Features

10 Greatest Johnny Gargano Matches In NXT

Johnny Gargano

At NXT 2.0 WarGames Johnny Gargano wrestled his last match for the brand having chosen not to resign with WWE and head for wrestling pastures new.

Gargano was a stalwart of the black and gold brand establishing himself as one of the best wrestlers on the planet during his five-year tenure. Affectionately known as Johnny TakeOver due to his incredible performances on the big stage his list of stellar matches Gargano participated in is astounding.

Gargano entered NXT with a strong reputation and high indie kudos from his time in Dragon Gate, EVOLVE, and PWG to name but a few. Arriving with longtime friend Tommaso Ciampa the two formed a tag team affectionately known as #DIY. Along with The Revival and Authors of Pain, they created an amazing tag team division this like of which hadn’t been witnessed in WWE for years.

Ciampa turned on his partner in violent fashion kickstarting one of the best-told wrestling stories of all time. Gargano thrived as a singles competitor going on to hold all of the titles in NXT and put on some of the finest matches of our generation.

Know a free agent he will undoubtedly have a myriad of options on the table regarding his next destination and a plethora of dream opponents.

To commemorate Johnny Wrestling’s stupendous NXT career we have put together his 10 greatest matches in NXT.

10. Johnny Gargano vs Kushida – NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day

Johnny Gargano continued his impeccable run of putting on five-star performances at NXT TakeOver events and this time he did it with NJPW legend Kushida.

The two technical wizards stole the show with this classic, as they took each other to the limit for the North American Championship. This was one of the few TakeOvers that saw Gargano as the heel, which gave the match an interesting dynamic to the bout.

This match was unsurprisingly excellent as Kushida easily put on his best performance since arriving in NXT in 2019. They exchanged a series of sublime sequences that saw some breathtaking action from two performers on top of their game.

Kushida used every bit of his submission expertise to target Gargano’s left arm throughout the match, which hindered the champion greatly throughout. Gargano was able to persevere through the pain and retain the title that is so precious to him.

9. Johnny Gargano vs Ricochet North American Championship – NXT TakeOver: Phoenix

What went down in this match was incredible. Both wrestlers were on fire, Ricochet was flying as North American Champion while Johnny Gargano was on one of the best runs any performer had in NXT history.

The athleticism and storytelling on display in this match was simply stunning. Gargano turned heel after suffering multiple disappointments in his epic feud with Tommaso Ciampa and was prepared to do whatever he deemed necessary to get ahead. And that is exactly what he did.

Gargano and Ricochet had tremendous chemistry and the flawless back-and-forth action was smooth and highly skilled. An incredible spotfest filled with thrilling sequences, insane moves and head-spinning moments.

Gargano further proved himself as one of NXT’s greatest with his first singles championship.

8. The Authors Of Pain vs #DIY NXT Tag Team Title Championship Ladder Match – NXT TakeOver: Chicago

A fantastically violent and beautifully brutal outing from Chicago in 2017. AOP and #DIY clashed in the main event, which capped an incredible night.

AOP were the most dominant tag team in NXT for years destroying all who stood in their way. In fact, they defeated their smaller and scrappier opponents to capture the title some months earlier. The introduction of the ladders in this match changed the dynamics between the two teams and countered AOP’s size and power advantage. This allowed #DIY to take the champions to their limit and deliver a new form of pain to the authors of it.

The action was excellent, but the story told in the ring was epic. Tension was growing in #DIY after a run of unsuccessful title challenges but they were out to show their connection was as strong as ever. This led to one of the best spots in wrestling history when Gargano sacrificed himself and took a ladder shot to the head to save a stranded Ciampa.

After several more thrilling spots that included DIY hitting a ladder-assisted Meet in the Middle, they ascended the ladder and grabbed the titles only to have the ladder removed leaving them hanging high over the middle of the ring. AOP plucked their opponents like low hanging fruit and hit a Super Collider that allowed the champs to claim their titles.

What followed this incredible outing was one of the most iconic betrayals when Ciampa turned on Gargano and set up one of the greatest rivalries in WWE.

7. Johnny Gargano vs Aleister Black – NXT TakeOver: WarGames II

This match had all the ingredients for a classic outing and it did not fail to deliver. It was on the featured matches on a stacked card and pitted two bitter enemies looking to dominate and rid of NXT of their opponent’s presence.

Heading into the bout there was a tonne of bad blood between the two. Black was out for revenge as it was revealed that Johnny Gargano was the mystery attacker that forced him of a championship match some months earlier. To add insult to injury Gargano’s unveiled his secret with another attack on an unsuspecting Black.

Once in the ring, the war began. Full of hard-hitting exchanges the relentless match amazed and excited the thousands in attendance. Gargano’s new cocky heel persona played a vital role as he attempted to get in the head of Black by evading his offence and mocking him as he did it. However, Black’s ruthless and blood-thirsty attacks made Gargano pay a heavy price for his wrongdoings.

It was a strike heavy encounter chock full of thrilling counters and epic near falls. The final sequence was a nail-biting and captivating series of moves that left the crowd well and truly satisfied.

6. Johnny Gargano vs Adam Cole NXT Championship – NXT TakeOver XXV

Adam Cole and Johnny Gargano in a ring create wrestling magic and even more so with the NXT Championship on the line. Gargano had finally reached the top of the NXT mountain after beating Cole for the vacant title at TakeOver: New York.

This sequel between the two certainly lived up to the original as Cole battled viciously to claim the title as Gargano fought valiantly to defend it. The two war-hardened warriors exploited one another’s injuries providing an excellent physical storyline that ran throughout the bout. Gargano focused on Cole’s arm while the leader of the Undisputed Era targetted the champion’s leg.

Both sold their wounds expertly, heightening the anticipation surrounding the outcome. All came to a head when Gargano’s leg gave way allowing Coe to take advantage and the title. The win kick-started Cole’s historic 396-day reign.

5. Johnny Gargano vs Tommaso Ciampa Chicago Street Fight – NXT TakeOver: Chicago II

Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa’s intense and bitter rivalry will go down in history as one the best because of matches like this. The two former tag team partners were in the midst of a gripping feud and had clashed in an epic encounter in New Orleans some months before. However, the passionate battle had done little to settle their differences and they would find themselves heading to Chicago for a street fight.

The match was a brutal outing with both intense performers putting mind, body and spirit on the line. The arena became a warzone as they fought wherever the violence took them. The moments this match created will live forever in the memory of all who watched it. The image of Ciampa standing over a battered Gargano and removing and then spitting on his wedding ring before throwing it into the crowd was fantastic.

The tenacious warriors inflicted wince-inducing pain onto each other with Gargano having to become the thing he hated to do so. The violent and at times uncomfortable brawl ended with an emphatic closing series that involved handcuffs, exposed wooden ring boards and a nasty DDT.

This was the second of their trio of brutal battles each one getting more violent and crazier than the last.

4. Johnny Gargano vs Adam Cole Best Two Out Of Three Falls NXT Championship Match – NXT TakeOver: New York

With the NXT Championship vacated due to Tommaso Ciampa’s neck surgery Adam Cole and Johnny Gargano fought tooth and nail to become the next champion. To make sure that a definitive champion would be crowned it was decided that they would meet in a Best Two Out Of Three Falls Match.

This was a true battle of athleticism, endurance and determination, which featured some expectation work from both phenomenal performers. The masterful wrestling combined with title stakes attached had the crowd on fire who ate up everything that took in and around the ring.

Cole and Gargano have great chemistry and it was exhibited ten-fold in this match. Both performers put their heart and soul into this title bout and the result was an all-time NXT classic.

Everything about this match just fell into place. From technical prowess on show in the first fall to the quick-fire offence of the second all complimented with an enthralling third and final fall, which ended with one of the best visuals in NXT history.

3. #DIY vs The Revival Best Two Out Of Three Falls NXT Tag Team Championship Match – NXT TakeOver: Toronto

At one point NXT boasted the best tag team division on the planet and this match is the undeniable proof of that. The was a rematch from the excellent clash at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II but the stakes were higher with the best two out of three falls stipulation attached.

The Revival were awesome old-school heels who exploited their opponents by cutting the ring in half and that is exactly what they did here. They cut Gargano out of the match, targeting Ciampa and not allowing him anywhere near his partner. This allowed Gargano to get the hot tag until the champions singled him out leaving Ciampa to watch his partner suffer.

This type of action and storytelling allowed the match to build throughout asking the fans to spur on the ever-determined #DIY. A fabulous mixture of old and new school wrestling this is a rollercoaster of a match of highs and lows and everything in between.

Widely regarded as one of the best tag team matches in WWE history and that is a point that cannot be argued.

2. Johnny Gargano vs Tommaso Ciampa Unsanctioned Match – NXT TakeOver: New York

The match that started the best feud in NXT history and arguably their best outing against each other. It was a simple and effective story. Once partners of a much-loved tag team now bitter enemies. One was the superstar babyface everyone wanted to see triumph, while the other was the despicable heel who turned on his best friend.

The turn happened months before after they failed to regain the tag team title. During that match Ciampa was injured and had to take time away, this built a groundswell of anticipation for the match, so when the bout finally came the fans were more than ready to witness the grudge of the decade.

It was way more than a match, it was a spectacle that produced Greek Tragedy levels of storytelling. The immense passion and determination combined with sheer pain and anguish of Gargano’s tale of woe is tremendous to witness. Ciampa basks in each and every vile action he completes making him one of the greatest wrestling villains in NXT.

A tremendous epic of a match that possesses one of the best psychological wars in wrestling history. Truly incredible.

1. Johnny Gargano vs Andrade NXT Championship – NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia

Easily Andrade’s greatest NXT/WWE outing as he and Gargano fought it out in front of a ravenous crowd in this all-time classic encounter. Andrade had established himself as NXT’s top heel under the guidance of his manager, Zelina Vega. His momentum saw him dethrone Drew McIntyre as the NXT Champion some months earlier and would face NXT’s top babyface Johnny “TakeOver” in his first title defence.

Gargano’s journey to the title match was a treacherous one. After Ciampa turned on him and drove him through a platform with a brutal Air Riad Crash, his fight to rebuild his confidence and succeed without Ciampa drove him. The title shot was everything Gargano lived for and to receive it was a tremendous achievement considering what he had been through but was only half the battle.

These factors brought forth a passion and emotion from the performer and had the crowd invested, which made for a thrilling occasion. The stupendous in-ring action was off the charts as Andrade used all of his heel tactics to stop and slow the fiery challenger. But Gargano’s splendid combinations forced Vega to interfere. This brought out Candice LeRae to level the playing field to a thunderous ovation. The match came to its breathtaking conclusion after 30 minutes of wrestling glory.

The storyline attached and emotional aspects of the match made it an outstanding adventure while the chemistry between Andrade and Gargano made it a wrestling masterpiece.