Ricochet, Aleister Black, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa all arrived on Monday Night Raw this week, ready to make a huge impact as Triple H introduced the four all stars to the main roster. Of the three matches that the four debuting superstars took part in, none was more noteworthy than that of Ciampa and Gargano’s reunion as they faced former NXT rivals and newly-crowned Raw tag team champions, the Revival (Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder). It was #DIY‘s first on-screen reunion since the pair broke up nearly two years ago.
Though, that said, it’s a reunion that has been several months in the making as recently, Ciampa and Gargano have been finding common ground and “meeting in the middle” more often than they’ve found themselves on opposite sides.
— WWE (@WWE) February 19, 2019
It was May 20, 2017 at TakeOver: Chicago that the landscape of the black-and-yellow brand was completely altered. Following their loss against the Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar), Ciampa brutally turned on his longtime tag team partner, becoming the most hated man in NXT, perhaps all of WWE in the process. But out of that hate was soon born something much more as Ciampa ascended to the top of NXT’s pyramid, where he has now sat for over 200 days. But a top heel doesn’t exist or flourish without the presence of a top babyface and for much of 2017, Gargano played that role to perfection. Unable to escape Ciampa and reminders of their tag team past, Johnny Wrestling was the favorite of crowds everywhere as he tried but unsuccessfully managed to rid himself of his former best friend.
As time went on, Gargano’s questioning of why Ciampa turned and how he could do it to him evolved into revenge which further devolved into obsession. Ciampa got the better of Gargano but this time it was Gargano who wouldn’t let it go. And in his quest to defeat Ciampa, Gargano turned into the monster he had desperately tried to destroy. He fell victims to chants of “Johnny Failure,” and in the end, realized his method of doing things wasn’t working. So as the old adage goes, “if you can’t beat em, join em.” Still desperate to get his hands on Ciampa, Gargano attacked Aleister Black, claiming Black got involved in business that wasn’t his.
In all, Gargano and Ciampa fought three times, each battle more personal than the last. There was an unsanctioned match to kick things off, followed up by a Chicago street fight one year after Ciampa’s betrayal and finally a last man standing match for the NXT Championship at TakeOver: Brooklyn IV. But while the former tag team champions only fought each other three times, their story spanned the better part of the last two years and the impact of their rivalry, which was the 2018 Rivalry of the Year in NXT, helped define the brand over that span.
Recently however, it would seem that the feud might be taking a backseat to a reunion as Ciampa has applauded Gargano’s recent turn to the darkside and even suggested #DIY get back together. The seeds for such a reunion have been planted in recent months in NXT with Ciampa even extending a hand to Gargano only for Candice LeRae, Gargano’s wife, to push him away saying she wasn’t going to let it happen again. But through Twitter and otherwise, Ciampa hasn’t stopped trying.
— BLACKHEART (@ProjectCiampa) January 27, 2019
The two briefly teamed up for several live events in January and represented the heel team alongside Adam Cole during Halftime Heat. But on Raw, circumstance brought the two former best friends, former rivals, current NXT men’s singles champions, together in a 2 on 2 tag televised/network tag team match for the first time since May 2017. And it happened absolutely fittingly against the team that #DIY fought to classics which helped redefine NXT’s tag team picture, the Revival.
#DIY and the Revival first met in March 2016 at an NXT live event. Their first televised match happened two months later, before Ciampa and Gargano had even been christened with the #DIY name. The match ended after just over seven minutes and ended with a Gargano/Ciampa victory. This led the two teams into a program at TakeOver: Brooklyn II where the Revival retained their tag team titles in a match that received 4.5 stars from Dave Meltzer. It’s was NXT’s first-ever 4.5 star tag team match but it wouldn’t be their last.
It was clear these two teams had chemistry both in the ring and in the promos they’d cut outside of it. The Revival were the perfect heels, cheating their way through matches under the guise of simply just being old school tag team wrestlers. And #DIY were the babyfaces on the chase, a team that came together in NXT for the first time to take part in the inaugural Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.
It was at the same Dusty Classic the following year where #DIY defeated the Revival to earn a second chance at the tag titles at TakeOver: Toronto. The match, a two-out-three falls match which received 4.5 stars and was also named the NXT Match of the Year, was won by #DIY as they claimed the tag team titles for the first time. The match received incredible accolades and is still to this day lauded as one of the best tag team matches in NXT history.
They meet again…#RAW #TagTeamChampions @ScottDawsonWWE & @DashWilderWWE are being harshly reacquainted with @WWENXT #NorthAmericanChampion @JohnnyGargano & #NXTChampion @ProjectCiampa on #RAW! pic.twitter.com/J3REQ2kdBK
— WWE (@WWE) February 19, 2019
It’s very possible that #DIY’s Raw reunion, which saw them “Meet in the Middle” en route to giving the Revival their first loss since becoming tag champs a week ago, was merely a one-off. That said, the two showed no rust or no hesitation, picking up right where they left off as a team in May 2017. Perhaps tag team wrestling is like riding a bike, it’s just something you don’t forget.
At this point, both Ciampa and Gargano have unfinished business in NXT and both seem to have it with the men who also debuted tonight in Ricochet and Aleister Black. But once that business is resolved, could Gargano and Ciampa possibly make their way to the main roster as a duo once again? After all, it seems there was an intentionality behind debuting them to the Raw crowd as a team.
— BLACKHEART (@ProjectCiampa) December 20, 2018
Never say never.