Exclusive interview: Why Johnny Gargano won’t be defined by failure
In the infamous words of Rocky Balboa, “It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.” Truer words cannot be applied to the career of Johnny Gargano. After suffering a painful loss to his former best friend Tommaso Ciampa at NXT TakeOver: Chicago II, a shocking defeat at the hands of Velveteen Dream and a growing reputation as a failure, Gargano has been on the hunt to regain the competitive fire that endeared him to the NXT Universe for years. This week, Gargano spoke to WWE.com about his latest career trials and why Johnny Wrestling is poised to make a comeback.
WWE.COM: You've obviously had a very difficult month or so. Where is your mind at now?
JOHNNY GARGANO: I feel like I'm in a good place. I went home to get my head right. Ever since TakeOver: Chicago, things have been spiraling out of control. I wanted to sort through whatever issues I needed to address on my own terms. I think I did that, and I'm ready to get back to work. Like I said, I can't be Johnny Wrestling just sitting on my couch.
WWE.COM: You recently said on NXT that you are going to be the man you were meant to be. You earned a victory over 205 Live’s Tony Nese this week in the process of achieving that goal. In your mind, does that win get you back on track?
GARGANO: I hope so. It's been a tale of one step forward and two steps back for me recently. I'm just trying to take things one baby step at a time.
WWE.COM: How much does it still bother you to see Tommaso Ciampa with the NXT Championship in his possession?
GARGANO: I made one very big mistake, and unfortunately, I'm reminded of that mistake every single time I see him with that title. I love NXT, and I'm well aware that this is my fault. My worst enemy is living my dream. I made a promise that I'm going to do whatever it takes to right that wrong and I will. That's how I cope with it. No whining, crying and complaining.
WWE.COM: You've had to digest going from being called “Johnny Wrestling” to hearing the term “Johnny Failure.” How did that affect you?
GARGANO: Did you watch the Velveteen Dream match? I think everyone saw how it affected me, but I know that's not who I am inside that ring.
WWE.COM: How hard was it to hear the NXT Universe calling you a failure?
GARGANO: I have a very open and honest relationship with the NXT Universe. Did it hurt being called a failure? Of course. Honestly? After everything we've been through, I thought they'd always have my back, and when they didn't, it sucked. But were they wrong? No. I did the last thing I ever wanted to do and that was let them down. I failed. But they need to realize that I'm human just like them. We all fail at something at some point in our lives, but you must do what you can to keep moving forward and learn from that failure. We're all in this thing together.
WWE.COM: We've even seen your wife Candice LeRae deal with the byproduct of your shortcomings. How has that made you feel?
GARGANO: It breaks my heart. We've made it a point to try and keep our personal and professional lives separate lately. I still love and support my wife 100 percent. She'll always be my favorite wrestler. But she deserves a chance to live her own dream and make her own path, and I know she will. I don't want anything to get in the way of that, including me.
WWE.COM: Speaking of your personal life, have you made any adjustments to mentally reshape your focus?
GARGANO: I'm just trying to move on and be positive. I've been shrouded by a cloud of negativity, pain, suffering and pure hatred these past few months, and I thought I needed to embrace that. I was wrong. I need to remember why I started wrestling over 15 years ago. I was a socially awkward 8-year-old kid who fell in love with wrestling when he felt like the whole world was against him. That's the key word: love. I don't do this for revenge; I do this because I love it. That's Johnny Wrestling.
WWE.COM: Where do you foresee your road going now?
GARGANO: Sometimes you have to fall lower than you've ever been to stand taller than you ever could. There's a big dream of mine out there that I still want to make come true. I'm going to do whatever I have to both inside the ring and out to make sure that happens.