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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Adrienne Dinardi, a Shenendehowa graduate, chases her dream of becoming a professional wrestler


Adrienne Dinardi’s ⁢journey to her national television debut in professional wrestling was filled with unexpected twists and turns, much like her career itself.

Earlier this month, Dinardi, who has been⁤ wrestling for ⁢nearly ten years‍ under the name Kennedi Copeland, made her way to the Prudential ⁣Center in Newark,‍ New Jersey. She was hoping to secure a spot as an extra at All Elite Wrestling’s taping of its “Dynamite” and “Rampage” shows, which are ‍broadcasted on TBS and TNT, respectively.

However, ​there was a ‍slight hiccup. Dinardi couldn’t use her ‌ring name ‍as AEW already⁣ had a ⁤Copeland — the very person from whom Dinardi had borrowed her ring⁣ name.

She had chosen the ​name as a homage to Adam Copeland, who was wrestling as Edge in World Wrestling Entertainment at the time. The first name was inspired by Myles Kennedy of ⁢the band​ Alter Bridge, ⁢who performed the wrestler’s ​theme song.

When Adam Copeland signed⁤ with AEW in October, Dinardi was ​asked to come up with a ⁣new name. She decided to pay another tribute.

And thus, Kennedi Hardcastle — a nod ​to Adam Copeland’s ⁤original wrestling name, Sexton Hardcastle — was created.

“I suggested it as a joke,” the​ 31-year-old admitted. “But ⁤it ⁢was still a way to honor him, ‍and the guy who books the extra⁢ talents loved it.”

That was Dinardi’s ticket in. That⁢ night, Kennedi Hardcastle stepped into the ring for AEW Rampage, partnering with Notorious Mimi in a match against AEW ⁢veterans Kris Statlander and Willow Nightingale.

Although the match was brief, Dinardi’s performance earned‌ her accolades from AEW founder Tony ⁣Khan and seasoned wrestler Dustin Rhodes, the son of the iconic “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes.

The first person Dinardi wanted to ​share the news with? Her father.

“I immediately told my dad, who’s also a wrestling fan,” she said. “He was the one who took us to‍ all the ‍shows. I ⁢told him, ‘You won’t believe this.’”

Dinardi⁣ herself is ​still in awe of ​the path that pro wrestling has led ⁤her on.⁤ She’s wrestled across the Northeast, often for companies‌ that promote a wild and extremely violent brand of wrestling.

She’s been a fan “since nursery​ school,” and fell in love ​with wrestling ‍during WWE’s extremely popular — if not entirely age-appropriate — Attitude Era in‌ the⁤ late 1990s.

“It’s just something ⁤that’s always⁢ been with me. It’s like the one consistent in ‌my life,”​ Dinardi⁣ said. “Even when⁤ I ‌wasn’t actively watching it, I always found a way to get back into ⁢it. It’s just always been something that I knew I was going to pursue, no​ matter⁢ what. And, here we are today.”

She‌ began training to ​become a pro wrestler while she was still a senior‌ at Shenendehowa, right ‌after she turned 18.

Admittedly, it wasn’t⁢ the most‌ typical of hobbies.

“I would go to school⁤ the next day with a black eye and people would be like, ​‘Are​ you OK?’” ‌she⁤ said. “They thought I hadn’t ⁢finished my makeup. I’d tell​ them, ‘That’s not makeup.”

The journey ⁣hasn’t always been⁢ smooth.

“It’s definitely been a roller-coaster,” Dinardi said. “There were times when I quit. But I always found my ​way back to it, and I’m so grateful I⁢ did, because this has honestly been the ride of a​ lifetime ⁢for me. I’m glad I stuck it out.”

That “ride of a lifetime” took an⁤ unexpected turn in‌ the past couple of years.

In 2021, she ​was scheduled⁣ for a match with one ‌of her closest wrestling⁢ friends, who then⁢ had to‍ withdraw due to injury. With less than a week’s notice,‌ the promoter of the show reached⁤ out to Dinardi with a potential replacement opponent — a well-known figure in wrestling’s‌ ultraviolent “deathmatch” ​circles.

“I couldn’t say no,” she said. “I thought, ‘Why not? Let’s‌ do it.’ That’s pretty much been the mantra for my whole ‍career. ​And I did it. It was ​really to prove to people that didn’t believe in me.”

Deathmatch wrestling is notorious for its ⁣bloody fights, often involving increasingly absurd weapons — ‍from the ⁢standard steel chairs and wooden​ tables to barbed ⁤wire, light tubes ⁤and, in one instance Dinardi remembered, tattoo needles.

It’s quite a contrast for someone whose day job is caring for animals at the ⁤APF.

“One of the guys’ gimmick is that he’ll stab you ⁢with tattoo needles,” she said. “Everyone was saying, ‘Get ready to take tattoo needles to the forehead.’ And ‍I thought, ⁤‘No, I have tattoos. It can’t be that⁢ bad,⁣ so ‌why‌ not?’ It really pushed me.”

Whether she’s wrestling as Kennedi Copeland or Kennedi‌ Hardcastle — ⁣she’s‍ used both names since her national TV debut⁤ — Dinardi​ plans to⁣ continue pushing herself.

She’s come this far,​ and she’s excited to see how far she can go.

“It’s overwhelming,” she said. “I keep saying it’s probably one of‌ the most overwhelming experiences ⁤ever in my⁢ life. But, in the best way possible. I’m definitely not complaining.”

Jack Sullivan
Jack Sullivan
Jack Sullivan, an informed and passionate sports reporter, is a former college athlete with a degree in Sports Communication from Ithaca College. Go Bombers!
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  1. Agree:
    Way to go, Adrienne! Chase your dreams and make them a reality. We’re all rooting for you to become a successful professional wrestler!


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