Johnny Gargano on what the Cruiserweight Classic means to a generation of competitors
Johnny Gargano has been working hard to make a name for himself since arriving in WWE NXT for the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic last fall. In addition to stepping between the yellow ropes, Gargano still keeps a full schedule competing on the independent scene around the world.
That gives “Johnny Wrestling” a unique perspective on what the Cruiserweight Classic means to sports-entertainment as a whole. WWE.com caught up with Gargano at a recent EVOLVE Wrestling show to get his perspective on the CWC, and find out why he thinks he’s the best prepared competitor out of the 32-man field.
WWE.COM: You’ve been in NXT for a few months and have a feel for competing in a WWE environment. Do you think that gives you an advantage in the Cruiserweight Classic?
GARGANO: I’d like to think so, but I don’t know. There’s a lot of great talent coming in from all over the world. I’d like to think that being a more established NXT Superstar helps me out a bit. Maybe I’ll have a slight advantage with the audience, because they’re more familiar with me. Other than that, this is anyone’s game. With all of these guys coming in looking to prove something, people might think that I’m not as hungry as they are, just because I’ve already been on NXT, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I’m hungrier now, knowing what it takes to compete in that environment.
WWE.COM: In addition to being on the NXT roster, you also still compete on the independent circuit. What is the buzz about this tournament like?
GARGANO: It’s the talk of the town. Everywhere I go, every fan that comes up to me asks about the Cruiserweight Classic. Before I was announced for the tournament, people were asking me if I was going to be in it, or if I knew anyone that was going to be a part of it. They wanted spoilers!
WWE.COM: You’ve competed against many of the entrants in the CWC. Do you think this is a coming-out party for your generation?
GARGANO: One hundred percent. A lot of people don’t think about wrestling for WWE when they see guys like us. We have more obstacles to jump over. But then you see a guy like Daniel Bryan, who overcame everything and went to the top of the mountain. He kicked in a lot of doors for us.
WWE.COM: It has been a long road for many of the entrants.
GARGANO: We’ve been wrestling on the indies for a very long time; some of us over 10 years, easy. To get an opportunity like this, to wrestle on WWE Network in front of, potentially, over a million people, is mind-blowing. For a lot of these guys, it’s going to be the biggest exposure they’ve ever had. I would say it’s not only a coming-out party for them, but for independent wrestling, because fans are going to tune in and say, “Where can I go see Zack Sabre Jr. wrestle?” or “Where can I see Drew Gulak wrestle?” “Oh, I can see them at an EVOLVE Wrestling show? I’ll check that out.” It’s beneficial, not only for the wrestlers, but the promotions they work for.
WWE.COM: What do you think will make you stand out in the tournament?
GARGANO: A lot of people have said that what makes me stand out is my passion, my heart. I am not the best high-flyer or technical wrestler. What I do have is a work ethic that can’t be beat. I will get in the ring and pour my heart out. I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that when the Cruiserweight Classic is over, the one name on people’s minds is Johnny Wrestling.
WWE.COM: Is there anyone in particular that you want to face in the CWC?
GARGANO: They’re all tremendous talent. I’ve wrestled Rich Swann countless times. I’ve faced Akira Tozawa in Japan and America. Zack Sabre Jr. is another guy I’ve faced many times. The talent pool is so diverse that I’m excited to see [all of] the potential matchups, not just my own. It’s going to be crazy, man. I’m excited, not just as a competitor, but as a fan, just to see some of the matchups.
The word 'cruiserweight is going to have a new meaning after the CWC.
WWE.COM: You’ve been teaming with fellow CWC entrant Tommaso Ciampa since you arrived in NXT. If you two were to meet in the tournament and only one of you could move on, would that affect your partnership?
GARGANO: I don’t think so. We both have been at this for a very long time and understand what’s at stake. At the end of the day, Tommaso is a guy I can call a friend. We were friends before we started with NXT. We had our tryout together. We’re constantly traveling together. When we’re doing NXT, we’re together. He’s probably the guy I text most in my life. He’s going to be a part of my wedding in September. Our friendship will go on.
WWE.COM: When they hear “cruiserweight wrestling,” some of our fans might first think about guys like Rey Mysterio and other high-flyers. How do you think the cruiserweight style has evolved since the mid-1990s?
GARGANO: When it comes to cruiserweights, anything goes. You’re going to have guys flying, guys doing technical wrestling and guys that are heavy on striking. I think the world “cruiserweight” might be looked down upon a little, but I think this is going to be revolutionary. The word “cruiserweight” is going to have a new meaning after the CWC.