#DIY on their long road to the NXT Tag Team Titles
It’s been nearly three weeks since Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano captured the coveted NXT Tag Team Championship at NXT Takeover: Toronto. The much-heralded victory marked an incredible climax to their heated rivalry with the now former champions, The Revival.
“It's pretty surreal,” Ciampa told WWE.com. “I think it's safe to say for the majority of independent wrestlers, the goal is to one day perform under the WWE banner. But to actually become a champion within the company, it's truly a dream come true.”
So just exactly where did the dream begin for the NXT Tag Team Champions? While both have plied their trade inside the ring since 2005, it wasn’t until halfway through their careers that the team known as #DIY would first cross paths, prior to an independent wrestling show.
“Tommaso randomly picked me up at a bus station six or seven years ago before a Dragon Gate USA show in Massachusetts,” Gargano recalled. “I took a nap at his house with his dog, Harry Harrison. But we really didn't get to know each other until a few years later at another indie show in England, where we wrestled to a 15-minute time limit draw later that night. We did the loop after that in America, with matches in California, New York and Illinois.”
Their paths would intersect once again during a week-long WWE tryout in 2015. Company officials decided to pair both men in the same hotel room, and they shared a rental car to travel to and from the tryout camp. It’s an experience Gargano says built the foundation for the friendship that exists today.
“I don't know why, but they put us together by pure happenstance,” he said. “We were friends before that, but that whole experience definitely brought us closer together.”
While neither man earned a WWE contract during that 2015 tryout, they did become fixtures on NXT television. The exposure to a new and larger audience brought a lot of satisfaction to the tandem, but also a lot of angst.
“Obviously, our goal was to be here full time,” Gargano said. “It was a very stressful time period as there was just so much uncertainty. There were no promises. After every show, we just hoped we'd be asked to come back next time.”
For Ciampa, the stress may have been even greater. In 2007, Ciampa signed a WWE contract to train and compete in WWE’s former developmental territory, Ohio Valley Wrestling. Less than a year later, that contract was gone.
“In this business, one learns to persevere at a very young age,” said a reflective Ciampa. “Imagine acquiring your dream job at the age of 21, only to lose it six months later. I was devastated. However, the journey back to this point has been nothing short of incredible. This past year, we have gone through so much together and, honestly, it will make for a crazy chapter in a book some day.”
If such a book is ever written, there’s no doubt one chapter will be centered on the eventual dual accomplishment of both men signing full-time WWE NXT contracts this past summer, followed by their improbable win in Toronto over The Revival. Nearly 12 years after lacing up their first pair of wrestling boots, Ciampa and Gargano are now roommates, best friends and NXT Tag Team Champions. Their incredible success is underscored by the meaning of their tag team name, #DIY: Do It Yourself.
“Tommaso and I are two guys who traveled the world for 12 years before we got here,” Gargano said. “We've never had a multimillion-dollar company backing us. We got here through our own hard work. People see that and people relate to that. DIY is a way of life. If you want something, go get it. Nobody will do it for you.”