WWE’s Top 5 Rivalries Of 2018: #1 – Tommaso Ciampa vs. Johnny Gargano
The importance of a strong rivalry is immeasurable in the WWE. Sure, the matches and the characters and the pageantry are all each uniquely entertaining. But, the one thing that ties them all together is the story. What is a hero without a villain? What is drama without conflict? If the stakes are personal, doesn’t it just mean more? With that sentiment in mind, we’re taking a look at the some of the best rivalries in the WWE this year.
#1 – Tommaso Ciampa vs. Johnny Gargano
I can’t remember another program in recent history that was as complete a rivalry as the one between Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano. I mean, it literally had everything you want out of a big time wrestling feud – ‘good friends, better enemies,’ the ol’ trusty tag team breakup angle, significant others involved, drama, etc. etc.. But, the two started off as tag team partners in DIY, just a couple of guys who had come together for one hell of a tag team run. Some of their work against The Revival and Authors of Pain still rivals the work of the greatest tag teams in wrestling today. But, the feud between the two was nearly an entire year in the making.
Way, way back in the spring of 2018 – Ciampa turned on Gargano, viciously assaulting him and effectively ending their tag team run at NXT TakeOver: Chicago. Due to various injuries, the two largely went their separate ways. Gargano had a memorable bout with Andrade “Cien” Almas in January, and eventually Ciampa made his return to finish what he started at the initial turn.
Suddenly, the deeply personal feud was going to get a payoff – an “unsanctioned match” at NXT TakeOver: New Orleans. These guys were off and running.
It was an instant ‘Match of the Year’ contender, as the two went for 37 minutes and six seconds. It ended when Gargano hooked Ciampa in a nasty STF, using Ciampa’s knee brace to bend back Ciampa’s head. A couple of months later, the two had another ‘Match of the Year’ candidate at NXT TakeOver: Chicago II. This time, it was a Chicago Street Fight that Ciampa won with a brilliant finish.
The final showdown between these bitter enemies came at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn 4, when Ciampa defeated Gargano in a Last Man Standing match to retain his NXT Championship. It wasn’t as good as their first two, and the finish was a bit bizarre, but as far as the program between these two, that was it.
Several things made this rivalry historically great. Sure, the wrestling aspect of it was phenomenal…the promos were heartfelt and personal. Strip it down to the bare bones, and you still had one solid program. But, it was the arc of Gargano that made this so special. His hatred of Ciampa and lust for revenge changed him as a person – hell, his own wife even said it was too much. Then, there’s the ultimate conclusion of the program that saw Gargano turn heel, finally realizing how right Ciampa was.
This was no story of an underdog hero finding triumph on the grandest of stages. No, this was the tale of a pure heart being corrupted and manipulated by a heartless villain. It was pure brilliance.
Further reading: “YOU’RE THE DEVIL, CIAMPA!” Guy Is My Favorite Guy.
Honorable Mentions: Coming Monday!
Stoney Keeley is the Editor in Chief of The SoBros Network. He is a strong supporter of Team GSD and #BeBetter. “Big Natural” covers the Tennessee Titans, Alabama Crimson Tide football, the WWE, and a whole wealth of nonsense. Follow on Twitter @StoneyKeeley