It is hard to say that NXT can have dream matches between it’s past and present due to it being the “developmental” of the WWE and those matches almost never happening on the actual show. However, that is the case here ladies and gentlemen. Finn Balor and Johnny Gargano are two key cogs in the machine that is NXT and how it became a bigger brand than just “developmental”. Now that they are on course to collide one on one we take a look at the two men who can stake their claim as the true ace of NXT
Finn Balor took the bull by the horns when he arrived in NXT all the way back in 2014. He is what made the brand so special as his NXT Championship reign is not only the longest in history, but the former Prince Devitt established himself as the ace of NXT. The brand’s popularity was never grander when Finn left, and there was no one more important to the show… until it did become more popular and found a new ace who help transcend the brand all over again.
That “ace” is Johnny Gargano. A little while back here at LWOPW, I recognized “The Johnny Gargano Era” as the greatest NXT had ever seen. It was all about the biggest underdog overcoming, fighting, and never giving up to get to his moment which was his eventual win earlier this year to finally become NXT World Champion. Little did fans know during that time it would turn into the best run for possibly any NXT performer ever, and he would establish himself as the brands greatest ever.
Now, just months after we all thought it was time to say goodbye to “Johnny Wrestling” in NXT, we are instead going to see ace vs ace. The battle to be NXT’s one true face. Finn Balor vs Johnny Gargano.
Tale of the Tape
All we know from Finn as to why all of this happened is that the “Prince” is back. But deep inside fans have to know it more so has to do with Balor being replaced by Gargano as the centerpiece of the brand’s history, its greatest superstar. In a lot of sports, it is what have you done for me lately, but in wrestling, it is simply what have you done. Finn Balor and Johnny Gargano both carry resume’s that are elite when it comes to NXT.
In Finn Balor’s time, he has won the first-ever Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic alongside Samoa Joe. Oh and that just happened to be at the same time he was holding the NXT Championship, a title that he held for 292 days, the longest reign in its history. He continued onto the main roster in the 2016 draft, as he was first-round selection by Monday Night Raw. In his first night on Raw, he won a Fatal 4-Way between himself, Rusev, Cesaro, and Kevin Owens to advance later in the night to take on the winner of the other Fatal 4-Way, all in hopes of going to SummerSlam to contend for the Universal Championship. He would defeat Roman Reigns that same night to head to SummerSlam to take on Seth Rollins, becoming the inaugural champion.
Since then he has added an Intercontinental Championship reign and came back to NXT to prove to everyone he is still the best male star in NXT history.
On the other side is Johnny Gargano, who became quite possibly NXT’s most important wrestler ever. He is NXT’s only Triple Crown champion, winning the NXT Tag Team Championship, North American Championship, and earlier this year he finally completed his chase by winning his first and only NXT Championship that he pursued for years. When it comes to strictly accolades, Finn has him beat by being on the main roster, but when it comes to NXT legacy, it completely changes everything.
Finn Balor’s NXT Legacy
The legacy of Finn Balor in NXT is quite possibly the best. He was the pioneer for the WWE Network version, getting the popularity of the brand to its absolute peak in the early years. He became must see in and out of NXT TakeOver’s, as the “Demon” character took on a life of its own to the point that he became the most popular star NXT had ever seen. Pairing the “Demon” with winning NXT Championship gold only gave the legacy of Finn Balor an impossible road to overcome. As said before, Finn Balor is NXT’s longest-reigning champion, defending the championship against the likes of Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe and having stellar matches with PAC (fka Adrian Neville) and KENTA (fka Hideo Itami). The aura of Balor in NXT is surely there, which made him the one true ace of NXT for a long time.
Johnny Gargano’s NXT Legacy
Johnny Gargano is everything that NXT represents. Opportunity, heart, and great professional wrestling. Gargano came into NXT like none other. He didn’t get the red carpet welcome. He did not get a special video announcing his debut. Gargano, along with Tommaso Ciampa, worked for a chance but were by no means guaranteed a contract upon jumping into NXT. But all he needed was the opportunity and #DIY seized that. Gargano and Ciampa became tag team champions. Little did any fan know that when these two came in together, they would become NXT’s greatest rivalry. “Johnny Wrestling” made a name for himself by putting on the best matches NXT has ever seen, with Andrade, Ciampa, and most recently Adam Cole.
Gargano took the term of “ace” and ran with it without even being the champion, but instead chasing the NXT Championship. And when the moment finally happened, he had maybe the greatest moment in the brands history as he stared at the championship. His continuous skillset to take so much punishment but somehow survive is what makes Johnny Gargano’s NXT legacy simply the best.
But when it comes to one-on-one, who wins this match?
Ace vs Ace: Who wins?
Ace vs Ace. All signs lead to NXT TakeOver: WarGames in just a number of weeks. Balor has laid down the challenge, making it clear the next time he sees him that he will become “Johnny Watches Wrestling” and no longer be in the ring that is his. But there has never been a time where Johnny Gargano wouldn’t stand up to a fight, and he certainly has nothing to worry about when it comes to the man he has replaced as ace.
So who wins? It is hard to figure they only have one match, but if we were to only go off of the one, it will be Finn Balor. Balor has yet to have a match since stepping back into NXT. Johnny Gargano is his best in the underdog roll. When it comes down to their first match in the “Ace vs Ace” story, Balor will walk out victorious. He better know it will take every ounce of his being however if he wants to take down “Johnny Wrestling”
It should be one hell of a match and feud.
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world.