SHINE Wrestling — which celebrates its one year anniversary this month — is known for its strong contingent of female stars, but there is one male who has an integral part of the promotion since its inception.
Here, SHINE’s commentator Lenny Leonard reflects on the one year anniversary of women’s wrestling’s fastest rising promotion.
It was a little over a year ago when Sal Hamaoui asked me if I’d be interested in handling play by play duties for a new promotion he was starting down here in Florida. Having enjoyed working with Sal for the better part of a decade, any time he asked me to be a part of something he was working on, it was a no brainer, so I immediately said yes even before knowing what the new project was.
For those who don’t know, my relationship with Sal dates back to 2004. We first met as I had been working for Ron Niemi as part of NWA Florida, and he shortly thereafter brought me in to work with him and Gabe Sapolsky on the relaunch of his Full Impact Pro promotion as a sister promotion to Ring of Honor which Gabe was also booking. It was that relationship which enabled me to join ROH for four great years before moving on to Dragon Gate USA and EVOLVE. I have always had a wonderful time being involved in anything Sal was working on so it was an easy yes, but honestly a bit of a surprise when he told me it was going to be an all-female promotion.
I had always been a casual fan of women’s wrestling over the years. I watched the big matches and shows from All Japan Women’s Wrestling back in the heyday of the promotion. I knew of the Japanese stars like Manami Toyota, Kyoko Inoue, Akira Hokuto, Aja Kong and Megumi Kudo. I remember watching old tapes of teams like the Jumping Bomb Angels and Etsuko Mita and Mima Shimoda, but as far as keeping up with the US scene of the years, outside of keeping up with results and brief chats with my old partner Dave Prazak about his company, I confess I had fallen off in my knowledge of the female wrestling scene in general.
I knew the names of Dave’s stars and had watched enough of his product to have been made familiar with much of the current crop of women on the scene today but it had been years since getting into a women’s product regularly. I was honestly excited as it was a new challenge for me, and I was hopeful that this something new would take off. When I was told that the likes of Sara Del Rey, Rain, Jazz, Nikki Roxx were involved along with Daffney, my interest became even further peaked.
I couldn’t be happier about my decision to say yes, as from the first night last July in Tampa, SHINE has been one of my favorite places to work. To see the mix of veteran talent we have used and how the younger talent has blossomed with the opportunity they’ve gotten has been a joy to be a part of.
I look at the unselfishness of women like Nikki Roxx, Rain, Jazz, Mercedes Martinez, Saraya Knight and Amazing Kong and it’s so refreshing. I see how girls like Reby Sky, Leva Bates, Santana, Kimberly and Su Yung have taken this exposure and run with it. I think back after their performance at SHINE 1 and how I told anyone who’d listen that I thought Allysin Kay was a star, and her team with Taylor Made was something special, and adding April Hunter just amped it up even more.
We added in great talents along the way in Ivelisse, Jessica Havok and Mia Yim, all of whom had standout performances on many occasions. Frequent visits from girls like Sassy Stephie, Sojo Bolt and the super talented Heidi Lovelace were always a welcome addition to the shows.
The added pressures of being live on iPPV never fazed anyone on the shows either. In fact I think the girls relish the chance to work without a net, so to speak.
All in all it has been an amazing first year of shows. I am so happy to be a small part of a great locker-room, to work with the amazing people in charge like Sal, the man behind the scenes who makes stuff happen in Dontay Brown, our amazing partner with the best venue for wrestling around, Jerry Dufrain of The Orpheum in Ybor City, the glue who holds it all together in Lexie Fyfe, and my former broadcast partner in crime Daffney, who always allowed me to do what I do best and never minded taking a back seat on the mic occasionally when the situation warranted it.
I’ve said it a million times and I will say it again. Her career has trumped mine in this business by leaps and bounds. She could easily have demanded more time on the mic, or for me to defer to her as the veteran, and I gladly would have because she’s earned it and then some, but she was always unselfish and more than willing to work around how I worked best. She made it so easy for me, and the fun we had together came across the microphones because it was real.
The future for this company is so bright, and I cannot wait to see where the next year will take us. I can’t thank you all enough for watching over the past year. I hope you continue to follow along as I am sure the next year will be even better than the first.
Happy Birthday to us… We’ve only begun to SHINE.
SHINE returns to iPPV for its one year show this Friday night. Order here.
Tweet about Diva Dirt’s SHINE Week using hashtag #DDSHINEWeek. Tweet #DDSHINEWeek