Wrestling Observer Newsletter
David Allen Meltzer|
October 24, 1959
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Occupation||Author, journalist, pro wrestling historian|
|Education||Leland High School, San Jose State University|
|Alma mater||San Jose State University|
|Subjects||Professional wrestling, mixed martial arts|
|Notable work(s)||Wrestling Observer Newsletter; Tributes: Remembering Some of the World's Greatest Wrestlers; Tributes II: Remembering More of the World's Greatest Wrestlers|
|Children||One son, one daughter.|
David Allen "Dave" Meltzer (born October 24, 1959) is an American journalist covering professional wrestling and mixed martial arts. Since 1983, he has been the publisher/editor of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (WON). Meltzer has also written for the Oakland Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, Yahoo! Sports, and The National Sports Daily. He has extensively covered mixed martial arts since UFC 1 in 1993 and currently covers the sport for SB Nation. Meltzer has been called "the most accomplished reporter in sports journalism" by Frank Deford of Sports Illustrated.
Meltzer was born in New York City, lived in upstate New York until he was ten, before his family settled in San Jose, California. Meltzer earned a journalism degree from San Jose State University and started out as a sports writer for the Turlock Journal. He demonstrated an interest in professional wrestling and a journalistic approach to it early in life. Meltzer wrote several wrestling-related publications that predate WON, dating back to 1971. The most notable of these was the California Wrestling Report, ca. 1973–1974, which reported on the still-extant National Wrestling Alliance territories operating out of Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Wrestling Observer Newsletter
The beginnings of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (WON) date back to 1980, when Meltzer began an annual poll amongst those with whom he corresponded regarding professional wrestling. According to Meltzer, he was just a fan at first. A short time later, he began maintaining a tape-trading list, and would occasionally send match results and news updates along with tape updates. Meltzer stated that he wanted to keep his friends in college "in the loop" for his tape trading as well as the happenings in the business, as the mainstream wrestling magazines catered to a somewhat younger demographic.
This led directly to the formation of the WON, which Meltzer first began publishing in 1983 as a way to keep fans informed of various wrestling regions that readers may not have been aware of or had no access to. The WON has been published from the start from various communities in Northern California, except for a six-month period in late 1983 and early 1984 when Meltzer resided in Denton, Texas. For most of its existence, it has been published from Campbell, California, a suburb of San Jose. The publication was originally a 16-24 page publication on 8½ by 14 inch paper, and published roughly every two or three weeks.
Meltzer contemplated a career change during the mid-1980s, which led him to announce in 1985 that he would be ceasing publication, citing disinterest in the wrestling landscape of the time and too much time having to be spent on bookkeeping and mailing lists. At that point, he continued offering the WON on a "temporary" basis as an 8-page weekly on 8½ by 11 inch paper only to fill out the remainder of his subcriptions. He was to be hired to cover soccer instead and just contribute to other wrestling newsletters. The reader response to this change was apparently enough to convince him to pursue the WON as his career instead. He started writing the WON full-time in 1987, retaining the smaller 8-page format. By this point, Meltzer began making appearances at major wrestling events, at first mostly in Japan. He was seen as a spectator in the front row at Chi-Town Rumble in 1989, seated next to Brad Muster, at the time a fullback with the Chicago Bears. As kayfabe was still being observed from within the business, Jim Ross acknowledged Muster's presence in the audience during the broadcast, but not Meltzer's.
The WON's earlier years were also marked by revealing insider news and various behind-the-scenes happenings in the industry, a groundbreaking approach in a kayfabe-heavy era. Meltzer's approach benefitted from professional contacts, a historic perspective, and his own analysis of trends, data, and events. The WWE's 1997 "Montreal Screwjob" was exhaustively covered by the WON, which featured accounts from within the backstage rooms where some of the interaction occurred including from Bret Hart himself. Meltzer published data-based evidence suggesting inflated "record" attendance figures for Wrestlemanias 3 and 23. He gave extensive space to various wrestling scandals, including Vince McMahon's 1990s steroid trial, the Chris Benoit murder investigation, and the high drug-fuelled death rate within the wrestling ranks. His newsletter was also known for its lengthy obituaries of deceased wrestling figures, as well as a desire to chronicle the deaths of every wrestling figure possible, no matter how minor.
Meltzer stated that this new, more journalistic approach to covering wrestling earned him scorn from many within the wrestling business. However, Terry Funk and Bill Watts were acknowledged as early supporters of the WON from within the business, and at the start two of the very few. Around when readers first began hotly debating whether wrestling promoters actually read the publication or not, Meltzer published a letter to the editor from Watts, at the time still promoting. He also credited Houston promoter Paul Boesch for taking him under his wing in the 1980s and teaching him how the business works. As the business evolved along with the newsletter, Meltzer gained a little more acceptance.
Since major wrestling promotions would never acknowledge the existence of any dirt sheets, Meltzer had to find other ways to advertise his newsletter. Advertisements and other promotion were often published in kayfabe and semi-kayfabe publications. Early sources for knowledge of the WON's existence were The Wrestling News published by Norman Kietzer, as well as Factsheet Five. The latter was decidedly a non-wrestling publication, though the WON and other wrestling "sheets" made up a significant amount of its coverage. Other magazines such as Wrestling Main Event and Wrestling Eye also provided mention. Meltzer was also able to advertise his publication during various guest appearances on wrestling radio shows and guest editorials in various national newspapers.
With the ubiquitous emergence of the Internet and wrestling web sites that are able to provide news in real time, today's WON differs in the way it covers the wrestling scene in that it provides more of an editorial and analysis on the news and what impacts it could have on the business. Wrestlers, such as Konnan have noted seeing copies of the WON on Vince McMahon's office desk. It is believed many, if not most of the biggest stars in WWE and other major promotions are subscribers, although few would admit it publicly. Several subscribed under their birth names, instead of ring names, thinking Meltzer would not find out their true identities. Howard Finkel's wife was publicly acknowledged by Meltzer as an early WON subscriber, and at the time, the closest reach the publication likely had to McMahon, which was in response to a reader questioning the likelihood of McMahon himself reading the publication.
Meltzer's newsletter has led to a loyal fan following, radio shows, and even a brief stint working for the WWF as a researcher in 1987. After getting a job with The National Sports Daily in 1990, Meltzer was finally able to open dialogue with Vince McMahon, leading to elevation in both Meltzer's reputation and readership. In his first autobiography, Mick Foley declared that it was the WON's coverage of his independent circuit matches that caused WCW to consider signing him, since he was against "type." Foley also wrote that promoters such as Watts would sometimes change their entire booking direction based on the opinions expressed in Meltzer's newsletter.
Meltzer popularized the "star rating" system (devised by Jim Cornette and his childhood friend Norm Dooley), which rates matches on a scale of zero to five stars (sometimes going to negative five stars in the case of bad matches) in a similar manner to that used by many movie critics. As in the field of film, a rating is a largely subjective affair that may take into account the amount of action, as opposed to restholds ("workrate"), the difficulty and variety of moves used, the history of the workers and their feud, the development of an in-match storyline based on the wrestling moves and how they affect the wrestlers, and the overall reaction of the crowd.
Five star matches, as rated by Meltzer, are extremely rare. The latest was Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi on October 14, 2013. 73 matches have received the honor since Dynamite Kid and Tiger Mask I were the inaugural 'five star match'. Mitsuharu Misawa has the most five star matches with 24; (including one match wrestling as Tiger Mask II).
Despite this rating system representing only the subjective opinion of one individual, wrestlers, such as Bret Hart, have written how proud they were when their performances were praised in the WON.
WON Hall of Fame
The Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame is not a physical place. Nonetheless, it is a respected honor in the world of wrestling. Every year, Meltzer conducted a poll of selected "insiders" and wrestlers to determine new inductees into the WON Hall of Fame. Pro Wrestling Illustrated has adopted the WON Hall of Fame as their own.
Wrestling Observer Live
Meltzer was the former host of Wrestling Observer Live, a wrestling radio show. Co-hosting the show with Meltzer was Bryan Alvarez, editor of the Figure Four Weekly newsletter. Meltzer and Alvarez hosted the show every Sunday night from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. EST on the Sports Byline Radio Network. Due to the show airing on Sunday nights, replays were played on nights there were WWE pay-per-views. The show debuted in October 1999 and aired five days a week on the internet radio channel, eYada.com. eYada closed on July 9, 2001, with Wrestling Observer Live, its highest rated show, being the last show to broadcast on the station. Wrestling Observer Live was picked up by Sports Byline, a radio syndicator, on March 17, 2002, and had stayed in its current position ever since. Meltzer stopped appearing regularly on September 2007, but still appears sparingly. On Sunday nights, Meltzer regularly does a segment on the radio show Live Audio Wrestling.
On June 12, 2008, the Wrestling Observer website merged with Bryan Alvarez's Figure Four Weekly website, using the layout of the latter. After being a print-only newsletter for over 25 years (other than a brief period where it was also available via e-mail in 2000), the Observer became available to subscribers online through the website. Dave Meltzer pens the Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday news updates as contributions to the Figure 4 Weekly Online website (f4wonline.com). His colleague Bryan Alvarez writes the Tuesday and Friday updates.
- Tributes: Remembering Some of the World's Greatest Wrestlers (Winding Stair Press, 2001, Hardcover) ISBN 1-55366-085-4 ISBN 978-1553660859
- Tributes II: Remembering More of the Worlds Greatest Wrestlers (Sports Publishing, 2004, Hardcover) ISBN 1-58261-817-8 ISBN 978-1582618173
Notes and references
- List of Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame
- radio show
- Pick My Brain interview with Dave Meltzer
- DeathValleyDriver interview with Meltzer
- Dean S Planet interview with Meltzer
- "Observer Star Ratings List WWF/WWE 1986–present, ***+ ratings
- "List of matches that have received five stars from Dave Meltzer
- "Ongoing list of Japanese matches that have been given four stars or higher from Dave Meltzer
- "List of the worst rated matches of all-time