Updated: Apr 12
Part I: Background
At the time of writing this, Gargano is set to face Almas for the NXT title on an episode of NXT. If he loses he must leave NXT. He loses the match thanks to Ciampa interference. Gargano is furious and demands a match with Ciampa, but Regal says it can’t happen. Eventually it’s announced that at Takeover New Orleans, it will be an unsanctioned match between Gargano and Ciampa. This allows Gargano to wrestle despite no longer being a part of NXT and allows them to hide Ciampa’s injury. In this match, they go all out using weapons. Gargano takes a beating which he does well. After multiple attempts, Gargano locks in the Garga-No Escape but Ciampa doesn’t tap. Gargano unloads with elbows and wrenches it in tighter until Ciampa passes out. Gargano wins but Ciampa didn’t tap; that’s important to remember.
Part II: Beginning
After New Orleans, Ciampa goes mental. He makes good on his promise to be the most dangerous man in NXT. He goes through everyone, even winning the NXT Title from Aleister Black. He would have a short but dominant run eventually losing it to the returning Drew McIntyre. Gargano meanwhile debuts on the SmackDown following Wrestlemania. He plays the same underdog character he played in NXT, constantly just coming up short. This ultimately culminates in him winning the US Championship at Wrestlemania from a big heel like Baron Corbin for instance. A feel-good moment which is what Mania is all about. Things seem to be going Gargano’s way until he is found laid out backstage on the SmackDown before Backlash. He is scheduled to face Corbin in a rematch but is advised by Doctors not to compete. Being the valiant babyface that he is, he ignores their advice. Every time he gets some sort of offence in, he can’t follow up because he’s hurt, leading to Corbin taking back the title with an End of Days. Everyone is certain Corbin attacked Gargano, but he denies it. Meanwhile, Bryan sends Johnny home to recover from his injuries. Two weeks before Money in the Bank, there’s a Battle Royal for the final spot in the Men’s Money in the Bank match. Johnny appears as a surprise entrant visibly limping to the ring. He manages to fight through the pain and wins the Battle Royal. He doesn’t wrestle on the go home SmackDown but he’s in the locker room and finds something in his bag that wasn’t there before; he pulls it out to reveal a #DIY shirt. The Money in the Bank match is filled with all the spots you’d expect. Johnny manages to knock a heel off the top of the ladder leaving just him in the ring. Hopefully the crowd are going crazy as he’s just inches away from winning. Lights go out. When they come back on Ciampa is in the ring and shoves the ladder, leaving someone else to collect the briefcase!
Part III: Psycho Killer
The SmackDown following Money in the Bank, Johnny gets his US title rematch but is visibly wary of Ciampa. He finally locks in the Garga-No Escape on Corbin when the DIY music hits. Johnny lets go of the hold expecting Ciampa to come down the ramp, but nothing happens. He turns around into an End of Days and loses. Right as the logo appears to close the show, Ciampa appears from behind Gargano and attacks him once again. On the next SmackDown, Ciampa reminds some of the more casual fans who he is. He shows footage of them as a team and the turn in Chicago. He talks about how he carried Johnny, yet Johnny was always people’s favourite. He brings up New Orleans and how Johnny didn’t really beat him because he didn’t tap, and the match was unsanctioned.He vows to make Johnny’s life hell. Johnny comes down which leads to a brawl between the two that requires multiple officials to break up. This sets up a match for Extreme Rules. (The fact that Extreme Rules has been announced as the PPV for July kind of effects how I wanted to tell this story. Goddam it WWE!) I’m just going to keep it as a regular match between these two for this PPV. Throughout the match Ciampa is vicious. He picks up the win but refuses to stop beating up Gargano. After several attempts, the ref reverses the decision awarding the match via DQ to Gargano. This angers Ciampa even more, causing him to attack the refs trying to stop him. He finishes by putting Johnny through the announce table. Shane and Bryan want to suspend Ciampa, but Johnny begs them to give him another match at SummerSlam. They do pre-taped interviews to hype the match where Ciampa brings up their loss from Takeover:Brooklyn. He says he’s going to give Gargano the beating in Brooklyn he should have given him 3 years ago; this would indeed be better if SummerSlam is still in Brooklyn but knowing them they will have moved it. During the match they brawl to the outside. Ciampa rolls him back in the ring and goes over to ringside where Candice Le Rae is sitting. He yells at her, saying that her husband is pathetic. He turns around into a Suicide Dive from Johnny. Johnny checks on Candice then goes for the spear through the ropes. As he does, he’s caught with a knee. A second knee followed by a Powerbomb Lungblower gives Ciampa the win.
Part IV: Blow Off
Ciampa is acting smug because, while Johnny beat him twice, he didn’t pin him whereas Ciampa has pinned Gargano. Gargano is furious that Ciampa involved his wife. They continue to brawl around the arena everytime they encounter one another until it’s determined that only one match can contain it: Hell in a Cell! On the go home SmackDown, both men come face to face to let out all their feelings towards each other. Essentially cutting work shoot promos on each other. The match is filled with one brutal spot after another. Ciampa grinds Johnny’s face into the cell wall only for Johnny to come back and hit his Lawn Dart on Ciampa into the cell. There’s plenty of spots involving weapons like maybe Ciampa hitting Johnny with a kendo stick when he goes for the spear through the ropes, as well as the usual finisher kick outs. Ciampa yells at Johnny to stay down as he continues to beat him down. However, Johnny, in typical face/underdog style, refuses to stay down and overcomes the odds - hitting a second springboard DDT onto a chair. Not only has he beaten Ciampa again, but he has finally pinned him.
Part V: Fallout
Following this, Johnny goes back into the title hunt - maybe even going after the WWE title. It would be good to have him fight and beat Almas soon after this to correct another wrong from his time in NXT. Ciampa on the other hand takes his anger out on a lower mid carder face like a Tye Dillinger for example, giving Tye some needed screen time. I’d have one of them traded in the next draft because after their feud, they shouldn’t be on the same brand for too long. They’ve made that mistake before with Owens and Zayn.