Johnny Gargano is one of the most popular wrestlers in NXT history, nicknamed Johnny Wrestling by the NXT faithful. With the exception of a short time where Tommaso Ciampa got into his head and made him do some bad things, Gargano has also been the most over babyface in WWE since Daniel Bryan.
Not only that but much like Daniel Bryan, Gargano is also one of the best wrestlers in the entire WWE -- regardless of brand. This means that time and time again, Gargano puts on one of the best matches of the night every time he steps in the ring -- whether it is the main event or not. Here is a look at the 10 most epic matches in Johnny Gargano's NXT career.
10 NXT TAKEOVER: ORLANDO – DIY VS. AOP VS. REVIVAL
At the time of NXT TakeOver: Orlando in 2017, the Authors of Pain were the reigning tag team champions, The Revival were hated heels that the fans respected because they were great, and DIY was the most popular tag team on the roster. At the time, Tommaso Ciampa was still a babyface and was teaming with Johnny Gargano.
This match was an elimination match for the tag team titles, and DIY teamed up with The Revival to try to take out the bigger AOP early on. It didn't work, as no one could trust each other, and even though DIY was the first team eliminated (which pissed off the fans), this match was fantastic from top to bottom and played well off DIY's feud with The Revival.
9 NXT TAKEOVER: WAR GAMES 18 VS ALEISTER BLACK
The WarGames match in 2018 between Johnny Gargano and Aleister Black came at a time where Gargano had drifted over to the dark side due to the influence of Tommaso Ciampa. He blamed Black for him not getting the title shot against the champion Ciampa and attacked Black in the parking lot in a cowardly attack.
That led to this match, with no titles on the line and placed on the mid-card. Despite that, these two men delivered the goods in this match. They fought tooth and nail for almost 20 minutes and hit each other with everything in their arsenal. Black finally got the won over Gargano with two Black Mass strikes, and it showed that, even as a heel, Gargano could deliver a masterful performance.
8 NXT TAKEOVER XXV VS. ADAM COLE
While it was not over Tommaso Ciampa like the story was set up to conclude, Johnny Gargano still fulfilled his dream and won the NXT Championship. Sadly, as is the case with many super over babyfaces, the fans started to drift away a bit from Johnny Wrestling after he won the title. It seemed surreal to hear the crowd split down the middle at TakeOver XXV between champion Gargano and the heel Adam Cole.
That likely made it the smart choice to put the title on Cole here, which is what NXT did. Gargano is better chasing titles, and Cole can rule as a heel champion with his minions in Undisputed Era backing him up. The best part of this match is that Cole won relatively cleanly in the main event of NXT special 25th TakeOver event.
7 NXT TAKEOVER: CHICAGO VS. TOMMASO CIAMPA
The Chicago Street Fight between Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa was the second match in their trilogy. Gargano won the first, and this match was a chance for Ciampa to get some revenge. However, what happened instead was that the two men just beat the living hell out of each other with any weapon they could find.
For 35 minutes, Gargano and Ciampa tried to kill each other, and it never got old. The fans were on their feet the entire match. What was brilliant was that this match started the trend of Gargano wanting to hurt Ciampa so bad that he cost himself the match. Gargano actually handcuffed Ciampa's hands behind his back but didn't try to pin him and walked into a DDT on the wood and Ciampa won an intense match.
6 NXT TAKEOVER: PHOENIX VS. RICOCHET
NXT TakeOver Phoenix continued Johnny Gargano walking on the dark side. This match saw Gargano step into the ring to challenge Ricochet for the NXT North American Championship, a title that Ricochet had defended against anyone and everyone. While Ricochet looked unbeatable, this was Johnny Wrestling.
Ricochet was fast and agile and did all his greatest hits, but Johnny was just a machine, answering all Ricochet's offense with his own. Gargano even did the unthinkable in this match. After refusing to take short cuts his entire career, he hit the brainbuster on Ricochet on the concrete floor and then got him in the ring to pin him and win his first NXT singles title.
5 NXT TAKEOVER: TORONTO - DIY VS THE REVIVAL
As mentioned earlier, the end to the AOP vs. DIY vs. Revival match from 2017 played into the feud between DIY and The Revival and the best match between these two amazing teams came at NXT TakeOver: Toronto in 2016. The match was two of three falls, and The Revival were the champions defending their titles.
The Revival hit Shatter Machine in just five minutes to take the first fall. With Gargano as such a sympathetic babyface at the time, that put DIY in the perfect spot to get the crowd behind them as they fought back from behind. The match lasted 22 minutes, and DIY came back to win the last two falls and win the tag team titles.
4 NXT TAKEOVER: BROOKLYN 4 VS. TOMMASO CIAMPA
NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn IV was the third match of the trilogy between Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa. They were 1-1 against each other heading into this match with Ciampa stealing the second match when Gargano let his anger get the best of him.
This match had the danger of being a repeat of the Chicago Street Fight since it was a Last Man Standing Match, but it exceeded that second fight. However, with that said, Gargano did it again. He was ruthless this time and showed he wouldn't fall for Ciampa's tricks. Despite that, after 33 minutes, Gargano hit a knee so hard to Ciampa that he couldn't stand up again and Ciampa got up first for the win to retain his NXT title.
3 NXT TAKEOVER: NEW YORK VS. ADAM COLE
Johnny Gargano had a story built in for his NXT career. He was the uber-over babyface, the guy who never gave up and the fans loved him for it. His best friend betrayed him when Tommaso Ciampa attacked him and destroyed their team of DIY. Gargano beat Ciampa the first time they fought, but Ciampa won both rematches and was the NXT Champion.
Ciampa tortured Gargano, causing him to question himself, and he turned heel for a short time. However, the story was always about redemption and beating Ciampa to win the title. Sadly, Ciampa suffered a knee injury and had to give up the championship. Instead, Gargano fought Adam Cole at NXT TakeOver: New York in a two out of three falls match and finally won the big one of the first time in a fantastic title match.
2 NXT TAKEOVER: NEW ORLEANS VS. TOMMASO CIAMPA
Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa were best friends and former tag team champions. However, Ciampa turned on his friend, and the greatest feud in NXT history began. The first time these men fought was at NXT TakeOver: New York and the match was "unsanctioned" due to Gargano's injuries heading into it.
What makes this match significant is that in the first time the two fought, Gargano actually won -- his only win in their three contests. The match went 37 minutes -- the longest of their three. Gargano had to win to get his job back in NXT, and he used a knee brace latched over Ciampa's face to get the win by submission. It was the ultimate babyface redemption story.
1 NXT TAKEOVER: PHILADELPHIA VS. ANDRADE
It seems strange that most of the matches on this list were ones that Johnny Gargano lost. However, even as the ultimate babyface, he never once lost his fans even when losing matches because he looked like a million bucks even in a loss. That was no more apparent than at NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia when he faced Andrade Cien Almas for the NXT Championship.
Almas had rebounded in his career, which started slowly in NXT, and he had turned into one of the top stars on the brand. When he faced Gargano with the title on the line, the two men turned in one of the best matches in NXT history. Andrade won the match, but this was a five-star affair, and Gargano came up short in this title match while still looking stronger than ever thanks to his strong performance.