Last night at Halloween Havoc 2021, Tommaso Ciampa retained the NXT Championship over Bron Breakker. Despite being the rookie, Breakker entered the match the betting odds favorite and many saw it as a guarantee he’d capture the title.
So why didn’t he? Is this a mistake, or was this the right call?
Your overall perception of it is subjective, so you’ll either like, dislike or be indifferent to this as you please, but what if we approached this from an objective point of view? What are the pros and cons of this booking decision and how might things play out in the future?
Pro: It Was Unexpected
As stated, it seemed everyone just assumed Breakker was a certainty to be the next champion. Going with Ciampa retaining wasn’t the most shocking thing in WWE history, but it was still surprising.
Sometimes, it’s good to keep the audience on their toes. If everything becomes too predictable, you become someone like yours truly, who will be in another room overhearing a match and say “The finisher’s going to happen. The match is over.” and is right in five seconds because we’ve gotten too trained into the rhythm of the commentary team and the tropes WWE does.
Whenever there’s something surprising, it means there can be more surprises on the horizon. If you didn’t call Ciampa retaining, maybe you’ll be wrong about your other predictions going forward? Tune in to find out!
Con: Was It For the Swerve?
It’s worth noting that sometimes, WWE and even the fans themselves can want a swerve just for the sake of it, no matter the outcome. Some people simply prioritize a surprise as a bigger deal than the overall value.
For example, Brock Lesnar didn’t need to win the title from Goldberg years back just to hold it for a year and retain over Roman Reigns, have another rematch that he retained at, only to drop it to Reigns at SummerSlam. While predictable, it would have made more sense for The Beast Incarnate to just lose it at WrestleMania that year and not dawdle an extra four months. But WWE might have done that just to prove a point that everyone who “knew” the outcome was wrong. Ha. Screw you.
I don’t know if that’s the case here. At the very least, I hope it isn’t. I’ve never been fond of WWE willingly doing something that could derail plans just to prove a point to angry fans.
Pro: It Gives Breakker Somewhere to Go From Here
A more optimistic viewpoint of Breakker losing is that he isn’t going to plateau as quickly.
Often, when someone wins the title too fast, there’s nothing left for them to do. They fast become just “the guy on top” in the eyes of the fans, beat all their opponents and become boring.
Now that he’s failed to win it, he has to prove himself worthy of another title shot and earn his way back into contention. That could be an interesting journey to see, while others step up to Ciampa and fail.
Or, perhaps if Ciampa loses the title before that, Breakker can be the next in line to challenge that Superstar.
Losing isn’t the end of the world. Breakker put up a great fight and almost had Ciampa at a few moments. This goes to show that he’s got the potential and it still puts him over as a threat to be watched, but he just happened to be beaten by a veteran.
Con: Breakker Needs to Climb the Mountain Again
The downside to that, naturally, is that Breakker has just lost some momentum and has to go to the back of the line once more. In a way, it was all for nothing from his perspective, correct? He failed to win the title and he’ll have to work his way back to the top like Sisyphus.
Maybe fans don’t want to see that, soon enough. There’s a chance this journey was a one-time deal and the next time WWE tries to build him up, fans won’t care anymore. They’ve already seen him rise and come short. What’s the draw/hook for “rematch”? There’s a chance it isn’t built up to be worthy of that re-ascension and it just feels like a slog to get through.
Pro: It Honors the Black and Gold Era
Clearly, WWE figured NXT was a broken system because it lost in the ratings to AEW, so it needed to be revamped. If I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t have gone with a white and paint splatter “NXT 2.0” theme, but whatever. That’s what WWE did and they’ve been harping on it these past few weeks.
Last night could have easily been about crowning all new champions to prove a point that the new guard was here and the old guard needed to leave. However, with Ciampa retaining, it means WWE isn’t willing to fully throw out baby with the bathwater.
Whether it’s viewed in a negative light right now or not, NXT was a foundational thing and a huge deal. It was wildly beloved by many fans and WWE should be proud of it. Some of the company’s best-ever talent came through this system and it deserves to not die as a loser.
Having Ciampa retain means some of the reverence for the black and gold era is still around. This isn’t a grand sweeping “everything from before was bad and we’re starting fresh” type of thing, which is one of the most transparent ways WWE could have done it.
This way, fans of Ciampa and the old way of doing things don’t feel slighted, as if they’re being told they are wrong for liking the way things had been over the years.
Con: It Defies the Youth Movement
Then again, if the whole point is to move forward, why not do that with Breakker? Ciampa doesn’t offer anything new to the table. We’ve seen what his title reign looks like. Other than finding new opponents to freshen things up, what is Ciampa as champion going to interest some fans about?
There’s an argument that Breakker should have won because it would have put the stamp on the new breed. Breakker coming up short means he isn’t the man yet, and if he was the best NXT 2.0 had to offer, the rest are kind of shmucks some fans might not be interested in watching progress.
Personal preference, I think it’s better Ciampa retained, but I can see this turning people off who wanted something new.
Pro: Ciampa Gets a Boost
Generally speaking, Ciampa winning also brings with it a boost to his credibility. His reign is longer, he didn’t get punked out by the new kid and he’s retained Goldie, as he promised.
I’m a huge fan of Ciampa, so to see him get any sort of accolade is inherently something I’m likely to be fond of. He’s among the top performers in NXT history that I would rank in that highest echelon. If he was a transitional champion, I’d be disappointed what might be his last run with the title amounted to so little.
If you like the guy and he gets something good, what’s so bad about that?
Con: Who is the Next Champion?
That leaves me wondering who will be the next in line, though. If it’s not Breakker, who is the next best option?
Frankly, I’m stumped. The way this belt has gone around since Karrion Kross has been nothing what I was imagining. I just thought Kyle O’Reilly would be built up to beat Kross and boy was I wrong about all that.
Does Samoa Joe turn heel when he can wrestle again, beat Ciampa and go back to the title reign he didn’t get a chance to do? Will someone like Duke Hudson step up? Will Pete Dunne get his time to shine?
I like all three of those, but I do feel a twinge of regret that it wasn’t just Breakker, and I’m wondering if WWE actually has a game plan of where this belt will go, or if it’ll turn into one of those situations where their philosophy is “We’ll figure it out” and nothing happens until one random week when they rush something.
Ultimately, how do you feel about the lack of a title change? Where do you see the NXT Championship going next? Drop your thoughts and predictions in the comments below!