Last night at NXT Takeover Chicago 2 we saw what is quite possibly the best long-term story in wrestling in years. Maybe ever. All thanks to Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa.
Some people will say the likes of Steamboat and Flair or Omega and Okada when talking about the best long-term storyline. However, I wasn’t around for Flair and Steamboat and as much as I like New Japan I’m not as invested as other people. Gargano vs Ciampa is for me the most invested I’ve been in a story in a long time. There’s no shades of grey… just pure good vs pure evil.
The hype package talked about this being a year in the making from the last Takeover Chicago but in fact this has been building since the cruiserweight classic back in 2016.
Originally just two indie guys who had never teamed together they managed to become the most popular team in NXT. Their friendship survived their cruiserweight match and losing at Takeover Brooklyn to take the tag team titles in a classic 2 out f 3 falls match in Toronto. After a few unsuccessful attempts to regain the titles Ciampa shocked everyone by turning on Gargano. Whatever your opinions on WWE’s production the false end graphic was a great way to lull you in. The fact that people actually booed the turn showed how much fans were invested in DIY.
Then Ciampa got injured which could have quite easily derailed this story. However, they smartly changed the story to Gargano trying to move on and becoming a singles wrestler again but constantly coming up short. This was helped by Gargano being the most likeable face since Daniel Bryan. Ciampa meanwhile used twitter to constantly take shots at Gargano to keep this feud in fans conscience.
Finally, after a brilliant 5-star match against Andrade Cien Almas Gargano was attacked with crutch by Ciampa. Ciampa purposely grew his bread out and go in incredible shape making it look like he had done nothing but obsess about getting back at Gargano.
Then he cost Gargano his career in NXT easily making him the most hated man in the company. He would come out and not have to say anything but stand there and let the boos reign in.
The unsanctioned match in New Orleans was hands down the match I was most invested in that entire weekend. There weren’t a lot of fancy moves this was a fight. Every move looked like it was designed to cause as much pain as possible. Mauro Ranello did a great job of selling how much of a despicable human being Ciampa was in a similar vein to how JR would back in the day.
The match was filled with call backs including the use of the crutch and sitting in the middle of the ring like after their cruiserweight classic match. That looked to be the fairy-tale ending but Ciampa couldn’t get over his loss and attacked Gargano before he could get a shot at the NXT Championship.
The fact that they were in street clothes was a nice touch. This match featured even more call backs like Ciampa dragging Gargano to the top of the ramp and beating him the same way be did when he turned on him the year before. This time it was Gargano sending Ciampa through two tables and watching officials carry him out. In the end it was Gargano’s obsession with finishing Ciampa that ultimately cost him.
What helps make this the best long term story is the fact that it technically isn’t over. Personal I hope they save the rubber match for when they both get to the main roster. Have Gargano challenge for a title only to once again be cost by Ciampa because he can’t let Gargano be happy. From here I think Ciampa should go after the championship and Johnny should probably go up soon.