While the two could be unrelated, two separate pieces of news today could actually be affecting each other. Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer recently mentioned to a fan on Twitter that he was under the impression Ciampa was returning soon, following his surgery from a ruptured ACL this past May at NXT Takeover: Chicago.
Not sure but it feels to me he should be close, he had several different surgeries, was working on a lot of hurt bodyparts. https://t.co/wXcvKacPwo
— Dave Meltzer (@davemeltzerWON) November 30, 2017
The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time, as Ciampa had just turned on his longtime tag team partner in #DIY, Johnny Gargano. Since then, Gargano has put in a holding pattern of sorts, with a short feud with Andrade “Cien” Almas, then a string of unusual losses. He got some redemption last week in a solid match against Pete Dunne for the WWE UK Championship. A returning Ciampa would mean that the revenge storyline feud of Ciampa vs Gargano would be able to kickstart again into 2018.
The potential for this clearance is what may have affected NXT storylines leading into NXT Takeover: Philadelphia, scheduled to take place Saturday, January 27, 2018, the night before Royal Rumble. As we reported the other day, at Wednesday’s NXT tapings, an 8-man tournament to name the new #1 contender for Almas’ NXT Championship was filmed, featuring Trent Seven vs. Killian Dain, Kassius Ohno vs. Johnny Gargano, Roderick Strong vs. Lars Sullivan and Aleister Black vs. Adam Cole. At the tapings, the eventual winner and new #1 contender was crowned as Johnny Gargano won the tournament.
But things changed yesterday following the NXT Live Event in Lakeland, Florida, as the cameras were there to tape more segments and matches for upcoming NXT episodes, including the UK’s Trent Seven winning a Battle Royale to qualify for the tournament in the first place. But in a video segment featuring NXT General Manager William Regal, the NXT GM announced the eight men in the tournament, yet this time, Johnny Gargano was not mentioned, and Kassius Ohno’s first round opponent was named to be The Velveteen Dream instead. A WWE graphic announcing the news has also removed Gargano and replaced him with Dream instead, as well as on their official website (which features Regal’s announcement).
While they could still tape another segment at a future NXT Live Event to explain how Gargano gets worked back into the tournament, it could also simply be that new medical reports clearing Ciampa earlier – his initial diagnosis had him out until as late as March of 2018 – may have caused NXT creative to alter the plans and instead go ahead with the Ciampa vs Gargano feud instead of their original plans.