Johnny Garagano might just be the greatest NXT North American Champion of all time, but he has a huge obstacle in his way -- literally and figuratively.
Gargano defends his NXT North American Championship on NXT this week against Bronson Reed in a cage match. Immediately, fans flooded the now brash character with clips and memes.
"The first thing I saw, as soon as the cage match was announced, was Rikishi and Val Venis. I hope that doesn't happen because that would suck. He's a big big boy and I can't imagine...I felt that splash with my wife on his back off the top of a ladder. I'm not good at science and things like that, but with the added height of the cage and his added weight equals not good for me. That's my equation for the day," Gargano told Fightful in an exclusive interview.
Gargano himself is in a unique position, he's young, yet experienced. However, after over 15 years of wrestling, a steel cage isn't something he's found himself in very often. Gargano is still looking for ways to be creative, though.
"It's really only my third cage match ever in my career. Cage matches weren't really at the top of my list like, 'I really want to be in a cage match one day.' Ladder match was the number one thing I wanted to be in in WWE and then I was in one of the first ladder matches and I realized ladder matches hurt and feel horrible. They don't look as cool as they do, everything is just bad. I pride myself as being a student of the game and being creative with my surroundings. I think I have a decent brain for professional wrestling and I like to get creative. I look forward to the challenges of the outside obstacles and different things I can put in there as opposed to a normal singles match. Now I have way more things to play with. Different heights and elements. That's something that is very exciting for me," said Gargano
Later in our conversation, we discussed the huge explosion of talent from the Cleveland area in pro wrestling, and he says the mentality cultivated in the area helps him with larger opponents.
"It comes down to Cleveland always has that underdog mentality, it's just bred into us. We're perpetually told we're not good enough and we're not going to make it. You have to find something inside of you to scratch and claw for what you want. Especially in pro wrestling, you always have to do that, especially if you're not 6'5" and 325 pounds. You'll always have to fight, scratch, and claw for what you want. People from Cleveland, Ohio already have half the battle won because they're used to being told that they aren't good enough and they're used to saying, 'Okay, I'll show you how good I am' and they're used to working hard. I do believe that's what made me who I am; living in Cleveland," said Gargano.
You can see our full interview with Johnny Gargano at the top of the page, and see his match with Bronson Reed on USA Network Tuesday at 8 PM EST. Gargano will be defending his NXT North American Title inside of a steel cage.