For one thing, he’s lost his name, with Tommaso being cut for a new, more streamlined title, and while he hasn’t been asked to shave his beard or, like, wear a gladiator costume, many of the elements of Ciampa’s NXT presentation, from being a wise babyface, to his in-ring attire – save the jacket – has been swapped out for a character defined by sneak attacking foes, barely speaking a word and lacking clear intentions.
Now granted, this sort of NXT-to-WWE character overhaul is by no means new and has continued on since Ciampa was called up to the main roster – Iyo Sky anyone – but this particular change just hit different because of how much the former member of #DIY meant to the black and gold brand. I mean, Ciampa wrestled 204 matches in an NXT ring, was a part of one of the most prolific tag teams of the televised NXT era in #DIY, and held the NXT Championship for 350 days total days over two different tenures, which is the third-longest tenure of any title reign behind only Finn Balor and Adam Cole, bay bay; if anyone deserves to be treated with at least a little bit of respect it would be Bron Breakker’s former mentor.
Sidebar: Goodness, could you imagine Breakker arriving on the main roster and having to interact with the Ciampa of a month ago? That would be like seeing your high school guidance counselor at the New Jersey convenience store trying to find a carton of perfect eggs.
Stripped of everything that made Ciampa Ciampa, don’t-call-him-Tommaso was handed the ultimate disrespect that could be afforded to a right and proper grappler by having to serve as a follower along to The Miz, tasked with talking up his you-know-whats and just generally taking part in his shenanigans. Surely the future wasn’t looking too bright for the former ROH World Television Championship on the main roster, with a return to NXT probably the best possible outcome for his future but, in a weird twist of fate, that might not need to happen. No, against all odds, things have actually worked out perfectly in Ciampa’s favor, as his former NXT booker, Triple H, is now running the show for WWE creative, and he’s made it a point to do right by his former champion.
Ciampa has a perfect advocate in his WWE corner in Paul “Triple” H Levesque.
“18 years, two-time grand slam champion, you’re asking what does it means? This is a guy who was kicked out of the damn locker room, packed up his bags, told to go home. And he said no! He said this is my home. This, WWE, (is) my home. Miz’s home, Maryse’s home. Logan Paul, at SummerSlam, you’re coming into our home, and you’re not invited. That’s what it means.”
These words, delivered in a promo cut by Ciampa on the go-home edition of Monday Night RAW, allegedly turned a lot of heads around the greater WWE Universe, with Fightful Select reporting that the boys in the girls in the back were taken aback by his passion and commitment to a character that clearly wasn’t his first choice. These feelings have apparently been a bit of a trend in the WWE Universe as of late, as folks have also, once again per Fightful Select, been appreciative of the hard work Ciampa has put into his new character despite it being an idea of Vince McMahon and incredibly desperate from his NXT character.
This goodwill, when coupled with Triple He’s elevation to the head of creative role, has strapped a bit of a rocket to the back of Ciampa, as he’s not only been reunited with his former booker and was given a premium position in The Miz’s match with Logan Paul at SummerSlam but was placed in not one but two matches to decide on the next challenger for Bobby Lashley’s United States Championship on a future episode of RAW; matches that Ciampa won over the likes of Mustafa Ali, Chad Gable, and eventually, A.J. Styles, the man who attacked him at SummerSlam after being ejected from ringside.
While only time will tell if Ciampa actually gets wins the title from Lashley, or if his loss could instead push forward a breakup with The Miz that ultimately results in a future match at, say, Clash at the Castle, it’s clear the former NXT Champion is being coded as a babyface once more, and it won’t be long before he’s back in the ring working like his old self – maybe even alongside his former partner for good measure too.