Johnny Gargano says he had been thinking about his character turning heel in WWE for a long time, and believes it was necessary to stop him becoming stale in NXT.
Gargano, for the majority of his run in WWE's black-and-gold brand, has played the white-meat babyface who rallies against the odds. However, he embraced the dark side last year by attacking former teammate Tommaso Ciampa and has since gone on to feud with the likes of Keith Lee, Dexter Lumis and, recently, Bronson Reed.
With a stable behind him in 'The Way', Gargano is relishing the challenging of being hated in NXT and believes the switch was completely needed to keep his career moving forward.
Speaking to The Wrestling Notebook, he said: "100% it was needed. There were only so many times you can see a white meat Johnny Gargano go out there and overcome the odds, get beat down and put in an ambulance – I don’t know how many times you can watch that!
"Creatively it’s something [I’d] been thinking about for so long. I have a notepad on my phone full of ideas and I’d just been waiting for this moment and for this challenge – and that’s what it is, too, a challenge. It’s a challenge for NXT and for me.
"I’ve been wanting to turn this thing upside down and take everything you know about Johnny Gargano and change it 110% and it is scary, changing something you’re comfortable with – and it is a comfort zone. For me, I wanted the challenge of going out there and making people hate me because I know I am capable of it.
"Everyone had kinda felt it coming, but I definitely brought it to them as much as possible. It was definitely the way to go. I was very adamant about it and was very excited about it."