Tommasso Ciampa’s recent NXT Championship win is the talk of pro wrestling fans everywhere. Some are curious why Aleister Black’s title reign lasted only three months, despite the excellent work he does in the ring. Others are happy to see him drop the belt, mostly because they feel he has less of an edge since becoming champion.
But the real story here is Ciampa. Ciampa is one of those talents that has put in the time and effort to truly establish himself, as many guys around him have. However Tommasso is a genuine storyteller and has never really needed the mic to narrate the story. He does his talking in the ring. There’s no denying that he has earned not only his spot but the NXT Championship as well.
There’s also no denying he is one of the strongest heels working in the business today. There is nothing remotely redeeming about Ciampa’s character other than his work ethic. Tommasso is despicable, his actions are deplorable and his motivations are demented. Ciampa has the perfect level of evil to carry him far beyond the NXT Championship. But is he working in the wrong era?
This is where things get complicated. Some fans believe that everything changed in pro wrestling with the advent of The Attitude Era and this is true to a certain extent. The WWE product became edgier and the Superstars were allowed more freedom to explore who they were and what they could be.
WCW was in firm control and ECW was making waves. WWE had to establish its dominance in the industry and that’s exactly what happened. Vince McMahon’s company evolved past its competition and the rest is history. But that’s not where the business necessarily changed.
Everything changed on December 15, 1997 when McMahon pulled back the curtain and let the whole world see the truth. Pro wrestling was never an actual competition, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. Pro wrestling was nothing more than a TV show. That is the moment when The Attitude Era began. It’s also the moment when the business changed forever.
When fans were smartened up, they perhaps became too smart for their own good. Instead of watching pro wrestling for the drama of good versus evil and right versus wrong, fans tuned in to see the athleticism of the talents in the ring. These were no longer real people; they were real people portraying characters. Fans were not getting lost in the fictional reality happening before them. They were instead getting wrapped up in the overall mechanics of the business itself.
This is the industry that Tommasso Ciampa finds himself in. His job was to turn heel against Johnny Gargano and become as hated as he possibly could be. Ciampa had to do everything imaginable to destroy Johnny Wrestling and show zero remorse in the process. When fans looked at him, they had to see a true villain reveling in the chaos he created.
Ciampa did his job and then some. But when fans look at him, they see a hardworking guy that deserves every accolade that comes his way. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, the truth is some have lost the ability to just watch the match itself and lose themselves in the story. But of course Tommasso is not the only man struggling with that reality.
Anyone working in the business after December 15 1997 has had to deal with this. There used to be a mystery behind pro wrestling and an aura around pro wrestlers. It was a secret society of individuals that adhered to a very strict code. If someone broke that code, then he could expose the business. That just could not happen. If it did, then everything could fall apart.
How many fans praised Dirty Dick Slater or Cowboy Bob Orton when they ran heel together in the 1980’s? Did fans compliment each guy, recognizing their ability to get heat from the crowd? Or did they just sit back and enjoy hating them?
Fans can now see what each man brought to the table and they can respect them for it. But that’s the case all across the board, on every level of the business. While fans are obviously aware of this, an entire generation has come after McMahon’s 1997 announcement and the end of The Monday Night Wars in 2000. Can this generation truly remove itself from the reality of the product long enough to actually enjoy it as fans did during the Territory Era?
The irony of this is that pro wrestling had to evolve. It had to change. Vince McMahon’s announcement was shocking to those behind the scenes. But it confirmed what many fans had already suspected for years. If the pro wrestling industry was going to survive into the future, then the truth had to be told. There was just no wary around it.
Tommasso Ciampa deserves applause for his work in NXT. He deserves recognition for the work he does to get over as a heel. His war with Gargano will continue yet and there’s no way to know just how much more damage Tommasso will do to everyone’s favorite babyface.
But Tommasso Ciampa should also continue to hear the boos. He should feel the hate now, more than ever. He should get the respect he earns as a heel that wants to destroy everyone and everything in his path. Ciampa’s character doesn’t want the cheers and he doesn’t care about them. The same is likely true of Ciampa the man. He and Gargano have created magic together thus far and they will surely make more very soon.
So if fans want to truly praise Tommasso for his efforts, then they should hate him for everything he’s worth. That would definitely be the case in any other era of the sport. Perhaps it will eventually be the case in this era as well.
NXT Minus 6: Too Early To Fantasy Book War Games?
Everyone loves fantasy booking. Right?
The answer is No. It’s not too early.
6. NXT teases us with a Matt Riddle-Arturo Ruas match that went 3 minutes? I know it’s not happening, but those guys deserve a Takeover spot. Kudos to NXT for playing up the mma aspect. Everything from Mauro’s commentary to the ref stoppage made this feel like it should have been in an octagon. If you haven’t already seen it, check out Ruas’ match from the Evolve 10th Anniversary show. Dude is a killer.
5. We got the final opening round match of the Dusty Rhodes Everyman Classic. Bronson Reed is good. He delivered what might be the biggest frog splash I’ve ever seen. There is always a place for athletic big men, but he’s not the story.
4. Dexter Lumas is creepy. The key to wrestling is to crank your personality up to 11. If this creepy thing is any part of Dexter Lumas, I don’t want to be in a room with him. I don’t trust him around my kids. I wonder how many crimes against humanity he’s already committed. Creepy in a way that Bray Wyatt can only hope to be.
3. Tyler Breeze enters the running for Savage Burn of the Year. He looked at Jaxson Ryker and asked “Weren’t you Buddy Murphy?” Brutal. That line alone is worth the return of Prince Pretty.
2. I finally got the moment I was waiting for: an interesting KUSHIDA match. I was ready to send him to 205 in exchange for Akira Tozawa. And if this is Apollo Crews, I will gladly take him back full time in NXT. Stellar matchup and worth watching. 4.4 stars.
1. Oh no, this cannot be happening. They’re turning Keith Lee into Kassius Ohno 2.0? He’s talking about getting passed over for the new guys? And he’s jobbing to Damian Priest next week? Been here a year and zero Takeover matches? The Ridiculous Keith Lee deserves better. THIS…CAN…NOT…BE…HAPPENING!!!
Bonus time: Old school versus new generation. Tyler Breeze heads up a cast of NXT OGs to take on Undisputed Era in (cue William Regal voice) War Games to determine NXT supremacy. Keep Apollo around. Throw in Cesaro and Harper, maybe even Samoa Joe, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a brawl. Either that or Undisputed Era versus the Club. I’m cool with both.
Tiffany’s Takes: WWE NXT (7-17-19)
Who will be the first to challenge Adam Cole for the NXT Championship?
Who will be the first to challenge Adam Cole for the NXT Championship?
Have I ever told anyone that I can’t stand Matt Riddle? I have? Okay. I don’t even know what it is, but he sets my teeth on edge. I will give him props for having a good match with Arturo Ruas, but I’m not sure what they’re doing with his character, except teasing a heel turn after that NASTY beatdown of Ruas. I am here for Killian Dain vs Riddle, that even sounds like fun!
Looks like we are going to Undisputed Era vs Street Profits at some point, but I’m waiting for UE to make a big deal about Street Profits being on the Main Roster for the last couple of weeks.
I love that Mia Yim is learning from everyone’s mistakes in dealing with Shayna Baszler and is going after Baszler’s friends, who are the real reason she’s stayed on top for so long. This feud is going to get nasty in a hurry and I can’t wait!
The next match of the NXT Breakout Tournament had a lot to live up to after two AMAZING matches and one not so amazing. I’m not sure what in the world Australian Strong Styles is, I’m guessing it’s like any ‘Strong Style’ in that it’s pretty hard hitting. I also didn’t know Australia had a Black Forest, it was never on ‘Crocodile Hunter’. I did like this match, however. I can’t say it was as amazing as some of the other matches, but it was really good. Bronson Reed won the match for Australia, so we’ll see what happens in Round 2.
Someone should tell Tyler Breeze that having a beard doesn’t make you a man. I’ve seen teenagers with better facial hair. I did love the little dig at Forgotten Sons, but I don’t think Breeze really wants to pick a fight with Jaxson Ryker, that’s not going to end well.
Well, it looks like we’ll likely get a confrontation between Io Shirai and Candice LeRae next week, unfortunately for Kacy Catanzaro, she’s going to be Shirai’s punching bag before that.
I wasn’t really into KUSHIDA vs Apollo Crews. I’m just not a huge fan of either guy. The match was really good, but I don’ t think anyone really thought Crews was going to beat KUSHIDA, who is getting built into a title contender, but it was a longer match than Crews has been having for most of his WWE run, so there’s that.
I’m still not into Keith Lee, I just don’t get it, but I’m super stoked about the prospect of Lee vs Damian Priest, that promises to be a wild match.
So, it’s officially official, we WILL be getting Adam Cole vs Johnny Gargano III and it sounds like it’s going to be the last one. I did like Gargano comparing his victory tour of trying to inspire young people in Cleveland with Cole’s obnoxious antics at the Gargano restaurant. Also, love the ‘Johnny Badass’ thing, very cool. NXT TakeOver: Toronto II is going to be a wild ride in that Three Stages of Hell match! Thank you, William Regal for booking that!
That’s it for Tiffany’s Belated NXT Takes! Tune in Monday for Monday Night RAW!