Candice Dawson Gargano is a 35-year-old professional wrestler from Riverside California. Gargano currently wrestles for WWE’s NXT brand under the ring name, Candice LeRae.
Gargano started her wrestling career for the promotion, Empire Wrestling Federation (EWF), in 2002 and wrestled for EWF throughout 2006. During this time, she also wrestled for All-Pro Wrestling and Ground Zero Wrestling. She began branching out into the Midwestern United States in 2007, wrestling for promotions like Insanity Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, and DDT Pro-Wrestling.
In 2011, Gargano began wrestling for NWA Championship Wrestling from Hollywood. Two years later, she wrestled for Combat Zone Wrestling and Family Wrestling Entertainment. While wrestling for Family Wrestling Entertainment, she won the FWE Women’s Championship after defeating Ivelisse Vélez. She lost the title a month later.
Gargano’s WWE NXT Debut
Gargano made her NXT debut in May 2017 where she competed in a Battle Royal to determine the number one contender for Asuka’s NXT Women’s Championship. She was unsuccessful in winning the match as she was eliminated by Billie Kay.
In July 2017, Candice competed in the Mae Young Class tournament. In the first round, she defeated Renee Michelle and beat Nicole Savoy in the second. Candice made it to the quarterfinals but was defeated by Shayna Baszler.
Gargano’s WWE Contract
Gargano officially signed a contract with WWE in January 2018 and was assigned to the company’s NXT brand. In July, she competed against Kairi Sane and Nikki Cross in a triple-threat match number one contender’s match, which was won by Kairi Sane. LeRae competed in her first women’s Royal Rumble match at the Royal Rumble on January 27, 2019, entering at number 17 and she lasted just under 10 minutes before being eliminated by Ruby Riott.
At the WrestleMania 35 pre-show, Candice LeRae competed in the second Women’s Battle Royal where she was eliminated by Asuka. The following week, Candice returned to in-ring action on NXT and defeated Aliyah. In September 2019, she competed in a fatal four-way match to determine the number one contender to Shayna Baszler’s NXT Women’s Championship, which she went on to win. Candice received her title match in October but she was defeated by Baszler.
In January 2020, Candice participated in the Royal Rumble and entered the match at number 9 but was eliminated by Bianca Belair. At the end of April, she debuted a new look and entrance theme as she defeated Kacy Catanzaro on NXT. At NXT TakeOver: In Your House, she teamed with Dakota Kai and Raquel González and defeated Mia Yim, Tegan Nox and Shotzi Blackheart.
Candice LeRae & Johnny Gargano Band Together
On the May 6 episode of NXT, LeRae accompanied Gargano to the ring where he defeated Dominik Dijakovic. The real life couple began appearing as a “power couple” and started feuding with Mia Yim and Keith Lee. At NXT TakeOver: In Your House, LeRae teamed with Dakota Kai and Raquel González but were defeated by Mia Yim, Tegan Nox and Shotzi Blackheart. On July 8 at NXT: The Great American Bash, LeRae defeated Yim in a Street Fight.
Candice LeRae competed in a battle royal in September to determine the number one contender for Io Shirai’s NXT Women’s Championship, which she won by eliminating Blackheart. She then teamed up with Gargano the following week in a “Champions vs. Challengers” tag team match against Shirai and Damian Priest. At NXT TakeOver 31, LeRae was unsuccessful in capturing the title.
Candice LeRae was successful again in gaining another NXT Women’s Championship match at NXT: Halloween Havoc with a consecutive win over Blackheart. Facing off against champion Io Shirai in a renamed Tables, Ladders and Chairs match, LeRae was once again unsuccessful in capturing the title, despite having been assisted by Indi Hartwell (then presented as a masked figure). She was enraged that Blackheart cost her the Women’s Championship, so she swore revenge by stealing and destroying Blackheart’s toy tank in front of her, leaving Blackheart an emotional wreck and kicking off a feud between the two.
Candice LeRae Joins Faction The Way
On the November 18 episode of NXT, it was announced that LeRae would lead one of the two women’s teams (Team Candice) against that of Blackheart (Team Shotzi) in the second-ever women’s WarGames match at NXT TakeOver: WarGames, where LeRae’s team was victorious. The following week on NXT, LeRae was featured in a segment alongside Johnny Gargano, Indi Hartwell, and Austin Theory, in which they started referring to themselves as The Way.
LeRae and Hartwell defeated the team of Cora Jade and Gigi Dolin in the quarterfinals of the Women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament on the January 22, 2021 episode of 205 Live. This marked the first time that a women’s match has ever taken place in the brand’s history. On the April 27 episode of NXT, Hartwell and LeRae attacked Blackheart and Moon again which set the stage for a future street fight match for the titles.
On May 4th, Indi Hartwell and Candice LeRae defeated the champions to win the NXT Women’s Tag Team Championship, marking Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell’s first WWE championships. At NXT’s Great American Bash 2021, Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell lost the titles to Io Shirai and Zoey Stark.
Career Championships and Accomplishments
- Alternative Wrestling Show
- AWS Women’s World Championship (2 times, inaugural)
- 3rd Annual Women’s Tournament (2013)
- DDT Pro-Wrestling
- Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship (1 time)
- Dreamwave Wrestling
- Dreamwave Tag Team Championship (1 time)
- Family Wrestling Entertainment
- FWE Women’s Championship (1 time)
- Fighting Spirit Pro Wrestling
- FSP Tag Team Championship (1 time)
- Pro Wrestling Guerrilla
- PWG World Tag Team Championship (1 time)
- Smash Wrestling
- Gold Tournament (2015)
- World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)
- NXT Women’s Tag Team Championship (1 time)