Before the journey began for a number of WWE talent, their skills were being honed in gymnasiums, auditoriums, and in front of crowds of a few hundred people. They never wavered in the pursuit of their goals, and those roads they traveled helped them achieve the success they have today. This is the newest series to be found here on Pro Wrestling Post, titled “Before the E”. ‘The E’ is inspired by a common nickname for WWE. In order to understand where talent is today, it is important to understand how they came to be part of the Entertainment side of World Wrestling Entertainment. This week we present Candice LeRae.
At 32 years of age and a veteran of the ring for sixteen years, Candice LeRae has risen steadily in the wrestling industry. She learned her craft while competing for San Bernadino, California’s Empire Wrestling Federation and NWA Championship Wrestling from Hollywood. During those early days in the promotion, she eventually managed to earn recognition in the area by facing industry veterans like Awesome Kong. As time went on, she got the opportunity to compete on the East Coast for promotions such as Ring of Honor and Insanity Pro Wrestling.
Her time in Ring of Honor was brief since their women’s division wasn’t as developed as it is today, but she did get the opportunity to face notable competitors such as Sara Del Rey, who is now a trainer at WWE’s Performance Centre using her real name of Sara Amato.
Over a period of several years, Candice LeRae competed throughout the United States, gaining more and more popularity. However, it was when she began to compete for Pro Wrestling Guerilla that she truly gained traction. When she started there, it was as a manager, first assembling a team for an eight-man tag match and then returning as a valet the following year. On that occasion, she was attacked by the Human Tornado, until Chris Hero, who is current NXT star Kassius Ohno, came to her aid. What followed was an alliance of Hero, LeRae and Necro Butcher. LeRae became a trailblazer, competing in intergender matches nearly twelve years ago, long before they became popular. This feud transitioned into a rivalry with LuFisto, to go along with more intergender matches.
Her growth continued under the training and tutelage of current 205 Live superstar TJP (TJ Perkins). One of the most important parts of LeRae’s career was when she formed a tag team with one of the most popular wrestlers today on the independent circuit, Joey Ryan. Together they traveled all over the independent circuit under the moniker ‘The World’s Cutest Tag Team’. Their team first came together in 2013, when they lost to Mount Rushmore’s Young Bucks. A few months later the duo faced another pair from the Mount Rushmore contingent in Adam Cole and Kevin Steen.
Intergender Wrestling IS Wrestling
What has always been remarkable about Candice LeRae is her ability to work in these intergender matches, despite her size and stature. It was no different when she challenged current NXT Champion Adam Cole for the Pro Wrestling Guerilla World Heavyweight championship. Despite coming up short (no pun intended), the crowd stood firmly behind LeRae for her tenacity, skill, and will. It was only a matter of time before Ryan and LeRae achieved success. During a Guerilla Warfare Match, they defeated the Young Bucks for the Pro Wrestling Guerilla world tag team championship. They went on to successfully defend their titles multiple times, holding them until the spring of 2015 when they lost against the ‘Monster Mafia,’ Josh Alexander and Ethan Page. LeRae last competed for Pro Wrestling Guerilla in 2016.
Her growth continued, and it didn’t occur in North America alone. She began to compete for DDT Pro-Wrestling in Japan in 2016. This also allowed her and Ryan to continue working together, facing some of the most notable Japanese wrestlers in the world. They competed for the KO-D tag team championship, and the Tokyo Joshi Pro promotion as well. They also had a YouTube show known as ‘The Candice and Joey Show’ that ended a couple of years ago. Her time with these companies may have been short-lived, but the experience gained by competing there was invaluable. The duo eventually dissolved because of what was on the horizon for LeRae, but of course, they remain friends.
The Mrs to the Mr
Her career has seen her work with women such as Kimber Lee, who was Abbey Laith in NXT, and Cherry Bomb, who competes as Allie in IMPACT Wrestling and now All Elite Wrestling. Candice LeRae actually competed once for IMPACT Wrestling, appearing on their Turning Point pay per view in a losing effort against then-champion Gail Kim. Her time on the North American independents saw her compete in promotions such as CZW, DJ Hyde’s Women Superstars Uncensored and Shine Wrestling. All of these steps in her career allowed LeRae to continue to build a resume for herself inside the ring.
The saying goes if you can’t beat them, join them. During the 2014 Battle of Los Angeles tournament Candice LeRae lost to Johnny Gargano in the quarterfinals. Perhaps the mutual respect for each other that came out of that evolved into something more, but it was certainly one notable moment in the budding relationship between the two. While she was gaining notoriety inside the ring, outside the ring Gargano and LeRae grew as a couple. Both because of her in-ring ability and their eventual marriage, she earned the moniker of Mrs. Wrestling.
Officially Part of the E
In 2017, Candice LeRae competed in WWE’s inaugural Mae Young Classic. It didn’t matter that she was wasn’t successful in the tournament, all that matters was that the rest of the world saw what this sixteen-year veteran has become. In 2018, LeRae was officially signed to a WWE contract, and now her time to shine on a global scale has come. Ladies and gentlemen welcome the age of Candice Wrestling, she’s better than the whole shebang!
Today LeRae remains an active part of the NXT Women’s division recently engaging in a rivalry with one-time ally and now bitter foe Io Shirai. This is Candice LeRae before she became who we know, admire, respect and enjoy watching today she was flourishing on the independent scene and developing her craft, before the entertainment.