Native Affairs - Wrestlemania Kiwi Style

By Wepiha Te Kanawa

New Zealand pro-wrestler, Leilani Tominiko aka Candy Lee has won the first Women’s Armageddon Cup despite the fact she was born a male.

The 23-year-old is the first transgender pro-wrestler in New Zealand. She admits there has been some criticism of her fighting in the female competitions.

“People think that it’s not fair that because I was born male and I’m competing in the women’s division or I’m tricking people. I dont think I’m tricking people, I’m just living my life and being who i feel I am and that’s a woman. I live my life as a woman, so why would it not be fair that I compete in the womens division?”

Leilani grew up with five brothers and attended a Catholic boys school in Auckland. She admits to some bullying by students but her brothers are always there to defend her. Despite the fact she has just won a pro-wrestling cup.

“I was biologically born male, but I started transitioning when I was in high school. So, about Year 10 and Year 11. I was always in denial about who I was. I just didnt know, because I didn’t know what being transgender was. I just knew that I felt different and that I always felt that I wanted to be a female. I was alwasy feminine as a little boy and I played with barbie dolls and was always girly.”

But Candy Lee also admits to being a fan of pro-wrestling as a little boy, although at the time preferred to watch the elite WWE.

Candy Lee is one of many Kiwis who are chasing dreams of wrestling overseas especially in America.

Forbes puts out it’s annual list of ‘Most Valuable USA Sports Brands’ which is based off revenue, per event day. Wrestlemania has placed in the top five for the past two years alongside the Super Bowl and FIFA World Cup. In 2015, Wrestlemania earned $170 million. Last year, it increased to $180 million.

Benjiman King from Impact Pro Wrestling says New Zealand pro-wrestlers are becoming sought after around the world.

“A lot of the people who have been grinding away at the scene over the last four to five years have actually gone overseas now. For example, Eve Dakota Kai is wrestling in the WWE, TK Cooper and Dahlia Black are doing huge things in Europe. So the future of New Zealand wrestling is looking good.

Leilani Tominiko says despite the entertainment wrestling is hard work and very athletic. It took her two years of training before she felt ready to compete. Now she’s won the Women’s Armageddon Cup, Candy Lee with her signature Candy Crush move is preparing for the national title.

“All my hard work has paid off, but also I get to hold the title and being the first woman to hold it. Also I get a title shot at our biggest show of the year.”