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Wrestling / Candice LeRae

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Candice LeRae Gargano (née Dawson) (born September 29, 1985) is a Canadian professional wrestler who debuted in 2002 as Sweet Candy, before becoming better known by the ring name Candice LeRae. She is best known for her work on the American independent circuit, for initially for the Empire Wrestling Federation before breaking out into promotions such as Pro Wrestling Guerilla and CZW. She is a former PWG World Tag Team Champion, Fighting Spirit Pro Tag Team Champion and Dreamwave Tag Team Champion with Joey Ryan as The World's Cutest Tag Team.

In 2017, Candice first appeared on NXT, participating in a battle royal to determine the number one contender for the NXT Women's Championship, held then by Asuka. She has made sporadic appearances in NXT since then. She also wrestled in the WWE Mae Young Classic, defeating Renee Michelle in the first round and Nicole Savoy in the second before losing to Shayna Baszler in the quarter finals. She was officially signed by WWE in January of 2018, and made her debut at Takeover: Philadelphia alongside real-life husband Johnny Gargano.

She had numerous feuds with the likes of Shayna Baszler and Io Shirai before turning heel in April 2020. She's taken on the moniker "the Poison Pixie" and is now the co-leader of The Way (as in, "The Gargano Way").

After months of inactivity, due to pregnancy, along with Gargano's contract expiring with WWE, Candice's contract would expire on May 6, 2022.

Candice would later make her return to WWE on the September 26th edition of Raw.

Poison Pixie Tropes!!:

  • Action Girl: Having clawed her way up to stardom in wrestling despite a shitload of sexism, having established herself as the female wrestler in PWG (see previous comment re: sexism- Super Dragon won't employ other women) despite fierce opposition, and having taken a kick to the face where the foot in question was wearing a tennis shoe with thumbtacks glued to the sole... yeah, it's safe to say that she qualifies. And that's just the start of it.
  • Action Mom: She's has a son with Johnny Gargano.
  • Always Someone Better: Inverted - Hard as she tried, Jade Chung was never able to give LeRae much of a fight, losing all of their singles matches against each other, with a particularly humiliating and definitive loss against LeRae on NWA TV, with Chung unable to last longer than 5 minutes before getting knocked out and pinned.
  • Arch-Enemy:
    • An abusive pimp she used to work for known as The Human Tornado. LeRae, being LeRae, didn't just take it and went so far as to fight him on more than one occasion, but she usually had a male proxy face him instead when they feuded.
    • A one-sided example in Cherry Bomb, who hates LeRae for breaking her collar bone. It becomes a hate triangle with Courtney Rush, who hates Cherry Bomb the way Cherry Bomb hates LeRae. LeRae used to hate Rush in that manner, for reasons, but let go of her grudge much more quickly than the other two.
  • The Artifact: After the Way was disbanded on NXT, she still uses her theme dubbed "Wicked Ways" during her return to WWE and joining the main roster. By February 2023, her theme has changed with a more upbeat approach.
  • Badass Adorable: Combining her love of Disney with her general badassery gives her this look.
  • Bash Brothers: With Joey Ryan, obviously. Hurt Ryan and LeRae will react more like a Violently Protective Girl Friend than Ryan's actual girlfriend.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: In All Pro Wrestling and their spinoff, ChickFight. LeRae certainly proved to be a formidable wrestler over the years, but whenever she got too cocky there was always someone, be it Princesa Sugehit, MsChif or ODB there to remind her where she stood in the grand scheme of things. Inverted when Kitana Vera and Jade Chung tried to give her trouble for a while in EWF and NWA, but after Candice won a hair vs match vs Vera, and defeated Chung rather easily not long afterwards, that was the end of that.
  • Big Brother Instinct: She went after Dakota Kai to get revenge on behalf of Tegan Nox after Kai betrayed them both at WarGames 2019. During a pre-match promo she described herself as Tegan Nox's pissed-off big sister.
  • Blood Is the New Black: During a tag match pitting herself and Joey Ryan against The Young Bucks for the PWG Tag Team Championship, she got superkicked with a shoe that had thumbtacks glued to the bottom of it. It was not a pretty sight.
  • Bullying a Dragon: In Family Wrestling Entertainment she picked on Carlito Colón for being too scared to hit her. Carly will usually only hit women if he is booked in a match against them and on a "family" show initially wasn't even willing to go that far at first. He tried to pin her in the gentlest way possible but LeRae was so obnoxious Colon finally lost his temper. Joey Ryan came and took him out before he could act in anger though.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Her heel run with Johnny Gargano and The Way ran on all of them being this.
  • David Versus Goliath: Usually happens whenever she faces somebody who is visibly bigger in size than she is.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: With Joey Ryan. The first time they teamed up was a good deed on his part, as even Mr. Sleaze apparently didn't appreciate violent pimps tormenting their former employees. But after that she had to beat him before they became regular partners, and it took her two tries.
  • Finishing Move: A Gori Neckbreaker or a top rope swinging neck breaker, and occasionally a Lionsault as a babyface. As a heel, she's begun using an arm-trap figure-four curbstomp known as "Wicked Stepsister".
  • Flipping the Bird: Does this occasionally to particularly heelish opponents. She did this to Johnny Gargano a whole lot, even though he more often than not was uncharacteristically nice to her. Usually beating her in intergender matches may have had something to do with that...
  • Fire-Forged Friends: With Rhea Ripley during and after the build to TakeOver: WarGames 2019. Rhea was the appointed leader of the face team for the women's WarGames match, and Candice was her first pick. Throughout the subsequent weeks and during the match itself, Candice was The Lancer to Rhea and a major help prior to Ripley hitting the Riptide on Shayna Baszler to win the match. Rhea also came to Candice's aid the NXT after Survivor Series, fighting off a freshly heel-turned Dakota Kai who was trying to victimize Candice after their fight was over, then checking she was okay.
  • Groin Attack: One of her signature maneuvers, the Balls-Plex. A German suplex, only instead of grabbing the waist... well, you get the idea.
  • Happily Married: To Johnny Gargano, both in character and Real Life.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Candice LeRae joined Christina Von Eerie's Team USA against LuFisto's Team Canada, in the Canadian version of SMASH, simply because Courtney Rush was on said team. But when Courtney Rush broke her collar bone and couldn't make it to the show, LeRae tried to back out of her match too, only to be forced to continue representing the foreigners against country woman She Nay Nay. Subverted in the end when Von Eerie, and by extension all of Team USA, did a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Heel–Face Return: After she left the company for five months, she returned on September 26, 2022 episode of Raw defeating Nikki A.S.H.
  • Humiliating Wager: The penultimate match of EWF/NWA Pro Damage Control 3 was hair vs hair and she defeated Kitana Vera.
  • Jerkass: Her 2020-21 heel run with real life husband Johnny Gargano.
  • Jobber
    • This was her initial role in Ring of Honor, being one of the many women brought in to get pummeled by Sara Del Rey and Daizee Haze when they demanded more competition. Nine years later, when ROH rebranded Women Of Honor as a competitive division, LeRae returned to show how much better she had gotten, only to lose to comparative rookie Deonna Purazzo. After another loss to Kelly Klein, Veda Scott called LeRae overrated and boasted about having the second best WOH record after Klein. LeRae finally got on the winning track by defeating Scott. Earlier than that if considering the 2014 Wrestlecon ROH was a part of, but starting with Scott was clearly the angle ROH was going for.
    • Lost her only TNA match to Gail Kim.
    • LeRae's SHIMMER career looked to be going the same way as her ROH one. She lost her first three singles matches to Athena (NXT's Ember Moon), Nikki Storm (NXT's Nikki Cross) and Kay Lee Ray, while also competing in a four-way dance won by Jenny Rose (who rarely has a good win/loss record). However, just like she eventually started winning in ROH, she started winning in SHIMMER, going so far as to become one of the top three contenders for the then new Heart Of SHIMMER Championship belt before being knocked off by Nicole Savoy. Even that was after LeRae defeated both Cherry Bomb and Cheerleader Melissa on the the same night.
    • She's been one in both her NXT appearances, both of which were battle royales to determine a number one contender for the NXT Women's Championship. She didn't even get a titantron. Subverted in the Mae Young Classic, where she got to the quarter finals before giving the rub to Shayna Baszler.
  • Kick the Dog: When she and Johnny Gargano ran over and crushed Shotzi Blackheart's tank.
  • Killer Rabbit: Just look her cute face and adorable smile, you wouldn't think she could hurt a fly. When that bell rings, though, she will twist you into a pretzel until she's broken your everything.
  • Make Way for the New Villains: Mainly because Ivelisse Vélez failed to get over as a villain in Family Wrestling Entertainment. So instead, Velez became a face by default that Joey Ryan and Candice LeRae got heat by screwing over twice in a row, with LaRae taking the women's title and the two being chased by Veda Scott and Paul London.
  • The Lancer: Became this to Rhea Ripley after she took charge of the female faces in the NXT women's locker room during the build-up to WarGames 2019. Candice was Rhea's first pick for her team, and her brightly colored outfit and blonde hair contrasted with Rhea's dark brown hair and black leather ring gear. In the end they wound up winning the match together despite Dakota Kai's Cavalry Betrayal.
  • Mistaken for Romance
    • She and Joey Ryan are intergender tag team partners and traveling buddies, Candice has taken a page from at least one of Joey's moves in the ring and they even shared a vlog of their travels with other wrestlers. Because of this, it's easy for people to think they're a couple. Except... they've never even kissed, Candice is married to Johnny Gargano, and Joey Ryan is married to female wrestler Laura James.
    • Bar Wrestling attempted to put this to rest on their third show by booking The World's Cutest Tag Team against The Killer Baes. WWE NXT successfully put it to rest by making Candice and Johnny's marriage an increasingly important part of their gimmicks while Joey would never sign with the promotion.
  • Only Sane Man: Has become this in The Way, specifically when it comes to Indi Hartwell's "relationship" with Dexter Lumis.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: She quickly became one of the Empire Wrestling Federation's premier women wrestlers, but was just unlucky enough to debut at the same time as Vixen, otherwise known as Amazing Kong. Luckily for little Candy, Kong's high demand elsewhere and EWF's not having its own women's belt meant EWF only booked them a couple times, but after coming up short, Candy took it upon herself to pursue Kong and her NWA World Women's Championship belt to other promotions. To give you an idea of how that story went, Kong's reign was ended by MsChif.
  • Parts Unknown: Often billed as being from "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride". As the heelish Poison Pixie on NXT, part of Johnny Gargano's introduction of her bills her as "hailing from Riverside, California, but currently residing in my heart."
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: She's 5'2" and 110 lbs, yet is able to throw around wrestlers who are more than double her size with ease.
    • Has regularly wrestled Awesome Kong, who is much bigger than she is.
    • She once gave a successful balls-plex to Abyss.
    • Her husband Johnny Gargano also counts as one, as does her more regular tag partner Joey Ryan, making for pint sized double teams.
  • Power Trio: In Chikara, she, Solo Darling and Crazy Mary Dobson competed as the second incarnation of Team SHIMMER.
  • Red Baron: Was quickly called The Canadian Goddess on the indies, eventually became The First Lady of PWG. Since debuting in NXT, fans have nicknamed her Candice Wrestling, while she favored the WWE-coined moniker of The Pint-Sized Pixie. After her Face–Heel Turn she quickly altered the latter into poison-themed variations, with Pint-Size Poison and The Poison Pixie showing up on her entrance graphics.
  • Rescue Romance: In Pro Wrestling Guerrilla she stood up to her pimp, The Human Tornado, and started dating Chris Hero when he prevented The Human Tornado from smacking her up (as much as Tornado wanted to, anyway).
  • Shout-Out
    • She loves all things Disney, to the point that she bills herself from Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.
    • She and Joey once wore matching ring gear inspired by Disney's Magic Kingdom.
  • Squash Match: Her debut for All Pro Wrestling, during the first ChickFight Tournament, was best described as an extended squash deal to LeRae by La CazaCanadienses Princess Sugey.
  • Tag Team
    • The World's Cutest with Joey Ryan, after defeating him during one of his inter gender invitationals. She also teams with Johnny Gargano quite a bit, but this took a while longer, as LeRae was initially insanely hostile towards Gargano. Gargano's manners, which he rarely showed to the degree he did for LeRae, eventually won her over.
    • While she never won the CZW Tag title belts, she substituted for Bill Carr while he and Dan Barry held them so the champions would not have to vacate them. She and Joey Ryan went on to defeat Barry and Carr at a WSU show, but still were not awarded the belts.
  • The Rival
    • As a manager and valet, Jade Chung. LeRae is also one of the few rivals Chung wrestled on a semi regular basis, during 2007, winning most of their matches! By the next year LeRae had left Chung behind as a wrestler (after defeating Chung in short fashion on NWA TV), if not necessarily as a manager.
    • Her most frequent ring rival is Carla Jade, who at one point went so far as to form an alliance with The Human Tornado against LeRae in EWF, which in turn led to LeRae's first time teaming with Joey Ryan. The rivalry cooled down to more healthy levels after that, they even teamed up on a few NWA Pro shows, but it never really went away. Part of what fuels it is that even though Jade has defeated LeRae many times, she's never been able to do so in a tournament or with a title belt on the line, and LeRae is a lot more famous and widely booked than her.
    • Her most frequent male ring rival is Peter Avalon, who at one point went so far as to face her in Joey Ryan's place during Ryan's inter gender invitational.
    • Christina Von Eerie, particularly on the Alternative Wrestling Show, where LeRae was the first women's champion of the promotion and fiercely fought second champion Von Eerie for the belt. They also faced one another several times in NWA Pro and PWG, but unexpectedly tagged together in QPro before going back at it in Beyond, Family Wrestling Entertainment, and of course AWS. This also led to quite a few matches with Von Eerie's tag team partners MsChif and Buggy Nova, but not too many tag team matches since LeRae's main partners are men.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Initially averted, as valets were a noticeable part of early Pro Wrestling Guerilla, LeRae even made her debut not as a valet, but a managerial rival to Jade Chung, and then was forced into a wrestling role that eventually saw her defeat LuFisto, engage in a long running feud with Christina Von Eerie, and even score a win over Daffney Unger. LeRae was the only one who stuck around after PWG's ownership changed, however.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Her Face–Heel Turn on the April 8th edition of NXT turning on Tommaso Ciampa and aiding her husband, Johnny Gargano.
  • Tournament Arc
    • In 2009 she won the tournament to become the Alternative Wrestling Show's first women's champion, the final round being a three-way dance with Morgan and Erica D'Erico.
    • She'd win two more tournaments held by AWS, defeating Aiden Riley in the final round of 2010's and Mariah Moreno in the final round of 2013's. No title belts award those times, though.
    • The final round of SMASH's 2015 Gold Tournament was a five-way dance featuring Matt Cross, Trevor Lee, Tyson Dux and Biff Busick. Candice LeRae won.
  • Use Your Head: Would sometimes employ headbutts as part of her arsenal, even when her opponents are hardheaded women themselves, such as Nicole Savoy or Nikki Cross. She once did this against a man, beginning a match with a headbutt to Peter Avalon's face, which knocked him down right away.
  • Yoko Oh No: In Universe, Chris Hero saving Candice LeRae from The Human Tornado was all well and good, but when they started dating, that caused problems, as Claudio Castagnoli didn't like her and went so far as to join BLKOut, a multi promotional Power Stable that The Human Tornado was a member of, just to get rid of her. And when LeRae was gone, Hero and Castagnoli were back on good terms.