Tommaso Ciampa

Tommaso Ciampa Comments on the WWE NXT Championship, and More


During a recent interview with Sporting News, Tommaso Ciampa commented on his surgery, returning to the ring, the NXT championship, and more. You can check out some highlights from the interview below:

On getting back into the ring for the first time since surgery: “Man, I’m happy that that match ended up being as short as it did. It was awesome when I returned from the ACL surgery and Johnny (Gargano) and I had that unsanctioned match and that was the first one back. That was 30 some odd minutes, 40 minutes, whatever it was. But coming back from the neck, for some reason in my head, it was so different than the knee where I was like, “I don’t think I want to do 30 or 40 my first one back. I think I’ll go with the short one and kind of see how it feels. A couple bumps instead of 100 bumps.” So far, I’m happy with how gradual everything has been. It’s just been little bits at a time and it’s allowed me to get over that mental game of every time you fall, you’re not going to get numbness and a stinger and whatnot. There’s a comfort when the surgeon tells you all the images look good and titanium is stronger than bone and yada yada, but there’s a whole different comfort when you’re actually in there live. You’re going through it and then come back through the curtain after and you’re like, “OK, there’s no problems.” And wake up the next day, “Oh, I feel good.” That’s a whole different level of confidence, so it’s been perfect the way it’s been going. I wouldn’t have booked it differently if I could have as far as a short match. I had the tag match with OC, I had the match with Miz which was slightly longer. So far, it’s just been a very gradual progression and it’s definitely helped me feel more comfortable inside the ring.”

On the mental and emotional aspect of recovering from injury: “I have a really good at-home support system with my wife and the baby and even the dogs (laughs) in that they all just keep me occupied, they keep me busy, they keep me moving, to keep my mind from drifting. Mentally, it’s never been much of a challenge. Over these last few years with the knee and the shoulders and stuff, that’s always kind of kept that in check. Emotionally with this one, obviously when it all came down, the timing of it being right before TakeOver on WrestleMania weekend and all that, it’s a tough pill to swallow. You eventually get over it. You have to move past it. It’s been the best-case scenario neck surgery that I think I could have drawn up as far as the procedure being done, Dr. Cordover in Birmingham, Alabama. Man, he is amazing at what he does. The rehab process has been no setbacks. If you told me five, 10 years ago about the neck surgery, I definitely would have thought that would have been the end of the road for me. I just feel like I have a lot left to offer and a lot left in the tank. Luckily, I’m in a position with WWE and everybody in medical and everybody backstage who understands that there’s a long game that we can play here. If the option is wrestle 200 times in one year or wrestle 40 times over five years, everybody understands it’s a pretty simple choice. That’s been a great thing to have. It’s great to know everyone is on the same page with this. We’re going to elongate this career as much as we can by just being smart about it.”

On what the NXT Championship means to him: “It’s the best, most prestigious, most coveted … it’s the pinnacle in this industry. It genuinely, truly is. I totally understand how somebody can think that maybe I’m playing a character when I say it, but I think it’s why the character was so damn believable, because I didn’t have to make up anything. Everything I was saying, I believe truly, to the core. The wrestling that I grew up on was this; it was NXT. Definitely not the athleticism factor or the in-ring factor — that’s evolved tremendously. But the storytelling part of it, that’s what grew up on. I grew up on these long, drawn-out stories with four pay-per-views a year where things paid off. Everything was done for a reason. Then all of a sudden, I find myself in NXT and I get to play that out. I’m playing out my childhood. The thing with Johnny Gargano was over one year, two years long. That’s just stuff you don’t see anymore, and the fact that we’re delivering that and now on USA, people are starting to see on a weekly basis that we’re delivering it. We’ve been delivering it for years. I think our audience is going to grow and grow and grow. I keep in tune with as much as I can. I saw the rating numbers and everything. I think that NXT, when we get through that three-to-six month phase, when people start to get familiar with this product and they start to understand and see how different we are, how unique we are in our storytelling ability, people are going to get hooked. This thing is going to grow like wildfire. The second this thing starts to catch — I already have a hunch it’s starting to right now — it’s going to get ridiculous and it’s going to get ridiculous really fast. As far as the NXT title goes, for me, I went 15 years never being the guy. Ever. Some of that time, four years or whatever it was, was spent in Ring of Honor, a lot was spent on the indies, a lot of it overseas. Through all that time, I was in the same promotions as Adam Cole, Kevin Owens, Kyle O’Reilly, Bobby Fish, Roderick Strong, Ricochet, Aleister Black, all these different guys and I watched all of them have their turn and it just never happened to fall on my lap. And all of a sudden, NXT, which I consider my home, it’s the hottest promotion going, and I finally got the ball. And dammit, that meant the world to me. It’s why I had neck surgery and said I gotta get back. I think I definitely had the option to walk away from it and maybe take on a role backstage. For me, this career, it’s not over. I’m not done telling stories yet. The idea of getting back into a ring, which I’ve now done, the idea of getting back to the TakeOver stage, which is two weeks away, and then going forward from that, getting that damn title match that I’ve been waiting so patiently for. I have a lot stories left to tell. Even this Tommaso Ciampa character, persona, whatever, there’s an art to this character and it’s not close to being done yet. I know how many layers I have left, and I know how many things I haven’t even touched upon yet. I love the idea that it’s all right there in front of me and I can see it. I feel like I’m so many steps ahead with what I want to do. I’m kind of watching slowly as each thing unfolds and it just happens to be unfolding exactly the way I want it to. I’m in a real good spot right now. I had a 237-day title run and the next one is going to be even longer and it’s going to keep adding up. I want to have that title for more days than anyone has in the history of NXT and I just have to get it one more time, because if I get it one more time, I ain’t going to lose it.”

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