Welcome to I Have Til Five, a column where I watch five matches by a wrestler I’m previously unfamiliar with and I report back on what I thought. While that sounds like an idea I had when I was trying to dodge doing actual work (it was) it helps me broaden my horizons beyond WWE and hopefully might do the same for others too. For the first column I’ve chosen Candice LeRae, a name I’ve been hearing constantly as someone WWE should be signing for their women’s division and one whose name is synonymous with Intergender Wrestling. In general I’m not sure how I feel about the concept of a man and woman in a match against each other, having only seen anything close to it in WWE in the early 2000’s where it was always pretty badly done and a LuFisto vs Necro Butcher match some years ago that was kind of entertaining. I think my main issue is that despite me knowing it’s a scripted sport and everything that goes with that an intergender match almost goes too far into unbelievable territory (yes I know pro wrestling but everyone has their line) along with a few other violence related issues. But maybe I’ll feel differently by the time I’ve seen the next five matches so let’s dive in.
The first match I watched was Candice LeRae and Joey Ryan, collectively known as World’s Cutest Tag Team Vs Young Bucks from PWG “Eleven”. Though unaware when I chose this match as the first one to watch, it was actually the one that would test my feelings about intergender wrestling the most.
First a little background, I chose this match based on the participants with the Young Bucks arguably the top independent tag team on the scene today and also that I’d get to see LeRae as part of her long running tag team with Joey Ryan, himself a top talent on the independent scene. The match was also for Pro Wrestling Guerilla, one of the most recognisable indie promotions out there. It’s also worth noting this was a Guerilla Warfare match, PWG’s equivalent to a Street Fight and while hardcore wrestling may be gone from WWE right now, it’s definitely not from the independents, as this match demonstrated. Within the opening 30 seconds LeRae takes a chair thrown to the face and you have to pretty much make your call on how you feel there and then. There really wasn’t any let up for LeRae or any of the other competitors in the match as spots involving chairs, thumbtacks and some sick looking bumps to the outside were some of the highlights of the match.
Maybe it’s not having seen much hardcore wrestling in the last few years but the match legitimately shocked me both from the spots they were doing (the piledriver to LeRae on the outside, thumbtacks in Joey Ryan’s mouth) and how brutal things got. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it as I ended up watching it twice, just as entertained the second time. The match itself is really just one spot after another but when each spot is this good, I just don’t care to be honest. As far as Candice LeRae in the match goes I was straight away taught why she’s known for being tough and for intergender wrestling, taking bumps and punishment I’d be amazed to see a male wrestler take. She also gave as good as she got playing just as much of a part in the match as any of the guys but wearing the crimson mask by the end. Great stuff to start with.
The next match I took in was LeRae vs Johnny Gargano for Absolute Intense Wrestling. I chose this match as I wanted to see what one of LeRae’s singles intergender matches was like, especially against a recognisable name such as Gargano, who you may recognise from NXT if not his work for Evolve. This match had a good story running through it that while Gargano would use wrestling moves on LeRae he was reluctant to hit or kick her, in turn LeRae had no such reservations against him but also used this to her advantage, at one point baiting Gargano in to finally use a kick only to dodge it. That kind of storytelling is appreciated as it maximises the intergender concept, doing things you can’t do in an all male or female match. The only negative I can field is that the opening minute or two seemed a little jerky and mistimed but whatever it was they quickly shook off so whatever.
Once again, despite having my reservations about an intergender match, I enjoyed this a lot both because of the reasons I mentioned previously but also because it was also a really good match. It was done with intensity throughout, they mixed it up from solid wrestling to spots on the outside, telling the story throughout. By the time the match had finished, I didn’t really care about the gender of either competitor and that really does say something.
After that I wanted to see what LeRae’s work in all female matches was like and chose a match with Cheerleader Melissa for Quintessential Pro Wrestling. For those not familiar with Cheerleader Melissa, she’s been a mainstay on the independent scene for over a decade, considered one of the top workers out there. She was also Raisha Saeed in TNA where she wrestled in a burka because TNA. Onto the match and I should point out first of all that while I know you shouldn’t judge anything on style over substance and I try my best not to, even I was a bit put off by the presentation of the show. It took place in what appears to be a church hall and the entrance is a curtain on a free standing frame. While I’m not looking for Wrestlemania here my instinct was to find something else but with the names involved I just brushed it off. And I’m glad I did as this was a really good match, telling a story of LeRae being the underdog against a dominant Cheerleader Melissa. Also large parts of the match were good mat work and wrestling which when mixed in with the occasional out of the ring spot (Melissa swinging LeRae into chairs which was definitely different) it made for a really good 15 minute match. It also showed me what LeRae could do against a top class female worker like Melissa which after the previous two matches made for a real contrast and showed an impressive range.
Quick interval to introduce you to the Ballsplex
I then spotted a match which I think is LeRae’s biggest exposure to date (but if anyone can correct me please comment) which was Vs Gail Kim at TNA Turning Point. I knew when i started watching the entire recording lasted only 3:22 so I knew I wasn’t going to be getting an epic. What I did get was as decent a match as could be done in three minutes, much to my surprise as when I saw the length I’d assumed it was going to be a squash. Not only wasn’t it a squash but LeRae came away looking pretty decent which as she was up against Gail Kim as Champion in TNA was a nice surprise. It also showed LeRae could play the part on a bigger stage (this was at the point when TNA was still on Spike) but as short as the match was it left me wanting to see more of that.
Finally I wanted another match against a top female worker and found one vs Kimber Lee for Smash Wrestling. The name stuck out to me as I’d heard she is currently Chikara’s Champion. No I didn’t miss out the word Women’s, Diva’s, Knockout’s or anything else, she is currently their Grand Champion, which made her the first female wrestler to hold the top title in a major non-female promotion, which is big. But regardless of that this was the first Kimber Lee match I’d ever seen so it was going to be interesting for that reason too. First of the tempo of this match for the majority was insane, the match lasted a bit short of ten minutes and for most of it they were working at a very fast pace, not in a rushed way though but in a good high energy, exciting way. There was still tons of athleticism throughout, the spot where both go for a cross body is something I’ve never seen before and it was intense, like a fight intense. As you can probably tell I liked this match, a lot, in fact it was my favourite of the five with the possible exception of the tag match but both are so different it’s a tough comparison. My only gripe came with the ending of the match which felt weird given the previous ten minutes but if it helped to set-up a rematch that’s fine with me, I just have no idea if it did or not.
So there we have it, my introduction to Candice LeRae matches. Firstly I’d recommend any wrestling fan check these matches out, they’re all readily available on Youtube in a legitimate way. If you’re not into hardcore stuff maybe skip the tag match but if you are then it’s a must see. I think my feelings on intergender wrestling may have changed to, it has it’s place, as opposed to when I started where I didn’t think anything good could ever come of it. I think the problem comes in when it’s carried out by less than great workers/bookers and it easily crosses lines of good taste. But as far as Candice LeRae goes, I’ll definitely be seeking out more of her matches but if I had to make a call I think I’ll be looking for the all-female ones first and I really think that’s a testament to the talent and potential future of Candice LeRae.