Johnny Gargano On His Rivalry With Tommaso Ciampa, How He Felt After WWE NXT TakeOver: Phoenix

WWE NXT North American Champion, Johnny Gargano took the time to speak with the Orlando Sentinel about his eventful weekend last month in Phoenix, Arizona. Gargano defeated Ricochet at NXT TakeOver: Phoenix to become the WWE NXT North American Champion. He would then join his wife, Candice LeRae in debuting at the WWE Royal Rumble the following evening, where he lasted nearly fifteen minutes and eliminated former WWE Champion Jinder Mahal in the men's Royal Rumble match.

Although he won his first NXT singles title at TakeOver: Phoenix, Gargano says that he reached the backstage area that night with low energy. Gargano initially didn't know what people would think of the match, but if anything, he was glad to feel the validation of wearing some NXT singles championship gold.

"When I'm in the ring, I can hear the reactions and know the people are enjoying themselves," Gargano said. "They're emoting in some way, so we're doing something right. Do I realize, 'Oh, this is going to be universally praised?' No. I came back through the curtain that night, and most nights, with very low energy, because that's just how I am. I didn't realize how good people thought the match was until after the fact. For me, it was exciting to win my first [singles] title in NXT. That's validation for the hard work I put in.

Gargano has fourteen years of pro wrestling experience notched in his belt, and many performers in NXT have seen similar, lengthy careers. Gargano recognized how special it is to have watched these other NXT wrestlers grow up before his eyes.

"I don't know how many times we've all been in the locker room and said we can't believe we're all here doing this thing," Gargano said. "We've all supported one another; some of us have known each other for 10 years and been around the world together. In a sense, we've grown up together, and to be a part of the NXT team together is truly special."

Johnny Gargano and his tumultuous relationship with WWE NXT Champion, Tommaso Ciampa has been a storyline threading throughout NXT for almost four years now. The pair would team together in the inaugural Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic and then continue on as a successful tag team, obtaining their first NXT Tag Team Championships in November 2016. After losing a ladder match for the NXT Tag Team Championships at NXT TakeOver Chicago, Ciampa would turn on Gargano and then disappear from NXT TV to undergo surgery on his ruptured ACL. Ciampa returned at the conclusion of NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia to attack Gargano and set up a feud that has lasted to this day, however, nowadays the two seem closer to reuniting than feuding.

Whatever the final result may turn out to be, Gargano is proud of the unpredictable ride that he and Ciampa have given the NXT universe. He hopes that their rivalry will have the pro wrestling community talking for many more years to come.

"We've been able to make this a movie, a comic book come to life," Gargano said. "People have been very invested in the twists and turns and we want to keep them guessing. When it's said and done, people will be talking about it for years to come, and all of us involved in telling that story are very proud of that. We've taken people on a great ride."

Source: Orlando Sentinel