For Johnny Gargano, the WWE Main Roster Offers an Opportunity at Cinderella Run

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistDecember 8, 2021

Credit: WWE.com

Following Wednesday's episode of NXT 2.0, we are no surer about what the future holds for Johnny Gargano than we were before the USA Network broadcast kicked off.

The former NXT, North American and tag team champion delivered an emotional address in which he conceded that his next move is still up in the air.

A sneak attack by Grayson Waller that ended with Johnny Wrestling being powerbombed through a table offered a glimmer of hope that the 34-year-old may return to the brand he has called home since 2016, but it is on the main roster where Gargano has the opportunity of a Cinderella run he has certainly earned.


The Lovable Underdog

Gargano has many similar traits to former WWE champion Daniel Bryan.

Both were undersized when they arrived in WWE but had vastly superior in-ring skills to just about match everyone around them and a comedic personality that allowed them to play an over-the-top heel when the time called for it. 

And despite filling the role of villain proficiently, they were both turned babyface by fans who appreciated and loved them too much to continue booing them.

The only difference is Bryan's career unfolded on the main roster while Gargano's was relegated to NXT. That doesn't mean the Cleveland native can't succeed on Raw or SmackDown, though.

His biggest advantage is the love and admiration fans have for him. Johnny Wrestling is a lovable performer. He has a way of getting fans to invest emotionally in whatever he is doing, like a Bret Hart or Shawn Michaels.

It eclipses his lack of size, too, as it did for those two Hall of Famers. People inevitably forget that Gargano is smaller than your average Superstar because of the emotional roller coaster he takes you on throughout his matches. That is an invaluable asset and another reason he would succeed on Raw.

Fans would demand better for him, as they did Bryan, leading to a rebellion that would ultimately force management's hand.

Gargano would be the underdog because Vince McMahon and Co. don't know how to push anyone that size any other way, but that's OK. He has thrived in the role in NXT and would do so on Monday and Friday nights. In that position, he would have a shot at chasing the world title, with the hugely popular Superstar scratching and clawing his way to a championship no one thought he would ever win.

It would not be easy. Fans would have to sit and watch him lose matches he should have won, if only because the stubborn chairman of the company doesn't give in to peer pressure easily, but it would ultimately happen.

And he has a better shot at that occurring under the WWE umbrella than he does elsewhere.


A Crowded Landscape

AEW has a jam-packed roster that became more crowded in August with the signings of Adam Cole, CM Punk and Bryan Danielson. With the possibility that fellow NXT star Kyle O'Reilly heads there to join Cole and Bobby Fish in an Undisputed Era reunion, it severely restricts Gargano for growth.

Sometimes, too much talent can be a problem and not necessarily a good one. Not when you might be trying to lure another star into the fold.

Gargano has the love and admiration of the die-hard fans who tune into NXT every week. He has a great relationship with legendary top stars Triple H and Michaels, both of whom he addressed in his promo Wednesday night. He has roots there, and his wife will still be under contract when she returns from maternity leave.

Matt Bloom @NXTMattBloom

The greatest lessons aren’t the ones you teach, but the ones others teach you. Thank you for the lessons, @JohnnyGargano. We are all better, and I am better, for having had the opportunity to be around you. You know we are, but you will always be NXT. 💛🖤 https://t.co/hxykdj7TEF

The lifeblood of NXT mentioned that change is good and sometimes, you have to jump at the opportunity to embrace it. That change can occur in the same company, by making the jump to the main roster and becoming the star he has earned the right to be for the last five years. 

It will give him a run like that of his mentor, Michaels, and allow him to answer a whole lot of "what ifs" along the way. Best of all, it will also give fans someone to genuinely root for again, something they have not had since the height of Bryan's Yes Movement in 2014.