It appears like indie superstar Candice LeRae is one step closer to joining her real life husband, NXT Superstar and #1 Contender for the NXT Championship, Johnny Gargano, in NXT. In the most recent edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Dave Meltzer noted that LeRae was “going through the process” of signing with the WWE which ultimately means it depends on her final WWE medical. This is the final step before any official announcement will be made. While it’s usually just a formality, it’s also been the roadblock to several deals in the past, most recently fellow Mae Young Classic competitor Jazzy Gabert, who had her deal withdrawn when they discovered herniated discs in her back. The same happened to Nigel McGuinness, Willie Mack and Shelton Benjamin (although Benjamin underwent surgery to repair his issues and got re-signed a year later).
It has seemed like a foregone conclusion ever since the Mae Young Classic, when Johnny Gargano was featured heavily at ringside cheering on his wife, who made it to the Elite Eight after beating Renee Michelle and SHIMMER Champion Nicole Savoy, before bowing out to eventual finalist Shayna Baszler. In what could even further indicate the medical has gone well, Candice LeRae wrestled in a dark match at tonight’s NXT tapings in Atlanta, defeating another Mae Young Classic competitor and NXT recruit, Vanessa Borne.
— Dylan ?? (@crossfacedclash) January 5, 2018
There were also subtle clues during Gargano’s feud with current NXT Champion Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas last year before either were in the NXT title picture, when Gargano routinely ended up on the losing side, primarily due to interference from Almas’ manager, Zelina Vega (formerly Thea Trinidad). Vega’s constant interference created mind games in Gargano’s head, that was still wounded from the fresh betrayal from his #DIY partner Tommaso Ciampa at NXT Takeover: Chicago. That feud ended up propelling Almas into the NXT title picture, where he ultimately defeated Drew McIntyre for the NXT title at NXT Takeover: War Games, while Gargano lost both decisions to Almas, then lost to relative unknown Fabian Aichner on NXT television. He was given another chance to redeem himself, but game up short against WWE United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne in a dark match at War Games. Gargano was rattled and would need to find something – or someone – to help him find his confidence again.
He gained some redemption by sneaking into the #1 Contenders tournament following Velveteen Dream‘s injury and had a solid underdog victory over Kassius Ohno to enter the Fatal 4-Way, then surprised the NXT Universe by handing Aleister Black his first pinfall in NXT to become #1 Contender. But heading into NXT Takeover: Philadelphia on Royal Rumble weekend, the mind games of Zelina Vega has got to be weighing on Gargano as he faces a man he’s already failed to beat twice before in televised matches. Bringing in his real wife and established wrestling superstar Candice LeRae would definitely even the score and potentially sway the odds back to Gargano’s favour.
And just in time for a returning Ciampa to attack the NEW NXT Champion, Johnny Gargano, after his victory in the City of Brotherly Love.