Johnny Gargano discussed his secret return to WWE, appearing on August 22nd’s Monday Night Raw for the first time since his contract expiry in 2021.
Gargano, who started off with the brand’s NXT promo, gained traction as NXT’s first ever Triple Crown winner. When his contract expired in December of 2021, he chose not to resign with WWE and hadn’t been seen since with the company since.
Returning during the Toronto show Gargano surprised fans who assumed he would return during the Cleveland show a few weeks before. Speaking on WWE’s After The Bell, Gargano discussed his excitement on keeping his return a surprise.
“It happened very fast, the whole thing. It was very fun to be able to, literally keep a secret, in a time period where that doesn’t happen. Everything leaks nowadays. Everything in wrestling leaks. That was the most important thing for me, for this secret for the return, was to make it a complete surprise. Obviously, I could have come back two weeks prior in Cleveland, but everybody believed that and thought that was going to happen. That’s probably why it didn’t happen. It would have been great, I would have loved to come back in my hometown, I still haven’t wrestled in that arena, which is mind-blowing to me. It was really important for me to keep this whole thing under wraps as much as possible and the fact that we were able to do that, the fact that I flew into Buffalo and was snuck across the border. Legally, not snuck. Snuck legally. Snuck across the border into Toronto and was in a room by myself for eight hours. I was in the Toronto Raptors locker room.”– Johnny Gargano
“A big part of me didn’t want to come back in Cleveland because I knew if I would have come back in Cleveland, I would have gotten an amazing reaction, but people would have been like, ‘he’s this little kid from NXT and he got the reaction because it’s his hometown. No one knows who he is because he’s from NXT. These Indie kids. Whatever.’ To come back in Toronto with like 16,000 people in the arena, it was really cool because a commercial break happened, we came back from a commercial break, and my music started playing. The reaction was such a cool reaction to experience because it was like, the music hit and everyone was like, ‘That’s familiar, what is this?’ My name came across the tron and everyone was like, ‘What’s going on right now? What’s happening?’ I walked out and everyone lost their minds. The ‘Johnny Wrestling’ chants started and everyone was super fun to play with. That will be one of the lasting memories to me. That gradual pop and reaction when people realized what was happening. It was really gratifying,”– Johnny Gargano
After taking time off to welcome the birth of his son Quill, Gargano spoke on his appreciation for the fan’s reaction to his return. He makes his in-ring return tonight on Monday Night Raw.
H/T to Fightful for the full transcription.