Johnny Gargano has been outspoken over the idea of NXT being called the minor leagues saying that kind of talk was BS. On the latest episode of After The Bell, Corey Graves asked Gargano about the changes NXT went through as it was transitioning out of FCW into a new show.
"When we first started it was like the interim because we always had this mindset that we needed to do things a certain way. We need to do things the WWE way. We do things a certain way around here to get you ready for RAW and Smackdown," Gargano said. "When we came on, it was like why do we have to get ready for RAW and Smackdown? Why can't we just make this as good as freaking possible? Like why can't we go out there and make NXT what everyone's talking about? People loved NXT back then. Don't get me wrong. It was Finn, Bayley, Sasha and Charlotte. Everyone tearing it up, and they made NXT what it is today. But I think, like everything, things need to evolve and things need to change."
For Gargano, he felt that NXT changed into what it is now after the Cruiserweight Classic. He says that instead of working shorter matches, there was a belief that guys could work longer matches and show what they can do.
"So I feel like NXT changed when the first Cruiserweight Classic happened. I feel like that affected NXT in the mindset where we did this and the magic kind of opened everyone's eyes to a whole new world of oh maybe we shouldn't just be doing four-minute matches all the time. Maybe we should do things like 20 minutes or 25 minutes or give you guys some real time to go out there and put in work," Gargano said. "I think that's what NXT became from that. Oh all these guys can go. All these guys can freaking tear it up. Let's see what happens, and that grew to today. Obviously, me and Tommaso's story affected everything where that long-term story played out. So many things happened, and it's always a timing thing with a lot of things."
Graves described Gargano's run on RAW and Smackdown as "a cup of coffee", but Gargano disagreed saying he was there for a lot longer than that likening it to ordering online and not picking up his order.
"I don't know if that was a cup of coffee," Gargano said. "I mobile ordered, but I didn't pick it up."
While he knew a couple of days in advance about his RAW debut, Gargano says that RAW and Smackdown is a lot more hectic than NXT.
"I say it's very different. Maybe it's because I'm so entrenched with the NXT system, and I've known our writing staff, our creative team, all the camera guys and everyone who works backstage plus it's at Full Sail every week and that's 10 minutes from my apartment in Orlando so that's nice. The travel schedule isn't as hectic as RAW and Smackdown, but there is that same sense of urgency that is also on RAW and Smackdown. It's just different," Gargano admitted. "I feel like it's a lot more stressful on RAW and Smackdown for some strange reason, but in NXT, it feels like home. It feels like I'm very very comfortable, so I think that's the biggest difference for me.
"Over there, there's literally a million people. I see new people all the time when I'm backstage at RAW and Smackdown. NXT, it's just a family environment where I know everyone, so I think that's the biggest thing."
Graves and Gargano also talked about how they knew each other from the indie scene before WWE. That is also true for a lot of the members of the NXT roster, and Gargano reiterated the point of how everyone knows each other and how the NXT roster is like a family.
"I think that's the coolest thing. We've all been talking about this for so many years like you mentioned, we've known each other for 12 years. I've known a lot of the guys that are on the NXT roster for like 10 years as well, and it's all filled with guys who talked about this moment, talked about making it to WWE and kind of doing what we do. I think that's also wild," Gargano said. "We're just doing what we do. It's not like any of us have changed that much. It's not like we've had to be completely repackaged or retooled or renamed or anything like that. A lot of it is us doing what we did on the indies on national television which is wild that I'm able to do it with guys that I consider friends, guys that I consider close to me. And that's what I mentioned about NXT being like a family. It's like that in our locker room as well. That's what I love most about it."
Gargano also talked about getting to work with one of his favorite wrestlers Shawn Michaels. Graves also had on comedian Ron Funches to talk about comedy and Funches' experience at the Tokyo Dome. You can listen to the podcast by clicking here. If you use any quotes from this article, please credit After The Bell with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.