WWE NXT: Ranking the 10 best wrestlers in the Black and Gold brand’s history

WWE, Asuka (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)
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2. Johnny Gargano

If this list were completely based on character work, Sasha Banks would be No. 1. And if this list were entirely about in-ring match quality, then Johnny Gargano would be in No. 1 with the rest of the pack at an unfathomable distance behind him.

There’s a case to be made that Gargano is the best wrestler in the world. His run from the winter of 2018 to the summer of 2019 is one of the greatest indivdual runs not just in WWE history, but in professional wrestling history. I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but if we say that wrestling today is better than it’s ever been, then what do we saw about one wrestler blowing everyone else out of the water with instant classic after instant classic at a big show?

Gargano’s rivalry with Tommaso Ciampa, before it jumped the shark, was the biggest story in pro wrestling and delivered the most brutal matches in NXT history. Their first encounter at TakeOver: New Orleans in an Unsanctioned match absolutely blew away what we thought was possible to watch on a WWE show.

But if I had to pick a favorite Gargano match, it wouldn’t be those wars with Ciampa or even the slowly-crescendoing classics with newly-minted top star Adam Cole. No, it would be that unforgettable match with Andrade “Cien” Almas at TakeOver: Philadelphia, which is the only match that can stand toe-to-toe with a Sasha Banks vs. Bayley match as the greatest in NXT history.

It doesn’t matter who you put Gargano in the ring with. It doesn’t matter the environment, the stipulation, anything. Gargano will give those wrestlers the match of their lives. He can play any character role, tell any story, and adjust his game to anyone. Yes, he relies on some transitions and kicks, but every wrestler has their go-tos. And Johnny’s go-tos are smoother than anybody else’s.