After a year filled with heartbreak, betrayal and setbacks that threatened to throw his career off-track, Johnny Gargano ended 2017 on the highest note imaginable. With the NXT Universe cheering him on, the beloved Johnny Wrestling prevailed in an utterly wild Fatal 4-Way Match against three of NXT’s most dominant Superstars — Lars Sullivan, Aleister Black and Killian Dain — to earn an NXT Title Match against Andrade “Cien” Almas at TakeOver: Philadelphia.
The rip-roaring brawl was all-out action from the opening bell. Sullivan displayed his immense power early by catching a moonsault and a dive to the floor by Black and Gargano, respectively. Yet, when the 322-pound Beast of Belfast took flight with a dive of his own, Sullivan had no choice but to crumble under Dain’s weight.
The fight spilled up the ramp, where Sullivan, now recovered from Dain’s leap of faith, press-slammed Gargano off the stage onto Black. The Colorado monster’s subsequent attempt to put Johnny Wrestling through the announce desk was thwarted, and Sullivan soon found himself under attack by Dain again, this time with the SAnitY heavyweight jumping off the stage and splashing Sullivan through the table.
More big hits flew once the battle re-entered the ring. After tagging Dain and Sullivan with his signature strikes, the Dutch destroyer appeared to be on the verge of victory until Undisputed ERA made their presence felt in the No-Disqualification Match. First, NXT Tag Team Champions Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly pulled Black to the floor, only to have the mercurial Superstar handle them with ease. Undisputed ERA front man Adam Cole, looking for payback for his loss to Black in a Qualifying Match, then attacked the sinister striker, dropping him with a neckbreaker onto his knee.
Never one to let an injustice go unanswered, Gargano leapt to Black’s aid, tackling Cole with a suicide dive. He then spun Dain into Sullivan, smashing them into the steel steps and effectively taking out both hosses before returning his focus to Black. Gargano spiked Black with a slingshot DDT and pinned him, ending Black’s undefeated streak and causing the NXT Universe to erupt in chants of “Johnny Wrestling.”
Battered and bruised, Gargano savored the moment as the realization sunk in that an NXT Championship opportunity against Almas, which once seemed so farfetched, is now guaranteed.