14th Oct2019

WWE Network Original Reviews: Tommaso Ciampa – blackHEART

by Chris Cummings

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For those who are unaware, Tommaso Ciampa was the NXT Champion as 2019 began, a reigning, defending champion who held onto his title belt (a belt he names Goldie) no matter what. As WrestleMania season rolled on, Ciampa realised he needed to get neck surgery. In March of this year, with reluctancy and sadness in his eyes, Tommaso vacated his NXT Title and headed to Birmingham, Alabama to get his neck fixed. Tommaso Ciampa: blackHEART, which originally aired in a couple of part on WWE’s YouTube channel, is about this, about Tommaso’s career (briefly), his surgery, his life and his family.

This is only a short documentary, clocking in at a mere half-hour run-time, but it’s emotional stuff, and gives us a glimpse, albeit a short one, of Ciampa outside the ring. We witness Triple H talking to the NXT locker room, telling them about Tommaso’s need for surgery and resultant vacating of the title. We see Tommaso and his family in the medical facility in Birmingham, alongside his baby daughter and his wife, as they speak with his doctor about the surgery. It’s hard to see. I’ve been in a situation where you look at your family while you’re on a hospital bed, about to go into serious surgery, and this brought back some pangs of that, and it brought on a lot of emotion towards Ciampa and his family, and that’s the point here, in a way. This is to show just how bloody tough Ciampa is. I mean, it isn’t designed to show that, but it does show it. His motivation to get fixed, to train as hard as he can and get back to the ring, is both inspiring and mind-blowing.

We hear from friends of Tommaso, such as his real-life best friend Johnny Gargano, who talks about Ciampa’s toughness, about his injuries in the ring in the past. We hear from Ciampa’s wife, Jessie, who speaks about her husband and his injury. It’s all really honest and open stuff, and it’s almost startling to hear real people talk about real situations on a wrestling program. We hear Tommaso talk about his career, having a child, moving to Orlando, wrestling in NXT and becoming NXT Champion. We hear him talk about the injuries he’s suffered through the years. It’s heart-warming and brilliantly documented from the team who put this together, and while it only lasts half an hour, it manages to allow plenty to be said and shown.

The documentary takes us into the room when Ciampa undergoes his neck surgery, which is quite difficult viewing if you’re someone who goes weak-legged at the sight of blood and muscle. The moment that follows, towards the end of this documentary, see’s Ciampa’s daughter, Willow, and his wife, Jessie, meeting him at his bedside as he waked from successful surgery, and it’s absolutely delightful. If you can sit through this and still have dry eyes at the end, then I’d advise you to get your tear-ducts checked out. Seeing the love Ciampa gets from his peers when he gives his “Goldie” to Triple H is wonderful, and shows how beloved he is, not just to fans.

A really wonderful, hard-going and insightful look at a pro-wrestler undergoing serious neck surgery at a time in his career that saw him on the top of the NXT mountain. This is a fantastic piece of work, and seeing a behind-the-curtain look at Tommaso, his family and his friends, and hearing from those closest to him, is really interesting. As we’ve seen, Ciampa returned to NXT television without a neck-brace in sight just a couple of weeks ago, and that makes this documentary all the more wonderful. It’s time to get “Goldie” back!

Tommaso Ciampa: blackHEART is available to watch now on WWE Network.

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