Guest: Johnny Gargano
Release Date: February 7th, 2018
Recap by: Sean McGraw
X-Pac is joined by Jimbo, Denise, and TK. This week’s guest will be Johnny Gargano. X-Pac jokes that WWE wasn’t really happy that he hit them up asking for Gargano or Velveteen Dream at the last minute.
A rental car mishap puts a WWE Star’s life in jeopardy
Shelton Benjamin discovered a loaded handgun in the glove compartment of his rental car. X-Pac can’t believe that the car company wouldn’t check the car completely. He says that after his years of travel in and out of rental cars there have been little things here or there that he’s found, but a loaded gun is insane. “Who frickin’ forgets a loaded gun? Who even frickin’ forgets something like that?”
X-Pac says that we can use our imaginations and think of all of the terrible things that can happen with a black man driving in a car, with a loaded gun, in the state of Missouri. It’s all bad scenarios. Who would believe him if he explained that the gun wasn’t his – or even worse, he’s pulled over and asked to get his registration and grabs the gun not even knowing what it is. He would probably be shot and killed right there!
X-Pac says the first thing that he would have done would have been to call the police – but that might not be the best decision since he’s black. Tweeting it out first might have been the best move so that he didn’t just show up somewhere with a gun. Thank god nothing bad happened in that situation.
A Superstar has undergone neck surgery
WWE has announced that Jason Jordan has undergone surgery on his neck. X-Pac’s first thought is that it’s probably a surgical fusion. The reports were that Jordan was having issues with his grip and that the situation seems to be similar to when Edge had to have neck surgery. X-Pac has had the surgery. You CAN come back from it. It’s a bit of a downer because Jordan was just starting to find his way on the main roster. Plus he’s done so much work to get to where he’s been. You’d like to see the payoff.
When you are coming back from that surgery are you just trying to not re-injure the neck? X-Pac says yes – at first – until you get dumped on your head the first time and you realize you’re ok. When X-Pac was coming back from his surgery he was working with Jeff Jarrett at the time. He got dropped way high during a belly-to-back suplex spot. He was real shaken up at first but he ended up being alright. Sometimes when guys are coming back from injury they are gun-shy in an effort to not get hurt again and that can get you hurt worse. There’s a fine line to walk when it comes to that.
205 Live has a new set of eyes
Vince McMahon is stepping aside from the show and Triple H is taking over. X-Pac says that Vince just isn’t a fan of it and that’s ok. A lot of people have their own tastes. Ten years ago you might not have pegged Triple H as a fan of cruiserweights since he’s the opposite, but watching NXT and the Cruiserweight Classic you can see that he understands why people like it. 205 Live has mainly been WWE’s version of cruiserweights – kind of limiting to the cruisers. The past two weeks (since Triple H has taken over) you can see a reversion to more of the CWC style that people were attracted to.
X-Pac has no idea of what Vince actually thinks of cruiserweights but he says he fought for a very long time to not have the Light Heavyweight Title because of how little the payouts were. That kind of gives a little perspective to how Vince views that division. X-Pac definitely feels that the cruiser style can be improved by adding elements of the WWE Main Event style psychology-wise. The Gargano vs. Almas match is the perfect example. Triple H has a lot invested on whether he can make this show a success or not. X-Pac says he has no doubt that Triple H will.
Interview with Johnny Gargano
X-Pac introduces Johnny by saying that Triple H has told him that Johnny is the last of the white-meat baby-faces. X-Pac starts off by saying that Gargano has the coolest ring gear in the business right now. He jokingly asks for Gargano’s seamstress. Gargano laughs and says that that’s a high compliment because when Johnny was growing up he says he thought that X-Pac always had some of the best gear. X-Pac wanted to start off with that since it’s probably not a compliment that he hears a lot because of Johnny’s matches are always so good.
X-Pac wants to confirm with Johnny when/where they first met. It was in Chikara at a King of Trios event. X-Pac made a big return and wrestled El Generico. Gargano says that Pac and Generico absolutely tore the house down. X-Pac thanks Gargano for the compliment and remarks that he’s got goosebumps from hearing it. When you hear something like that from someone as good as Gargano really means a lot.
X-Pac says that Gargano has had the in-ring stuff down from the first time they met, but now he’s got all of the other factors going in high gear. He says that Gargano has one of the best physiques in wrestling right now. As a smaller guy coming into the WWE environment Gargano embraced that he was never going to be a larger-than-life 6-5 guy. If he couldn’t get bigger than he was going to get cut and get leaner. Being leaner makes you look bigger than you are anyways. Gargano says he has one opportunity in the WWE and he’s going to be dialed in and make the most of it.
Did Gargano and Almas incorporate a lot of stuff from their previous work together when they put together that TakeOver match or, because they are both so good, did they decide to go with a different style? Gargano can’t say enough good things about Almas. They were looking forward to working with each other. They always want to go out there and steal the show whether there are 50 people or 10,000 people. When two guys are willing to leave everything in the ring you can make some magic happen. If you do a series of matches you will incorporate some things but the Gargano and Almas wanted to go with a little something different at TakeOver. They made it a little more “Main Eventy.”
X-Pac says that Gargano and Almas had their work cut out for them because of all the great matches on the show prior to them. Pac says he thought they were going to have a real hard time because of how good the Black vs. Cole match was. Pac says they absolutely did it though. It was unbelievable. Gargano says that speaks volumes of what TakeOver is. Every match on those cards could be Main Event matches. That’s the beauty of them. They put on some of the best professional wrestling in the world. That’s what NXT is though. It’s such competitive environment. Everybody wants to go out and steal the show. That mentality helps everybody else on the show.
X-Pac says that they had him so emotionally invested in that match that he cried when Gargano didn’t win. For them to be able to make Pac emote like that is amazing – especially since he’s been around the business for so long. Gargano says that’s what they try to do – make people believe for even just a moment. X-Pac also puts over Gargano’s TV match with Kassius Ohno. Gargano says that Ohno is one of the best strikers in the world. Ohno is extremely talented and he was glad that they could go out there and put on a great match together. “I think that says something about my character too. I can be in there with a Kassius Ohno or I can be in there with and Andrade “Cien” Almas. Different sizes and different shapes and just different styles, and uh, have different matches. But still at the end of the day I try to make people somewhat emotionally invested in what I’m doing.” X-Pac says he does with all of his selling and the little details. The average fan may not get it when they’re watching, but they feel it. Gargano feels that his selling and emoting are his strengths.
X-Pac says that having Zelina Vega and Candace LeRae getting involved in the match is “mouth-watering” because he can’t wait to see what those two can do. Gargano has long touted Candace even though she’s his wife. She’s a super talented wrestler and a badass. He’s excited for her to show the world what she can do. X-Pac says that it must have felt great for the pop that she got from the crowd for being there. Gargano says that’s a statement on the independent scene in and of itself. People have watched them from the ground up. They are invested before wrestlers reach the WWE. X-Pac can relate to that “David and Goliath” role. When he worked for WWE everybody was much bigger than him. Gargano says that Pac is the prototypical underdog. Guys like Pac and Shawn Michaels opened up the door for a lot of smaller indy guys to be able to get in there and work. X-Pac says he’s honored to have been able to do it.
What was it like wrestling against Candace and was there ever a moment in a match where Johnny got scared or worried? It was always fun wrestling Candace. She’s one of his favorite opponents. It was always an easy story to tell and she can do a lot more athletic stuff in there than Johnny can. He tries to not watch the match as her husband. If he watches as her husband he would be worried. He always tries to take a step back and watch as a fan.
How was it finally getting to tag with Candace in NXT? To say it’s a dream come true is an understatement. It’s awesome to be able to be with each other and see each other living their dreams together. After Johnny’s last indy match they didn’t think they would ever be in the ring together again. It’s a dream come true.
Johnny recently shared his “check list” with every box having been checked. Does he have a new “check list” with a different set of goals for 2018 and beyond? He still wants the NXT championship. It represents something bigger than what it actually is. For someone who was “never supposed to be here” to be “the guy” in NXT – that’s what he wants. They have some of the best talent and wrestling product in the world. He wants to make NXT as best as he can be. Beyond that, Johnny is still a huge wrestling fan. That’s how people can kind of relate to him. He’s not afraid to talk about how cool it is to have an action figure, be in a video game, even to have a shirt produced by WWE. Those are all dreams come true. If a guy like Johnny can go out and live their dream then anyone can.
What was it like to hear that his shirt has sold out at the venue during SummerSlam weekend? It was amazing. He’s the guy who hopes that the crowd knows who he is. It’s mind-blowing that the shirt sold out in a big venue like Brooklyn. He would not be there if the fans didn’t support him.
How is the fan from his documentary reacting to all of Johnny’s success? Johnny just saw Caden when he went home for Christmas. He was also invited to Johnny and Candace’s wedding reception. He has become part of Johnny’s family. You don’t realize what you mean to certain people until someone comes up to you and tells you that they inspire you to overcome whatever problem they have. The coolest part of Johnny’s job is things like working with Make-a-Wish. To be able to touch someone’s life and make them forget about their troubles for a little bit is great. X-Pac says he’s happy to hear Johnny say that. It really is one of the most rewarding parts of all of this. It’s a huge honor.
X-Pac was listening to Johnny on Edge and Christian’s podcast and asked Johnny if he didn’t think that the TakeOver match was as good as everyone said it was? Yes. 100%. When you’re in the middle of the match, its business as usual. You don’t think you’re doing something special in the moment. At the end of the day everyone in the back was very happy. That’s all he can hope for. Did he get the standing ovation when he came back through the curtain? Yes he did. It’s crazy too because it was guys like Triple H and Shawn Michaels – guys that he looked up to his entire life. When he watched it back he thought it was pretty good. Johnny is his own worse critic. He could wrestle a 10 star match and he would find something he didn’t like about it. Pac totally relates. He still picks apart things in his own matches.
While Johnny was in the middle of the match was there things where he notices that he did something wrong. Yes, 100%. There are always things in matches where you missed an opportunity and it ruins the match for him. X-Pac says the thing that separates the good ones from the great ones are what you do after that. Johnny says that’s what makes you work harder and not satisfied and that’s not a bad thing.
Who is still on the indies that Johnny would like to see NXT sign next? There are tons of great guys and tons of great stories to tell with those guys. He won’t talk about New Japan guys because those are the obvious ones. Gregory Irons is one. Matt Cross is phenomenal and one of the best in the world for a long time. Chuck Taylor he has the “it” factor that you can’t teach. Ethan Page is another. There is no end to indy wrestling and talent pool will keep replenishing.
When will Johnny get another title shot? Johnny doesn’t know. He’d love one in the future. He and Andrade have unreal chemistry and they could fight forever. They have a lot of different stories to tell and a lot left in the tank.
Were there any habits that Johnny had to break making the transition from the indy scene to WWE? Not really. Maybe things like taking unnecessary risks or “doing too much.” It’s less breaking bad habits and just learning different ways to improve upon those habits. The culture at the performance center is world class. Johnny credits guys like Matt Bloom and Shawn Michaels as well as the other coaches. It’s a different world when they get to the performance center. It’s more television production that isn’t prevalent on the indys. He hasn’t broken any bad habits as much as learned different ways to utilize his talents and make things bigger than they really are.
This was a short but sweet episode. I really enjoyed listening to it. I find the best episodes are the ones where X-Pac and his crew and the guest make the listener feel great about being a wrestling fan. For the past couple of weeks this podcast has delivered that in spades. Johnny comes off as such a humble and down-to-earth guy. Just listening to Johnny talk about his experiences living his dream gave me the feeling that I could accomplish everything that I want to accomplish in life. Also, listening to X-Pac and Johnny go through the match at TakeOver makes me want to go and re-watch that match right away. If you were on the fence with Gargano you won’t be after listening to him on this show. The only minor thing that I would love for X-Pac to do is go just a tad more in-depth when discussing the matches with his guest. Picking a spot or two and analyzing it from his perspective and getting the guests thoughts on it would be great. That is just a really minor thing though. The past few weeks have been great to listen to and I can’t wait to see what Pac has coming up in the near future.
00:00 – 18:12 Intros and News Discussion
18:13 – 19:01 Ad Break
19:02 – 51:06 Interview with Johnny Gargano
51:07 – 1:01:05 Show wrap up
Sean is a media professional from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Sean’s earliest memory of wrestling is seeing Kane on WWF television in 1998. Sean watched primarily WWF in the Attitude Era and dropped off just before the initial brand split. Seeing recap promos of the Undertaker building up to WrestleMania 20, he became hooked and has been an avid fan ever since. Sean’s wrestling preferences currently lean more towards NJPW/ROH/NXT but he remains a fan of it all. In his spare time Sean enjoys cooking, baking, and going to the gym. You can follow Sean via Twitter @stmcgraw and Instagram @stmcgraw09.