Friday, December 28, 2018

The Case for Johnny Gargano Winning the Royal Rumble

photo credit: WWE.com
Let's start here: by my measurements of what makes a wrestler great, Johnny Gargano is the best goddamn professional wrestler in the world today. He's insanely athletic, creative, versatile, his mic work--while not particularly special--is real and authentic, and he's far and away the best in-ring storyteller since Shawn Michaels. At this point, his call-up to the main roster seems almost inevitably penciled in for early 2019 and the odds seem pretty decent for him being a token NXT entrant in the Royal Rumble. But if WWE is willing to do something different and risky (narrator: they aren't), I believe there's a huge opportunity to be had in Johnny Gargano going the distance and winning the whole damn thing.

The main reason I'd like to see this happen is very simple: as I mentioned before, NXT usually gets at least one token entrant in the Royal Rumble each year. I dunno about you, but I'm a big fan of a wrestling show letting a thing happen once that either no one ever expects to happen or that everyone expects to happen and never really does. Things like: letting Big Show win the Andre battle royal at WrestleMania XXXI to validate the talking point that "giants" are perennial favorites in battles royal; having Samoa Joe take the NXT title off of Finn Balor at a house show to give the impression that this is actually a thing that could happen and, more to the point, that anything could happen in WWE (or at least in NXT); having a 2-out-of-3 falls match end 2-0; or even having a totally unexpected dark horse win the Royal Rumble. An unexpected Rumble winner is already one of the most exciting happenings in WWE. But as it stands, NXT getting a token entrant in the Rumble is nothing more than just that: a token. It's meaningless. EVERYONE knows this person isn't going to win it. But what if someone did? Just once? It would change the entire dynamic. Every NXT entrant in every subsequent Royal Rumble from then on might actually win it. Probably not, but it would no longer be completely outside the realm of possibility. How cool would that be?

But this isn't just about setting precedent. With Daniel Bryan's recent heel turn, the list of possible opponents who would make compelling protagonists to Bryan's scrappy, underhanded antagonist is pretty thin. Think about it, who is there on the SmackDown roster that wouldn't make Bryan look like a sympathetic underdog, let alone who is a babyface? Johnny Gargano is the perfect answer to this question; the one guy who is quite possibly more Daniel Bryan than even Daniel Bryan was at the peak of the Yes Movement. And if Daniel Bryan vs. Johnny Gargano isn't a dream match worthy of main eventing WrestleMania, I don't know what is. Furthermore, you could then have Gargano seemingly about to win the match before Bryan takes a shortcut (to the crotchal region) to steal the victory and you have a built-in full year's worth (at least) of storytelling for Gargano moving forward. He was THIS CLOSE to the most prestigious championship in wrestling under the most unlikely of circumstances and he may never get anywhere near as close to the ultimate in wrestling glory again but he won't rest until he does. That story basically tells itself. So book it, WWE! You won't be sorry. I promise.

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