By former Lords of Pain 205 Live reviewer, “205 Clive“.
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“If you watch NJPW tonight, realise Kevin Kelly got up this morning probably at 3 a.m. or so to do a show, and on the same day is doing a show from 1-4 a.m. So if by chance he stumbles over a word and you want to complain, please die.”
These are the recent words of everybody’s favourite wrestling journalist, Dave Meltzer. A well respected journalist, at that, several claim. The above tweet is one of many passive aggressive, meandering, contextless posts he publishes on a daily basis. I imagine the tongue was firmly in his cheek with this particular example (instead of wrapped around his face mid-cackle). But if that is indeed the case, it is at the very least an eyebrow raiser. One, if said in public and in company, would elicit awkward silence at best, calls of insensitivity at worst.
The behaviour is not limited to his social media either. As his Wrestling Observer Newsletter, message board posts, and podcast appearances all house the same…well… bizarreness. The same “I’m smarter than you” attitude. An air of one who can do no wrong, and anyone who dares fall out with that mind-set is the one who is wrong. Yet, in the eyes of some of the Internet Wrestling Community’s more hardcore, Meltzer is infallible. His word is gospel. His opinion of what wrestling is supposed to be (and not) – objective fact. Frankly, this is puzzling. In some cases, as it pertains to his scoops, it is baseless, and therefore potentially damaging, so vehement is his support in reinforcing his echo chamber’s structural integrity. That goes for the several news outlets who cover him verbatim, might I add.
The vitriol and blind faith Meltzer has instilled in his followers has went up several notches since the conception and growth of AEW. To the point that the divide among wrestling fans has never been more glaring. With that in mind, an argument can be made that Meltzer holds a significant amount of responsibility for the toxicity that plagues wrestling fandom today.
Just last week, my Wrestling Headlines colleague, Andrew Ardizzi, posited that the wrestling business doesn’t need Jim Cornette. This was a hotly contested piece, but one I do agree with our “Between The Flips & Fists” columnist, what with Cornette’s perpetual descent into disgrace. However, there was a particular passage that stood out to me the most from the article. A passage that, while certainly apt for Cornette, is also fitting for another:
“He’s also someone who devoutly believes what he does and downtalks all contrary opinions as though you’re an idiot for thinking anything other than what he thinks. He’s entitled to his opinion, but also as a known public figure in wrestling he additionally abuses his platform to spread deconstructive messaging about companies, people and the business as a whole derived from his narrow, outdated idea of what wrestling is or how to communicate those ideas constructively.
“Yet, as it’s clearer each day he’s incapable of doing that to the detriment of one of the few things he purports to care about. He undercuts it, he undermines it and he sews discontent, discord and dissent through the way he communicates with others directly in or outside the wrestling business as though he were an absolute authority. Yet, with respect, were that the case he’d be working somewhere as opposed to being an errant critic incapable of stringing successive thoughts together without a ‘whatever the f–k.'”
The only difference between Cornette and Meltzer from the above passage is the latter’s incapability to string a sentence together at all. Which makes his oft used retort, “reading would be your friend” so ironic. For, his tweets, or the snippets we read and hear from his newsletter, forum, and podcasts are a headache to interpret. So rambling are the narratives, so erratic the punctuation. I won’t sit here and pretend to have the utmost grasp of the written language. Certainly the spoken language. But I also won’t have the gall to write or say something indecipherable while calling people out on their understanding of it.
The poor English isn’t the only reason less hardcore fans might not know what Meltzer reports. It could be that his reach in the wrestling world just isn’t – *gasps* – as all-encompassing as he thinks it is. With his recent Observer Newsletter 2021 Awards kicking up a stink, it’s important to remember that the number of voters for these awards are in the low thousands. It stands to reason, then, that his subscriber count is somewhere in a nearby vicinity.
So, with that being a mere portion of wrestling’s social media, which in itself is but a pocket in the grand scheme of the fandom, why is he so incredulous when brought to task with differing opinions, or clarification of facts? Especially when he has published inaccurate information, probably hundreds of times, over the years? Or when those who have actually contributed to the business proper hold nothing but disdain for him? Or his wont to die on the hill that is the Nielsen rating agenda? A metric so unreliable today, major television companies themselves are doing away with analyses of them, concentrating instead on streaming and DVR numbers. Personally, with the above, he falls into the same category as other wrestling journalists. Reporters and pundits who have done their level best to destroy the mystery that shrouds the business that gives us the compelling fantasy world we all know and love.
With Meltzer, however, it’s the tastelessness with which he attacks his role within the community that is a serious cause for concern. His derogatory attitude towards women. Such as Peyton Royce, for example, but something that has been highlighted since way back when. His doubling down like a dog with a bone over private medical matters, as was the case with Roman Reigns. The infamous Saudi Arabia airport incident. Because, of course, news of several individuals employed by a high profile United States employer being held hostage in another country would be reported by Meltzer first, and not dozens of major news outlets around the world. Or, more recently, his claims that Apollo Crews’ recent gimmick change was racist. When Apollo’s and WWE’s tweets surrounding the new persona were being praised by Nigerians and Africans aplenty in their comments.
The above can be really sensitive matters for many. For Meltzer to come across as a fountain of knowledge, yet be so remorseless in his handling of incendiary topics, is disappointing to say the least. It’s no wonder people have such disdain for him, therefore harbouring the “us Vs them” mentality with the aforementioned pro-Meltzer crowd. It’s why, personally, his Pavlov’s Dog mentality surrounding any negativity that can be conjured up about WWE is laughed off, when similar practices in AEW, for example, are lauded over. Why AEW, a company I’ve been hot and cold with more times than I care to remember, are so hard to stay in favour of. Because publicly (and even in canon) championing itself off of a narrow minded critic’s match rating system (in some cases, even proactively sought after), or a small, conditioned fan base’s award, is just plain sad.
In summation, and in keeping with my colleague’s take on Jim Cornette, I ask a similar question. Is Meltzer a positive influence in the wrestling world? Do we really need another old white man sowing seeds of discontent over arbitrary issues such as “workrate”, “viewers per home”, and medication doses? In a time where collective mental health is as fragile as it’s ever been, and can be triggered by the smallest of things, I think not. To quote a popular Scottish colloquialism, he’s as welcome as someone’s dad going round the doors selling Avon.
In all honesty, due to how prevalent he is in a community I like to call home, his influence simply takes the fun out of wrestling for me at times. The constant “what aboutery” is a drain on not only my well-being, but also my drive to create written content. Apart from a busy life away from the keyboard, the joy in analysing storylines, wrestlers, and popular trends in written form just isn’t there anymore. So, with that being said, I’ve decided that the Brand Extension will, for now, be on hiatus. Any cynics among you will see this as a washing of the hands. An avoidance of accountability after publishing what is no doubt a piece that will raise some hackles. But if that’s your mindset, then I feel part of my point is somewhat proven.
Nevertheless, thank you to all those who have read, commented on, and supported these columns. Thanks to Wrestling Headlines’ Sir Sam, especially, who has been with me since the start, all the way back in the forum days. Thanks to Rance Morris, who debated with me on here and had a clean sweep when handing me my backside on a silver platter. And thank you, of course, to Mr David Meltzer, one of the wrestling community’s greatest ever heels.
Read my previous Brand Extension columns here.
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