- NXT TakeOver: Toronto gave us what was hailed as possibly the best NXT or even WWE tag match ever up to that point, with a 2/3 falls match between #DIY and The Revival for the NXT Tag team championship. Despite the deviousness of Dash and Dawson, #DIY won the day with a simultaneous Gargano Escape and armbar on both members of the Revival to win the titles.
- His series of matches with Andrade "Cien" Almas:
- At NXT TakeOver Brooklyn III, an excellent opener that ignited the Brooklyn crowd for the night. The ending was nothing short of genius, involving Almas' manager Zelina Vega momentarily distracting Gargano by throwing a DIY shirt at him (not even three months after Tommaso Ciampa's betrayal of Gargano), allowing Almas to pick up the win.
- Everything about their match for the NXT Championship at NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia was nothing short of flawless. They put a spectacular MOTY candidate in front of a white-hot crowd, not even a month into 2018, and became the first Dave Meltzer-rated Five Star Match for WWE since CM Punk vs. John Cena in 2011. As quoted by Mauro Ranallo, "You could not ask for more, out of an NXT Championship match."
- As soon as the main event of Johnny Gargano v. Tomasso Ciampa was finished, many reviews were calling it the greatest match in NXT history. For 37 minutes, the duo put on an all-out war with amazing spots such as Ciampa grabbing the crutches of a fan to attack Gargano. It culminates in Gargano seemingly falling for Ciampa's begging for mercy, sitting down in a Call-Back to their match at the WWE Cruiserweight Classic, only to dodge Ciampa's cheap shot with his leg brace, then using it himself in an STF to force him to tap out. Also, the fact that Ciampa managed to get nuclear heat from the infamously smarky NXT audience is a CMOA in itself (and hey, being booed this loud and long is the greatest compliment a heel can get!). The match was an awesome match that closed an awesome night, being the second five-star match in that 2018 night.
- It cannot be understated how amazing this match was. It was the culmination of an entire year's worth of storyline, starting from Ciampa's betrayal of Gargano at Chicago and continuing throughout his injury, up until his return, where he cost Gargano his NXT career by attacking him during his NXT Title match with Andrade "Cien" Almas. After that, all bets were off — Gargano had spent almost all of the time Ciampa was away ignoring any and all thoughts about his former best friend, having been thoroughly traumatized by the betrayal to the point that anything having to do with #DIY had become a Trauma Button for him. But this? This had finally caused Gargano to return Ciampa's hatred in spades, going as far as to stalk the man himself in person in the following weeks until the unsanctioned match was scheduled, with Gargano's reinstatement to NXT on the line. Even before the beginning bell rung, every person in the arena and those watching at home could feel the tension between the two men, from Gargano's Tranquil Fury and Death Glare to Ciampa's Trash Talk. All of it conveyed exactly what this was — not a match, but a fight to the finish, between two former best friends that absolutely despised each other.
- One really has to give it up for Johnny Gargano himself. In the span of four months and two TakeOvers, he's had back-to-back Five Star classics, joining an elite group of superstars with at least two of those under his belt. Among the legends he's tied for in Five Star matches? Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, and "Stone Cold" Steve Austinnote , just to name a few. Johnny FREAKING Wrestling indeed.
- Both Ciampa and Gargano also put one of the most violent and outstanding matches of the year, this time in a Chicago Street Fight at NXT TakeOver: Chicago II.
- Prior to the entrances, as Gargano made his way through the backstage area, his wife Candice LeRae stopped him; to give him the crutch used in New Orleans before saying, "Kick. His. Ass!".
- Though not quite the quality compared to their two previous encounters (which, of course, are two massive tough acts to follow), the Last Man Standing match between Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa was an absolutely insane battle with both of them pulling out extremely vicious spots.
- His match with Aleister Black at NXT TakeOver: WarGames II was a brutal, hard-hitting match that saw both unleash absolute hell against each other, with the deluded once-babyface Gargano displaying excellent heel work throughout, especially in the closing stages, where he essentially suckered in Black to finish him with a Black Mass, only for Gargano to avoid the kick to deliver a Garga-No Escape.
- Putting up an absolute clinic with Ricochet, not unlike the former's spectacular match with Will Ospreay years ago. Both men brought out the best in each other, with ridiculous counters and insane high-flying moves from both these guys that ended with Johnny Wrestling winning the NXT North American title.
- Proceeded to steal the Super Bowl halftime with the revived Halftime Heat match, where he joined forces with (former?) rival Tommaso Ciampa and Adam Cole against the trio of Aleister Black, Velveteen Dream and Ricochet in a tag team match. Despite clocking in at barely over 16 minutes, it still delivered and then some, with many agreeing it was worth watching over the actual Halftime Show, no hyperbole.
- Gargano outsmarts Ciampa.
- NXT TakeOver: New York: Johnny Wrestling put on what may be the performance of his career. In a two out of three falls match for the vacant NXT Championship against Adam Cole, Gargano showed his Rebel Heart throughout the 40+ minute battle. Despite going down to the Last Shot in the first fall, Gargano recovered, throwing everything in his arsenal at Cole and then some (including Ciampa's Air Raid Crash, bridging Fujiwara arm bar, and his hanging DDT). Gargano eventually evened things up by making the Panama City Playboy submit to the Garga-No-Escape. Then the third fall began and the two gave their all. Numerous super kicks to the head (some to the back of his head!) weren't enough to take Johnny down. Nor were multiple Last Shots. The frickin' Panama Sunrise (Canadian Destroyer out of the corner)?! A near-fall. The Undisputed Era ran in to help Cole, distracting the referee long enough to break up another Garga-No-Escape before shoving Johnny into the ref, knocking him out of the ring. This gave Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly enough time to hit their team finisher on Gargano, but Johnny still kicked out. Then NXT's Iron Man mounted a comeback that would make the "Old" Daniel Bryan proud. He took out all the members of Undisputed Era before once again locking in the Garga-No-Escape, tapping Cole out.
- With his victory over Adam Cole at NXT TakeOver: New York Johnny finally won his first ever NXT championship. Not only this, but he secured his spot in NXT history of being the first man to become an NXT Triple Crown Champion.
- How good was the match? Dave Meltzer gave it 5.5 stars. Meltzer said it was "The greatest match in WWE history." Not NXT history. WWE history.
- The follow-up at NXT TakeOver XXV was no slouch, either. Gargano looked strong in defeat to Adam Cole, earning a 5.25 from Dave Meltzer, bringing his 5*-match counter to 4 and along with Cole becoming the only two superstars in WON history to be credited with multiple >5* matches under the WWE banner.
- Just in 2018 and 2019, Johnny Gargano's racked up a 5.5-star, a 5.25-star, and two 5-star matches along with two more that just missed at 4.75 stars... and three 4.5 star matches besides those for good measure. From a performance standpoint as rated by Meltzer, his story arc from the Ciampa betrayal through his NXT Championship reign may well be one of the best 2-year runs the modern WWE has ever witnessed.
Awesome / Johnny Gargano