Ciampa made his case and it lead to a long feud with his one of his closest friends.
The feud between former NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa and current NXT Champion Johnny Gargano dates back to 2017 when Ciampa turned on Gargano at NXT TakeOver: Chicago. The feud had to be put on hold for a number of months as Ciampa needed surgery to repair his ACL. "The Blackheart" returned at NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia and ambushed Gargano to set up what would be their main event match at TakeOver: New Orleans. The two would battle it out throughout the remainder of 2018 and took different roads that would ultimately lead up to an NXT Championship match at TakeOver: New York during WrestleMania 35 weekend.
Tommaso Ciampa could not compete in the match because of neck surgery that needed to be taken care of but Johnny Gargano did compete for the NXT Title and captured the belt after being on the hunt for a year. Ciampa embraced Gargano after his title win and Tommaso took listeners on a virtual journey back to where Ciampa versus Gargano was birthed which was the Cruiserweight Classic tournament. Ciampa joined E&C's Pod Of Awesomeness and shared that he was not supposed to be in the tournament but pitched the idea to Triple H and got it green-lit.
We both [Gargano and Ciampa] knew right out of the gate our money was facing each other. So we knew that but obviously you’re gonna play your role and be a solider, and then when the Cruiserweight Classic came up, like that was the first piece of this whole thing where I wasn’t going to be in the Cruiserweight Classic. They had their list together and… I forget how we found out -- if it was a text or what it was but we found out that he [Gargano] was in and I wasn’t, and ironically, how all of our stuff has happened through injury, I got hurt at a show in Ohio or something. It wasn’t anything major but it was enough that -- it was the Arnold Classic weekend and they pulled me off the Arnold Classic but I was still there, and I’m there, I’m not doing anything so obviously I have a lot of time on my hands and Hunter is there because it’s the Arnold Classic and Johnny and I are talking and we’re like, ‘God, this Cruiserweight Classic thing is coming up. I’m not in it, you’re in it and it’s not gonna benefit us at all to do it this way’ and I just approached Hunter and was like, ‘I’m just gonna throw it out there and kind of the way I pitch everything. I pitch it as, ‘I’m just gonna put this idea in the universe and if you like it, cool and if you don’t like it, no hard feelings’, and that’s exactly what I did with him." Ciampa shared.
Ciampa continued and added that his pitch was to let him be one the 16 guys that were coming in to lose and he promised Triple H that he'd have a marquee main event match at the end of the taping when the crowd would assumably be tired.
I said, ‘Listen, I know I’m not in the Cruiserweight Classic but you guys have what? 16 matches on night one and obviously 16 guys have to just come and just lose. Let me be one of them and let me [face] Johnny and we’ll give you a close to the show. At least then you know you’re going to get a main-event caliber match’." Ciampa recalled saying to Triple H. "I was like it could be a one-off and we revisit it, awesome. If we don’t, we don’t. I said, ‘But at least we can give you a main event for that first night’. Sixteen matches deep, the crowd is gonna be burned out, whatever, and it literally just started with that and them saying, ‘Yeah, you know that’s not a bad idea’ and that night we felt it in the air at Full Sail because it was match fifteen and two dudes came out and all a sudden the crowd started to go, ‘Wait a second. The only two guys left are Johnny and Ciampa. We’re gonna see them fight tonight’ and you could feel it in the air and then we went out and delivered and I think right then, everybody in the back started to go, ‘Ohh, we have something here’.”
Johnny Gargano is now the NXT Champion and to read about what is next in the cards for Johnny Wrestling, check out Fightful's recent NXT TV taping spoilers article.
If the quotes in this article are used, please credit E&C's Pod Of Awesomeness with an H/T to Fightful for the transcriptions.