EVOLVE Says Goodbye to Gargano
As EVOLVE 69 drew to a close, so did Johnny Gargano’s time with the company. Defying expectations since he joined the WWN on his road to becoming the face that runs the place, the only thing capable of ending his tenure was Johnny Gargano himself.
Moving to the WWE Monday Night RAW cruiserweight division permanently, Gargano leaves EVOLVE a stronger company because of his work ethic and tireless dedication to constantly improving. While his entire career arc is representative of his work with the World Wrestling Network, EVOLVE 69 was a microcosm of the true value that Johnny Gargano brought to the EVOLVE brand.
In an article from last year, Larry Csonka wrote a piece entitled “What’s a Johnny Gargano and Why Should I Care?” which made the argument for Gargano’s importance and how he would translate well to the WWE as a major star. Reading it last year opened my eyes to Gargano’s journey and value to WWN. Many wrestlers play the part of the underdog; Gargano did not need to stretch his acting chops to make this seem believable as he truly was an underdog, as he was never truly viewed as “top guy” material. Once earning his keep, Gargano became a talent that the company could rely on and EVOLVE 69 was no different.
Gargano teamed with Cody Rhodes to take on his former partner Drew Galloway and Chris Hero. Galloway and Gargano split after Galloway felt that Gargano was what was wrong with EVOLVE. According to the Scotsman, by working with the WWE, Gargano was selling out and betraying the company. In all actuality, Gargano used his association with WWE to make EVOLVE that much more important. In his farewell match with the company, Gargano won the match, but put over two upcoming stars in the process and possibly made the company even stronger in his absence.
Before announcing that he was leaving, Gargano said that he felt that he was holding the company back and that his departure would spur the company to new heights. At EVOLVE 69, as Johnny prepared to say goodbye to the fans, Ethan Page ambushed him and laid him out in the middle of the ring. Page was formerly a protege of Gargano, eventually turning on his mentor to further his own career. After Page was unsuccessful in rising the ranks through chicanery, he turned over a new leaf after EVOLVE 50 and proved time and again to be repentant for what he had done. All of his pleas for forgiveness seem to fall on deaf ears, as Gargano refused to accept Page’s apology.
Before EVOLVE 69, Page made one last impassioned appeal for forgiveness and all he asked for in return was a handshake, nothing more, nothing less. As the event came to a close and Gargano was to address the crowd, Page made it clear that he would not be ignored. Not only that, but he revealed that he was never truly sorry for what he did. In taking that beating on his last night, Gargano elevated Page to a new level in EVOLVE. Page will always be the guy who attacked Johnny Gargano, WWN Icon on his last night in the company. Ethan Page will be remembered as the man who marred Gargano’s last night with the company. Gargano said his goodbye the night before at EVOLVE 68 in Long Island, not at EVOLVE’s Northeast home La Boom because he sacrificed for company on his last night and didn’t make the event about him, but about making the company and the locker room stronger.
As if establishing a hated heel wasn’t enough, Gargano was able to pass the torch as the company’s flagbearer to Matt Riddle. After Page felt he was done with Gargano, he offered anyone in the locker room a chance to get their licks in. As Drew Galloway and DUSTIN posed over Gargano’s prone form, Riddle came to the ring, seemingly to join in on the fun. Despite Galloway’s enticing offers, Riddle rebuffed him and sided with the WWN Icon, chasing Galloway and DUSTIN from the ring and helping Gargano to his feet.
The men shook hands and Galloway, and Gargano kissed the EVOLVE logo, as the crowd chanted EVOLVE WRESTLING in unison. His last time on the mic in EVOLVE, Gargano formally passed the torch to Riddle, saying that Riddle was worthy of the spot he was leaving behind before passing the mic to Riddle for the final word. As Riddle exclaimed that EVOLVE is Bro, Gargano had set EVOLVE up for a bright future, with Riddle and Page sure to battle it out for the top spot in the company. In his last act as a member of the roster, Johnny Gargano proved why he is deserving of the title WWN Icon.