Johnny Gargano recently joined Busted Open Radio. Gargano was asked what separated the NXT locker room from all the others in pro wrestling, and he stated his belief that it was the talents ability to use creative freedom.
“I’ve said for years that I firmly believe in our locker room,” Gargano said. “Especially if you look at the 2018, 2019 era of NXT, I’d put our locker room up against any locker room in the world. And I think what separates, especially from the show perspective, is just the creative freedom, right? Especially for a guy like me, a guy like Adam Cole, guys like that who have earned the trust. They’re going to go to us and they’re going to say ‘okay, how can we make this better? You have any ideas you can go for?’
“A lot of the stuff you’re seeing with The Way on TV right now, as horrifying as it is to say, it’s kind of from my brain. The Johnny Gargano you’re seeing on TV right now is the close to real Johnny Gargano as you’re going to get. It’s funny because when you look at me, you see the relatable underdog Johnny Gargano, Johnny Wrestling. You know that of me. But what you’re seeing on TV right now is the most authentic, and I think that just comes from the freedom to go out there and just do what I love, and just give you me.”
Gargano went on to state that he feels this current era of NXT is his favorite and he believes the brand is firing on all cylinders. He brought it back to the creative freedom and talked about challenging himself to become more sports entertainment oriented, as opposed to be a straight up wrestler.
“I definitely think so,” Gargano said. “And you brought up kind of the whole, people might say ‘oh this is pro wrestling. Where’s the sports entertainment? Where’s the entertainment value?’ I took that upon myself. I kind of saw the show and I was like ‘okay, there’s a lot of great matches. Everyone’s a great wrestler. What can I do to give a different element to this show?’ You get The Way and you get kind of the sitcomy sort of vibe there. You get the Gargano Christmas schedule. You get all the skits like sending Austin to therapy. All the stuff with Dexter (Lumis).
“Like I said, I took it upon myself as a challenge. Because people always saw me, and guys like me, smaller guys, they always get the ‘oh he’s a great wrestler. But what’s his character? Like I don’t really know what his character is. I don’t get his character.’ It’s like ‘okay. You don’t know what my character is? I’m going to give you every freakin character in the world. Here it is!’ So I think that, that’s what’s fun for me. I’m a kid from Cleveland, Ohio, so I have a chip on my shoulder always. So I’m kind of always looking to go after people who keep moving the goalposts for me.”
Busted Open co-host Bully Ray asked Gargano how NXT could work to grow their audience. Gargano believes the best way is to reward the viewer by developing long term stories.
“We’ve gone after different niche crowds,” Gargano said. “We brought back the Great American Bash, we brought back Halloween Havoc. And Halloween Havoc did immensely well, it was great. And I think it comes down to telling long term stories. Everyone knows me, I love Marvel movies and things like that. I love being able to reward the viewer for watching. You don’t want to feel like you’re wasting your time. You don’t want to tune in one week, then tune in the next week and go ‘wait, what’s happening?’
“You want to see a thread. You want to see a long term story. And I think that’s when NXT is at its best, when it’s capable of telling those long term stories. Stories like me and Tommaso. Stories like Kyle and Adam. I think when you’re able to tell these stories, that’s when you hook your audience. That’s when you start building your viewership, is when from week to week you are rewarding your viewers for tuning in.”