CLEVELAND — Cleveland native Johnny Gargano is a lifelong Browns fan, and when he is not preparing to main-event a show for World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.’s developmental brand, NXT, the multi-time champion can be found watching his favorite football team.
During training camp, Gargano paid a visit to team headquarters in Berea, and that tour of the facility and interview with quarterback Baker Mayfield turned into a webisode of “WWE Fandom” with Vic Joseph, a project of the WWE Performance Center’s YouTube channel.
“I’ve been a Browns fan my whole life, and I’ve been through a lot of bad times,” Gargano said during the video. “I have a text message on my phone that I show Vic Joseph all the time. I said to him back in 2016, ‘We suck. We should draft Baker Mayfield,’ and here we are a couple years later, and everything’s going good.”
During the visit, Gargano and NXT announcer Vic Joseph, himself a Cleveland native, spent time talking with Mayfield. The introduction featured an apology from Joseph to the second-year starting quarterback.
“I want to say right now, I was wrong, dead wrong, and I apologize to Baker Mayfield, who is the King of Cleveland,” Joseph said.
While Mayfield said he “wouldn’t go that far” in dubbing himself the new “King of Cleveland,” the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner admitted there is a palpable level of excitement among the fans.
“Unbelievably excited right now,” Mayfield said. “We knew what we had last year going into the season.
“We were excited to get out there and prove who we were, but now, there’s a lot of hype going on. Obviously, some new additions. The success we had later in the year last year helps going into this year. People are just excited to get back to football.”
In the video package, WWE PC featured shots of players walking onto the field through a tunnel of media members, and then, going through their warmups before team drills. Then, Gargano, his wife and fellow NXT superstar Candace LeRae, and Joseph got a tour of the facility, including the locker room.
In the facility, the Browns have a list of all of their Pro Bowlers, and Joseph predicted that upwards of 10 names could be added to the list following the 2019 season. After that, the NXT superstars went into the Casey Coleman Fieldhouse, where Joseph threw a pass to Gargano and the two shared a visit from one of the team’s mascots, “Chomps.”
“Definitely a different vibe here this year,” Joseph said while watching Mayfield complete a pass during a drill. “I was here last year for a few, the year before that for a few, and you can feel the crowd. Ooh, you can feel the energy for real. That got me excited. How many days until football starts?”
With less than two weeks before the 2019 regular season gets underway when the Browns host the Tennessee Titans at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland on Sunday, September 8, optimism is high among the Northeast Ohio natives.
“I honestly believe this team could go 11-5 this season,” Joseph said. “I think they go 11-5, win the division and have a home playoff game. I’m really excited for the season.”
Gargano gave the Browns a little bit more credit than Joseph’s double-digit wins prediction.
“I’m feeling the electricity, excitement…16-0,” Gargano said. “Run the table.”