NXT North American champion Johnny Gargano spoke with Sports Illustrated earlier today to hype up this evening’s edition of NXT on USA, where the leader of The Way will be defending the gold against Bronson Reed inside of a steel cage. Highlights from the interview are below.
Says that people forget he worked heel on the indies:
People forget that, on the indies, I was always a heel. Sure, in NXT, I was an underdog babyface, but that was new to me. That was something I was learning how to do. From the moment I started on the indies, I was always a heel, and I could not wait to show this side of me. When I was a babyface, nearing the end of my run, after I lost the NXT championship, that was the end of that pure Johnny Wrestling story. That was the top of it for me, and I always imagined turning after that. I was just consumed with constant ideas of what I could do when I turned and when I showed this other side. I wrote ideas for music, gear and stories in these Word documents, and I sent them to Hunter [Paul “Triple H” Levesque], I sent them to Shawn [Michaels], I sent them to everybody.
Says he always wanted Candice to be paired with him:
The idea was always to place Candice with me. We’d really wanted to work together. Knowing how talented she is, I wanted to get her as bright a spotlight of her own—not as Johnny Gargano’s wife, but as Candice freakin’ LeRae, one of the best wrestlers in the world. I always wanted a stable as well. I had the idea of Austin Theory being with me a long time ago. I’m talking a long time ago, like right when he got signed to NXT. I remember saying to Hunter, ‘He could be like my Randy [Orton].’ I felt like I could help mold him into what he can be; he just needed the right platform.
On Indi Hartwell and Austin Theory joining their faction:
Indi is someone we didn’t know too well, but it was easy to see her potential and we felt like she’d fit in with us really well. Now, to see what we’ve transformed into, this sort of dysfunctional family, it’s completely different than what I imagined. It has a sitcom vibe, and that’s definitely not what I wrote up in those Word documents. But things happened on camera, and we went with it. The dynamic just feels right, and hopefully it helps Indi and Austin in the long way, especially showing off their personalities. The Way came from The Gargano Way. We likened it to Evolution a bit. And that’s the story of how it came together.
Calls current run with the North American title his best in NXT:
I was very open about having a run with the title, and it’s my chance to make other guys, too. Now Leon goes into something with Swerve, and he’s taken more seriously. He can do so much; he’s so talented. Having a 24-minute TakeOver match with Kushida and being able to show the world what he’s capable of doing, that’s something I take very seriously. He’d shown that all around the world, but this was his chance to show it here, so I really wanted that match with him. He works incredibly hard and deserves that spotlight. And Priest is amazing. He’s incredibly talented, and he’s a guy that takes opportunities and runs with them. He’s gone to new heights, and everything he did with Bad Bunny at WrestleMania was next-level. Like you said, I do think this is my best run. I take pride in the fact that I can give certain spotlight to guys and bring others up. I can make other guys along the way, and I think that’s my role now. We have such a talented locker room, so that’s incredibly easy for me to do.