Johnny Gargano and The Way have been on a winning streak lately, but tonight Bronson Reed hopes to put an end to it in a match for Gargano's North American Championship, a match that he managed to get thanks to General Manager William Regal and a broken pencil. Gargano was understandably pretty upset by it and looks to secure his Championship right on tonight's NXT. Ahead of the big match, ComicBook.com had the chance to speak to Gargano all about The Way's dominance, fighting in a steel cage, how The Way became superheroes, and his new comic book addiction, though that's far from all. We start though with his battle against Reed, who he has fought before, so we wanted to learn if he learned anything the last time around that could help him tonight.
"I've learned that he's a very big boy. He's very large. What can they expect in this match? Well, this one is a Steel Cage match. I've only been in one other Steel Cage match in my NXT career, and that was against Aleister Black," Gargano said. "And steel cages are always very exciting, very interesting. There's a lot of possibilities, especially when you're wrestling a guy that is well over 300 pounds inside of a steel cage. As far as bad blood goes, I mean on my part, I beat him already at TakeOver. In my mind, I shouldn't have to defend my title against him again. That should not happen, but I mean, it is happening. It will happen tonight, it will happen inside of a steel cage, and I think that people are going to be very excited to see what we can potentially do inside of that steel cage."
As for the breaking of the pencil, did he ever think to just buy Regal a new one? "See. Man, I break a pencil and I get put inside of a steel cage. I'm not sure how that's fair. I don't really know how expensive that pencil was. Obviously, I'm not from Regal's neck of the woods, so I don't know how much pencils costs there, but maybe I should've bought him a pencil," Gargano said. "Maybe I'll buy him a pen. I'd like to think a pen would be more expensive than a pencil and also harder to break. So he would thank me in that regard say, 'Oh, you know what, you're right. You don't have the steel cage anymore.'"
NXT also debuted a fantastic new poster for the match which gave Reed and Gargano a superhero makeover for a comic-style poster, which you can see below. "Yeah, so that's an artist we have. His name is Doug Hills. His Twitter handle is @DNHills. He did a fantastic job with that art. I mean, everyone knows this about me by now. Any time I can combine superhero-esque stuff into my matches, I'm always going to do it, and this one wasn't even my idea."
"So I was super pumped when I saw the art, just for the simple fact of, if you look at our, I'm going to call them TitanTrons, and I made this reference at TakeOver. So Bronson on his Tron, he comes out and he's a big monster destroying the city. And on my Tron, it's like a city, but then a Bat-Signal goes up and it's The Way logo. So it's like I'm being called upon to save the city, and I saw that at TakeOver and I saw his Tron of him destroying the city and the city transforming into a Bat-Signal and going up, and I was like, 'Oh my God, I don't know if they meant to do this, but this is the coolest thing I've ever seen.' And then to turn it into an art, that's so cool. But yeah man, it came out great. And as you know, I always loved that sort of stuff. So it's super cool to see it played out and it wasn't even my idea, so that's awesome," Gargano said.
That wasn't all though, as The Way got their own superhero costumes in real life recently, and Gargano gave us the breakdown on how they were created and what inspired them.
"So there's an artist by the name of Nolanium who designed the costumes, everything like that. And so I was actually informed the night before that episode aired that they wanted to do us dressed in superhero-esque outfits, and if we can get art made in time for the show the next day, and I knew Nolanium and I knew that he was really good at designing stuff like that," Gargano said. "So I hit him up and I was like, 'Hey man, can you design us as...' they were like, 'Okay, is it Fantastic Four? Is it Avenger? Which one is it?' And I was like, 'Oh, I might go Avengers', which is what I've been known for already. I'll save the Fantastic Four stuff for a later time. So I hit him up and he asked who should be each character."
"So I went with the Iron Man vibe for me. Candice wanted to be Thor. We figured Austin would be Hulk obviously, and then Indi was actually Black Widow," Gargano said. "So we had that vibe a bit, and then my only request was, 'Hey, can you put my dog in it?' And he said, 'Yeah, of course.' So my one request was if he could put my dog in it. So he designed it, he drew it up, and then we decided, I was like, 'Man, I think it'd be super cool for WrestleMania weekend if we bring this thing to life, so the art comes to life. And then we got those costumes made, got my guys at Main Event gear and the rest is history, man. It came out super cool."
The Way added some Championship gold to their ranks when Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell defeated Shotzi Blackheart and Ember Moon for the NXT Women's Tag Team Championships, and not only does it mean a lot to the continued success of The Way, it means a great deal to Gargano to see all of LeRae's hard work pay off.
"Yeah. I've seen everything she has done. I've seen all the hard work she's put in, and I wrote that tweet out over that message about how no one is more deserving than Candice LeRae and I firmly do believe that" Gargano said. "I've been really lucky to have a lot of success in NXT, but one of the main things I needed to see happen, I wanted to see happen, one of the things I thought deserved to happen after everything she's done, all the hard work she's put in, not just in NXT, but her entire career, that validation for her of holding a title in NXT, holding a title in WWE, that was really special. Not just for her, but for me as well."
"But I think she, for my money, is one of the best to ever do it. So to now see her get that validation of holding a title, it means the world to me, man. It's so cool to see and it's so not just deserving, but she earned that thing," Gargano said. "For everything she's done not just in the ring, but behind the scenes, all the struggles she's gone through just to get to that moment, I just had to keep reminding her, 'Please just enjoy this. Enjoy this while you have it, because it doesn't last forever. And I just want you to enjoy the moment because you have earned this thing.' And like I said, it's not just for The Way, but as me being Johnny Gargano, husband, it's so cool."
Those who follow Gargano on Twitter know that he has recently started down a rabbit hole of comics collecting, and as we all know, it may start with first appearances, but it never stays just first appearances. As for what he's after, there's definitely a Spider-Man theme happening at the moment.
"Yes. So I try to limit it to first appearances I like and also covers that I'm really a big fan of. So my latest purchase was the first appearance of Star-Lord, so that was one I was very excited for, but now, I swear to God, I have so many things I'm watching on eBay currently," Gargano said. "It's crazy.
My watch list is just insane right now. I want Amazing Spider-Man 361, the first appearance of Carnage. That's the one that I really want. I want Amazing Spider-Man #300. That's the grail right now for me. #300 is the hardest one that is obviously the hardest one that I currently have my eye on, then I want Amazing Spider-Man #252. So as you see, a trend here."
"There's a very big trend of black suit Spider-Man. That's one of my favorite arcs in comic history. I love the black suit Spider-Man. Obviously turning into Venom and then Carnage, so I want that whole first appearance run there. So those are the main ones I want. I think I also have X-Men #134 on my list because it's the first appearance of Dark Phoenix, And that's not even getting into... I know, I can't justify it to myself to get Giant-Size X-Men, I actually can't do that, especially because I try to get them graded and I know that's a hot take. But I like to get them graded. I order them pre-graded, buy them graded and my OCD wants them to be in like the overnight .0 range. I also want direct copies and not newsstand. I'm really weird."0comments
"I'm real weird, but people are like, 'Oh, why do you want them slabbed?' And I was like, 'I just think they look more artsy that way.' I don't know if that's weird for me to say, because they're like, 'Oh, you can't read them if they're slabbed up.' And I'm like, 'If I'm buying a comic book from the 1970s, I ain't going to touch that thing.' I'm going to rip it and I'm going to ruin it. So I'd rather have it encased in plastic, so I don't ruin it myself."
You can watch Johnny Gargano take on Bronson Reed inside a Steel Cage during tonight's NXT, which airs on USA Network at 8 PM EST. You can also check out all of our coverage of tonight's NXT right here on ComicBook.com, and you can talk all things NXT with me on Twitter @MattAguilarCB!