When will Candice LeRae get her moment in WWE NXT?

WWE NXT Women's Championship Credit: WWE.com
WWE NXT Women's Championship Credit: WWE.com /

Candice LeRae is one of the most influential wrestlers of the past 15 years, and she’s now one of the bedrocks of WWE NXT. But she’s never been champion.

WWE NXT has one of the most talented rosters in wrestling. Triple H’s brand has the right mix of up-and-coming stars and experienced wrestlers who have been working on Wednesday nights for years. Candice LeRae is as much a part of that latter group as anyone, even if she hasn’t won a title yet.

It’s quite baffling, actually, that LeRae hasn’t won a championship in NXT, though it is true that the brand has been slow to book title changes in the Women’s Division over the years. Part of that is because of Triple H’s (general) formula for booking the championship.

The division will center around a dominant champion who holds the title for a year or even more, with one or two feuds elsewhere in the division. And that dominant champion will run through most of the division before finally losing to the babyface the company favors the most. Then that babyface will usually have a short reign.

LeRae was, at one point, the babyface chasing Baszler, but WWE ultimately decided to go with Rhea Ripley as the woman to beat the Queen of Spades. Now, LeRae is flourishing as a heel, despite having been one of the most likable babyfaces in WWE in her first two-to-three years with NXT (depends on if you begin the timeline from her TV debut or from when she officially signed).

Her last two big matches have been against Io Shirai, who took the title off Charlotte Flair at TakeOver: In Your House earlier this year. The Queen of the Skies is being positioned as the new dominant champion in NXT, which she’s totally earned. You can make a compelling argument that Shirai has been the best wrestler in the world over the past five years.

Candice LeRae had another great match with Io Shirai at WWE NXT’s Halloween Havoc Special

So while Candice LeRae conceivably had a chance at winning either match, including the TakeOver bout before the draft when fans wondered if Shirai could be called up, the reality is that Shirai was seen as the clear favorite. Shirai remains as popular as she was when she first won the title, and NXT will want to get as much as possible out of Shirai’s run at the top of the brand. She is their most impressive wrestler right now.

Even so, it still hurt seeing LeRae fall short in a Tables, Ladders, and Scares Match. As usual, The Poison Pixie was excellent, playing her villainous role perfectly and shining in a totally different type of match than what Shirai and LeRae have put together before. Remember, they had one of the matches of the year in NXT in 2019 at TakeOver: Toronto, and this Halloween Havoc gimmick match was a definite change-of-pace from that.

Yet it was still thoroughly enjoyable, highlighting both competitor’s resolve and toughness. LeRae’s toughness is legendary, as any fan who watched her work on the independent scene will attest. Even NXT fans know this well, given how great her match with Mia Yim at NXT Great American Bash was.

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It’s important to acknowledge how great LeRae’s matches and body of work in NXT are and have been, but fans would like to see that work recognized in the form of a title run in NXT. I mean, if LeRae can be the only woman in history to hold a title in PWG, then she probably should have been NXT Women’s Champion by now.

And that’s another frustrating thing for wrestling fans who are familiar with LeRae’s work. We saw NXT briefly acknowledge LeRae’s influence on women’s wrestling and intergender wrestling when she first signed, and we got a great intergender spot from her in the North American Championship Ladder Match this year, too.

But WWE has shied away from truly discussing LeRae’s influence on wrestling, which upsets fans since LeRae’s legacy over the last 15 years is already overlooked.

LeRae has been one of NXT’s best performers – not just in the ring, but as a character and leader of the brand – for almost three years now. There have been a lot of talented wrestlers who have come through the brand who never won the title, but those wrestlers didn’t have quite the same legacy as LeRae coming into WWE or within NXT itself.

Therefore, LeRae needs to end up having a run as a champion. You can’t have a wrestler who is that talented, that respected, and that influential over a lengthy period of time and never give them a chance to have a run at the top of the mountain. It’s both unjust and unwise, in the sense that NXT would be missing out on a potentially defining title reign.

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There’s still time for Candice LeRae to get her moment as a champion in NXT, but until that time comes, all fans can do is appreciate what LeRae has done thus far, enjoy her current work, and remember her profound impact on independent wrestling. She is very much one of the most important wrestlers of the last decade-plus.