The incredibly storied feud between Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano shook unto its potentially final beat on NXT this past Wednesday night on the USA Network. The longest rivalry in NXT history set the stage in what some might call an absolute stunning showcase of heart and soul. But if you watched the match, WWE completed the trifecta in theatric spectacles. Gargano vs Ciampa was a cinematic masterpiece.
In a matter of weeks, WWE and respectfully, NXT, put on a clinic of wrestling for WrestleMania 36 weekend. Much of the card for both brands were unique, without a crowd or large venue and took advantage of resources at hand to produce memorable entertainment.
The personality of sort for WrestleMania 36 could be viewed antithetically and for good reason. The show of shows demonstrated true forms of cinematic entertainment; an experience non-other once before. NXT following WrestleMania 36 also did just that, maybe even amassed its predecessor.
Related Read: The Undertaker stole the show at WrestleMania 36
The Final Beatdown
One match in particular, however, exceeded all expectations given the circumstances that lie ahead. The final beat. Black Heart vs Rebel Heart. Tommaso Ciampa vs Johnny Gargano. NXT produced one hell of a matchup – and they gave it away for free.
Examining the two’s history would take days, and never provide such eloquent description that would do such justice. I’m sure someone will write that piece, and I hope they do because the two men who gave it they’re all for nearly 35 minutes in front of no one besides a camera crew and ref deserve every moment of authentic dissection.
The immensely dramatic score to start the match distinguished the immediate suspense. As Johnny and Candice LeRae arrived, their heart pounces in fear, excitement, and suspense that would soon commence.
Johnny wasn’t entering a typical fight. You could feel Gargano’s fists clenching, looking toward the ring. The ring, itself has an unearthly historical presence to it. The spotlights above added to the mystic and subtle primitive nature of this fight. Ciampa across the other side, and Hunter inside the ring, the studio has transformed to some sort of 1940s antiquated boxing gym. If this was a sign of things to come, we were all in for a treat.
“Right on time”
As both men enter the ring, you can almost sense the fear dissipate from each men’s body and blood aggressively pumping adrenaline throughout. The anticipation to leave everything in the ring, one final time, is dreary tragic, and both men know what is coming their way.
“It starts in this ring, it ends in this ring”. Hunter reiterates the seemingly only rule in this beatdown that is about to ensue. Over the years between their historic rivalry, never once have these two men been able to once and for all settle the score mono e mono, without distraction and not send them home whispering for more.
Or least we’d hope.
Give WWE the time to prepare and they give you the most vivid and fantastical presentation. This was a fight, this was wrestling to its core. But most importantly, they used all their resources and knowledge of matches prior, to present a detailed story in the most magical way possible given all the distracting circumstances in the world outside wrestling.
Hunter has always said he had an eye for the dramatic affair. From lighting to camera positioning, from frame rate to the quiet tone, the scant use of resources at their disposal provided what was lacking in the antecedent.
No bell needs to ring here. These men understand what is at stake.
The quick angle shots throughout the studio provide a flawlessly modern take on professional wrestling. No announcers are needed for this meticulous undertaking. Much like the boneyard match, these men are physically and verbally abusing each other in the ring. Even without understanding their storied history, you get a sense of velocity in their moves, characterizing the men’s evil curiosity of one another.
No one specific camera is spotlighting over another. The visual presentation is meant to distract you from the crowd-less and focus genuinely on their relentless and ferocious encounter.
Captivating an audience without a crowd
The studio gym is everything like a gym and nothing like a studio. From the cases of water left behind and trash cans left half-filled, the feeling of their fight taking place a half past midnight after a long and successful day of WrestleMania 36 filming seems legit.
Even taking the fight outdoors, it’s quiet. Like all the people who once filed the area have long left production these two men wait for no one to settle the score on each other once and for all.
Now outside the studio, you seem to be grossly intrigued by their violence. The arousal of each man’s punch atop the 10-foot box truck seems passionate with each swing. Even their headbutts are impacting the visual sight.
Back in the ring, you can’t help but understand their hatred for each other. They, too, want to end this thing finally. Whoever is producing the scenes have a knack for uncompromising pain and damage to the human body.
No need for any “Holy Shit” from the crowd. The surreal pain being inflicted is no match for either man. It’s being felt through the camera and into our living rooms. You feel the pain, you feel their agony.
The pace here starts to increase. Their heartbeats are rising. Both men are tired of beating the hell out of each other and the camera gets extremely close with every damning hit.
The way it’s being presented, you feel each move. You get a sense of being front row, wiping the sweat off your forehead. With each action, it’s visually represented. A play by play announcer can accentuate each action, but without, you have to pace the actions in such dramatic fashion, NXT has done this admirably. BRAVO!
Go ahead, fine, I’ll finish it.
Candice. A fighting actress with a black heart. What have you done?
The tears in both men’s eyes are fulfilling all our emotions now. We don’t want this to end. But we need it to.
That sadistically smile from Johnny and Candice bringing this story full circle from the beginning when we saw LaRae hand Johnny a brown paper bag. The best display of a heel turn for LaRae, her first since debuting with NXT, captured without a crowd, without a team of play by play announcers. It was the first time NXT presented a masterpiece in disguise.
Gargano and LaRae drive off and leave Ciampa semi-motionless and weeping in the middle of the ring. It’s how Hunter described it would go, one man would enter, one man will leave.