Man, it’s been a while since I wrote something. It’s not for lack of not wanting to. This time of year, is very busy for someone who puts on diversity programming. But as Black History Month ends, I now have time for my wrestling hobby again. Yay! And trust me, I have a LOT to say. Since I last wrote, many things have happened that I want to weigh in on. But more than anything else, I want to address someone in the wrestling world that I’ve had an issue with for many, many years. I’m hoping my true wrestling fans know, this be the realest stuff I ever wrote.
There is toxicity in the wrestling fandom. This isn’t me ranting on toxic masculinity, or some social justice issues like that. I mean I can, I wouldn’t have my heart into it though. Any business that has had a history like Katie Vick, birth of hands, fake heart attacks, real heart attacks, dragging dead fathers, RoboCops, etc., basically, the same rules don’t apply. So, while I’d love to address Nyla Rose winning the AEW title and go off on Val Venis, it’s hard to get excited about that when so much in wrestling has happened. There is an area I would love to address, and that’s how the fans of wrestling process… well wrestling. Especially through the lens they do it in.
Trip Down Memory Lane
The year is 1999, and I just started college. I had discovered the internet the year before at my dad’s college. It was there that I was introduced the to the writings of one Mr. Tito; and I found that I agree with him on many things. Searching the World Wide Web at the time, I saw that many websites used the Wrestling Observer as their news source. Once 1999 hit, it was early August, and I saw news that Chris Jericho would debut in the WWE has the Millennial Man. Well once that moment came, I realized that there was something to this internet thing, and the spoilers it brought. Now I had to read everyday to find out what will happen, before it happened.
In the center of all of this was a man who I would find to either agree with or disagree with greatly. That man was Dave Meltzer. From the moment many realized I watched wrestling, they all suggested I subscribe to Dave’s newsletter. It was there that they read on the inside gossip, and of course they always looked at the star rating. I have no idea why, but when everything seemed so fresh and new, star ratings just seemed off in wrestling. That and talking about work rate. What does work rate even mean? Whose standard are we judging work rate by?
As time went on, I understood what people were talking about. The fandom was becoming shaped by Meltzer as more and more people gained internet connection. Even if fans never knew about the Observer, Meltzer’s influence on fans was noticeable. I personally didn’t think anything of this. After all, I agree, I loved an Eddie Guerrero matches over a Matt Morgan match; although watching someone like Kevin Nash destroy someone in under 5 minutes is a guilty pleasure of mine. I could live in a world of star ratings and “work rate,” and just know that I have guilty pleasures that others don’t seem to share.
Why AEW is Important
I want to get this out the way for those that think I’m about to be pro-WWE. I am not going to sit here and write about why AEW is bad. Hell, I think the opposite, AEW is great. Well I don’t connect with much of it, being a man in my late 30’s, I can see that many fans do. What is also obvious is that the audience, mostly Millennials, and the executives, also mostly Millennials, have a connection that many companies in the past have never seem to achieve. In many ways, AEW now lives as a “Generational Territory.” I should trademark that.
In the same way Vince McMahon had shaped my view of wrestling, and many like me, so too has Meltzer. The current Millennial generation is in their 30’s and turning 40 this decade. They don’t have time for stories, rather they take things in bite size quantities. They’d rather binge watch when they have time. Something like WWE Raw, which is 3 hours is a nightmare for a Millennial. It is very important to have something like AEW so fans can find alternatives, and if you can make money in wrestling please do so.
Stories are Easier to Sell over 5 Star Matches
I might be wrong on this, but I assumed star ratings were leftover from the tape trading days. I just assumed that when Dave starred something it was telling tape traders that they should watch this match. To me wrestling was always about the story, drama. I never cared who had the best match, how did you get me there. Having two wrestlers just wrestle for the sake of a match seems cool, but like boxing, would anyone care. In many ways, I sometimes wish WWE would edit stories together on their network, so that when you rewatch Steve Austin and the Rock, not only do you get matches but you get the whole story behind it and how we got to the match.
This can apply to real sports too. Look at Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury (maybe the two heavyweight champions who have had the coolest names in boxing history). Last year I was seriously wondering how two undefeated fighters could have a match and no one seemed to care. Fury and Wilder were both very interesting people, Fury recovering from addiction and Wilder started fighting because he couldn’t afford his daughter’s medical bills (a very uniquely American problem). Yet, there was no drama between them, therefore no one really paid attention.
Then Wilder punched Fury in the head, then Fury got up like the Undertaker and went on to fight Wilder to a draw. After that, people wanted to see the second fight. Now there was no way the second fight could live up to the first fight, but people were drawn into the story. Even boring fighters to watch can draw people in with interesting stories. Everyone wanted to watch a fighter like Floyd Mayweather because his undefeated streak was like the Undertaker’s undefeated streak. Each time you bought his fight, you hoped that the card you ordered would be the fight he finally loses. It’s the story.
The Following are the Views…
With that out the way, I want people to know that NO ONE JOURNALIST OPINION CAN BE TAKEN AS FACT. What I say should not be taken as fact (well I’m different, I have a history degree, so I have years and years of research and archiving… hahaha… seriously, I’m all opinion here). Any wrestling journalist shouldn’t be taken as fact, hell, most shoot interviews by wrestlers who are constantly between kayfabe and real life should also not be taken as fact. Hulk Hogan himself admitted in court that his interviews are in character and are not the views expressed by Terry Bollea. The wrestling business is a worked business from all angles.
Which brings me to this, the Wrestling Observer is reporting “facts” given by talent who have an agenda when reporting to Big Dave. Once I heard Dave Meltzer talk about exposing con artist when replying to Bruce Prichard’s podcast. OF COURSE, PRO-WRESTLING WORKERS ARE CONS! Every single fan knows that the business is full of cons. It seems the most honest person in wrestling is Vince McMahon himself, as he’s the one who admitted pro-wrestling was a work. Dave Meltzer hasn’t exposed anything. He’s reported things he’s heard from people calling in with agendas. This is not reporting as much as it’s tabloid. Is there truth to the Observer, sure? But that truth should be taken with massive grains of salt. Dave Meltzer has become the very con he’s talked about fighting.
Look, you want to believe everything reported. There are people in the wrestling fandom looking for the angle to support their opinions. If someone who Roman Reigns (haven’t seen that yet) gets fired from WWE many will eat that story up and they will use it to shape their opinion of Roman Reigns. Forget that this person maybe just a trash person, they have an opinion many want to hear. And if that’s you, have at it hoss. But you have worked yourself into a shoot with believing all the lies.
How Meltzer’s View on Wrestling has Shaped Modern Wrestling
As much as it seems weird to say, Dave Meltzer is just as responsible for modern wrestling as Vince McMahon. Just like journalist in each sport have shaped people’s opinion of that sport, from Barry Bonds being an asshole to Peyton Manning being see in a more favorable light than Tom Brady, Meltzer has too shaped people’s opinions of wrestling. When Meltzer is talking about 6-star matches in the Tokyo Dome, people turn their attention to Japan. When Meltzer is talking about a famous luchador coming from Mexico, hundreds of local people flock to their local gym to see this new mask marvel. Media and journalist do shape our opinions of sports and entertainment. Movies have crashed because critics have panned a movie so badly, people didn’t go to watch it. Same with Meltzer.
In today’s era, Meltzer is telling people just how great AEW is and at the same time panning WWE. This has led to WWE getting lower and lower ratings, and AEW slowly gaining popularity. Now, as an old wrestling fan (not yet 40 though), I can say both brands aren’t really my cup of tea. I mean I watch, but both seem to insult my intelligence. But the media narrative is there. This is what shapes how people view wrestling today. I honestly think it is really WWE fatigue myself. I’ve seen Raws that I thought, damn, that’s pretty good. Then after the show Meltzer and Alverez take a massive dump on it, podcasters takes a dump on it, and I’m left wondering what did I missed?
For almost 20 years WWE has been the only game in town. Even when they put on great shows, it still feels stale. The ones who report of wrestling weekly and sit through 5 hours of WWE are responding to this. Just like movie critics who watch movies every week. They may dislike a movie like Sandlot, as it was very cliche at the time, but audiences may enjoy the movie. Star Wars: The Last Jedi has a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, many due to it be so different from other Star Wars movies. With that said fans hated it; the movie was not true to what they wanted.
Grains of Salt
As wrestling moves forward, it’s important to know that more and more fans are online. When Vince Russo and Paul Heyman booked WCW and ECW with internet fans in mind, it alienated large amounts of the fandom. In today’s world, AEW can now exist as a promotion that has exclusive internet content and at the same time have a program that gives the online community a wink. WWE on the other hand can still exist as it always has. And if you like one or the other, this doesn’t make you any more or less of a fan.
As of now, I am on a diet from the Observer and podcasters. I am going to look at the product with fresh eyes, both WWE and AEW. As WrestleMania season hits full gear, I’m giving everybody a fresh outlook. In today’s era of too much information, wrestling has always worked better as a mystery. Trying to fall inline with Meltzer on his opinions does not help the business. I find that Meltzer has many Sandlot moments for my taste in wrestling, in that he thinks it’s cliche yet I find it enjoyable. If wrestling is a product you enjoy, watch it. Do not let other opinions make you feel less than for watching something. Before wrestling fans had to hid their fandom from others, we shouldn’t have to hid our enjoyment from each other as well.