UPDATE: Shortly after this article was published, WWE revealed that Tommaso Ciampa will undergo surgery for an anterior cervical fusion tomorrow, March 7. The good news is, the recovery timeline for this surgery, according to the Mayo Clinic, is just three-six months as opposed to the 6-14 months originally reported by Dave Meltzer.
A few weeks ago, Aleister Black, Ricochet, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa all made their WWE main roster debuts. And while Black and Ricochet have appeared consistently on TV, with both even giving their NXT goodbyes at live events recently, Ciampa and Gargano have been limited to just two matches, one on Raw against the Revival (Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson) and one on SmackDown Live against the Bar (Sheamus and Cesaro). It was the second of these matches, the one that left Ciampa grabbing his neck afterward, that offers a reason for immense concern according to recent reports by Dave Meltzer.
According to Meltzer and Wrestling Observer Radio, Ciampa’s injury, which WrestleZone reported a few days ago is spinal stenosis, will require surgery. While Meltzer did not give an official timetable (could range anywhere from six to 14 months) for how long Ciampa would be out of action, he did note that he wouldn’t be able to wrestle “for a long, long time.” As a result, according to Meltzer, Ciampa, whose reign clocks in at 231 days and counting as of March 6, 2019, will be forced to vacate his beloved Goldy, the NXT Championship.
As NXT Champion, Ciampa was slotted to be involved in huge storylines for the black-and-yellow brand going forward. After competing in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic (NXT SPOILERS) alongside Gargano who seemed to turn on his partner after their match, the set-up was that the two on-again/off-again #DIY partners were heading to NXT TakeOver: New York for the final match in their what-would-be four-match series. Ciampa was also recently promoted to the main roster and both he and Gargano looked primed to be receiving the current opportunities Black and Ricochet are, with the newly formed duo (who defeated Ciampa and Gargano in the Dusty Classic) set to compete in a triple threat for the Raw tag team championships this Sunday at Fastlane.
“This is actually huge, Ciampa is getting neck surgery, in the next couple of days, I don’t know the day but WWE confirmed it that he’s having the surgery. He’s not going to be able to wrestle for a long, long time. As far as how long? that is not known. But if he’s having neck surgery he’s going to have to vacate that NXT Title…Gargano and Ciampa’s blow off at WrestleMania, at TakeOver obviously is not going to happen. They’re going to have to change a lot of plans. It was known that he was going to be out after WrestleMania, that was the idea, he was going to work through. Over the last week he must’ve gotten so bad that they just had to do the surgery now.””
– Dave Meltzer, Wrestling Observer Radio
Ever since turning on Gargano at TakeOver: Chicago in May 2017, Ciampa has been the hottest act in all of WWE, and for months, did so without even being present on their television. Having sustained an injury in the lead-up to the ladder match but working through it, Ciampa missed several months due to surgery/rehab on his knee, only to return at TakeOver: Philadelphia in January 2018 to make Gargano’s life a living hell. The two would engage in a brutal feud for much of that year, leading into the summer where Ciampa challenged and defeated Black to win the NXT Championship. As NXT Champion, Ciampa continued to use Twitter as masterfully as he had during his injury, making his presence known both in and outside of the ring. He also turned the NXT title into his own personal pride and joy and named it Goldy. Ciampa and Goldy became the focal point on Wednesday nights as Tommy Entertainment, the Greatest Sports Entertainer in the World, carried the mantle of the champion as best as anyone could.
Gargano and Ciampa’s feud continued after Ciampa won the title as the two battled for the belt in a last man standing match at TakeOver: Brooklyn 4. The over 33-minute encounter, won by Ciampa, served as the end of the feud for the time being. But it was just one chapter in the book of #DIY that closed as following his victory, Ciampa began to recruit his former friend/current enemy to his side, the dark side. Initial attempts fell short but after the duo debuted on Raw as a tag team, for the first time (not counting two house show matches in February) in over two years, Ciampa was able to convince Gargano to join him in reuniting #DIY to take part in the Dusty Classic, where the two, together, made their NXT debuts.
When Ciampa injured his knee in 2017, his feud with Gargano still simmered under the surface and didn’t lose any of the heat it had following Ciampa’s shocking betrayal. This time however, things will be very different. As fitting as ending the story with a Gargano victory would have been, Ciampa’s absence changes the entire main event scene in NXT. By the time he returns to action, which may not be until next year, Gargano will be on to something different on the main roster and who knows where Ciampa will fit into the equation.
Spinal stenosis, while fairly common with over 200,000 reported cases in the United States alone per year, is definitely something that could very well alter Ciampa’s career. As fans might recall, spinal stenosis is the same injury that forced Edge to retire in 2011, during the prime of his career. It is also the same injury that Sheamus is currently dealing with, though his has been said to be less severe than that of the Rated-R Superstar. While there is no talk of retirement yet for the 33-year-old Ciampa, the injury is still serious and could be career-threatening, especially given the need for neck surgery, which WWE reportedly confirmed to Meltzer on Wednesday.
Optimism abounds that retirement won’t be the case and that the worse thing Ciampa’s injury causes is him having to vacate the NXT title and not being able to have the final, show-stopper TakeOver match putting Gargano over as the newest champion. In the meantime, we here at Last Word on Pro Wrestling wish the champ a speedy and full recovery!