The #1 contender for the NXT Women's Championship, Candice LeRae, was a recent guest on Lilian Garcia's Chasing Glory Podcast, and during the discussion, Candice opened up about her popularity for intergender matches on the indie pro wrestling circuit. She recognizes that the topic of intergender wrestling is a controversial subject amongst pro wrestling fans, and she was under the impression that such controversy would disqualify her from someday working with WWE.
"I kind of felt like I was shooting myself in the foot in the independents because I was doing the type of wrestling that was not necessarily accepted by everybody. Not that it was bad, but I was a woman wrestling men and that's not for everybody and I totally understand both sides of the story here," Candice said. "But I found what I was doing was inspiring and helping other people; I had men and women coming up to me at shows almost in tears telling me that my wrestling empowered them to get into horrible situations, and so I do understand a company here not wanting to promote the violence of opposite genders. And I do understand people's take on it as us supporting domestic violence but I always viewed it as I am a woman who has put herself in that situation. I am asking for this. I want to be treated as an equal, as an equal competitor. I am putting myself in this scenario because I want to empower myself, and I think I found that a lot of people found so much good in that. And I worried because I didn't understand that a company like WWE can't necessarily promote that, and I understand the reason for it but I didn't know whether or not they wanted to sign someone who is the poster child of intergender wrestling on the independents."
Candice continued on, mentioning the positive impact her matches have had on young girls when standing up to bullies, like her niece. LeRae revealed that she's always been headstrong and committed to showing people that women are capable of doing things just as well as men.
"If you look me up, some of the pictures are my face covered up in blood. Like, is that what this company wants to represent? Yes, this is my childhood dream, but I was starting to understand what I was doing on the independents was so much bigger," Candice explained. "It was impacting so many people, including my nieces. My one niece was playing Baseball at the time and she told me that the guys were picking on her because she was a girl, but she said, 'But my aunt Candice wrestles boys and she beats them so I know that I can beat the guys too.' It makes me feel amazing. They should feel empowered, they shouldn't feel limited because of gender, they shouldn't feel like they can't do something just because someone is telling them that they can't do it. I've had plenty of people tell me that I can't do something, but I just always kind of say, 'Okay,' but I am stubborn. That is what you think, but I'll show you that you are wrong. I won't tell you that you are wrong, but I'll show you."
Candice went in-depth about growing up alongside mostly boys and how that affected her training when she wanted to participate in the same sports as them. Whether it was football, baseball, or wrestling, Candice was adamant that she receive no special treatment for being a girl.
"When I started training to be a wrestler, there weren't a lot of women around and, at that time, I had to train with the boys," Candice said. "I started to get upset because I was getting in the ring with them - how I was raised my whole life by my cousins, by my dad, if I wanted to do these things with boys, because I played Little League Baseball, I demanded that I was not going to play Softball. I told my dad that I was going to play Baseball. I want to play with the boys and I am going to play with the boys. My dad put me in all of the same drills as my brothers, and if I played football with my cousins and if they were going to play tackle football, then I was going to sign up for tackle football. That's just how it was. When I would be at training, I would get genuinely upset when it would be my turn. Someone would say to take it easy on her because of whatever reason, or that you don't have to do this. I would get so offended, it was backhanded, like, 'Oh no, you're a girl, you don't have to worry about this or you're never going to do this anyway'. But I was like, 'I love wrestling, and I want to be a wrestler, and I want to learn anything I can learn'. So every so often, you would get a guy who was trying to prove a point and they were a little harder on you. And again, I am very stubborn and I wouldn't let them know that they hurt me, so I would just suck it up."
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit Chasing Glory Podcast with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.