Candice Gargano (née Dawson) (September 29, 1985) is an American professional wrestler currently signed to WWE's developmental territory NXT. Known by her ring name Candice LeRae, she is best known for her work on the American independent circuit, most notably Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG). LeRae is a former one-time PWG World Tag Team Champion (as one-half of the World's Cutest Tag Team), making her the only female title holder in the promotion's history.
Professional wrestling career
Independent circuit (2002–2018)
LeRae spent the first two years of her career wrestling for the Empire Wrestling Federation (EWF) and the International Wrestling Council. She appeared as a substitute in a round one match at the ChickFight tournament in 2004, replacing the injured Miss Chevius, but lost in the first round to Princess Sugey. During 2005, LeRae was a mainstay in the EWF, facing wrestlers including Hurricane Havana, Kid Omega, and Amazing Kong. She continued competing for the promotion throughout 2006, while also wrestling for All-Pro Wrestling and Ground Zero Wrestling. 2007 saw LeRae branch out to the Midwestern United States, where she competed for Insanity Pro Wrestling and Ring of Honor (ROH). LeRae had two matches for ROH in August 2007, losing to Sara Del Rey and Daizee Haze in dark matches on August 10 and 24, respectively.
LeRae began wrestling for the Alternative Wrestling Show (AWS) promotion in December 2007. In May 2009, she participated in a tournament for the AWS Women's Championship; she defeated Kitana Vera and Christina Von Eerie en route to the final, where she defeated Erica D'Erico and Morgan in a three-way match for the vacant championship. She successfully defended the title against Carla Jade, Nikki, and Von Eerie until September 6, when she lost the championship to Von Eerie.
In September 2013, LeRae debuted for Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW), teaming with Greg Excellent in a loss to Cherry Bomb and Pepper Parks. She returned to CZW in February 2014, losing a singles match to Kimber Lee. At Proving Grounds on May 10, she unsuccessfully challenged Shane Strickland for the CZW Wired Television Championship.
LeRae first began appearing for Family Wrestling Entertainment (FWE) in late 2013 as the mystery tag team partner of Joey Ryan at the Open Weight Grand Prix Final event. On October 3, LeRae and Ryan defeated Ivelisse Vélez and Tommy Dreamer at Refuelled Night One following interference from Drew Galloway. The next night at Refuelled Night Two, LeRae and Ryan defeated Christina Von Eerie and Carlito. Later the same night, LeRae issued a challenge to Ivelisse Vélez, and defeated her to win the FWE Women's Championship for the first time. She successfully defended the title against Veda Scott at No Limits in February 2015. The following month, LeRae and Ryan lost to Scott and Paul London in a mixed tag team match, in which LeRae lost the FWE Women's title to Scott.
On May 10, 2014, LeRae and Joey Ryan competed in the 2014 Women Superstars Uncensored (WSU) Queen and King of the Ring tournament, defeating the teams of Drew Gulak and Kimber Lee, and JT Dunn and Shelly Martinez to advance to the final, before being defeated by Matt Tremont and Mickie Knuckles. The following month, on June 7, 2014, she won Dream Wave Wrestling's Tag Team Championship with Ryan, but they lost the title the next day.
LeRae competed at Shimmer Women Athletes' Volume 62 taping in April 2014, losing to Athena. She returned to Shimmer in October, losing to Nikki Storm and Kay Lee Ray in singles matches on Volume 68 and Volume 70, respectively.
LeRae appeared for Full Impact Pro (FIP) on June 22, 2014, teaming with Ivelisse Vélez to unsuccessfully challenge The Lucha Sisters (Mia Yim and Leva Bates) for the Shine Tag Team Championship. She then made her debut for Shine Wrestling at Shine 20 on June 27, defeating Neveah.
Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (2006–2016)
LeRae debuted in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG) in 2006, when she put together a team to face a team managed by Jade Chung in an eight-man tag team match, where her team was victorious. In April 2007, she returned as the valet of Human Tornado. Her first main storyline in the company began later that year in September; Tornado had been abusing LeRae, who stood up for herself and cost Tornado a match at the 2007 PWG Battle of Los Angeles. After the match, Tornado began to attack LeRae, who was saved by Chris Hero. As a result, Hero and LeRae united to take on Tornado. In January 2008, Tornado, Claudio Castagnoli, and Eddie Kingston defeated LeRae, Hero, and Necro Butcher in a six-person match, which meant that LeRae was forced to face Tornado in a singles match the following night. LeRae lost the match by disqualification when Hero, who was banned from ringside, came to the ring to aid her. LuFisto entered the feud in March when she teamed with Tornado in a loss to LeRae and Hero. The following night, LeRae defeated LuFisto in a singles match. LeRae continued to be involved in the storyline between Hero and Tornado over the next few months.
LeRae spent the rest of the year in intergender competition, facing wrestlers including TJ Perkins and Chuck Taylor. In 2009, LeRae entered a feud with Christina Von Eerie when LeRae defeated Von Eerie in the first women's match in PWG in more than a year. Throughout early 2010, they teamed with a variety of male wrestlers to face each other, until LeRae defeated Von Eerie in a match in June to end the feud. At Kurt RussellReunion 2 in January 2011, LeRae was on the winning side of an eight-person tag team match. At PWG's DDT4 event on April 3, 2011, LeRae won a Joey Ryan invitational gauntlet match to advance to a number one contenders match for the PWG World Championship against Ryan later that same night, which she lost. She wrestled only sporadically in PWG in 2012 and 2013, mainly in six and eight-person tag team matches, which included being on the winning side of an eight-person tag team match at Kurt RussellReunion 3 in January 2012.
LeRae began teaming with Joey Ryan in October 2013, with a loss to The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson), and in January 2014 they participated in the 2014 Dynamite Duumvirate Tag Team Title Tournament, but were eliminated in the first round by Adam Cole and Kevin Steen. On March 28, 2014, at Mystery Vortex 2 LeRae unsuccessfully challenged Adam Cole for the PWG World Championship. On July 27, LeRae and Ryan defeated The Young Bucks in a Guerrilla Warfare match to win the PWG World Tag Team Championship. Known as the World's Cutest Tag Team, LeRae and Ryan made their first title defense on August 29 in a three-way match, defeating The Inner City Machine Guns (Rich Swann and Ricochet) and the team of Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian. The following night, LeRae entered the 2014 Battle of Los Angeles tournament, where she defeated Rich Swann in the first round before losing to Johnny Gargano in the quarter-finals. LeRae and Ryan finished out the year with successful title defenses against Chuck Taylor and Johnny Gargano in October, and Daniels and Kazarian in December. LeRae and Ryan lost the championships to Monster Mafia (Ethan Page and Josh Alexander) on May 22, 2015, in the opening round of the 2015 DDT4. LeRae's final PWG match took place at Mystery Vortex IV, where she made a surprise appearance in a losing effort against Trent? on December 16, 2016.
National Wrestling Alliance (2008–2011)
She also appeared for the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), and unsuccessfully challenged Amazing Kong for the NWA World Women's Championship in 2008. In 2011, LeRae began competing for NWA Championship Wrestling from Hollywood, where she developed a feud with Buggy.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (2013)
Ring of Honor (2016)
DDT Pro-Wrestling (2016–2017)
LeRae debuted for Japanese promotion DDT Pro-Wrestling (DDT) on January 3, 2016, teaming with Joey Ryan to defeat Golden Storm Riders (Daisuke Sasaki and Suguru Miyatake). On January 10, LeRae teamed with the Golden Storm Riders in a losing effort against Happy Motel (Antonio Honda, Konosuke Takeshita and Tetsuya Endo). The following day, LeRae teamed with Sasaki once again, this time defeating T2Hii (Kazuki Hirata and Sanshiro Takagi). LeRae once again toured with DDT in March 2016, unsuccessfully challenging Sasaki and Shuji Ishikawa for the KO-D Tag Team Championship along with Joey Ryan on March 26 and defeating Makoto Oishi and Danshoku Dino the following day. LeRae returned to DDT in January 2017, losing to Sasaki on January 3, but teaming with Kouki Iwasaki and Kazusada Higuchi to defeat T2Hii (Sanshiro Takagi, Kazuki Hirata and Toru Owashi) on January 9.
LeRae has also competed for DDT's all-female sister promotion Tokyo Joshi Pro (TJP), defeating Yuka Sakazaki in her debut on January 4, 2016 and losing to Mil Clown exactly one year later on January 4, 2017.
Early appearances and Mae Young Classic (2017)
On May 3, 2017, LeRae made her televised in-ring debut for WWE as a enhancement talent participating in a number one contender's battle royal for Asuka's NXT Women's Championship, where she was eliminated by Billie Kay. She returned on the October 25 episode of NXT, participating in another battle royal to gain an spot at the fatal four-way match for the vacant NXT Women's Championship at NXT TakeOver: WarGames, in which she was unsuccessful.
On July 13, she was announced as one of the participants for the Mae Young Classic tournament. On August 28, LeRae defeated Renee Michelle in the first round. On September 4, LeRae defeated Nicole Savoy in the second round, before being eliminated that same day in the quarterfinals by Shayna Baszler.
On January 16, 2018, WWE announced that they had signed LeRae to a contract and that she was to report to the WWE Performance Center. LeRae made an appearance at NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia in the front row, where she intervened in the NXT Championship match, featuring Johnny Gargano and champion Andrade "Cien" Almas, stopping Almas’ manager Zelina Vega from further attacking her husband, Johnny Gargano, establishing her as a babyface.
LeRae and her former tag team partner Joey Ryan produced a weekly YouTube show titled The Candice & Joey Show, which highlighted various aspects of their careers. The series ran for 130 episodes from October 24, 2013 to March 9, 2016. Candice is a downloadable character in WWE 2K19.
LeRae married fellow professional wrestler Johnny Gargano at Disneyland on September 16, 2016. They have been featured in a short-documentary on their dynamics as a wrestling couple. She is an avid fan of Disney and the Anaheim Ducks.
- Finishing moves
- La Quebrada (2018-present)
- Unprettier/Killswitch (2018)
- Mrs. Garga-No-Escape (Chickenwing over the shoulder crossface)
- Heartbreaker (Modified Gory bomb)
- Balls-plex (Crotch-lift release German suplex)
- Springboard reverse frankensteiner
- Ms. LeRae's Wild Ride (Swinging Neckbreaker off the second rope)
- Wicked Stepsister (Curb Stomp)
- Signature moves
- Diving swinging reverse STO
- Diving hurricanrana
- Poison Rana (Reverse Frankensteiner)
- Russian legsweep
- Suicide dive, sometimes transitioned into a tornado DDT
- Sunset flip powerbomb
- Swinging neckbreaker
- Tilt-a-whirl headscissors armbar
- Violence Party (various corner strikes, adopted from Super Dragon)
- Wrestlers managed
- Entrance Themes
- "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" by The Darkness
- "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" by Rupert Holmes (PWG/DDT/independent circuit; used while teaming with Joey Ryan)
- "Stars in the Show" by Gamma Rock (WWE/NXT)
- Wicked Enchantment by Def Rebel (NXT, 2020)
- "The Canadian Goddess"
- "The First Lady of PWG"
Championships and accomplishments
- FWE Women's Championship (1 time)
- PWI ranked her #33 in the 2014 PWI Top 50 Females
- PWI ranked her #22 in the 2015 PWI Top 50 Females
- PWI ranked her #18 in the 2016 PWI Top 50 Females
- PWI ranked her #23 in the 2017 PWI Top 50 Females
- PWI ranked her #62 in the 2018 PWI Top 100 Females
- PWI ranked her #65 in the 2019 PWI Top 100 Females
- FSP Tag Team Championship (1 time) with Joey Ryan
- DREAMWAVE Tag Team Championship (1 time) with Joey Ryan
- AWS Women's Championship (2 times)
- WWE.com Profile
- Candice LaRae profile at CAGEMATCH.net
- Candice LaRae Official Myspace
- Candie LeRae Official Twitter
|2015 PWI Top 50 Females|
|Nikki Bella • Paige • Sasha Banks • Santana Garrett • Gail Kim • Charlotte • Naomi • Cherry Bomb • Courtney Rush • Taryn Terrell • Bayley • Brie Bella • Sexy Star • Cheerleader Melissa • Lufisto • Nicole Matthews • Becky Lynch • Kimber Lee • Natalya • Jessicka Havok • Awesome Kong • Candice LeRae • Brooke • Athena • Ivelisse • Jade • Madison Rayne • Leva Bates • Barbi Hayden • Angelina Love • Emma • Saraya Knight • Veda Scott • Velvet Sky • Madison Eagles • Kay Lee Ray • Marti Belle • Kellie Skater • Nikki Storm • Evie • Heidi Lovelace • Tessa Blanchard • Portia Perez • Alicia Fox • Cat Power • Crazy Mary Dobson • Xandra Bale • La Rosa Negra • Malia Hosaka • Vanessa Kraven|
|2016 PWI Top 50 Females|
|Charlotte Flair • Sasha Banks • Asuka • Becky Lynch • Bayley • Jade • Natalya • Gail Kim • Sexy Star • Sienna • Ivelisse • Madison Eagles • Nicole Savoy • Rosemary • Allie • Nicole Matthews • Kimber Lee • Candice LeRae • Paige • Heidi Lovelace • Evie • Cheerleader Melissa • Nia Jax • Santana Garrett • Naomi • Dana Brooke • Madison Rayne • Kay Lee Ray • Alexa Bliss • Lufisto • Amber Gallows • Marti Belle • Emma • Taylor Made • Vanessa Kraven • Su Yung • Ember Moon • Tessa Blanchard • Jessicka Havok • Shayna Baszler • Crazy Mary Dobson • Malia Hosaka • Thunder Rosa • Carmella • KC Spinelli • Veda Scott • Jessica James • Xandra Bale • Kaitlin Diemond • Eva Marie|
|2017 PWI Top 50 Females|
|Asuka • Charlotte Flair • Alexa Bliss • Sasha Banks • Bayley • Io Shirai • Natalya • Sienna • Naomi • Kairi Sane • Mercedes Martinez • Shayna Baszler • Rosemary • LuFisto • Mayu Iwantani • Mia Yim • Allie • Ember Moon • Becky Lynch • Madison Eagles • Nicole Savoy • Nia Jax • Candice LeRae • Toni Storm • Hiroyo Matsumoto • Chelsea Green • Saraya Knight • Shazza McKenzie • Kay Lee Ray • Mickie James • Dakota Kai • Nicole Matthews • Alex Windsor • Deonna Purrazzo • Abbey Laith • Risa Sera • Viper • Carmella • Ruby Riot • Nikki Cross • Vanessa Kraven • Santana Garrett • Tessa Blanchard • Arisa Nakajima • Lady Lory • Shotzi Blackheart • Veda Scott • Alpha Female • Marti Belle • Zoey Skye|
|WWE Mae Young Classic 2017 contestants|
Abbey Laith • Ayesha Ray • Bianca Belair • Candice LeRae • Dakota Kai • Jazzy Gabert • Kairi Sane • Kavita Devi • Kay Lee Ray • Lacey Evans • Marti Belle • Mercedes Martinez • Mia Yim • Miranda Salinas • Nicole Savoy • Piper Niven • Princesa Sugehit • Rachel Evers • Reina Gonzalez • Renee Michelle • Rhea Ripley • Sage Beckett • Santana Garrett • Sarah Logan • Serena Deeb • Shayna Baszler • Taynara Conti • Tessa Blanchard • Toni Storm • Vanessa Borne • Xia Li • Zeda