Welcome to our WrestlingINC live coverage of the “What’s NeXt? with Johnny Gargano” panel from Starcast V! Don’t forget to share our Viewing Party with your friends on social media and be sure to chime in with your thoughts about the show in the comments section below. Make sure you keep hitting that refresh button to stay up to date with all of the latest coverage.
Kenny McIntosh greets Johnny Gargano to fans in the audience and at home, introducing him as “one of the hottest free agents in pro wrestling.”
Johnny comes out and the two men take their seats. McIntosh asks him if he felt reluctant to go sign with WWE back in 2015. Johnny said that Gabe Sapolsky once told him that you go to the indies to hone your craft and once you’ve done that, WWE is the next step. Johnny said he felt like he was ready to sign with the company. He said he had grown up as a huge fan, and it was a calculated risk for him to sign.
Johnny went on to say that his tryout had lots of indie guys, including Ciampa, Athena, Chuck Taylor, Riddle, Drew Gulak and Biff Busick. He said the tryout was weird because no one knew what was going to be next. He revealed that him and Ciampa were paired up. They shared a hotel, shared a rental car, paired together during drills and paired together during matches. He said there was only one spot for a male wrestler, and Busick was the one they chose to sign (along with Athena). He said he was disappointed because he felt like he was ready, then put over William Regal for helping him out a ton and paving the way for smaller wrestlers.
Johnny went on to say that Regal got him a dark match at Full Sail, but it went no where. He said that a couple months after that, the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic was conceived. Regal put him and Ciampa together as a team, but because they weren’t signed they were able to still do indie stuff. Johnny said him and Ciampa didn’t want to step on any toes, so everything including the music and titan tron was picked for them. He then revealed that DIY didn’t get a Triple H picture until their Cruiserweight Classic Match.
McIntosh asked how things with the Glorious bombs with Bobby Roode came about and Johnny said that things began when they were introducing competitors with the Cruiserweight Classic match on Facebook. He said they kept playing his “Glorious” theme song and they all thought it was the theme for the Cruiserweight Classic. Gargano said that he and Ciampa approached Roode and they told him to be in the background doing something while he played. He said that things blew up with DIY after that and revealed the original plan was for Ciampa to turn heel on Gargano after Takeover: Brooklyn. He said that the story was supposed to be that Johnny would have tapped out when the Revival put him in a knee submission. Johnny said he would have tapped out to save himself for the Cruiserweight Classic, which would have made Ciampa angry enough to betray him.
McIntosh asked Johnny about his turn with Ciampa in Chicago after the logo had appeared at the bottom of the screen. Johnny then joked that his real feud of him is with the logo before stating that it was their idea to do that. He said that Ciampa’s torn ACL he suffered in the ladder match with AOP gave the feud time to breathe and it helped to build up anticipation for the match. McIntosh asked if he was worried about the injury affecting the story, and Johnny said they didn’t expect it to blow up. He said much of his time about him in NXT revolved around him having to work stories around injuries.
McIntosh asked Johnny about his match with Andrade El Idolo at Takeover: Philadelphia. He said he was worried about fans souring on him for being a white meat baby face due to his low self-esteem of him. Johnny said that he wrestled Andrade on house shows all the time prior to their match and gave fans their money’s worth. Triple H saw one of their matches from him and loved it. Johnny said that Drew McIntyre was originally supposed to be the original challenger, but he had tore his bicep and could not compete. Triple H named Johnny as a last minute replacement and it worked out great because Ciampa was returning at the event anyhow. Johnny then puts over Queen Zelina and his wife Candice LeRae for their parts in the match and revealed that being hit with the crutch by Ciampa was the worst pain he has ever felt in his life.
McIntosh asked Johnny if his Unsactioned match with Ciampa at Takeover: New Orleans was everything he had hoped it would be. Johnny said that he had goosebumps when Ciampa entered the ring with no music and tons of boos. He said the “Johnny Wrestling” chants were the perfect atmosphere for the match to be in. Johnny revealed that the ‘Who Attacked Aleister Black’ angle was improvised because Balck was injured. He said that the original match was meant to be a triple threat between the three men and the Last Man Standing match at Takeover: Chicago was never meant to happen.
Gargano said that him and Ciampa were supposed to face each other at Takeover: New York in their final match. Ciampa had a neck injury and couldn’t compete, but the endgame was supposed to be Johnny turning on Ciampa for the ultimate revenge. Johnny said that they couldn’t do that, so he was put with Adam Cole in a 2 out of 3 falls match.
McIntosh asked about the couple weeks DIY spent on the main roster. Johnny said it was completely last minute and he thinks that they were supposed to team at WrestleMania 35. Ciampa had to get neck surgery again, so Johnny said he asked to be sent back to NXT to compete for the NXT Championship and ultimately win it.
Johnny said it was extremely meaningful for him to win the title at the Barclays Center because that’s where DIY mad their debut. He said that it was so cool for him to hear the sold out crowd be loud throughout the match and it made him reflect on his humble beginnings.
McIntosh asked Johnny what it was like for him to be able to work with Shawn Michaels and he said it was awesome. He revealed he once got Michaels cookies as a gift and he dressed as him as a kid. He says he considered Michaels to be his “wrestling dad” of him. Johnny said that he remembers being nervous when Michaels started helping out in NXT and called him the greatest wrestler ever.
McIntosh asked Johnny what it was like to feud with Ciampa with the roles reversed and he said that he sees wrestling characters as always evolving. He said he was tired of hearing “Johnny Gargano is good but…” and he embraced the heel turn. Johnny said that the pandemic caused his character to change.
McIntosh asked Johnny when he found out that he and Ciampa couldn’t have their match in a big arena. Johnny said that it was trial by fire and their cinematic match was a last minute decision.
McIntosh asked what it was like for him to work with Candice LeRae and he invited her on stage. McIntosh asked her what it was like to work with Johnny and she said it was great. Johnny said that he was hoping to help elevate Candice’s status from her to another level and called his wife “his favorite wrestler in the world.”
McIntosh asks Candice what it felt like for her to finally get a big shot and she said she didn’t feel like herself until she wrestled Io Shirai at Takeover: Toronto. She said once she was paired with Johnny, she felt even more confident. Johnny said The Way never got to be heels in front of a live crowd, but they tried to focus more on backstage promos. He said that the matches weren’t going to hold up because there were no fans, but the backstage promos will. Johnny said that while they were heels, he wanted to put a smile on people’s faces.
McIntosh asks when Indi Hartwell and Theory came into The Way. Johnny said that they looked at Evolution as a template, with two established talent helping out two younger talent. Johnny said that The Way was supposed to form earlier than they did and revealed they were thinking about adding a fifth member at one point. Candice said that Michaels threw out Indi’s name and they loved the idea. They both said that The Way was supposed to be a serious stable, but the pandemic made them go a more comedic route.
McIntosh asked about Indi being courted/stalked by Dexter Lumis and the pair said that he should be in jail for stalking. Johnny notes that someone has their hand up and Dexter Lumis himself stands up. He heads towards the stage as the two try to dig themselves out of the hole they made. He takes a seat next to McIntosh as Johnny says “he loves doing indies.” Lumis pulls out a magazine and begins reading it all the while remaining silent. Johnny says that he loves Lumis as much as he loves Theory.
McIntosh asks them about the wedding between Indi and Lumis. Johnny says he saw it as the season finale of The Way and that he’ll never forget the reaction of the fans when Lumis spoke. Johnny asks Lumis if he has anything to add and he says nothing. McIntosh asks Candice how she was able to keep a straight face and she says she never wants to be the straight man again because she wanted to laugh all the time. She said it was impossible not to laugh and stated she had to turn around so fans did not see her laugh at her. Johnny said that the after show segments were always unscripted and he always tried to make people laugh.
McIntosh asked Johnny how he felt about NXT 2.0, and he said that he was fine with the change. He said that the wedding felt like a natural ending for The Way, especially with Candice getting pregnant. Johnny said Triple H and Michaels were the first to know Candice was pregnant. He said he had to ask himself what was next after Candice was written off for maternity leave, Lumis and Indi were doing their own thing and Theory left.
Johnny said he wanted to spend the first year of Quill’s life with him and wanted to take time off to do so. McIntosh asks for his thoughts on Triple H being put in charge of creative and whether or not it influences where he’s off to next. Johnny said that he’s kept his eye on both AEW and WWE. He says there are pros and cons to both places and he hasn’t made a decision as to where he’s going yet. He says he’s lucky to be living in a time where there are options and places. He says he wants to protect the element of surprise as we do a couple fan questions.
Dave from Austin, TX asks them what their relationships were like with Vince McMahon and how they felt about being called up to the main roster. Johnny says that there was always a fear and he says he always had a great relationship with Vince and other higher ups. He says that he was loyal to Michaels and Triple H and he wanted to do what he could to build it up. He says he wanted to be there. A female fan asked what shocked them about being a parent. Johnny says the first poop right away and all things related.
We go back to McIntosh and he asks them their favorite memories in NXT. Johnny says it was when he won the NXT Championship in the Barclays Center and reveals Candice scared him when she entered the ring. Candice says her ella ‘s was after she wrestled Io Shirai at Takeover: Toronto. She was nervous about working with Io before the match, but when she saw everyone’s reaction backstage it made everything worth it to her.
Kenny McIntosh says that they are out of time and thanks Lumis, Candice and Johnny. He thanks the fans watching and everyone applauds.
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