We live in an interesting time for wrestling fans. Today, it’s rare to find a fan who isn’t on the internet with wrestling in some way. It seems that the majority of fans are now “smart” or have some kind of idea about the backstage workings of the business. As a result, it’s harder and harder to have a heel get over due to being genuinely evil and horrible. It takes something special to pull this off and that’s what we got earlier this month at “Takeover: Chicago”.

One of the big matches on the show, the match that wound up main eventing the show actually, was the NXT Tag Team Champions the Authors of Pain defending their titles against DIY (Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano) in a ladder match. The Authors of Pain have run roughshod over the division for months, including destroying DIY more than once. This was seemingly the perfect chance for Ciampa and Gargano to get their titles back so it was seemingly either win or go home.

As it turns out, the Authors of Pain defeated DIY in what could be considered close to an upset as the size and power were just too much. After the loss, DIY seemed to be getting the big heroes’ sendoff as the fans cheered them up the ramp. The copyright notice came up in the bottom corner of the screen as the show was about to go off the air….and then things changed.

Tommaso Ciampa stuns Chicago with heartless betrayal of Johnny Gargano: NXT TakeOver: Chicago

Ciampa turned on his partner and completely destroyed him with a running knee to the head and something like White Noise through the announcers’ table. The crowd, which was in the smark haven of Chicago, completely ate it up and loudly booed Ciampa, drawing some of the only major heel heat of the night. In other words, this was a rousing success and one of the best things that NXT has done in a very long time. Ciampa was instantly over as a major heel, which would have been borderline unthinkable given how popular DIY was throughout their run.

So why did this work so well? What made this one angle so much better than all of the other turns that are received lukewarmly at best? That’s what we’re going to take a look at today: what made this three or so minute segment so interesting and well played to make it the most memorable moment of a long wrestling weekend.

Before we get into that though, there’s some bad news to touch on first. As you probably know, the feud is going to be put on a major hold as Ciampa has suffered a very bad and very real knee injury (rumored at this point to be a torn ACL), which is going to put him on the shelf for several months. That’s quite the shame as we’re going to have to wait a very long time to get back to this feud, which means a lot of the heat is going to go away.

Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa - First Round Match: Cruiserweight Classic, Aug. 3, 2016

Finally, while nearly two weeks have passed since the angle took place and we’ve since heard Ciampa’s explanation, I’m only looking at what happened leading up to and during “Takeover: Chicago.” I know why Ciampa did what he did but we’re looking at the actions themselves and not the specific justification.

First of all, this worked because it was a surprise. While it might have seemed a bit more obvious while they were getting closer to the end of the show (which was a nearly direct copy of the ending to “Takeover: R-Evolution” with Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens), it wasn’t something people would have been guessing at coming into the show. The logo coming up at the end made it seem like they weren’t going to do anything and then they pulled the trigger for a real surprise.

Surprising fans, especially those who regularly watch and have seen so many endings and so many booking tactics, is one of the hardest things to do in wrestling. That makes it all the more impressive and a big reason for it working so well is the setup going into it. Not only did we have the logo come up at the end but it also felt like something they’ve done many times before with the big sendoff. It felt like DIY’s last match together, which it actually was albeit in a different way.

Getting more into the specifics, there was a moment in the ladder match that really sold how close Gargano and Ciampa were. At point, the Authors were about to destroy Ciampa with a ladder but Gargano shoved him out of the way and took the shot to the face instead. It was a partner taking the bullet for his injured friend and made Gargano and Ciampa look like they were as close as brothers. How evil does that make Ciampa look half an hour later when he turned on Gargano?

A devastated Johnny Gargano is loaded into an ambulance: Exclusive, May 20, 2017

That’s the kind of detail that makes things work so much better. It was laying the groundwork that would make the new villain look all the worse, which is something that people can relate to. How many of you have been stabbed in the back after you did something for the same person? That puts us in Gargano’s place and makes us sympathize with him even more. It’s what makes the difference between just a heel turn and a heel turn that works very well.

Finally, this worked so well because even though it hadn’t been teased, it wasn’t something that made absolutely no sense. This is the difference between a swerve that could go somewhere and a swerve for the sake of a swerve. In other words, while it was shocking at the time, it’s something that wasn’t far enough out of left field that it could make sense once you heard Ciampa’s explanation.

Unlike so many swerves over the years (read as almost everything Vince Russo has ever put together), this one didn’t leave you rolling your eyes and calling it stupid. Instead it made your eyebrows pop up and wonder where things were going in the future. In other words, not only did it get you at the moment but it also had you coming back for more, thereby making it a good piece of business.

#DIY reacts to 2016 NXT Year-End Awards win: Exclusive, Jan. 28, 2017

This was a moment that worked in almost every way it possibly could have. Not only did it serve as a great surprise but it also set up things for a long way down the road. The timing, the action and the setup all worked exceptionally well and that makes for a good angle. I wanted to see where things were going and it was horrible to hear that Ciampa’s injury was far worse than originally suspected. This made for a great moment and Ciampa sold the heck out of it with a face that made him look like he just didn’t care anymore and had no choice but to do these things.

I certainly hope the story picks up again when Ciampa is healthy as these two have the potential to tear the house down in any given match. Gargano can do other stuff while Ciampa heals but as soon as they’re both healthy, these two better have one heck of a fight. If the angle to set it up is any indication, the match to blow it off could be nothing short of a classic.


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