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WWE Turns to a Familiar Favorite in Tommaso Ciampa to Lead a Revamped NXT

The show has a different vibe, but the man with the title is an old stalwart: “It’s going to be different than before, but that energy is back.”

Tommaso Ciampa hit the Fairytale Ending on LA Knight last Tuesday in a four-way match to crown himself as the new NXT champion.

For Ciampa, who vacated the title in March 2019 due to neck surgery, the finish truly was a fairytale.

“It’s been quite the journey to get to this point,” Ciampa says. “I remember thinking, right from the time I got the CT scans and MRI results, that I wouldn’t be able to come back full-time. I have had more surgeries than I care to even admit, but I’m so happy to be healthy. It was a very slow, day-to-day process, but I’m pain-free and symptom-free. I can hold my daughter. Right now, it’s not so bad being me.”

Ciampa is also ready to carry the NXT title, which he won by prevailing in a four-man match that also featured Pete Dunne and Von Wagner. This marks his second run with the belt, which he first won in the summer of 2018 when he defeated Aleister Black, infusing a genuine excitement into the product. He now seeks to accomplish that very same feat again as the face of the rebranded NXT 2.0.

“I’m embracing the change,” Ciampa says. “It reminds me so much of the NXT that I fell in love with before even arriving to the company. It’s exciting watching people develop right in front of your eyes. And here I am, NXT champion of this new, very colorful, loud, in-your-face NXT 2.0. I’m staring at an extremely exciting opportunity. There are guys like Bron Breakker and Von Wagner. There’s Kyle O’Reilly and Pete Dunne. There is also a draft coming up in a few weeks. Survivor Series is right around the corner. I look at Roman Reigns, I look at Big E, and I think, ‘I might be sharing the ring with these guys.’ That range of competitors is incredible, and I get to be the face of this rebranding.

“I made a real case in 2018 for NXT to be the A-show. That’s SmackDown right now. But I look at the roster we have in NXT, so give us three months, give us six months, and we’re going to be back in that discussion. I want to make the NXT title the most prestigious title in all of sports entertainment, and I am very confident I can do that.”

For the past five years, Ciampa has been an integral part of NXT’s heart and soul. No color scheme or change to the venue’s setup can change that, and he is setting out to make NXT the most distinct wrestling brand in WWE.

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“People thought NXT was dead, like we were attending a funeral,” Ciampa says. “That’s already changed, and the entire atmosphere and energy has already shifted. People know what it’s like when Tommaso Ciampa holds the NXT title. It’s going to be different than before, but that energy is back. So for anyone worried about NXT 2.0, remember that the locker hasn’t changed. Neither has our passion. This is a responsibility for us to represent NXT and pro wrestling to the absolute best. We’re going to have young, hungry people, and veterans of the craft like Kyle, Pete, Roderick Strong and Kushida—and we’re all here to prove we are the very best.”

Ciampa won the championship after Samoa Joe was forced to vacate the belt due to an undisclosed injury. Until Joe returns to the NXT roster, Ciampa will be anticipating a long-awaited match against NXT’s only three-time champ.

“I’ve been thinking nonstop about going against Joe,” Ciampa says. “I know what it's like to relinquish a title. I know that feeling of not being able to pass it on. So I know how hungry Joe’s going to be. The idea that I could be wrestling Bron Breakker for the NXT title one week, then Samoa Joe the next week, that’s pure excitement to me. The opportunity is there, and now it’s time to rise to the occasion. I’m proud to be the one representing the brand.”

With a new look show and a roster full of determined, hungry pros, Ciampa is eager to start the newest era of NXT as its central figure.

“Goldie is back home,” Ciampa says. “I’m going to turn the NXT title into the most prestigious title in all of sports entertainment. I’ve done it once before, and I’m 100% going to do it again.”

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Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.