AIW Owner John Thorne Says Johnny Gargano Only Charged $40 From His First AIW Match To His Last

Before he was Johnny Wrestling and one of the most decorated stars in NXT, Johnny Gargano got his start in Cleveland working for promotions like Absolute Intense Wrestling.

Gargano wrestled his first AIW match in 2006 and eventually helped run the AIW school during his time with the promotion. Gargano's last Independent matches before signing with WWE and joining NXT took place at AIW.

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Appearing on Fightful's The Spotlight, AIW Owner and Promoter John Thorne discussed Gargano's importance to AIW.

"I’ve known Johnny Gargano for almost twenty years, probably. I met him at some local shows when AIW was in its infancy. I think, maybe, I met him in 2004 / 2005. He had his first AIW match in 2006. He was pretty much with the company other than a few months off here and there. There was some local politics that went on somewhere in there with another company that was running that said, ‘Johnny Gargano can’t wrestle for you guys.’ But that only lasted a few months. He was with us all the way up until his last independent appearance, I believe. Johnny Gargano is much like someone like Dominic Garrini is, but a little bit differently. Gargano was always there to help. If someone didn’t show up, he’s offering to wrestle twice. This is really in the days before anybody knew who Johnny Gargano was," he said.

Thorne continued by saying, "He was thirsty to get more experience and then when he started getting his breaks, he always still made sure to come back and make sure AIW was part of us schedule all the time. Really kind of developed into this world class talent what felt, probably, to people like overnight. But we had been seeing it Cleveland for years that he was always on that trajectory to be one of the elite talents. At that time in independent wrestling because of his size, nobody every thought he was gonna get a contract in those years, 2006 / 2007. It was super rare. But he started getting his break and he started really traveling all over the world. He always found ways to still do our shows."

Even as Gargano's star grew as he started doing more Independent dates, including matches with EVOLVE, Thorne revealed that Johnny never asked for more money from his original deal.

"There were times where there were EVOLVE shows and there were AIW shows and he did AIW shows over the EVOLVE shows. Lots of stuff like that. He’s always been an extremely loyal guy, extremely proud to be from Cleveland. I couldn’t be prouder of what he accomplished. Everyone in Cleveland knew he was gonna be that guy. I don’t want to put him on blast or anything like this, but Johnny Gargano wrestled for forty dollars up until his last day. He never asked for more money from when he was a rookie, hey-day, local guy. He very well certainly could have. But that was the kind of guy he was. He wanted to see the company grow and so there was always a place that had quality independent wrestling in the Cleveland area. That’s just the type of guy that he was," stated Thorne.

Gargano hasn't appeared on wrestling television since leaving NXT in December. He is set to be part of Starrcast V during WWE SummerSlam weekend in July.

AIW will hold its Gauntlet For The Gold event on Saturday, May 21. Fightful will have results following the conclusion of the event.

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