Johnny Gargano started his professional wrestling career in 2005, working for the Cleveland All–Pro Wrestling (CAPW) promotion. Over the following years, Gargano worked for some of the top promotions on the American independent circuit, including Chikara, Dragon Gate USA (DGUSA), Evolve and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG).
Titles Gargano held include the Chikara Campeonatos de Parejas, the Evolve Tag Team Championship and DGUSA's Open the Freedom Gate Championship, which he held twice with his first reign lasting a record 873 days. During his independent days, Gargano also made appearances for national promotions Ring of Honor (ROH) and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA).
After making sporadic appearances for WWE early in his career, Gargano took part in the company's tryout camp in June 2015. Afterwards, he began appearing regularly for NXT, eventually signing a contract in April 2016.
He formed a tag team, #DIY, with Tommaso Ciampa, and held the NXT Tag Team Championship once. In a recent interview with PWInsider, Gargano spoke about his decision to remain with NXT: “Yeah, you said it yourself. Every little kid’s dream is to be on Raw and SmackDown.
It was my dream, too. But dreams change, goals change. I love this place, and I’ve said that time and time again, and it sounds like it’s such a corporate answer, but it’s just true. I love everything about NXT.
Everything about NXT is what made me want to be a professional wrestler, and I just found that here and it wasn’t something I wanted to give up. Like you said, I was on Raw and SmackDown, I got a little taste of that, but that was never a permanent thing.
That was never like, “Oh, there I am now”. It was a little taste. But I thought there was so much left for me to do here in NXT, there was so much unfinished business. I hadn’t won the NXT championship yet, and for me that was always my goal.
The minute I stepped in this building, I was like, “I want to be the NXT champion,” because that’s the unattainable goal. And I saw that and I was like, “Okay, well I was told no at my tryout, I was told I’d never be here.
Well I’m going to be on the face of this company and do whatever I can to take it to places it’s never seen before”.