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Dave Meltzer has been professional wrestling’s premier journalist for over 30 years. Meltzer has become so integral to the backstage ins and outs of the wrestling industry that he has become something of a wrestling legend himself. It can be argued that Dave Meltzer changed the wrestling world forever with the start of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, which detailed the backstage politics of wrestling for the first time ever in the business.
The newsletter’s impact on wrestling was undeniable — fans became just as interested in what was happening behind the scenes as they were in what was happening in the ring. Meltzer has detailed the backstage happenings in wrestling for over 30 years and his infamous five star match rating system revolutionized the way wrestling matches were graded.
Frank Deford, a writer at Sports Illustrated for 50 years, once described Meltzer as the most accomplished reporter in sports journalism: "You could cover the Vatican or State Department and not do as good a job as Dave Meltzer does on wrestling." Not a lot is known about Meltzer’s personal life, but over the years there has been several facts about the man himself that have come to light.
Dave Meltzer was writing a wrestling newsletter at 10 years old
Dave Meltzer has been writing his whole life. Meltzer told the New York Times that he started watching wrestling at age nine and begun writing about the business just a year later at the young age of 10 years old. Meltzer was actually writing and publishing a wrestling newsletter at just 10 years old, and that very same newsletter would even receive endorsements in the fan club sections of wrestling magazines.
Readers of Meltzer’s newsletter would send Meltzer a quarter and then Meltzer would then send them a 24-page booklet covering the latest news in the wrestling world. Meltzer told the Times that the newsletter he did back then was "Kind of the same thing I do now, actually."
Meltzer got a journalism degree from San Jose State and became a sportswriter for Wichita Falls Times Record News and the Turlock Journal, though he still wrote a wrestling newsletter on the side. When his wrestling newsletter started to get noticed more and more by both fans and wrestlers, Meltzer dedicated his career to covering wrestling full time.
Dave Meltzer’s star system was devised by Jim Cornette
Dave Meltzer’s star rating system has become the widely accepted standard for rating wrestling matches. The star ratings Meltzer gives to matches is widely debated among fans, especially his more controversial ratings like the scale-breaking 6 and 7 star matches between Omega and Okada, though Meltzer has admitted the star rating system was not originally not his idea. He actually got the idea from a short lived wrestling newsletter called Weasel’s World of Wrestling written by Norman Dooley, a close friend of Jim Cornette.
Jim Cornette was the one who suggested that Dooley started rating wrestling matches on a scale from one to four stars, much like movie magazines would rate movies. On his "Drive-Thru" Podcast, Cornette explained the system: "One Star — that s*** sucked. Two Stars — that was about what we expected. Three Stars — that was a really good match. Four Stars — they tore the house down." Five stars was meant for when a massive star was involved and "they hit on all cylinders." Additionally, there was "dud, for when the people’s feelings were hurt by what they watched."
Also Dave Meltzer wasn’t the first person to break the scale when rating matches, as Norman Dooley would also break his own four star scale by giving five stars to a Jerry Lawler vs Terry Funk match in March 23, 1981. He would also go on to award six stars to Bill Dundee & Dream Machine vs. Kevin Sullivan & Wayne Farris on May 2, 1981.
Dave Meltzer used to work for WWE
In 2016, Bruce Pritchard accused Dave Meltzer of being in the pocket of WWE, and was being paid to write positive things about WWE while burying other companies. Dave Meltzer responded to these claims on Wrestling Observer Radio (h/t WhatCulture) by confirming he had worked for WWE in the past, saying, "So, I mean, I did consulting work, and … so this is the funny thing: [Bruce Prichard]’s acting like it was this ‘he was on the payroll to say bad things’ and it’s like nobody would ever suggest that I would say anything, and it had nothing to do with the Observer to begin with. It was all about the Japanese market and it was in 1987 and it was for a very brief period of time. So, that was the story. That’s not a secret. I wrote about it in 1991 and people have asked me about many times and that’s the deal. I wouldn’t do it now, and I probably shouldn’t have done it then, but that’s 29 years ago."
Meltzer worked for WWE as something of a Japanese correspondent, though he said he stopped working for the company after they asked him not to report a drug test failure.
Dave Meltzer has a complicated relationship with Vince McMahon
During an appearance on "Talk Is Jericho" (h/t WrestleTalk) Dave Meltzer detailed his complicated relationship with Vince McMahon. Meltzer claims that his relationship with Vince would get better whenever the company was going through some kind of hardship, saying, "Whenever things got bad publicity wise, my relationship with Vince usually would get good. Steroid trial era, I talked with him fairly often. The company was really good with me as far as data, questions, anything: direct line to Vince. His secretary would give me answers to any question for years."
Meltzer says that the relationship disintegrated during the Monday Night Wars, though: "Then it fell apart at one point and I would say that the reason was the war with WCW, and when they were starting to lose in the war, they wanted their side to be sympathetic."
In recent times, Meltzer admits he doesn’t have any direct contact with Vince McMahon, though that doesn’t mean he’s out of the loop with the company. Meltzer said, "When they don’t need you, they don’t need you … I probably haven’t talked with him in a couple of years. As far as with the company I email them for questions every day, every couple days, sometimes multiple times a day."
Dave Meltzer’s tweet that ROH couldn’t sell a 10,000 seat stadium led to the birth of AEW
On May 16, 2017, Dave Meltzer responded to a fan on Twitter asking if Ring Of Honor could sell out a 10,000 seat arena, saying, "Not anytime soon." Cody Rhodes responded to Dave Meltzer with, "I’ll take that bet Dave. I already gave them their biggest buyrate…put The Bucks & I on the card & 3-months to promote"
This exchange would set in motion events that would change the wrestling world forever. And it was all because of Meltzer.
Before AEW, the thought of a non-WWE event selling out a huge arena seemed almost impossible, WWE were the only game in town and had been since the closure of WCW. But Cody Rhodes and The Elite didn’t let that stop them from putting on All In.
Cody Rhodes, along with The Elite, proved Dave Meltzer wrong as they were able to sell out the Sears Centre in Chicago with an attendance of 11,263. The event was a resounding success, it received critical acclaim and All In became something of a prequel show to All Elite Wrestling, WWE’s biggest competition since WCW.
Dave Meltzer is also a big name in MMA
Dave Meltzer’s impact on professional wrestling cannot be denied. However, it could be argued that Meltzer has had just as big an impact on the MMA world as well. Dave Meltzer was one of only two journalists to cover the first ever UFC event on November 12, 1993. Meltzer continued to cover a lot of happenings in the MMA world and was even a judge at UFC 18.
Meltzer’s long involvement with the sport has given him a lot of credibility, and Meltzer’s opinions on the numbers side of the sport are considered almost gospel by MMA fans. When he was asked by Bleacher Report if he covers MMA any differently from professional wrestling, Meltzer said, "I cover UFC and WWE the exact same way. If I was covering the NFL, I would cover it the exact same way. At the end of the day, it’s all business."
WWE have leaked false stories to Dave Meltzer to discredit him
Dave Meltzer has never named his sources and there has never been any concrete evidence of where exactly he gets most of his information. There is fan speculation that names like Paul Heyman, Ric Flair, Jim Ross, Chris Jericho, and The Elite leak information to him, but that’s all rumor and speculation.
However, Dave Meltzer has called out sources who have leaked false information to him. In a rant on Wrestling Observer Radio (h/t WrestleTalk), Meltzer said, "There was a time, I’m gonna say … remember when Eric Bischoff was General Manager of ‘SmackDown’? So, I was getting texts from a chain of people that were giving me information that was completely false. One of them was so ridiculously false that it was a joke. And a couple of others actually could have been true, but they weren’t. I checked it out and of course it’s not there. And they left their numbers on the thing. So I went to one of my friends in WWE, and I said … and they were messages that were from people in WWE to Vince. And it was a 203 number, one of them. I go, ‘Is the 203 number Vince?’, and they go, ‘No, it’s not Vince’s number.’ But they did tell me who these people were who were trying to give me false information."
Meltzer was clearly angry over this particular situation, and openly called these fake leakers "scumbags."
Owen Hart and Mick Foley once pranked Dave Meltzer to get a negative star rating
At a live event in San Jose, Owen Hart and Mick Foley found out that Dave Meltzer would be in attendance for the show that night. Owen and Foley were both known as pranksters backstage and that night they made it their goal to get a negative star rating from Meltzer for their match that night.
During the match (which unfortunately was not recorded for TV), Hart and Foley oversold every move they gave to each other, hitting each other with bags of popcorn and selling it like death and basically turning the whole match into a ridiculous hardcore encounter. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was the special enforcer for the match and Mick Foley said Austin was burying his head in his hands to hide his laughter. The match was crazy but the comedy aspects of the selling seemed to get over with the crowd and actually got a good reaction.
So did Meltzer give the match a negative star rating?
"Even those guys trying to be bad … it really wasn’t what I would call a bad match." Meltzer said on "Talk Is Jericho" (h/t The Sportster), "It was a ridiculous match. It was like, watching two guys do a comedy match, but they’re talented guys. It really wasn’t anything resembling a negative star horrible match. It was just a comedy match that got over with the crowd."
The Wrestling Observer Newsletter was hated by the business when it first started
The Wrestling Observer Newsletter was first published in 1982 and was considered to be the first ever dirt sheet. The newsletter was the first of its kind, detailing the backstage news of the wrestling business, and for many fans it was the first time they would ever hear what was going on behind the scenes in wrestling.
The newsletter drew the ire of many people in the business. What went on behind the curtain was always a closely guarded secret back then, yet here was Dave Meltzer spilling all those secrets every time he published an article. "There had never quite been anything like what I did. Most people hated it," Meltzer said to Bleacher Report. "I don’t think [promoters and wrestlers] liked the idea of it. They all read it."
Not everybody was negative of the newsletter however, as names like Terry Funk, Bill Watts, and Eddie Graham all say they read the newsletter. In Bret Hart’s autobiography "Hitman," Hart was even complimentary of Meltzer for giving a good rating to a match he had with Booker T: "I was pleased to see that despite my groin injury, Meltzer had rated it a four-star match."
A lot of wrestlers today still don’t like Dave Meltzer
Even today, Dave Meltzer is still a controversial figure in the wrestling world. While some don’t seem to mind his journalism, there are many wrestling personalities who still don’t like him and call him out at every chance they get. Eric Bischoff on his podcast "83 Weeks" in particular seem to relish in reading Meltzer’s reviews of WCW and doesn’t miss a chance to point out Meltzer’s perceived mistakes.
Publishing the scoops that he does can put him on the wrong side of the wrestlers themselves, and he has been called out by many stars over the years who object to the stories he is publishing. There are almost too many to mention: Just Googling "wrestler blasts Dave Meltzer" gives you Seth Rollins, Peyton Royce, Charlotte Flair, Andrade El Idolo and Vince Russo all shooting on Meltzer. There are compilations of more wrestlers shooting on him on YouTube. In fact, it would be harder to find wrestlers who haven’t voiced their opinion on him.
Comments Dave Meltzer made about Peyton Royce landed him in hot water
In 2018, Dave Meltzer got himself in a bit of trouble with some body shaming remarks he made about Peyton Royce. As he was reviewing a WWE show with Bryan Alvarez, the two exchanged words about how The IIconics were "more attractive in NXT," with Meltzer mentioning "she was a lot lighter." The remark drew the ire of the whole wrestling world as many wrestlers called out Meltzer for his misogynistic comments. Peyton Royce herself tweeted, "What would you have me do Dave… Starve myself? This is how nightmares for young women start. The females in your life must be proud."
Meltzer was full of apologies over the incident, apologizing profusely on Twitter and he also did a 36 minute apology on the Wrestling Observer Radio. Peyton Royce, however, seemingly did not accept the apology, and was audibly disgusted when Meltzer’s name was brought up on Lilian Garcia’s "Chasing Glory" podcast after the incident.
Dave Meltzer cleaned his famously messy office so he could do video reviews
Dave Meltzer’s home office has become something of a legend in the wrestling world. It is an absolute mess. There seemed to be no system, there are papers littering the floor, it looked like a total fire hazard. And worst of all, Meltzer had his office like this for over 20 years. On his radio show, you could often hear the rustling of papers as Meltzer moved around his office to find things. How Dave Meltzer could do any work in that chaos baffled wrestling fans for decades.
Well, after all these years, in the year 2022 the office was finally tidied up. Bryan Alvarez spoke about the cleaning on Twitter and says the office was way worse than he thought. Nevertheless, the famously messy office is now clean. Why only now has Meltzer cleaned his office? It appears to be so he can do video reviews on the F4WOnline YouTube channel. Meltzer has been reviewing shows on the channel for years at this point, but had always called into the show without video in a rather old fashioned move. But it now seems Meltzer has at last joined the 21st century by moving up to video calls.