From the moment Tommaso Ciampa drove Johnny Gargano's head into the entrance ramp LED screen at NXT TakeOver: Chicago in 2017, NXT was off to the races with one of the best WWE rivalries of the decade. The two former DIY tag team partners tore each other apart in jaw-dropping matches at NXT TakeOver: New Orleans, NXT TakeOver: Chicago II and NXT TakeOver Broolyn IV, but by early 2019 it still looked like the years-long feud wasn't over. Fans had seen plenty of twists and turns, including Ciampa winning the NXT Championship, Gargano turning heel and the pair popping up on Monday Night Raw as a tag team. But the story was still missing an endgame, for Gargano to finally stand tall over his sadistic former best friend.
Finally during a television taping in February fans were given some hope. The two lost a tag match as part of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, and Ciampa was once again ready to betray Gargano. Only this time "Johnny Wrestling" saw it coming, and turned back into a babyface by countering Ciampa's sneak attack and sending the champ packing. All signs pointed towards a final match at NXT TakeOver: New York for the brand's top championship. But then life got in the way.
Days before the taping aired news broke that Ciampa needed neck surgery and that the match between the two was scrapped. Gargano wound up winning the vacated championship in a Two-out-of-Three Falls match against Adam Cole and closed out the show by celebrating with his wife Candice LeRae and a newly-babyface Ciampa.
The former champ would then disappear from NXT television until early October, while Gargano moved on to a months-long feud with Cole that culminated in a bonkers Two-out-of-Three Falls match at NXT TakeOver: Toronto.
In a recent interview with ComicBook.com Gargano opened up about how Triple H and the NXT creative team handled the sudden ending to his storyline with Ciampa.
"That's what we do here better than anyone, is we roll with the punches," Gargano said. "For me personally, we always had Johnny Gargano versus Adam Cole in our back pocket. That was something that I always wanted to get through. We hadn't touched here and I knew our history on the indyys. I knew what that would ultimately be, so I always knew we had that to go to.
"When the Tommaso injury happened, Adam was put in an unfortunate situation where he was inserted into the story in a short amount of time and I'd like to think we made the best of it because people were very happy about the outcome," he added. "We were very happy about the match and that just goes to show the talent of not only Adam Cole but the talent of the writing team, the talent on the roster we have here. That they're able to change on a dime and make a good thing out of basically a crappy situation."
Ciampa will make his in-ring return on this week's edition of NXT against Angel Garza.