In August of 2022, Johnny Gargano made his triumphant return to the WWE.
After nine months away from the ring, the man who is also known as Johnny Wrestling returned to the WWE on the Aug. 22 episode of Monday Night Raw to a rousing ovation the 35-year-old won't soon forget.
But there was a part of him that wasn't sure how the WWE universe and wrestling fans around the globe would react to his return after all this time away from the world of professional wrestling.
"I was kind of relieved, actually," said Gargano in an interview with CityNews Ottawa regarding his WWE return last summer. "I was out of the wrestling bubble for so long, I was worried that people were going to forget me and forget what I did in this ring. And here I am, I come out and hear these Johnny Wrestling chants and people were excited to see me on RAW."
While he was away from the ring, Gargano was enjoying time with his wife, fellow WWE star Candice LeRae and their newborn baby boy, Quill, who was born in February of 2022.
He admitted he was having a blast being a dad and enjoying some much needed time off.
"I'm sitting at home, my body doesn't hurt and mentally, I'm feeling great," he added. "But there was thought process I was having, and that was if I wanted to go back and wrestle again."
After all, he's a wrestling fan at heart, citing WWE legend and hall of famer Shawn Michaels as his greatest influence.
"I would always be watching wrestling," he said. "I would see things that would excite me and see things I wanted to be part of and tell all these stories I wanted to tell. So, in the back of my mind, I knew there was a chance I would be back in the WWE and now that it's all worked out, it's pretty incredible."
Gargano has been labelled the greatest performer in the history of NXT, and it's hard to argue that notion based on the list of accomplishments during his time on the NXT roster.
He became the first-ever NXT Triple Crown winner by winning the NXT Championship once, the NXT North American Championship a record three times, and the NXT Tag Team Championship once.
He became so immensely popular during his six years with NXT, that he was dubbed its heart and soul.
"NXT will always have a special place in my heart," he said. "If I ever return to NXT, it's going to mean something and will be very exciting because there is so much talent there."
Now, Gargano is on the main roster and is looking to show the world what he is capable of on a bigger stage.
The dream matches are endless for Johnny Wrestling, with the likes of AJ Styles, Seth Rollins and Rey Mysterio on the list of stars he hopes to face in the not so distant future.
He wants to accomplish it all - Intercontinental champion, WWE tag team champion, United States Champion and eventually, a world champion.
"I have some big hopes and some big dreams," he said. "I have never wrestled a Wrestlemania match before,so that is something I hope can happen, too."
With WWE Raw making its return to Ottawa on Feb. 20 at the Canadian Tire Centre, he hopes to be part of the event.
This will be the first WWE Raw broadcast in Ottawa since 2010.
"I am just excited to see what happens for me on the road to Wrestlemania," he said.