Tommaso Ciamps’s recent injury just as he is featured on worldwide television begs a bigger question: How many others could this happen to?
By Michael Melchor, Executive Editor
The discussion about the newest NXT call-ups is cut short, as one of them falls to a serious injury.
There’s been a lot of talk about how random, sudden and discombobulated the most recent NXT call-ups have been. As recently as three days ago, TGP Editor-In-Chief Ryan K Boman surmised that Ricochet, Aleister Black, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa were victims of a company that doesn’t realize that not everyone watching WWE Raw or SmackDown watches the WWE Network. 1.65 million people subscribe to the WWE Network, while 2.952 million watched Raw this past Monday. The math pretty well backs that up.
No matter what WWE could have done differently to debut those four on the main roster, no one could have seen coming how one of them would be derailed.
WWE confirmed yesterday that Tommaso Ciampa is undergoing “an anterior cervical fusion” today. Reports put the recovery time for spinal fusion – the same that Edge, Kurt Angle and Nikki Bella have all had in the past – anywhere between 3-6 months. Most pro wrestlers aren’t cleared to come back from such an operation until about nine months afterward.
This has to be a disgusting time for Ciampa. Just as his career momentum was hitting its peak – debuting on cable television, having a two-year story come to a hotly anticipated conclusion – it has been cut short by a devastating injury. It’s the kind of thing that can happen to anyone in such a physical business.
The risk is much bigger with someone who has put in the work and years that Ciampa has. Ciampa just passed the 14th anniversary of his pro wrestling debut back in January. That’s a lot of time to register some punches on the bump card. He’s wrestled all over the world, including logging time in Ring of Honor, where the matches are much more physical and a performer’s work is under more scrutiny.
This is the danger that WWE faces with waiting so long to realize that the independents are the best source of talent. Any of the other three men that debuted with Ciampa could be under the same gun.
Ciampa’s partner / enemy, Johnny Gargano, made his debut the same year as Ciampa – 2005 – and has had some physical battles for Evolve and many other places that resulted in at least two prior back injuries. Aleister Black’s career stretches all the way back to 2002, with intense matches in PWG, Evolve and overseas under his belt. Fortunately, Black has mostly escaped serious injury up to this point.
The man that may be in the most danger simply due to his style is Ricochet. That danger is compounded by the fact that his career began in 2003. Ricochet, fortunately, has only had an ankle injury of note up to this point.
Looking past the recent call-ups, it is an issue that has already plagued WWE. With his career starting back in 2000, Kevin Owens just recently returned from a five-month absence after having to have both knees operated on. His “frenemy,” Sami Zayn, began wrestling in 2002 and has been out since June of 2018 with serious shoulder issues that have plagued him for years.
One of the biggest examples of this is current WWE World Champion Daniel Bryan. Bryan retired from wrestling altogether on February 8, 2016. He returned more than two years later on April 8, 2018, from what seemed to be a carer-ending series of head injuries.
Bryan began his career in 1999 and has had his share of injuries before even debuting in WWE. A separated shoulder, a nerve injury. And no one who saw what happened to his eye in a match against Takeshi Morishima in Ring of Honor will forget it.
All of these performers are ones who fans have clamored for to be in WWE. It took years of hard work and – more to the point – sacrifice for them to get there. And many of them have been put on the shelf during a time when they had all the momentum of a worldwide audience watching them.
This is the danger of WWE waiting so long to hear a name and decide to pick them up and offer them a contract and worldwide stardom. It’s a double-edged sword – putting a talent on television before they’re ready is a risk, but how ready do they have to be after years of proving themselves in physical, violent spectacles all over the world?
Ciampa was given the ball only a few weeks ago and Mother Nature forced him to drop it. It would be devastating to see this happen to so many others who gave so much before WWE finally gave them a chance.