Exclusive: Tommaso Ciampa on his final independent match for PROGRESS Wrestling
Tommaso Ciampa has made a huge impact in NXT since arriving with Johnny Gargano last fall. In the year since, the DIY duo have employed a high-flying, hard-hitting in-ring style that’s put them at the forefront of the NXT tag team division. However, when he wasn’t grappling in pursuit of the NXT Tag Team Championship, Ciampa kept a full schedule on the independent circuit around the world.
Like Johnny Wrestling, CIampa’s time as a solo jet-setting wrestler is coming to a close. His final match on the indies is this Sunday in London for PROGRESS Wrestling, where he will take on Cruiserweight Classic Semifinalist Zack Sabre Jr. WWE.com caught up with the smash-mouth Superstar to see how he’s feeling ahead of the show, and address rumors about a pair of new Superstars that might be heading across the pond.
WWE.COM: What has it been like for you over this past summer, going back and forth from NXT and CWC to the indies? What has the reaction from fans been like?
TOMMASO CIAMPA: I try as much as possible to take a moment every so often, pause, and enjoy the journey. NXT and CWC have truly changed my career, my life and my family's life.
The reaction from the fans has, quite possibly, been the most rewarding part of the journey thus far. I feel as though the fans have grown with me over the past 12 years through both triumph and disappointment. They are genuinely happy for my recent success. I can see it and I can feel it.
I also feel fairly confident that years from now, both Johnny and I will look back on 2015 and 2016 and realize just how special of a time it was in both our careers.
WWE.COM: This Sunday at PROGRESS is your final match on the indies. How are you feeling about closing out this chapter of your career?
CIAMPA: I have so many mixed emotions. I will miss the independents...my friends, the fans, the venues, the small intimate setting, all of it. Well, maybe not all of it, but most of it!
More than anything, I feel prepared for the next chapter. I'm ready and I'm excited to see just how far I can take this. WWE presents me with unlimited opportunities and possibilities. No dream seems unachievable.
WWE.COM: For our fans who may not be familiar with PROGRESS, can you describe the atmosphere of a PROGRESS show?
CIAMPA: PROGRESS is very unique. It's just such a beautiful place. I feel like it was love at first sight between myself and the PROGRESS faithful. I realize that sounds silly, but it's true. The connection I have built with the fans there from day one has been incredible.
The talent on the shows, the production crew, the backstage atmosphere, and the incredibly professional owners help make PROGRESS what it is. But the crowd ... the crowd is what sets it apart. They sing, they chant, they boo, and they cheer with such passion. It's like being at a rock concert, there’s just such a great, feel-good party atmosphere.
WWE.COM: You’re wrestling Zack Sabre Jr. on Sunday. How do you prepare to wrestle someone like him?
CIAMPA: I've faced Zack twice now in PROGRESS (and even once in the US). He's one of the best technicians in wrestling today. Our styles clash in such a perfect way, it makes for some wonderful art. I realize that Zack will be prepared to go to uncharted territory performing in front of the sold-out crowd of 2,400 at the historic Brixton Academy. I can only hope that my A-game surpasses his A-game on Sunday night.
WWE.COM: There have been a lot of rumors lately that two other Progress wrestlers, Jack Gallagher and Tommy End, may be on their way to WWE soon. What can you tell the WWE Universe about them?
CIAMPA: The WWE Universe has already been introduced to Jack as part of CWC, and what an introduction it was! He is a one of a kind talent with unparalleled charisma. And, to be quite honest, he's just a tremendously polite and humble guy.
Tommy is a guy I have traveled with and had the pleasure to share a ring with. He's a competitor to the core, a kickboxing expert with incredible striking ability. The WWE Universe is in for a treat if they sign!
WWE.COM: After your match with Zack ends on Sunday, and your time as an independent wrestler comes to a close, what are you going to be focusing on for the future in WWE?
CIAMPA: Winning the NXT Tag Team Championship alongside Johnny. That's our number one goal. We want to be the guys every single fan goes home talking about. We want to be major contributors to the continued growth of NXT on every show, every tour and every TakeOver.
PROGRESS Wrestling's Chapter 36 event, featuring Tommaso Ciampa vs. Zack Sabre Jr., Cruiserweight Classic competitor Jack Gallagher and more, takes place this Sunday at the O2 Academy in London. For more information on the event, visit PROGRESSWrestling.com.