In desperately sad - and major - news, it has emerged that NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa is set for imminent neck surgery. Per Dave Meltzer on Wrestling Observer Radio, WWE has confirmed to him this heart-wrenching development, one that will see Ciampa on the sidelines for a "long, long time."
Ciampa is certain to vacate the NXT Championship and miss, at the very least, several months of action.
We'd read murmurs of injury, and reports of withdrawn dates, but the belief up to this point was that Ciampa may soldier through.
This, not to be histrionic about things, wasn't a mere championship to vacate. We were raging towards the blow-off of an intricate, layered two-and-a-half year story - of the hardest road to recognition, the toll it took on a friendship, and the seminal, physical eruption of it. It did not end there; Johnny Gargano, warped by the depths to which Ciampa plunged him, evolved into a fascinating anti-hero of sorts.
But it ends now, shockingly, on the eve of the final chapter. It's such a cruel development, in that it has deprived of us of what, from a purely artistic standpoint, may well be the greatest narrative ever crafted under the WWE umbrella.
Any optimistic sense of storyline synergy, or a sequel - Ciampa, of course, had already spent time on the sidelines throughout the epic story - is undermined by the idea that it will take place, if at all, on WWE's main roster.
This is a disaster, but not an emergency - the NXT think-tank has one set of tapings to build towards a main event of TakeOver calibre - but in the meantime, WhatCulture Wrestling wishes Ciampa the best in his surgery and recovery.