She may have adopted many names throughout her career, but one name remained constant for Erica Leigh in 2022: champion.
Despite a delayed start to the year with an infection, Leigh quickly bounced back in a major fashion. In late March, she stepped up for East Coast Wrestling Association’s 26th Annual Super 8 Tournament — a prestigious tournament typically dominated by men. Leigh, however, carved a path all the way to the finals before finally being defeated by the eventual winner, Darius Carter. Her impressive performance perhaps set up the huge opportunity that followed the next month, as soon challenged Travis Lee for the ECWA Legacy Championship on April 30, 2022.
In a Candy Land Death Match, Erica Leigh then battled, and overcame, Travis Lee, to claim the championship. Her title win marked a monumental moment in ECWA, as Leigh became the first-ever female in company history to capture a title outside of its women’s championship. Leigh’s win at Night Of Unusual Matches would also stamp the first of three key victories for her in 2022, as she made even more history over the summer.
“It was never my intention to break barriers or be the first woman to do X, first woman to do Y,” Leigh admitted in a chat with WrestleZone‘s own Ella Jay. “But it just has worked out that way, hasn’t it? So, a lot of firsts for me.”
“It is overwhelming sometimes to think that these things haven’t been done where I’m just going and being me and doing what I know how to do and these things follow or these things come with it. So, when I stop and step back and take a look at all of these accolades or accomplishments, it is sort of bizarre to me, because I’m like, ‘How? How is this the first?’ This is crazy. But no, I love it.”
Erica Leigh acquired another accolade on August 6 while competing in her second Super 8 tournament of the year. This time, she entered the Women’s Super 8 tournament, soaring into the finals once again. This time, though, she won the entire thing, defeating the “Submission Sniper” Jordan Blade to clutch the victory.
“The Women’s Super 8 was sort of my ‘do or die’ moment. I was like, ‘I’m not losing this,’” Leigh recalled. “I was on the verge of taking a break at that point. Had a nagging injury creeping up on me and I tried to take a few weeks off and then when I got booked for the Women’s Super 8 I was like, ‘Well, I can’t not [compete].’”
In the wake of her nagging injury, Leigh pushed through for a few more months, leading to her “extremely emotional” victory in the Women’s Super 8. “I would say a lot of the doubt that you sort of push to the back of your mind to make yourself successful and the doubt that you feel from other people that you push out of your mind to continue being successful, all of that gets so flipped on its head when you finally do something,” she explained.
“”It’s like all of that stuff that you push to the back of your mind, all those negative thoughts you push back in your mind, to come right to the front in a positive energy instead — you can then just really ball up and throw out because you did it, you know what I mean? It’s one of those moments where I was like, “This feels good.’ Emotional day, ups and downs. Ultimately, another top ten moment for me,” she said.
Following her victory at the Women’s Super 8, Leigh stepped up for another big opportunity, surprising Sam Shields at PretzelMania V in September. The two would then clash in a title versus title match, with Leigh’s ECWA Legacy Championship on the line against Shields’ ECWA Heavyweight Championship. With the help of a suplex and a spear, Leigh outlasted Shields, gaining the pinfall victory, and subsequently emerging as the Unified Heavyweight Champion.
“The moment where I won, epic, but the moment where I knew it was going to be an electric night and match was when I had already wrestled that day. They had already seen me and no one knew who Sam Shields was going to face. When I stepped out of the curtain, my music hits, and I step out of the curtain and the kids realized that it was me again, they lost their minds,” Leigh said.
“It was such a crazy moment because you hope for that. You hope that people are happy to see you, but you never [know for sure]. It was just incredible. I could not have imagined that positive of a reaction. ‘Okay, hopefully they’re happy to see me. I think they will be they like me,’ but it was so overwhelming. I was like, ‘Oh my God. Okay, here we go. This is this is going to be good.’”
The moment proved to be another in Leigh’s personal top ten, but unfortunately, her reign wouldn’t last long. After pushing through injuries for much of the summer, Leigh decided to take time off now to recover, and vacated the ECWA Heavyweight Championship, along with the Legacy title.
“From the highest of highs, I then had to just reconcile with the health issues going on,” Leigh explained.” I was just like, ‘I can’t keep going at this pace.’ All these things that I had accomplished over the summer and through the fall, and I was like, ‘I just can’t keep going.’ So that was a discussion between me and CWA and how we wanted to handle it, and thankfully they were very understanding, very supportive. I’m thankful and grateful to them for. The huge opportunities that they threw my way.”
As she heals her injuries right now, Leigh vowed to regain her championships upon her return.
Watch our full video interview with Erica Leigh below:
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