Johnny Gargano def. Aleister Black (Steel Cage Match)

Aleister Black vs. Johnny Gargano - Steel Cage Match: WWE NXT, Dec. 19, 2018

The bitter rivalry between Aleister Black and Johnny Gargano enters the unforgiving confines of a steel cage. Video courtesy of the award-winning WWE Network.

Locked inside a steel cage with an enraged rival who pledged to annihilate him, Johnny Gargano not only survived his barbaric fight with Aleister Black, but he emerged victorious, although he certainly didn’t do it by himself. Ironically, and shockingly, it was an assist from his former #DIY teammate and best friend, NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa, that set the table for Gargano’s monumental defeat of The Dutch Destroyer.

Before The Blackheart inserted himself into the match that was his brainchild, Black and Gargano battered each other relentlessly, taking full advantage of their surroundings. The deep-seated ill will between the two even caused both Superstars to occasionally lose sight of victory. After landing a series of powerful strikes, Black was on the verge of climbing out of the cage, but he instead returned to inflict more punishment on the man who ambushed him months ago. Similarly, Gargano had a clear path out the door later in the match, but rather than go for the W, he told Black that he’d “absolve” him of his “sins.” The move backfired, and Black floored Gargano with Black Mass.

Still, Gargano was the first to his feet. He began scaling the steel wall, but by the time he got over the top, Black was crawling toward the door. Black was almost out, too, until Ciampa, who is set to defend the title against the former champion at TakeOver: Phoenix, viciously slammed the door on Black’s skull. Gargano returned to the ring, and after a tense moment of the former best friends eying each other warily, Ciampa signaled for the double-team move that won #DIY so many matches, and Gargano reciprocated. Gargano and Ciampa then met in the middle — Gargano drilling Black with a superkick and Ciampa thrashing him with a leaping knee — giving Gargano all he needed to pin The Dutch Destroyer. As Ciampa exited, Gargano, seemingly in complete disbelief, sat cross-legged next to Black.

It was a surreal scene that begs more questions than it does provide answers. Are Gargano and Ciampa once again on the same page, or did Ciampa simply manipulate Gargano? Just as importantly, how will The Dutch Destroyer respond?

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