Johnny Gargano found his opportunity in WWE teaming with Tommaso Ciampa, but while both wrestlers were longtime fixtures on the independent circuit who worked for many of the same promotions, they did not know each other well and basically got thrown together.
Gargano reflected on how his team with Ciampa, which came to be known as DIY and won the NXT Tag Titles, during an interview on a recent episode of E&C's Podcast of Awesomeness.
"Me and Tommaso were kind of just thrown together," Gargano recalled. "We did our tryout together, we knew each other from the indies. We met a few times, we wrestled each other a few times but it wasn't like we were super close or anything."
They got their chance when WWE was coming up one team short for its planned Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournament in 2015 in NXT. Even though Gargano and Ciampa still were not officially under contract, they were put together as a team and placed in the tourney field.
"That was the hardest part, honestly, learning on the fly on how to be a tag team wrestler, especially with someone as different as Tommaso because we are completely opposite people, we are completely opposite in the ring but I think that really blended very well," Gargano said. "They were looking for a way to bring us both in, somehow, just to get our foot in the door some way. They liked us and they wanted to see what we could do so they threw me and Tommaso together. ... Our mismatch pairing ended up catching lightning in a bottle."
Although Gargano and Ciampa found success as a team, winning the NXT Tag Titles, it was a singles match between them in the first round of the Cruiserweight Classic that gave them their first real chance to resonate with the WWE audience.
"It was like an 11 minute match and we made it feel like it was 30," said Gargano, whose bout with Ciampa was the 16th of 16 scheduled matches at a marathon taping for the entire first round of the 2016 tournament, adding, "They never told the crowd what matches they were getting so the crowd as the night went on [they] kind of realized, oh, Johnny's not out yet. Tommaso's not out yet. I think that really helped us because the crowd anticipated it all night and then when it finally happened, they gave us everything they had for those 11 minutes."
DIY split last year, with Ciampa turning on Gargano before going on the injured list after knee surgery. Ciampa made his return after Gargano's highly acclaimed match against Andrade Almas as TakeOver: Philadelphia, attacking his former partner with a crutch.
Before I came to wwe I was a singles guy. I'd been a singles guy my whole career. … and