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Johnny Gargano Makes WWE Return on Raw, Drops Austin Theory with Superkick

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVAugust 23, 2022

Photo credit: WWE.com

After allowing his WWE contract to expire in December, Johnny Gargano made his return to the company on this week's episode of Monday Night Raw.

WWE @WWE

JOHNNY GARGANO IS BACK!!!!!!!!!<a href="https://twitter.com/JohnnyGargano?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JohnnyGargano</a> has arrived on <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WWERaw?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WWERaw</a>. <a href="https://t.co/KmPs8c3OTG">pic.twitter.com/KmPs8c3OTG</a>

Gargano was confronted by his former stablemate Austin Theory, who currently holds the Money in the Bank contract:

WWE @WWE

Well things just got VERY interesting on <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WWERaw?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WWERaw</a>!<a href="https://twitter.com/JohnnyGargano?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JohnnyGargano</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/_Theory1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@_Theory1</a> <a href="https://t.co/hn1FFy9M5F">pic.twitter.com/hn1FFy9M5F</a>

WWE @WWE

NO WAY, <a href="https://twitter.com/_Theory1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@_Theory1</a>!<a href="https://twitter.com/JohnnyGargano?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JohnnyGargano</a> just made his choice on <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WWERaw?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WWERaw</a>. <a href="https://t.co/gg1LlhU3Q4">pic.twitter.com/gg1LlhU3Q4</a>

Ever since Triple H took over as WWE head of creative in July following the retirement of Vince McMahon, speculation increased regarding Gargano possibly signing a new deal with the company.

Triple H @TripleH

Believe in yourself. <br>Nobody will do it for you. <br><br>Welcome to <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WWERaw?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WWERaw</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/JohnnyGargano?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JohnnyGargano</a>! <a href="https://t.co/prY2obXNor">https://t.co/prY2obXNor</a>

The Game was the creator and booker of NXT, which is where Gargano thrived and gained his greatest success and recognition in the wrestling business. Gargano held every major title the brand had to offer.

When he opted against re-signing in December, it came at a time when NXT was in a state of flux, as the traditional black-and-gold brand switched to NXT 2.0.

While Triple H was recovering from a heart issue, the balance of power in NXT changed and transitioned toward primarily featuring young, raw talent with somewhat limited wrestling experience.

That was in stark contrast to Triple H's NXT, as he favored a mix of developmental wrestlers and established stars from the independent scene.

Gargano competed in his final match for the brand at NXT WarGames in December, when he, Tomasso Ciampa, Pete Dunne and LA Knight represented the original NXT in a losing effort against Bron Breakker, Carmelo Hayes, Tony D'Angelo and Grayson Waller.

Johnny Wrestling gave a heartfelt goodbye speech on the following episode of NXT, only to get attacked by Waller at its conclusion.

After that, Gargano took some time off so that he and his wife, fellow former NXT star Candice LeRae, could focus on caring for their newborn son.

It initially looked as though AEW would be the best place for the 35-year-old because of its focus on the in-ring product and the fact that it had signed so many former NXT stars.

However, the narrative changed completely when Triple H took on an increased role in WWE, especially once he started bringing back some of his NXT favorites.

He re-signed Dakota Kai, Karrion Kross, Scarlett and Dexter Lumis, seemingly increasing the likelihood of Gargano returning.

The speculation finally became reality on Monday, when Gargano resurfaced in WWE and started what promises to be a fruitful run with Triple H at the helm.


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