I recently had the tremendous opportunity to speak with Dragon Gate USA’s Open The Freedom Gate Champion Johnny Gargano about a slew of different topics. He spoke bluntly about his recent injury, his desire to make it the WWE or TNA and the pride he has in working for DGUSA. Read the complete interview below and be sure to check out his title defense March 31st at Mercury Rising 2012 against Masato Yoshino only on WWNLive.com!
Matthew Harrak: Well the first thing I have to ask you is about the back. Obviously it was a very frightening injury that could have ended your career and yet you still finished the match! Do you remember thinking something might be seriously wrong so let’s get out of here or was the adrenaline just too high for you to fathom ending the match soon?
Johnny Gargano: I don’t remember much of the match, honestly. I knew something was obviously wrong but it never crossed my mind to just stop. I don’t like letting people down. Whether that’s ridiculously stupid or not… that’s just not the type of person I am. I had a job to do and I was going to do it. The little adrenaline I had carried me through the match. But as soon as the bell rang and the match was over, it was done. The pain was absolutely indescribable.
MH: Is this something you are fearful of when you get in the ring now? Have you had to adjust your style at all in order to not have to go through that pain again?
JG: Eh. You never know. It’s always in the back of your mind. Injuries and pain are just a part of the job. I’ve been around professional wrestling in some way shape or form since I was 8 years old. I know the risks involved. And you have to ask yourself, “Is it worth it?” I love wrestling. I always have and I always will. Does it take a toll on my body? Of course! But I feel if you truly love something, it’s always worth it.
MH: As you’ve mentioned before, you’ve achieved your dream of becoming a World champion and in one of the fastest growing promotions in the country. I know your focus is probably only in defending the title right now but are WWE or TNA on the radar? Is that the “ultimate” goal?
JG: Oh definitely. I think when you’re a kid with a dream of becoming a “Professional Wrestler” your ultimate goal is always to work for the WWE. I’m no different. To me, that’s the place to be. I’m only 24 years old, so I feel I have plenty of time. My game plan has always been to go the route of a CM Punk or Bryan Danielson. Do everything you possibly can in independent professional wrestling and when you’re ready, the time is right, and things work out, you get a chance to go to WWE. I feel that all that experience really benefits you in the long run.
MH: Has there been any communication between you and either of the Big 2? With Daniel Bryan and CM Punk both as World champions, you would think they would be reaching out to guys with a similar style.
JG: I’ve gotten the opportunity to work with both WWE and TNA throughout the past few years. It’s always an honor and pleasure. The first time I actually did something… or should I say “Cedrick Von Haussen” did something with WWE… I was only 20 years old. Which is crazy when I think about it now.
MH: “Cedrick Von Haussen”? Wow I’m guessing you didn’t choose that name for yourself. Who did?
JG: I did not. I was the Lichtenstein Heavyweight Champion! I have no idea who actually came up with the name though.
MH: Ok well that’s a new concept.
Now you have a trio of shows coming up during WrestleMania weekend, I believe. And one match I know you are defending your title against Masato Yoshino. What can fans expect from these events & how much pressure is put on the wrestlers since it is WrestleMania weekend?
JG: WrestleMania Weekend is the Mecca of Professional Wrestling. Fans from all over the world will converge on Miami to get their wrestling fix. It’s a really cool atmosphere! I strive off that stuff, man. I couldn’t think of a better time or place to have my first few matches back. Guys always look to steal the show and bring there A Game for the fans that weekend. Dragon Gate USA is the most exciting, innovative brand in Pro Wrestling right now, I’d say. As a wrestler, and as a Pro Wrestling fan in general, I’m ridiculously excited to be a part of it.
MH: What is your favorite WrestleMania match?
JG: Man… I have a lot. All of them involve Shawn Michaels. The Ironman Match holds a special place in my heart. HBK vs Chris Jericho does as well. That was a dream match of mine for a long time. Then Shawn’s last two matches with The Undertaker were absolutely phenomenal.
MH: Now for those fans who know about DGUSA but haven’t been to a show, what can they expect from the experience?
JG: They can expect some of the hardest hitting, fastest paced, and insanely innovative professional wrestling they’ve ever seen before in their lives… brought to you by a group of some of the most dedicated athletes around. I’ve been on almost every DGUSA show from the start and I’m still blown away by the amount of talent we have every single show. You have some of the best talent from Japan mixed with the best talent from America pouring their hearts out in the ring for the fans’ entertainment. That sounds like one heck of a show to me!