Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano and NXT have been nailing their story of brothers turned enemies for years, so it should come as no surprise they rung every ounce of emotion out of the TakeOver: New Orleans audience even before the opening bell of their match in Smoothie King Center on Sat. April 7.
Ciampa entered with no music, slowly walking to the ring and soaking in the boos (and people straight-up screaming “F*** YOU” at The Blackheart)...
The @WWE Universe is making their opinions about @ProjectCiampa VERY clear as he makes his way to the ring... #NXTTakeOver pic.twitter.com/wxBApZ292h— WWE (@WWE) April 8, 2018
Referee Drake Weurtz, who discussed on the pre-show he had nothing to do in this match but count a pinfall or register a submission, was dressed in black rather than the usual official’s uniform.
And when the bell did ring, Gargano and Ciampa didn’t hide their disdain behind a collar-and-elbow tie-up.
.@JohnnyGargano is unleashing 322 days of PENT UP RAGE and doing WHATEVER it takes to defeat @ProjectCiampa! #NXTTakeOver pic.twitter.com/LMr5REKuut— WWE (@WWE) April 8, 2018
The brawl quickly spilled to the outside, where Johnny hurled his former partner into the announcer trio, knocking out microphones and monitors. The Sicilian Psychopath suplexed Gargano off the desk onto the exposed concrete floor, then drove Johnny Wrestling through the announce table cover.
Brace yourself for this one.@JohnnyGargano @ProjectCiampa #NXTTakeOver pic.twitter.com/zVfMWQiPG6— WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) April 8, 2018
Any Gargano match features a stretch where he takes a beating and refuses to break, but with his job on the line and facing a sadist like Ciampa, this was different. Tommaso was brutal, including stealing a set of crutches from a (planted) fan at ringside to introduce a tool that’s been a crucial part of their feud.
Johnny’s comeback was as extreme. And it started with a sickening sounding suplex off the apron onto that exposed concrete. Gargano exposed a turnbuckle, but a counter from Ciampa almost ended things. Tommaso called back to their tag team finisher, posing and gesturing as he would in another life before delivering a knee to the back of Johnny’s head. But that still wasn’t enough.
A Garga-No Escape put Ciampa on the verge of tapping, and getting Johnny’s job in NXT back... but The Sicilian Psychopath grabbed his opponent by the eye socket to get free. Tommaso unwrapped his wrists to use the tape to bind his former friend, but they ended up tied together.
That brawl led to Johnny hurling Ciampa face first into the turnbuckle he’d exposed earlier. When Gargano delivered his half of their tandem finisher, it looked like revenge might be his, but Tommaso got his shoulder up to continue the drama.
Ciampa showed he was willing to do whatever it took, delivering a superplex onto his surgically reconstructed knees, then exposing his knee for another strike. But Gargano used his brace against him. He retrieved a crutch to finish it, but hesitated when he looked into his ex-partner’s swollen eyes. Like Tommaso did in the Cruiserweight Classic, Johnny showed some mercy. But unlike that match, it didn’t cost Gargano. He ducked under a cheap shot, then locked in a STF using the knee brace against Ciampa’s face!
A tapout later, Candice LeRae was in the ring, celebrating with her husband, back in NXT after a victory over the man who’s made his life miserable since last summer.
You can find all the results from TakeOver: New Orleans here.