Dave Prazak has spent the past 20 years in the wrestling business, and still hasn’t gotten enough: “I’m on the road in Middle-of-Nowhere, Iowa,” he said when I called him up two weeks ago, “I’m doing commentary for an Arik Cannon F1RST Wrestling Wrestlepalooza. Doesn’t WWE own the copyright for all the ECW names? I hope they don’t find out,” he joked.
From IWA Mid-South where he managed the likes of CM Punk and Colt Cabana, to Ring of Honor where he handled commentary duties for their TV show, Prazak has been ubiquitous in the wrestling scene. Prazak has done a lot in his two decades in wrestling, but his most impactful contribution was that of owner and promoter of SHIMMER: Women Athletes.
Now in its 11th year, SHIMMER has run 85 shows featuring the top female wrestlers from across the world. I talked to Dave about his career, how women’s wrestling has changed, and the future of SHIMMER.
On why he is still in the wrestling business:
Laughing Because I’m an idiot? It’s not like we’re wildly successful or anything. Because I’ve got nothing better to do is probably the real answer. Because I got into it and this is all I’ve done with my life, that’s a sad state of affairs isn’t it? I just got involved and I’ve been doing it for over 20 years now.
On watching his first Joshi match:
The AJW tape was one of the Manami Toyota Kyoko Inoue matches. I was just blown away because they were f*****g phenomenal. I appreciated that that was the best women’s wrestling I’d ever seen. That was a completely different style than what anybody in North America was doing.”
I thought “Why can’t women’s wrestling here be promoted in the same way, presented in the same way as in Japan?” It just didn’t make sense to me. Because, not all of the North American female wrestlers suck. People might have had that idea in their heads because they hadn’t seen it happen very often on WWF television at the time because they weren’t promoted as anything to be taken seriously or athletically.
On his contribution to wrestling:
I wanted my contribution to the independent wrestling world to be unique to what most people were doing. If you look at the independent wrestling scene, you see a lot of the same people wrestling on the same shows with the same style. Because whether it’s a PWG show or an AAW show, the best workers travel everywhere. I wanted to do something different.
If I’m going to run my own shows I don’t want to just be another fake PWG or another fake AAW, I want to do something that’s somewhat different and build an audience. At the time we started doing this there wasn’t necessarily anyone doing the serious-style women promotion in North America. ECCW Supergirls had just started and they had done one Chickfight in California. There were other people who wanted to do it at the same time.
On how things have changed in women’s wrestling since he started SHIMMER:
In the past 10, 11 years everything has evolved towards kind of what I envisioned SHIMMER to be. Compare women’s wrestling from 2003-2004 to what it is now, it’s completely different everywhere. There isn’t a promotion that treats women as jokes or a sideshow.
WWE made the right move hiring Del Rey to train all their girls, and Sarah Stock now. The entire women’s scene, Lucha Underground, TNA, women are promoted better than they were 12 years ago. I’m happy to still do my part on the independent scene, and use some of the wrestlers before they get signed. But if they do, hopefully them being on television leads to people wanting to buy the old footage. That’s my place in the wrestling world, running shows that turn out good talent that’s going to leave.
On feeling vindicated:
It’s good to see that like men who are on the top shows, the top women are also getting booked everywhere, whether it’s a regular show or an all-women’s show they’re getting more ring time than any of the female wrestlers were 12 years ago either.
In 2001, how many female wrestlers were being flown anywhere to do an indie show? Like never, and they’d have probably needed some television exposure to help draw. But now, Candace LeRae is flying all over the world every weekend because she’s awesome. It’s good to see that she’s not alone.
On SHIMMER now:
SHIMMER is more about storylines than we ever had. Portia Perez is booking so it has more actual booking involved. When I was largely formatting the shows with Allison it was based on my perception of how All Japan was booked. Based on wins the people
who win work up the ladder, the people who lose are lower on the ladder; people with big winning percentages get title shots. We shied away from doing any real storylines that would be long-term because I was always worried that someone was going to get signed and leave, before they could come back and finish the story. I didn’t want to do a big angle that would lead to a big feud that was never going to get blown off.
So that’s largely why it had to be self-contained in one weekend. Doing that you really limit the creative possibilities for a wrestling product. Good matches only take you so far. Anybody who watches wrestling for the story, you weren’t getting story. And Portia Perez has way better ideas than I do.
On booking with Portia Perez:
I basically just give her guidelines. We’ll discuss where we want to go with certain people and there are certain matches I have in mind that I want to try to work in, we’ll try to formulate a story where the match makes sense in that particular spot. We’ll end the weekend with something that could be considered a blow off match of a feud, but there’s still some room for it not being completely resolved yet and can be continued on the next show if everyone is healthy and not under contract somewhere.
I’m much happier with the shows that we’ve done in the past two years than any of the super early stuff, because those were just matches for the sake of matches. I realize how booking wise it needed more.
On what promoters want:
We want control over you, we want to control everything. Most promoters want to do things their way. You want it presented a certain way, if one little thing goes wrong you get pissed.
I think you’d find similar things with a filmmaker who wants control of every part of his movie. He wants things shot the right way; he wants to make sure he casts the right actor. If you have a vision in mind for the show you want to present, whether it’s a movie, or a TV show, or a pro wrestling’s show you want it done the right way. If something goes wrong you get frustrated, trust me that happens a lot.
On his favorite SHIMMER show of the first 80:
The Dallas show we did. 80. It was a tournament show and it wasn’t in front of our regular audience but I think everybody on that show did very well in terms of their performance. The show was built around Candace LeRae, Nicole Savoy, Heidi Lovelace, so that three girls who have not really been main-eventers on our show get elevated to that level.
On the future of SHIMMER:
I’ve been in independent wrestling my entire career, I’m about building up the indies as much as possible because it’s what I’ve always done. I’m happy envisioning 10 years from now I’m the crotchety old dude running women’s shows in Chicago still, trying to find the next Nicole Savoy or whatever. I like the indies that have been plugging along for 20 years, that’s my goal.
Leslie Lee III writes about pro-wrestling, post-punk, and politics. You can keep up with Leslie and his writings on Twitter, @leslieleeiii.