of get away from wrestling and step away from all of it and just take time to be at home and watch all of her firsts and be part of everything; two completely different reasons. But both times it allowed me to hit the reset button and like I said there is nothing else for a performer in an industry that has no off-season than to be able to take time away and be missed because not many people get that luxury.”
Earlier this year, Ciampa and Gargano were called to the WWE main roster along with several other stars. Ciampa and Gargano were reunited as a tag team on the main roster, despite feuding in NXT.
“As far as Ricochet, Aleister (Black), myself and Johnny Gargano being on the main roster, there wasn’t a lot of explanation, to be honest with you,” Ciampa explained. “Sometimes, there are spots that need to be filled and you just have to be at the right spot at the right time or the wrong spot and the wrong time, whatever it may be and it just so happened that this scenario for us it was one of those things where NXT was not on television at the time and we were heading into WrestleMania weekend and that sprint during WrestleMania season is insane in WWE. I think that they just needed spots filled and thought it was a good opportunity to get more eyes on our product, us four in particular, going into one of our biggest pay per views
“I don’t know how it fell into the NXT storyline or didn’t. I have confidence that it would have all played out so that people… because I did see some negative backlash where Johnny and I were in a feud and here we are coming in
as a tag-team, DIY at the time, Johnny and I were not in such a bitter rivalry, we were kind of starting to get on the same page, I don’t know. Maybe it would have played out a certain way, I think it would have. I kind of trust the process here, but yeah, I don’t ask a lot of questions, I just go out and do my job and at that time my job was to show up and perform on Raw and perform on SmackDown and do my job.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit State of Combat with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.