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Johnny Gargano actually considered AEW before his WWE return

WWE, AEW, Johnny Gargano, RAW, NXT

As Johnny Gargano prepares for his first match back in a WWE-owned ring since WarGames 2021 and his first televised match on RAW since, well, ever, the hairier member of #DIY is about to embark on the next chapter of his professional wrestling career. He’s taken his time off, spent valuable time with his wife Candice LeRay and son Quill, made a few appearances on the indie scene at conventions/signing events, and even put on a panel at Starrcast V called “What’s NeXt? With Johnny Gargano,” where he provided insight to fans on where his life is now, how he got here, and what he has planned moving forward.

With that being said, the one thing Johnny G hadn’t done, at least in a formal setting, was actually get in the ring and let his head, shoulders, knees, and toes do the talking.

No, despite presumably garnering indie booking opportunities up to his eyeballs from companies big and small, Mr. DIY decided to forgo them all in order to keep his inevitable return a secret, special thing, be it in WWE, AEW, Impact, or even New Japan Pro Wrestling. Sure, he’d talk wrestling on Twitch and even presented a few breadcrumbs along the way to keep fans engaged but outside of the rumblings of his return before it actually happened on RAW, his exact fate was very much up in the air.

Did Gargano actually consider leaving WWE for AEW? Well, based on a recent podcast appearance, fans now have a pretty good idea on the subject.

The idea of leaving WWE for AEW reportedly “Crossed Johnny Gargano’s Mind.”

Say what you will about Corey Graves as a commentator – fans really weren’t excited to see him replace Pat McAfee on SmackDown commentary this week – but it’s hard to deny that he does a fantastic job getting to the bottom of the goings on of the WWE Universe on his podcast, After The Bell. He’s gotten the inside scoop on Karrion Kross’ return to WWE, Dakota Kai’s return to WWE, and on the most recent episode of show, he probed Gargano to find out just how close he came to wrestling for a company that isn’t based in Stamford, Connecticut.

Fortunately, Gargano was willing to dish on that very topic, as you can read below via a transcription from Fightful:

Obviously, it crossed my mind, but I was at the point to where I wasn’t ready to come back yet. I was enjoying myself. I have people that work around me that go out and talk to other places, and I have a great team around me that have those discussions so I don’t have to. That was a big thing too while I was gone. I was very focused on being a dad and letting the business stuff be handled by other people. It was cool that promotions respected that and said, ‘Okay, we’re going to leave Johnny alone, but we’ll talk to his people about what could potentially happen.’ I’m lucky to be in that spot. It’s weird to say something like that given I’m from the Indies and I do everything myself.

Obviously, it crossed my mind. I watch everything. I’m a wrestling fan. We’ll all wrestling nerds at the end of the day. I’m a wrestling fan. It always just came back down to, and I said this in my return promo, when I was a kid, I dreamed of being Intercontinental Champion. I dreamed of being WWE Champion and wrestling at WrestleMania. Those things hold so much weight to me. I don’t know if 20-30 years down the line, if I could forgive myself for not trying. I never really tried. I did everything in NXT and was fulfilled in NXT and proud of it, but I didn’t try on that scale yet. I haven’t done it and I wanted to do it.

Welp, there you go; Johnny Wrestling almost made his way to TK’s company like oh so many fans wanted to see back in July, June, May, basically every month since his contract expired, but in the end, his loyalty to The Fed and childhood desire to wrestle for the Intercontinental Championship, the WWE Championship, and at WrestleMania trumped any desire to be Mr. DIY in the biggest indie – if you can call it that – promotion in the professional wrestling world. While it would have been nice to know an exact financial figure, know if a contract was even offered and if so, how it compared financially to the one offered up by Triple H, fans can at least definitively know that a jump to AEW was all but certainly on the table and “Johnny Wrestling” decided to take his career in another direction.