A new era in NXT kicked off in style with the launch of NXT 2.0, and after a night full of new faces and changes, it was none other than Tommaso Ciampa standing tall, defeating LA Knight, Pete Dunne, and Von Wagner to become NXT Champion once again and deliver the Tommaso Goldie reunion fans have been wanting for so long. Ciampa is set to kick off tonight's episode of NXT as well, and before the show, ComicBook.com had the chance to talk to Ciampa all about holding Goldie once more, if he feared that the reunion would never happen, the new NXT 2.0, and more. We had to start with the big Championship win, and what feeling he came away with most from such an epic victory.
"I'll tell you, man, it's a responsibility that you take very seriously. I think you'd be hard press to find someone more passionate about this brand than myself," Ciampa said. "I've said it before in interviews, I've said it on screen, and it's one of the things that carries over so well because it's so true to my core. But I genuinely feel like Tommaso Ciampa is, was, and forever will be Mr. NXT. It's something that I hold near and dear to my heart. And I also think that there's no better representation of this brand currently or that NXT title. I mean, the NXT title's always special, but the second you put it with Tommaso Ciampa, it becomes gold. It just takes it to a different level. And I think that's something that I look forward to more so than anything is to raising that title and making it the most prestigious title in sports entertainment again because I feel like we did that in 2018, and I just think it's only a matter of time until that happens again."
It had been 908 days since Ciampa held Goldie, and there are some differences between this win and the original one.
"Yeah. Yeah, in so many ways too. The first title win for me was the first time I ever won the big one for, and especially for a company like this, to be NXT. And so it's hard to duplicate or match that first-time feeling. And it was also different because that was a taped episode of NXT before we were live," Ciampa said. "And so that's a whole different feeling too when you win the title in front of a live crowd. But then the rest of the world doesn't know for about six, seven days. That's a weird place to be as the performer, as opposed to this time where you're like, "Okay, wow, this was on USA. This was live. The entire world got to witness this in real-time."
"And obviously, the character points of where I was in my arc and my storyline, from being the blackheart who was walking out to no entrance music in 2018 to current day, being more so known for being the guy on a two and a half year journey from relinquishing the title for neck surgery," Ciampa said. "It's a whole different story arc and character. You know what I'm saying? This was the comic book and stuff. These are two different people. They're the same at the core, but they're really very different characters, the where they're at in their careers and their lives. So it's different in a lot of ways, but equally as exciting as the first time."
Since having to relinquish the title because of injury, it's been a winding road for Ciampa, and there were times he considered the possibility that he wouldn't reclaim the title.
"Yeah, I questioned it for sure. I'd be lying if I told you self-doubt doesn't creep in. I mean, I'm a human, of course it does. And I think sometimes people get... They might fool themselves and they forget sometimes, whether it's us as sports entertainers or your favorite athlete or basketball player or football player, at the end of the day, they're all just people. And so all those doubts and stuff, they creep in just like they do for anybody. So there were moments," Ciampa said. "And I think for me, specifically, after losing the match to Walter at TakeOver: Stand and Deliver, I had a big, "Shoot, what the heck do I do now?" Just because I walked into that part the best shape of my career and was very focus driven and motivated, and felt like that that was going to be... I know it wasn't the Goldie title per se, but that was going to be my chance to get back to the top of the mountain. So yeah, it's definitely a road of ups and downs over the two and a half years. And sometimes that makes it that much more special in the end, when you get to overcome, because you just appreciate it more."
Ciampa's win was one of several big moments during the night's premiere of NXT 2.0, which introduced fans to a brightened-up arena and ring and big splashes of color, and Ciampa was here for all of it. In fact, he thought it felt a lot like the NXT he walked into when he started with the brand.
"So, personally, I was extremely excited for it, and that's what I felt backstage throughout the entire week leading up and the day of especially. Just great morale, high energy. Just excitement all around," Ciampa said. "And so many people who've been hungry for quite a while to make their debuts and make themselves known. And it's kind of that sink or swim time right now for NXT 2.0 and for that roster and crop of guys and girls who've just been biding their time and waiting at the cusp, and now here they are. I watched the show back afterwards, I really thought it reminded so much of the NXT that I entered in 2015 where we're watching so many of these performers who are developing right before our eyes. And there's a flash of 'veterans'. Myself, or Pete Dunne, or Roderick Strong, Kyle O'Reilly, Johnny Gargano. They're still there, but as a whole, as a brand, you're just watching a bunch of young unknowns who are going to introduce themselves to you live every week. And it's a cool journey to be a part of."
"Some fans weren't too keen on the change from the black and gold, but I dug it, and so did Ciampa. "I do too, and I've heard some say, 'Oh man, I don't know how I like it.' I bleed black and gold, but you want to throw a splash of rainbow in it, I'm all for it. I thought the logo looked cool. I thought the buckles, the ropes... I'm into it. So, I thought the song sounded great. I'm genuinely excited for it. I don't have to put on a front or act for it because to me, it was like, Yeah, this feels right. This feels like the direction we should be headed in," Ciampa said.
We've heard a lot of the changes happening to the NXT brand, both in presentation and backstage. For Ciampa though, nothing much has changed, though he does see a change for some of the new talent making their debuts, and there is a new energy in the building.
"To me, I would say it's very much business as usual. That's on a very personal level. I've just been here for so long now. But for the younger guys and girls who are making their debuts, it does not at all feel like business as usual. You can feel that energy, and it's contagious and it's awesome. And that to me is what makes it so exciting," Ciampa said. "Even if I had my doubts walking in the door on Tuesday for our first-ever live go, the second I walked in and you felt that energy, and you see people pacing and you see the nervous reactions. You see people rehearsing in their heads what they're going to do, whether it's in their match or in their promo, or it's just... I don't know. It's hard to put it into words, but it's exciting."
It really is a new era for quite a few members of the roster, and Ciampa is excited to see how this all plays out.
"I think for some of the veterans, maybe it's a little bit of business as usual, because at the end of it, not too much has changed for us. But when you look around and you see all these guys and girls who maybe a few weeks ago were just cutting their teeth doing a security thing and now here they are, it's awesome," Ciampa said. "It's awesome to see them because they've been working their butts off. These are the same guys and girls who signed up for this thing during a really tough pandemic and were just waiting to be in front of people, in front of a crowd, and now they're getting to do it. So they've put a lot of work into this and I'm excited for them. I genuinely am very excited for them to show the world what they put all this work into."0comments
Ciampa will kick off tonight's episode of NXT, which you can catch live on USA Network starting at 8 PM EST.
Who do you want to see Ciampa take on next? Let us know in the comments and as always you can talk all things wrestling with me on Twitter @MattAguilarCB!