Johnny Gargano Shares How “Stranger Things” Led To WWE Return


The WWE return of Johnny Gargano was inspired by a popular show called “Stranger Things” according to the man himself.

Johnny Gargano returned to WWE on the August 22nd edition of Raw in Toronto. That return happened about nine months after his NXT contract last December and he sat at home as a free agent with the wrestling world wondering what was next for him.

While Gargano was spending time at home with his former NXT wrestler wife Candace LeRae and their newborn son Quill (born in February), there were a lot of rumors of what he might do next. It seemed like WWE may not have been an option since former WWE Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon may have lacked interest in Gargano as a smaller wrestler. However, things changed after McMahon retired on July 22nd.

In the days that followed Vince McMahon’s retirement, Gargano’s former NXT boss Paul “Triple H” Levesque became the new Head of Creative on WWE’s main roster shows Raw & Smackdown, which meant that Gargano certainly could sign with the company as a main roster wrestler.

During a recent appearance on WWE’s After The Bell podcast hosted by Corey Graves & NXT’s Vic Joseph, Gargano revealed that he initially going to sit out for a full year.

“I gave myself kind of a year, when I left in December I kind of said okay, I am content being gone December, I think December 7 might have been my last NXT show. I was okay taking off a full year, letting my body rest, letting my body recover, but also letting my mind recover, and also re-energising myself. I’ve done this for almost 18 years at this point. I’ve been very lucky, I haven’t had any major injuries, I haven’t had any major time off, knock on wood somewhere, so I haven’t had any downtime.”

“So for me, and as you guys know, there is no offseason in what we do, so we’re just going consistently, especially when before I even got here, on the indies I was going pretty hard every single weekend. Multiple shows, double shots like wrestling multiple times a weekend, staying in shape, doing all that stuff like that, it just it mentally wears on you. And especially in this current day and age with social media, and things like that get in your head and the mental health problems we all kind of have to go through.”

Gargano explained that he enjoyed his time at a home as a father to his newborn son.

“I was just totally fine taking this year, spending it with my baby, being a stay at home dad, working on my dad bod, which I did, working on my dad bod, getting ready to go and just you know, like, be happy. I was totally fine with that with wrestling not being in my life.”

“I don’t know if there’s any point where I decided like, maybe I won’t come back. Obviously, it crossed my mind a few times when I’m sitting at home and I’m able to do whatever I want and I don’t have anyone to answer to [anyone], anywhere to go. I wake up in my own bed every single day, I work out in my own gym, I hang out with my kid, it’s a great life.”

While talking about his decision to return to WWE, Gargano cited the popular Netflix show “Stranger Things” as an inspiration. When Gargano heard the famous Kate Bush song “Running Up That Hill” he remembered when WWE used it in a famous video package. When WWE used the song, it was the Placebo version of “Running Up That Hill” to set up the WrestleMania 26 main event between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, which was Shawn’s retirement match. That’s the same Shawn Michaels who has also worked very closely during his very successful NXT career where Gargano won every title there was to win in NXT.

When Gargano heard “Running Up That Hill” again, he knew that needed to get back into the ring to wrestle again.

“But I’ll tell you guys a story, and this is how my mind works apparently. So you guys have seen Stranger Things obviously. Okay, so the song Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush became very popular. And so I was watching, I might have texted you at this time Vic, I can’t remember. This is when I knew what I wanted to do. I was watching Stranger Things and the song came on, and the first thing that popped into my head was, wait a minute, that’s Shawn versus The Undertaker song from Wrestlemania. Placebo did a cover of it, that’s where my mind went.”

“And I was like, I remember that, and I watched the hype video for Shawn and ‘Taker from Mania. I sat there in the kitchen, Candice was right there, she can tell you this. I sat there in the kitchen, I watched his hype video as she’s doing baby stuff, and it just hit me watching this video. I was like this is what I want to do, this is where I want to be, and this is what I want to do.”

“This is why I got into this to have videos like this about me, but also to like, have these WrestleMania stories and matches, and I haven’t had that yet. I haven’t had that WrestleMania moment, I haven’t had that Wrestlemania match.”

“So in a roundabout way, Stranger Things playing that song, and me correlating it to genres to Mania, which led me watching the music video again in my kitchen led me being like, that’s what I want to do. I want to wrestle at WrestleMania. So that’s a long-winded story of how we ended up where we are.”

The outstanding video package that Gargano was speaking about can be seen at the link below.

While the 35-year-old Gargano recently admitted that he thought about signing with another company, the former NXT Champion will be back in a WWE ring very soon.

Gargano recently shared a photo of himself with his son Quill aka “Baby Wrestling” (since Johnny refers to himself as “Johnny Wrestling”) while training in the ring.

Gargano will have his first match as a full-time WWE main roster wrestler (and his first match since last December) this coming Monday on Raw. As of this writing, WWE has not announced who Gargano will face on Raw.

H/T Inside The Ropes