Team Ciampa def. The Undisputed ERA (Men's WarGames Match)
CHICAGO — Though Tommaso Ciampa dressed for battle with camouflage gracing both his face and his pants, he — nor anyone else in WarGames — escaped the fog of war.
But in a strange twist of fate, The Blackheart found triumph with the same maneuver that earned him infamy in the same building two years earlier.
Ciampa claimed victory for his team over The Undisputed ERA at TakeOver: WarGames after pinning NXT Champion Adam Cole following a jaw-dropping air raid crash from the top of the cage through two tables.
Two years and some change earlier, Ciampa betrayed then-tag team partner Johnny Gargano with that same move through the announce table at TakeOver: Chicago I.
The former Scourge of NXT found a surprising brother-in-arms on this night in Kevin Owens, who arrived on the scene as Team Ciampa’s fourth man. Before Owens’ surprise emergence, Ciampa’s squad appeared only as a triumvirate: The Blackheart, Keith Lee and Dominik Dijakovic. The mystery around the identity of Team Ciampa’s final competitor only grew as the match progressed — even drawing the question as to whether Ciampa had found another teammate at all.
Owens took the match by storm immediately upon entering as the bout’s final competitor. Dropping Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong in rapid succession, KO eventually found Cole — who was incredulous just moments earlier upon seeing Owens — and planted him with a Stunner.
Earlier, Dijakovic set the ring ablaze with his unique combination of size and athleticism. The Rare Breed served as the equalizer for Team Ciampa after Strong — a no-brainer for first entry in the match as one of WWE’s best conditioned athletes — and O’Reilly immediately played the numbers game that fans are all too familiar with seeing against Ciampa. It was no surprise to see The Undisputed ERA make surgical use of the advantage Cole secured days earlier through his Ladder Match victory against Dijakovic.
Lee was the third member of Team Ciampa to enter, having had plenty of time for his rage to boil over while waiting in the shark cage before being unleashed on The Undisputed ERA, and he dished out a full highlight reel’s worth of offense immediately upon his arrival to the battlefield.
The match’s propensity for brutality escalated with the arrival of Cole, who focused his attention on adding four tables to the equation before even stepping foot in the ring. It backfired almost immediately, however, as Ciampa shoved Cole from the steps through a table that had been balancing against the barricade, effectively neutralizing The Panama City Playboy before he could make his presence felt.
Moments after Cole had spiked Owens with a devastating delayed Panama Sunrise on the steal grating connecting the two rings and Strong had delivered an Olympic Slam to Lee off the top rope, the match gave way to a catastrophic closing scene that was befitting of one of the most chaotic encounters in NXT.
Dijakovic ripped Strong off the ropes and planted him through one of the many tables in the ring with a chokeslam. Trying the exact same attack again on O’Reilly, The Rare Breed soon found himself enveloped in a triangle hold, but he found respite when he was bailed out by Owens, who leapt from the top rope and crashed through O’Reilly and another table with a frog splash.
Meanwhile, Lee and Fish were both spent after The Limitless Superstar sent Fish plummeting through a table with a top-rope powerbomb.
This left only the top of the cage where Cole had scurried off to, seemingly out of Ciampa’s reach, but that plan quickly proved foolish.
Hoisting the leader of The Undisputed ERA on his back, Ciampa braced for impact and took a leap of faith. Moments later, The Blackheart had completed his journey from despised scoundrel to victorious hero, but neither he, nor any of his teammates or opponents would ever be the same.