How Tommaso Ciampa became WWE’s Top Heel

“This wasn’t our moment… This is my moment.”

It’s been almost a year now since NXT Takeover: Chicago. The same night that Tommaso Ciampa broke all of our hearts, betraying NXT’s beloved underdog: Johnny Gargano. Since then, Ciampa has only had one night where he’s spoken into a microphone and only a handful of appearances on NXT (most of which were quite short.)

And that is exactly what has propelled him into the spot of WWE’s most effective heel.

In his case, less is more. Every time he shows up, every hateful tweet he sends out, every opportunity that he’s foiled for Johnny Gargano, he makes it leave an impact. He doesn’t need to show up every week to get under our skin. He comes out precisely when he needs to. At the worst possible time.

The last time we saw him before his return was when he explained why he did what he did. Reason being: because rumors began circling that he was injured before their big match in Chicago, and fans started instantly coming up with fantasy replacements to pair with Gargano. He felt like we betrayed him, and made him an afterthought.


And he was right. We dreaded his return, knowing it was going to be when Johnny was most vulnerable. It was right after Johnny lost the biggest (and possibly best) match of his life, failing to win the NXT Championship from Andrade “Cien” Almas. Striking him with a crutch to the back and standing over him as if to say, “this isn’t the last you’ll see of me.”

It certainly wasn’t the last, as he showed up again, but this time costing Johnny his career in NXT. He challenged Almas to one final match for the NXT Championship, but this time if he couldn’t win the big one, he would leave NXT. Sure enough, right when it seemed like Johnny had the match won, Tommaso snuck in right at the end and struck him again with a crutch.

That spelled the end of Johnny Gargano’s NXT run. All at the hands of the man the SquaredCircle subreddit calls “that asshole Ciampa.” As Johnny hugged his wife and waved to the fans that didn’t want him to see him leave, Ciampa was waving too…

He has become so vilified, that the last couple weeks he’s been on NXT he can’t even get a word in. Every time he raised a microphone to his mouth, the crowd would erupt. They hate him so vehemently that he couldn’t even find a moment to break through the boos and constant chanting of “Johnny Wrestling!” This week was even louder than the last, and the crowd came equipped with posters of the symbol Johnny Gargano uses on his gear.

As he walked by, kids were jumping out of their seats and screaming at him as he stared menacingly. It was as if their disbelief was completely suspended. They truly HATE him.

Sure, there are instances of heels being cheered by the fans. Especially when they’re good at what they do, or because it’s fun to go along with the movement. I mean, you’re kidding yourself if you’re going to boo Rusev on Rusev Day. And yeah, guys like Roman Reigns or John Cena are booed and hated because they’re overexposed and forced down our throats as “the best,” but this is unlike that. This is that old school heat. That stab your best friend in the back heat. That “I did it for The Rock” heat. If NXT and Ciampa keep this up, I think they’ll have their best heel superstar since Vince McMahon waged war with Stone Cold in the Attitude Era. They just need to remember: less is more.

Images are taken from Tommaso Ciampa’s Twitter account – @ProjectCiampa

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