Tommaso Ciampa spent 10 years in smaller promotions before finally getting the call to join WWE. He admits that he didn't understand the presentation of a character early in his career and credits his wife Jessie Ward for helping him with that.
Ciampa talked about Jessie's influence on his career when he joined Lilian Garcia's podcast.
"Early in my career, playing a character was vital. I had to be Thomas Penmanship because I couldn't be Tommaso because he is a shy kid, so I had to create an alter-ego. I had to be that something, so that was all that it took at the beginning where if all I had to do was pretend to be someone else than I was fine," stated Ciampa. "But then eventually I did hit that point where I was working the independents and getting better but I wasn't catching breaks. It was the second fold, it was where I had met my wife, Jessie around that time and I was in a tough spot. I'm like, dammit, what am I doing? This isn't going well. I would say that she helped me through all of that."
"By the time we met she was already out of the business, but at this point, I am doing my thing but I am not successful. We meet and then it became like this big eye-opener. Her biggest thing on me was that I was spending a lot of time trying to make people look good you ever think about how you are going to look good yourself? I remember fighting it. We don't fight at all after so many years we've been together I don't know how many years now; we just don't fight. But in my head, I'm saying that this woman is telling me how to wrestle and telling me what to do. I would keep it internal and would get frustrated and my mood would get sour. I thought to myself after a while that I would just try it," said Ciampa.
"I started to try some stuff, and it's just a little stuff because she is good with backstage vignettes and stuff. She has a lot of strangely good ideas. It took me a while to open up to the idea that you don't have to be a wrestler to have ideas. Jim Ross isn't a wrestler and you will learn a lot from Jim Ross. I don't know why it took me a bit but after a while, I started figuring it out and applying it. I realized that this stuff is actually working and I started to catch momentum and steamroll through the independents."
Jessie was also a big help for Ciampa in presenting himself as a wrestling star rather than simply being a wrestler. She aided him on social media and convinced him that he needs to be promoting himself more.
"That was when I slowly started to focus less on my match and more on how to present myself and what the presentation is," said Ciampa. "That evolved to me becoming Tommaso Ciampa, which is my Godmother's last name. I decided to put everything in. Put all my eggs in my basket and not pretend to be anything that, but that was years and years of figuring out who I am. There wasn't a pinpoint time that it clicked, but I know for sure the end of Ring of Honor I started to realize that I became good at this. But I felt that at Ring of Honor I was type-casted and I couldn't get out of that and I was asking a lot from them if I can switch my character and have certain opponents.
"But I do remember where she was getting it and I was getting it but I felt like I was the only one who knows that I am on the cusp of something. No one knows but I know. I felt like I was ready to break out but I just needed the ball a little bit, but things started to explode when I left Ring of Honor. I did a thing for PROGRESS for a tournament and I started using 'Psycho Killer' by Talking Heads as my entrance music. That became my thing and Psycho Killer was my pseudo personality and in one year it just took off. It just happened. I know how this guy walks, talks, carries himself, everything.
"It was one of those things where you know you hear like this guy is a 10-year overnight success, I felt that. I was like, okay, shoot, I think I am one of those and then it just snowballed because, obviously, NXT happened. I give so much of the credit to Jessie for developing me from a kid who just wanted to wrestle to a commodity who can become a star for a company and given the confidence to it and for making me look outside the box."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Chasing Glory with Lilian Garcia with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.