Several weeks ago on NXT, we caught our first glimpse of the new Candice LeRae.
She helped husband Johnny Gargano win his final match against his long-time best friend-turned bitter enemy, Tommaso Ciampa.
Then, just last week, the Garganos sat down at their dinner table to explain their new attitudes.
Gargano had already discussed this before, so many wanted to hear what Candice had to say. She claimed that acting as the big sister for the NXT women’s division got her nowhere, and they were never there for her when she needed them.
I’m excited to see what the darker side of LeRae is all about, especially since it plays into her booking since joining NXT.
It all started back in the inaugural Mae Young Classic; LeRae looked like a heavy favorite in the tournament but lost in the quarterfinals to Shayna Baszler. She then signed with WWE on January 16, 2018. Not long after, she helped even the odds in Gargano’s feud with then-NXT Champion Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega.
After that feud ended, however, she never really developed into a prominent feature of the women’s division. Rather, she had the occasional match here and there while mainly playing second fiddle to whoever Gargano was facing at the time.
The one thing that shouldn’t have happened to her inevitably did: she devolved into simply “Johnny Gargano’s wife”. Whatever she did outside of that was basically meaningless because she always went right back to being a bystander during her husband’s feuds.
It looked as if she was never going to break into the main event scene, but things started to turn around early last summer.
In May, she helped Io Shirai take on then-NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler, Jessamyn Duke, and Marina Shafir. After losing to Baszler a second time, Shirai attacked her former friend and the two began a heated feud.
They came to blows in August at NXT TakeOver: Toronto. While LeRae put up quite a fight, Shirai ended up getting the better of her. However, many considered the match one of the best of the night and praised LeRae for her performance.
Then, in September, she competed in and won a fatal four-way match to determine the number one contender for Baszler’s NXT Women’s Championship. Her opportunity came on October 2nd, and even though she came up short, she still proved that she could rise to the occasion.
Rhea Ripley felt the same way, choosing LeRae for her team for the first-ever women’s WarGames match. Her and Ripley went on to secure the victory against Team Baszler in November at NXT TakeOver: WarGames. The following night, LeRae helped Team NXT win the first-ever five-on-five-on-five women’s Survivor Series elimination match.
But now we’ve seen what she’s capable of when she’s out for herself. As she said last week, “You know what? I’m not going to eat second anymore.” I have a feeling this is going to reinvigorate her career in NXT.
If her first promo gave us any indication, it’s that she’s not a pushover anymore. LeRae looks more confident and focused than she ever has before. Instead of the happy-go-lucky, bubbly babyface everyone knew and loved, now stands a woman willing to do whatever it takes to reach the top.
Even though she’s still at Gargano’s side, this feels different than the past. This feels like she can hold her own and refuse to take a backseat to her husband. Together they could become the most powerful couple in NXT—unless some newcomers have something to say about that.
Regardless, I look forward to seeing this new LeRae in action. This will help spice things up a bit in the women’s division and opens the door for new rivalries. Having her take on the likes of Tegan Nox, Shotzi Blackheart, and Mia Yim could create some TakeOver-caliber match-ups and give fans something fresh and new.
Everyone better watch their backs, because Candice Wrestling is on a mission and will make any who oppose her feel her newfound wrath.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @Shalenehixon21. Thanks for reading!