Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano: All downhill from here for NXT stars?

johnny garganoThe best wrestling feud of 2018 has been unfolding in NXT, starring Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano, who, unfortunately, are already doing the best thing they will ever do in their wrestling careers.

Sadly, what Ciampa, 33, and Gargano, 31, are doing now in NXT won’t translate to the WWE main roster, as entertaining as it has been.

The story arc between the former tag team partners has been playing out for the past year and a half, starting with Ciampa turning on Gargano after a loss at NXT Takeover: Chicago, then on hold through Ciampa’s rehab of a knee injury suffered in that match, and finally starting to play out earlier this year with Ciampa’s return.

Their three matches (to this point) have been the three best WWE matches of 2018, and Ciampa is the undoubted top heel in the business right now, and if you need data to back that claim up, consider the decibel levels for his ring entrances, which he makes unaccompanied by music.

Ciampa is more over than any other heel in WWE. He’s old-school over, like, he might need to have somebody walk him to his car in the parking lot, because there are people waiting for him, that kind of over.

And their feud has Buzz Sawyer-Tommy Rich written all over it, meaning, I’m not sure if any of us would mind if this one went on for another year or two, leading to some sort of redux of a Last Battle of Atlanta.

Problem for Ciampa and Gargano, though, is, what they’re able to do in NXT just wouldn’t work on the main roster.

The NXT demographic is more Ring of Honor, New Japan, the one-time ECW fan cohort. They’re not kids, don’t have kids, or if they do, they don’t bring them to NXT shows. NXT fans grew up with wrestling, but they don’t like the more family-friendly, PG product that you get from WWE with Raw and Smackdown.

They want Ciampa and Gargano handcuffing the other, putting each other through tables, using crutches, exposing the wood planks in the ring, doing everything short of killing each other.

WWE, on its way to network TV next year with its new deal with Fox, doesn’t want any of that on Friday nights.

Think about it: what’s the hottest feud on the main roster right now? I’d argue it’s A.J. Styles-Samoa Joe, with the storyline having Joe using Styles’ family as a weapon, implying that Styles’ wife isn’t happy with her husband’s busy WWE work schedule.

Whoa. Yeah, that’s heavy.

Those enjoying the Ciampa-Gargano feud won’t want to see it moved upstairs, and in the process neutered, into a concluding match on a so-called Extreme Rules pay-per-view that might involve (shudder!) a no-DQ stip, or a gimmicky TLC match big on aerial nonsense and otherwise utterly devoid of anything substantive.

That’s bad for the guys, obviously, because the pay window on the main roster has bigger wads of cash than it does down in NXT.

I hope I’m wrong here, but I’m afraid we’re seeing Ciampa and Gargano at the apex of their careers.

Column by Chris Graham


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