Could Takeover Be The Beginning Of The End For #DIY?
Let’s be honest. We all read dirt sheets and we all look at articles when they say ‘Potential Future Spoilers’. We just do. We all like to feel informed these days so we can criticise direction of characters or storylines. That is the life of the fickle older generation of wrestling fans. However, this week I saw an article I couldn’t be more intrigued about having read. The content?
Best turn back now if you actually don’t read spoilers.
Because this one might hurt.
Gargano/Ciampa split. DIY in every sense of the term for both of these guys.
Now, a slight digression before I start. It’s worth pointing out that I’m viewing Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa as NXT characters and nothing else. I know very little about them pre-WWE besides Gargano being very well respected in Evolve, Dragon’s Gate and PWG and Ciampa being... well... a sick fuck in PWG. The latter is definitely worth looking up if you haven’t seen what that refers to. Video highlights packages of both men however point out that they are both excellent in the ring individually. With this in mind, I would begrudgingly accept splitting DIY up and sending them on their separate ways. Both could quite easily prosper outside the tag team division.
DIY (or #DIY, whatever your poison is) always seemed to me like a team of two singles wrestlers who were mashed together for the 2015 Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. Despite what is sometimes a hindrance for singles wrestlers finding themselves in this predicament, DIY put on a surprising showing in the tournament by upsetting Tyler Breeze and Bull Dempsey in the first round before being ousted by eventual finalists Baron Corbin and Rhyno in the next round. They only improved from there and made a steady rise to the top of the division while putting on some absolute classics on the way, including a Match of the Year in 2016 with The Revival. DIY have displayed that, as a team, they are the real deal. So why does it still feel like something’s missing?
Well, I’ll tell you why. It’s because Gargano and Ciampa fill opposite moulds as individual characters. They should split up, and there should be a long and ongoing feud between them in the future.
Their existing dynamic is a bit odd. Johnny Gargano/Wrestling has the aura of a quintessential good guy. Good looking, crowd loves him, great in the ring, excellent move set. He just seems too damn likeable to ever even be considered as a bad guy. On the flip side, I swear Tomasso Ciampa looks like he’s one spilt beer away from a ten year prison sentence. There’s this slightly veiled, maniacal stare he gets in the ring sometimes. This deep but distant look of fury, as if his conscience has left his body and all that remains is a vessel purpose built for violence. I for one would absolutely not like to be the focus of that look. For Johnny Gargano though, I fear it’s only a matter of time before he meets that gaze and is on the business end of an absolute doing for reasons best known to Ciampa.
As much as this would hurt to see, the heartening thing about a potential split like this is that they have enough history to work with to make this a great and long lasting feud. Wrestling needs more of what Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn currently provide. The ‘former best friends’ schtick does work, and bitter, extended running rivalries between wrestlers creates drama when utilised properly. That history Gargano and Ciampa already have – best buds, Ciampa being a groomsman for Gargano’s wedding, former tag team champions – gives them enough to work with. This is a fresh story too. Nothing brought forward from indies, no history that most crowds will feel obliged to know before investing in the feud, just a fresh canvas of creativity for both men to start painting.
In ring there shouldn’t be any problem. The Cruiserweight Classic in 2016 was a prime example of how well these guys can craft a story between themselves. Gargano filled the plucky underdog part; Ciampa filled the unforgiving, calculated no nonsense part. But most importantly, both played their parts with a clear good guy / bad guy dynamic, despite the post-match sportsmanship. The part they’d need to work on is outside the ring. They’d get a chance to exhibit their personalities more and grow in NXT together whilst going to war intermittently over the next year or so.
In the meantime, split them up, let them feud and then watch how they blossom apart. Bring them back together for a title match or, even better, another tournament style match. The CWC match was surprising in terms of so unexpectedly and brazenly they were faced off against each other and now it feels as if they might’ve been testing the waters to see how well these guys could work against each other in future. What if their tag team run has been a set up for a feud all along? What if King of the Ring made a comeback and they met in the semi-final? What if a number one contender tournament popped up and they met in the final after spending time apart? In pro wrestling, this is bread and butter storytelling. Simple but effective.
All these scenarios would be worth waiting for if they can be established as characters in their own rights. Imagine the better man wins and there’s another respectful hug at the end of their match? Imagine the deafening approval and collective heart melt of the crowd seeing two former best friends bury the hatchet over a crazy match? The energy and passion exerted just to try and prove who the better man is. Then imagine the perfect heel manoeuvre of Tomasso Ciampa as he strikes a single blow to Johnny Gargano when his back is turned. Not a beat down, just a single strike. A solitary, powerful punctuation mark rather than your standard beat down. Their feud meets peace for a few seconds before carrying on as before.
Of course this is all pure speculation. There is the argument that WWE has a tendency to split up successful teams too often and it’d be worth letting DIY run with their ball for a while. There’s an argument that could be made for waiting until they’re on the main roster so that the story could gain more exposure and essentially be monetised with a larger audience. There’s the argument that splitting up DIY would be the wrong move because there aren’t that many likeable tag teams to take their place in NXT.
On the flipside however, and as mentioned earlier, wrestling fans are fickle. Wrestling fans need to be entertained. Wrestling fans need drama. NXT lacks a mid card feud with substance, so this could be provided by DIY splitting up. As fans, we’d have something to sink our teeth into, something to get invested in. Waiting to split them up on the main roster would mean essentially starting or concluding what could be an intense feud in front of an audience that doesn’t necessarily know anything about them. How it would work on the main roster remains to be seen. Hell, how main roster crowds respond to Shinsuke Nakamura in the long term remains to be seen, so speculation could run forever regarding where superstars should be placed and when.
Again, this is all speculation so I’ll stop before I get carried away. The point remains though – these two could provide absolute magic if they were allowed to feud against each other. I don’t necessarily want to see it, but I wouldn’t be against some potentially explosive drama being injected into NXT.