wrestling / Columns

411 Interviews: Johnny Gargano of DGUSA and Chikara

November 9, 2011 | Posted by TJ Hawke

Johnny Gargano has been one of the breakout wrestlers of 2011. Along with Chuck Taylor, he recently won the Chikara Tag Titles, and this weekend in Dragon Gate USA, he will get his first chance to win the Open the Freedom Gate Title. On Friday November 11th, in Revere, MA, Gargano and Taylor will face CIMA and Brodie Lee. The full card for that show is HERE . On Saturday November 12th, in Philadelphia, PA, Gargano will face former Freedom Gate Champion, BxB Hulk. The full card for that show is HERE . Finally, on Sunday November 13th, in Manhattan, NY, Gargano will get his Freedom Gate title shot against Yamato (unless Yamato loses the title to Chuck Taylor the night before). The full card for that show is HERE . All three of those events will be available on iPPV at WWNLive.com. You can sign up HERE to get access to WWNLive and all of their archived shows.

TJ Hawke: Dragon Gate USA has its final shows of 2011 on November 11-13th. On November 12th, you have a big singles match with the first Freedom Gate Champion, BxB Hulk. Then on November 13th, you may have your first shot at the Freedom Gate Title when you challenge Yamato (If Chuck Taylor doesn’t win the title the night before). How do you feel about these matchups? Does it seem surreal to you that you worked a pre-show Fray on the first DGUSA show and now you are a main eventer for the promotion, just 2 and a half years later?

Johnny Gargano: That’s the perfect way to explain it, man. Completely surreal! It seems like just yesterday that I was getting ready for that first Dragon Gate USA show. I still distinctly remember sitting up in the balcony in the ECW arena and being completely blown away by the true talent and athleticism of guys like CIMA, BxB Hulk, and YAMATO. I made a decision that night that I NEEDED to be that good, and I wouldn’t accept anything less.. And now two and a half years later to be able to go toe to toe with those guys in high profile matches is all still pretty amazing to me. I think it truly shows though that if you want something, and you work your tail off for it, that anything is possible. BxB Hulk is the first Open The Freedom Gate Champion, and this is a match I more than wanted. If I want to be able to show that I’m the best, then I have to be in the ring with a guy who’s been the best. I’ve never been in the ring with Hulk, but I’m looking forward to finding out what makes him so good. After that, it gets tricky. The next night in NYC at BB Kings (one of my personal favorite places to wrestle), it’s me and YAMATO, and The Open The Freedom Gate title MAY be on the line if my pal Sexy Chuckie T doesn’t beat him the night before. Everyone knows how I feel about The Open The Freedom Gate championship. It means you’re THE MAN in DGUSA, and undoubtedly one of THE very best in the world. It’s the apple of everyone’s eye and I’ve had my eye on that piece of gold since its inception and that’s not going to change. Chuck’s one of my best friends, and I want to see him achieve his goals. At the end of the day RONIN is still a team, and I’ll be thrilled if he’s able to beat YAMATO. It may make my match with YAMATO a little different the next night, but at the end of the day I still haven’t been able to make YAMATO tap out on two different occasions. I’m coming to BB Kings with a goal in mind, and that’s making YAMATO, one of the best in the world tap out.

TJ: You first big DGUSA PPV singles match was with CIMA at the first anniversary show in 2010. Then at the 2011 Wrestlemania Weekend shows, you battled CIMA again. What did you think was the biggest difference between yourself as a performer in the first match compared to the second match? Dragon Gate USA promoted your second match with CIMA as your “breakout” match; do you agree that this was a “breakout” match for you?

JG: I do agree. Confidence, confidence, confidence. My first match with CIMA was my first time really wrestling a Dragon Gate guy, and for my first time to be against a guy like CIMA was pretty intimidating to be honest. I really wanted that match to be something special, because I knew I had it in me. When it was all said and done, it really wasn’t what I was hoping it would be. With anything though, you have to be patient. You have to bide your time and I truly feel I was more than ready to have the type of match I initially wanted in that “breakout” match in Burlington, NC at Open The Southern Gate. It was a WAR! Everything just worked besides my left ear after the match was over. Slaps, man. PS: I still can hardly hear out of it. Check it out today at WWNLive!

TJ: I’ve heard you in past interviews express self-doubt about your own abilities, but you said you that were very happy with your two most recent DGUSA singles matches against Akira Tozawa and Naruki Doi. What was the difference in those two matches that made you so happy with your performaces?

JG: Growing up as a pudgy, fat, shy kid, I had a lot of self-confidence issues. I never really felt like what I was doing was “good” or “right” and that’s stuck with me until today. I’ll tell you one thing though, the only place I truly feel like I’m appreciated or I’m doing the “right” thing is in a wrestling ring. That’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s a curse as I’m never happy with my own work most the time, and it’s a blessing as I’m never content with myself. In this business you need to constantly change and constantly improve or you’re going to get left behind. I’m never happy so I’m constantly looking for ways to better myself in every aspect.

I’m really not sure what I liked about those two matches specifically. I liked them both for different reasons. I thought me and Tozawa put on a crazy display of just pure awesome wrestling, and I think me and Doi had a phenominal story that the crowd latched onto and made AMAZING. Legitimately it’s one of my favorite crowd reactions for a match I’ve been in ever. So kudos to everyone in attendance in Milwaukee. You guys were superb. Those are two of my favorite matches of my career though, I’m super proud of them. Tozawa is who everyone thinks he is, an AMAZING talent; Doi is a guy who (since the first DGUSA show) is someone I’ve ALWAYS wanted to wrestle. We were supposed to wrestle at Wrestlemania weekend as well, but it was changed due to injury and I was super bummed. I believe everything happens for a reason though, and we were supposed to hold it off until that fateful day in Milwaulkee, Wisconsin. I was more prepared.

TJ: You have also been on almost every show of Gabe Sapolsky’s other promotion, Evolve. Has that promotion helped you grow as a performer in different ways that Dragon Gate USA? Have you had a moment or match in Evolve that you are most proud of?

JG: I’m proud of being able to go out there at EVOLVE 9: Gargano VS. Taylor and be able to have our names on the bill in the Main Event of the show. Just like with DGUSA, I’ve been with the company since the very beginning, and I’ve watched it grow. I met Chuck Taylor for the first time IN THE VAN on the way to the first EVOLVE show. We were both lower tier guys who Gabe took a chance on, and gave an opportunity to, and here we were almost 2 years later in the Main Event of the show. I take great pride in that. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.

TJ: One of the other biggest companies you’re working for right now is Chikara. Currently, you are a member of the stable FIST, but you had several matches over the years there before you became a member of FIST. When and how was it decided that you were going to start working for Chikara on a more full time basis and become a member of FIST?

JG: I think like 6 months before I actually joined the roster on a full time basis it was decided that I was going to start being used more. I’d see pretty much all of the CHIKARA crew at the DGUSA shows, and I just clicked with them. In the ring, out of the ring it just seemed like a good fit. Plus I was a big fan of the CHIKARA product! It’s a comic book come to life, man. Having wrestled in the Young Lions Cup, and one offs every now and then, I just became addicted to it as weird as it sounds. I loved the crowd, the atmosphere, the characters and the straight up level of competition there. I NEEDED to be a part of it more, and I just wanted to be able to help the product in any way possible. Luckily, I’ve been able to do that.

TJ: You and Chuck Taylor recently won Los Campeonatos de Parejas from Mike Quackenbush and Jigsaw at Martyr Yourself to Caution. What did you think of the match? What have been some of your favorite matches of yours in Chikara?

JG: It’s always an honor to be able to be in the ring with a guy like Mike Quackenbush. I think winning the titles was something really special for Chuck and I. I humbly believe we’re one of the best tag teams today, and being able to win what I also believe are some of the most prestigious titles in Independent Professional Wrestling is also quite the honor. As far as some of my favorite matches I’d have to say, the trios match with FIST vs Osaka Pro and the tag with Chuck and I vs Kotoge and Harada are pretty high up there. I was also really proud of my work with Frightmare. A lot of people compared it to a modern day Jericho vs. Mysterio and that’s a HUGE compliment!

TJ: For this section of the interview Johnny, I was hoping you could give some thoughts about some of your prominent matches:

WWE Smackdown 2007: Cedric Von Haussen vs. MVP

JG: Vince McMahon told me “Good job, kid” after the match. I was 19 and I could have retired a happy lad.

WWE Superstars 2011: Johnny Gargano vs. Brodus Clay

JG: That was Joey Gray. #joeygray #neverforget

AIW Absolution 2010: Johnny Gargano vs. Bryan Danielson

JG: This is another match I really liked. I’m super proud of it, actually. You don’t know how good a guy is, until you wrestle him and for my money Bryan Danielson is without a shadow of a doubt THE BEST WRESTLER IN THE WORLD. It’s not just a gimmicky name… it’s fact. He’s beyond words and I guy I really look up to, both in and out of the ring. I can’t say enough good things about him. To be able to go 30 minutes in my hometown with a guy of his stature did wonders for my confidence back then, and after the match when he put me over will be a moment that lives with me forever. PS: We also shared a hotel room once and searched the word “boner” on Twitter for countless hours of entertainment. Yep. Go ahead, try it.

Chikara King of Trios 2011: FIST’s run to the finals vs. Team Australia, vs. Team Osaka Pro, vs. Team Michinoku Pro, vs. The Colony

JG: That whole tournament was crazy. I already touched on how much I enjoyed the Osaka Pro match, but to be able to be in the ring with the Michinoku Pro guys: Wow, talk about an honor. Also, to be in the finals with THAT MUCH TALENT in that tournament is also mind blowing.

DGUSA Fearless 2011: Johnny Gargano vs. Austin Aries

JG: A lot of people really enjoyed this match. Austin Aries himself said that I reminded him of a younger version of himself, so this match meant something. I remember I had both a Generation Next T-Shirt and an Austin Aries T-Shirt when I was younger, so that tells you what it meant to me. I’m a huge fan of his work. Being able to be in the ring with guys like Aries and Danielson, and Shelley, Jacobs, etc is so surreal now. I looked up to these guys! I used to read there Live Journals! Whatever happened to Live Journals anyway? I guess Twitter is kind of the new Live Journal.. but I digress. It’s a pretty cool thing.

Beyond Wrestling Back in the Flesh 2011: Johnny Gargano vs. Davey Richards

JG: I want to be in the ring with the best that wrestling has to offer. I feel it ups my game, and I have to prove to myself that I can hang with them, whoever they are. A LOT of people wanted to see this match and people seemed to really enjoy it. This was my first time working Davey and hopefully not my last. He’s an exceptional talent, but you all already know that.

TJ: Thanks Johnny for taking the time to do the interview. Is there anything else you want to plug while you are here (Twitter, Facebook, merch, how to be booked, etc)?

JG: You can find me on Facebook, I believe I’m the only Johnny Gargano on there. Also.. FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER! I’m fairly entertaining in 140 characters or less @JohnnyGargano . I also have a pretty swank shirt that doesn’t have a half-naked dude on it, so you can wear it wherever! You can hit me up anywhere to inquire about purchasing one of them. You can also email me – [email protected] for info on bookings, or whatever.

PS: I told my Dad my email once (he’s not too keen on the internets) and he chuckled and said “Hot Male? What the hell?! Who do you think you are?” and I had to explain to him that even though I’m a decent looking kid, it was just the name of the email server.

On that note: Support GOOD Indy Wrestling! We have the power to make wrestling good! Let’s do it!


Sign up HERE at WWNLive to buy the three DGUSA iPPVs this weekend.

Also, check out
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Beyond Wrestling
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Thanks everybody for reading! You can send feedback to Twitter or at my email address: [email protected] If you are a wrestling personality who would like to be interviewed by 411mania, you can also contact me in either of those ways.


Be sure to check out some of my past 411 Interviews

Kevin Steen
Eddie Edwards
Mike Quackenbush
Nigel McGuinness
Lance Hoyt/Vance Archer/Lance Archer
Silas Young
UltraMantis Black

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For all of my interviews (like Steve Corino , Davey Richards , Jimmy Rave , Joey Ryan , Kyle O’Reilly , AR Fox , etc.) before 411mania, check out my Road to Mania Blog (where I still do stuff like Wrestlemania Build coverage, Wrestling DVD reviews, movie/TV reviews and more).

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TJ Hawke

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