When Tommaso Ciampa & WWE officials learned of the severity of his neck injury, Ciampa was the biggest heel in NXT.
After news broke of his condition, however, the company immediately started positioning him as a sympathetic figure. Recognizing no one was going to boo a talented, dedicated performer risking his life to comeback and entertain us, he was positioned as Mr. NXT in vignettes filmed during his rehabilitation after spinal fusion surgery. And especially since his friend Johnny Gargano was injured shortly after Ciampa’s return, the 34 year old has been the face of the brand since the move to broadcasting live on USA Network every Wednesday night.
So when Tommaso represents the black-and-gold and says he never wants to work anywhere else, you could cynically see it as all marketing. Or respectfully view it as loyalty from a guy who believes the organization led by Triple H has taken care of him and his family. But as he told Lillian Garcia in the latest edition of her Chasing Glory podcast, there’s a pragmatic reason behind Ciampa telling WWE he’ll retire if they move him to Raw or SmackDown.
“Before, I just didn’t want to [change shows] because I really believed in NXT and wanted to ride it. I wanted to see how far we could take it. Now it’s hit a whole different level of … there is that, but I have a little one at home and my schedule is better in NXT than it would be on the road.
I had neck surgery and I’m not freaking stupid. I get that my window is smaller than it was and my bump card is ticking. I just look at like, if I’m doing 200 plus dates a year on the road with Raw or SmackDown OR I’m doing a manageable load of 30 to 50 matches with NXT – I can do 4 years of that in the time that I do 1 year on Raw or SmackDown. So how long can my career and portfolio grow HERE as opposed to going there.
I legitimately vocalized to them, if I have to go to Raw or SmackDown then I’m gonna retire. I would love to produce or coach or be apart of it, but there’s no way I’m taking on that load and going, ‘yeah, I’ll just have a 6-month run and then call it quits.’ I just won’t do that. It’s not worth it to me.”
It’s an interesting decision. If reports are correct, he’s making less money working NXT. But if he can last longer, increase the value of his personal brand - and move more merchandise in the process - he may be making more over the long haul.
But, if NXT starts taping from the road next year and slowly moves toward a Raw or SmackDown like schedule, he may lose out on the benefits he’s getting from his current position.
Willow (and Goldy)’s dad is a savvy guy, so I’m sure he’s thought through these possibilities. We’ll see how he changes his approach if/as his circumstances do.
H/T: Pro Wrestling Sheet