At NXT TakeOver XXV, Adam Cole defeated Johnny Gargano in an absolute instant-classic, to win the NXT Championship for the first time. It was Gargano’s first championship defense, doing so after capturing the championship a few months prior when he defeated Cole in a nearly 40-minute, spectacular two-out-of-three falls match for the title. The very title that not long before that, was vacated by its prior holder, the fourth-longest NXT Champion of all-time (238 days), Tommaso Ciampa.
Adam Cole now holds the title that Tommaso Ciampa never properly lost in the ring as he was forced to relinquish his precious Goldy nearly three months ago. In fact, Ciampa seemed full steam ahead to set the record for the longest-single NXT Championship reign, just under two months shy of Finn Balor‘s mark of 292 days. If not for a devastating neck injury he sustained, forcing the end to his building program with Gargano, he may well have done just that. At the very least, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa would have ended their incredible 2018 NXT Rivalry of the Year and Wrestling Observer Newsletter Feud of the Year, with a head-to-head showdown for the NXT Championship at TakeOver: New York. As such, that wasn’t meant to be, and instead, Gargano won the vacant title against Cole, who proceeded to defeat Gargano for the belt in his first opportunity as the challenger.
— CIAMPA (@ProjectCiampa) June 2, 2019
Adam Cole might not want to get too comfortable, however, as not only will Johnny Gargano likely seek a rematch, but he also has to worry about the impending return of Tommaso Ciampa, who already has his sights set on reclaiming Goldy. At TakeOver XXV, Ciampa made his first appearance on NXT TV since he showed up to congratulate Gargano on his title victory in April. In that time away from NXT, Tommaso Ciampa has been preparing for his return, the process of which WWE has chronicled in a three-part miniseries (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 – yet to be released). The two episodes thus far showed a raw, behind-the-scenes look at Tommaso Ciampa, his recovery and his career with interviews from the man himself as well as Triple H, Johnny Gargano and others who know him best. Tommaso Ciampa talked about his wife and his baby daughter, who he called the real Goldy, and his motivation to get back in the ring.
The severity of his injury was never in doubt. Tommaso Ciampa needed a spinal fusion procedure, his fourth major surgery over the past two years and was expected to miss “a long, long time.” What was in doubt was a return as Ciampa himself noted that he was told by doctors that “if I return then I will be on borrowed time.” Simply put, Ciampa’s prognosis felt bleak and perhaps if it had been anyone else, it would have been. But Tommaso Ciampa’s career has been one of triumph after triumph, getting back up after he’s been pushed down. A fighter to his core, the former NXT Champion has never given up, never stopped working to achieve his dreams.
Got the results to my 2 month follow up x-ray.
Doc said “this doesn’t look good…it looks great”.
— CIAMPA (@ProjectCiampa) May 8, 2019
And his newest dream? Come back and defeat Adam Cole to become a two-time NXT Champion.
Following Ciampa’s appearance on the TakeOver: XXV pre-show panel, in which the Greatest Sports Entertainer of All Time, announced that he was fully cleared for non-contact activity, Triple H provided some more details and clarity during the post-TakeOver media call.
“Cleared for non-contact means you can’t do anything in this business. He can talk which is what was doing in this moment. He’s ahead of schedule and doing extremely well. Ahead of schedule on all of it and moving along. But with the type of injury he had and the type of surgery he had, especially in this from a physicality stand point, you’re not doing anything until you’re 100 percent. It’s not like you can go in there and lightly take suplexes. You have to be 100 percent. So, he’s still got a ways to go but he’s way ahead of the curve and the schedule.”
Triple H continued to say that while no return date was set, that Tommaso Ciampa would “be back soon…ready to claim his spot.”
And whether it’s Adam Cole or Johnny Gargano, one thing is certain, Tommaso Ciampa’s spot is the top of the mountain, right back where he belongs.