Dave Meltzer, editor of the acclaimed Wrestling Observer newsletter and author of the new book Tributes, joined SLAM! Wrestling live for a chat. Here’s the transcript.
Moderator: Dave Meltzer, editor of The Wrestling Observer, is in the offices of SLAM! Wrestling. He’s ready to answer your questions about his new book Tributes, Ric Flair’s appearance on RAW last night, the return of Jerry Lawler to the WWF and the wrestling world in general. Let’s go to the first question.
Paul: How did Tributes come about?
Dave Meltzer: I had done biographies of the various wrestlers involved when they passed away in the Wrestling Observer and this was a compilation of some of the better known wrestlers as well as some of the better stories. Stewart House Publishing put together a great aesthetic package with great photos to go along with the stories.
Christopher: Will I be able to purchase your book through regular bookstores soon? Or is it just through Amazon.com?
Dave Meltzer: It should be at all major retailers and independent book stores in North America. It can also be purchased through the Wrestling Observer, Live Audio Wrestling and amazon.com websites.
Terry Harris: Congratulations on a fantastic job! At any point was there ever any thought given to expanding the book or making another book later on down the road?
Dave Meltzer: Thanks. They had a certain length that they wanted. If the first book is successful, I’m sure we’ll do a second book. There are several stories that are already written plus more that will come up that already easily could fill a second book. I’d have loved for the stories of Terry Gordy and Johnny Valentine to be in, but the book was largely put together beforehand.
Leapin’ Lenny – Toronto: Are you planning on continuing the Wrestling Gold video series?
Dave Meltzer: That’s largely up to Kit Parker Films. Jim Cornette and I did a second taping just a few weeks ago for tapes of old Smoky Mountain and current Ohio Valley Wrestling shows so those will be out shortly. Parker was also approached by Micah Watts, Bill’s son, who made available all of the old Watts Mid South footage. I saw the listing and it had awesome stuff. Anyone who remembers that era knows there is a ton of classic stuff that they filmed. It’s basically going to be a business decision. If the second batch of tapes do well, we’ll do a third batch with the Watts footage. I know Cornette would love to do vo’s [Voice Over’s] on that stuff because it’s the style of wrestling he liked, plus there was some great wrestling. I’d love to do it also after seeing the match list.
J Michael Kenyon: How has the role of Wrestling Observer changed over the years, from its inception to now?
Dave Meltzer: Originally the Observer was more breaking news. In the ’80s, there was really no other news source so for most readers and even people within the business, so it was more about the news. Today it’s far more about covering wrestling as a business and analyzing the news itself, because there is always some breaking news, but the big stories are going to be out first. Now it’s more about discussion of the pros and cons of the stories and looking at the future of wrestling, and putting the current news into historical perspective.
Terry Dart: Hello Dave, I think you remember me from the 1980s, I remember when you first started out your bulletin would come out once a month and had photos and newspaper clippings and was a very large bulletin. Do you think you would ever go back to that style of bulletin as it was easier to read, I also enjoyed the yearbooks Dave nobody does those anymore, do you know why Dave?
Dave Meltzer: I don’t think the Observer today would change to a monthly. The nature of the Observer and the time that it takes to put it together makes it pretty much impossible to do the old style. I loved doing the old yearbooks, but the pressure of doing a weekly newsletter makes doing something that large pretty much impossible. The problem with doing the yearbook is that every December I was a total zombie.
Simon Chan: What are your thoughts on Paul Heyman and Mick Foley’s segments on Raw and Smackdown before Survivor Series? How much was a shoot?
Dave Meltzer: Well, they were scripted and agreed on, so it was part of the entertainment aspect of the show. As far as real feelings, there was real emotion involved in both things. The Foley segment was strange because he didn’t seen happy doing it. I always thought Foley would be involved with the WWF for life as something of a goodwill ambassador and entertaining TV personality and even though he’s leaving on good terms, it just wasn’t what I had expected. Heyman’s segment was a fascinating individual performance and great delivery. I think he should be at some point a heel manager, but I didn’t like how everything went down last night. I’d have some of the firing segment very different to leave more of an opening to where people would be waiting for his return.
Mark DeSousa: What do you think are the chances of having the Wrestling Observer live show back on the air in the next year?
Dave Meltzer: Hopefully really good. We’ve talked with a lot of different people since it went off the air, but nobody has been able to make it work. I think it would have to be on the radio, because we can’t get enough sponsorship on the internet. I think the main hold-up in getting on the radio is the sponsorship aspect. But Bryan Alvarez and I miss the show. It was the most fun job I ever had. Al Gatullo, who was our producer, also wants to do it again.
Phil Chertok: Would you ever do a second book of famous dead wrestlers… I’m thinking guys like Adorable Adrian Adonis, Gorilla Monsoon, Uncle Elmer, Terry Gordy, Mr. Fuji, etc.
Dave Meltzer: Mr. Fuji is still alive. Of the names you mentioned, I did pretty extensive stories on both Gorilla Monsoon and Terry Gordy. Again, it depends on how well the first book does.
Dave Reda: Great book, have you received any feedback from the families of the deceased wrestlers?
Dave Meltzer: It just came out. As far as the stories themselves, I know that Ray Stevens’ daughter didn’t like the story on him, but most people really liked it.
Peter Traverse, Newfoundland: Hi Dave, of all the wrestlers on the independent scene, who do you think are most deserving of a WWE contract?
Dave Meltzer: Christopher Daniels of the guys that I’ve seen, has the package because he’s a great wrestler and also is a great interview.
Mark P. (Ottawa, Ont.): In your opinion, what are both the most positive and most negative effects of the internet on the industry, and how has the internet affected your job?
Dave Meltzer: As we said earlier, the internet has totally changed the Observer from being something that breaks news to something that analyzes news and looks at the business of wrestling, looks at what changes should be made for the future and things like that. The best thing is that it has elevated the product. Nobody in a high profile situation can afford to be lazy because they are going to be called on it. Negative, probably that there is a lot of aspects of manipulation involved that people don’t know about. Also, I read a lot of things and you can see some things written by people who don’t know much about wrestling. The good thing is that there are more good wrestling writers than anytime in history.
John Pollock: What constant trends have you seen in wrestling over the years that promoters never learn from?
Dave Meltzer: Everything. Very few promoters study the business, and by not studying it, the same mistakes are being made. You’d think with the high profile demise of WCW that people would learn, but it seems that isn’t the case.
Tom, England: Do you think the addition of Flair to the WWF roster will make any difference as far as ratings go in the long term, as we are led to believe most fans are casual, and therefore will they really understand/or care about Flair, and understand his legacy?
Dave Meltzer: It all depends on the story WWF tells. If the concepts of creative that they’ve been doing are continued, in the long run nothing will change. Ric Flair isn’t going to be the savior of a bad product. If they have strong storylines and keep the characters consistent, Flair in this role could be a very strong character within a good product. It’s not a matter of knowing his legacy or not, it’s a matter of strong stories and the ability to create stars and make him larger than life again. Just the appearance of Flair on television every week isn’t going to change ratings for more than a week or two.
Tracy: What did you think of Diana Hart’s book and is their ANY resemblance of truth in it?
Dave Meltzer: Very sad. I think a lot of the stories in there are true, and some of the stuff seemed delusional. Some of the stuff was really sad. She savaged some people really badly, some of whom didn’t deserve it and she made zero attempt to understand both sides of the story. She also didn’t address so many issues as to why she worked so hard against her sister-in-law in the lawsuit, and instead just tried to savage her. That came off really badly.
Shining™: Dave,who is your all-time favorite wrestler?
Dave Meltzer: I don’t really have one. I more enjoy good matches or good interviews no matter who they come from. Any great worker or great performer I respect for their ability.
Ed Ludwig: Hi Dave, does the new XWF promotion have any chance of making an impact and challenging the WWF?
Dave Meltzer: The odds are certainly against it. If they get strong television with a network that is strongly behind them, and have an ability to create new stars to mix in with the older guys, then they have possibilities. It’s very difficult. It would be the best thing in wrestling if there was real competition, but I really think that the decision to nix wrestling on TNT and TBS earlier this year changed the industry forever, and not in a good way. It was the single most devastating long-term decision probably in the last 15 years.
Justin Shapiro: Do you ever think the Observer will go to an paid, online, daily format so that you can give your analysis on the news as it breaks instead of the current, some would say, dated, format?
Dave Meltzer: I would love to be able to do that. I don’t know it would work. Last year, when we had a way to get the Observer online bypassing the mail, which I thought for a variety of reasons was going to change things, turned out to be a disaster. Very few people switched over. Ever since we dropped it, the Observer has gotten stronger. Go figure.
Jaret Giesbrecht: What do you believe will happen to the wrestlers who represented the WCW? They are still under contract are they not?
Dave Meltzer: The ones they want, they’ll figure out a storyline way to bring back, probably using Flair bringing them back. The ones they don’t want, this makes a very convenient storyline way of getting rid of them. The plan is to continue doing two house shows per night, so they need 50-60 people on the active roster at all times and with the fact injuries are such a part of the game, I don’t see a ton of cuts of guys now on the roster. There always will be some cuts. I wouldn’t be surprised to see developmental cuts. The nature of developmental and the lack of competition has changed a lot of aspects of that, but the prime one is still to create new stars for the future.
Tony Tu: If you could choose any three current wrestlers to start a company who would they be ?
Dave Meltzer: That’s hard. Rock. Kurt Angle. Austin is too easy but for long-term there is always the injury question. Even with Angle, if he wants to really try the Olympics, maybe he isn’t the guy. And Rock could always leave if he gets to be a big movie star whereas Austin is going to wrestle until he physically can’t perform any longer. Maybe Bill Goldberg because he has huge marketing potential even though he is very limited in the ring, but again, he doesn’t want it as bad as most of the guys who are in. You can’t really pick guys, you need to have a concept and an entire crew and support staff.
Darren: How exactly does the creative writing take place in the WWF and does the WWF take notice of the negative feedback on their product as of late?
Dave Meltzer: They’re aware of the feedback. Sometimes they take criticism the wrong way. Problem is some of the negative feedback is from people who don’t understand wrestling, but then again, their voices are important. The problem with the writing, which was the same problem with WCW, is a lack of long-term planning. Every week they change characters and the lack of character consistency seems to be a turnoff to the casual fan.
Ryan Clark: Hey Dave, what are your feelings on internet news board websites? Do you think it’s all made up by reporters or what?
Dave Meltzer: It varies, I’m sure. There are good reporters and there are people who aren’t reporters. Even good reporters sometimes get bad info from reliable sources. Generalizing about the internet is like generalizing anything.
Moderator: Dave has graciously agreed to stick around for another half-hour, so keep submitting your questions.
Tom, England: What is your opinion on steroids in wrestling? It seems to be a “hush, hush” subject that no one really knows the details on?
Dave Meltzer: We talk about it all the time in the newsletter. It’s a huge subject because you are talking about a drug that is illegal that is something of a staple among the upper echelon in the profession. When the fans, promoters and wrestlers themselves judge themselves on their physiques, it guarantees it is going to be a problem. I’ve come to see it as a sad reality of the business, but even without steroids, there is a great physical price virtually every wrestler who works any kind of a scheduled has to pay. There is no real answer to the problem.
Scott Muise: Do you feel wrestling will have to become more “over the top” to please todays & future fans? (i.e. FMW, ECW, hardcore style) Because as everyone knows: Ratings is everything!! 🙂
Dave Meltzer: The old FMW and ECW style never appealed that much to the mainstream. FMW did well, partially due to the style, but much of it during its hot period was due to Onita’s personal charisma. ECW at its best really didn’t outdraw WCW at its worst except in a few selected markets. There are things to learn from any form of wrestling that is successful but it seems to me that the extreme hardcore stuff is more a niche deal, and it’s something that was a lot bigger a few years ago. As far as WWF goes, they have a weird balance because they need to be edgy, but they can’t afford to lose sponsors, especially now.
CCK: Do you really think PRIDE has hit it’s peak? Will they be able to replace Sakuraba if he can not come back strong?
Dave Meltzer: There’s a part of me that sees the 11/3 show as a peak. PRIDE is sort of the hot in thing in Japan. They have great champions for storyline purposes, in particular Silva and Nogueira is awesome. But they do need Japanese challengers with mainstream names, and that comes more from the pro wrestling side. It’s weird because Takada is still a big draw. Ogawa can be a big draw. There are real Japanese fighters that aren’t draws because mainstream pro fans don’t know them well enough.
Rick Scaia: What do you think the chances are of Japanese wrestling, in some form, being broadcast in North America? With all the channels these days, especially on satellite dishes, it continues to amaze me that things like New Japan or Pro Wrestling NOAH can’t be seen by us this side of the Pacific.
Dave Meltzer: I thought five or six years ago when Japanese wrestling was at its peak and American wrestling was down, that it would have been perfect to introduce it. Japanese and American wrestling from a style standpoint were also similar. Now the styles have changed in totally different ways so it would be harder for American fans to understand the style. But if there can be foreign soccer on television and with so many stations, I don’t think there is any reason it couldn’t be shown, but I don’t think it would have nearly the impact today as it would have had between 1980 and 1998.
Matt From Vancouver: Hey Dave! How you guys doing? Will Paul E be more involved in booking now and do you think Stephanie and Shane will have their input downsized?
Dave Meltzer: I haven’t heard any evidence of any of that. I guess time will tell. I don’t see Paul Heyman’s influence being any greater. Shane’s influence will likely decrease because he’s going to be concentrating on his duties running publications and internet. Stephanie’s influence at this point doesn’t appear to be changing.
Wade Mitchell: What, if any, impact will the Matrats/NGW group led by Eric Bischoff have on wrestling?
Dave Meltzer: None as far as mainstream wrestling. I haven’t heard of them getting strong television, and without strong television, there isn’t going to be impact.
robeywan: Mr. Meltzer, it is widely reported that Kevin Nash and Scott Hall should be in the WWF by the beginning of 2002. What is your take on any potential troubles this could cause, and is the WWF being two-faced in hiring Hall while firing Eddie Guererro?
Dave Meltzer: The last I’ve heard, both sides are going under the impression no deal is going to be made. Of course, depending on where the business is in January, or some time later, that could all change. Wrestling is filled with double standards, but to me, hiring Scott Hall, whether they had fired Guerrero or not, would set a double standard and the potential for embarrassment to the company is pretty high. Of course, they would be looking at it if business was down, because when business is done, you have to take more chances.
Phil Chertok: What is a day in the life of Dave Meltzer really like?
Dave Meltzer: I wake up, check phone messages and e-mails and then type up a morning report. Most of the rest of the day is spent either writing Observer stories, on the phone, or responding to e-mails and watching videotapes. I don’t have much free time. I usually spend whatever little free time I have with my girlfriend and our dogs.
Jeff Docherty- PEI, Canada: Hi Dave! Any early predictions on matches, surprise appearances, angles for the upcoming WrestleMania X8 in Toronto? I have 9th row tix and am wondering what the WWF can actually do to top previous WrestleManias?
Dave Meltzer: Most of the stuff is being done week-to-week. The original idea was HHH as a babyface against Austin as a heel. Between turns, injuries and changes, nobody can predict that far in advance. As far as mainstream celebs, I doubt they’ve even discussed that. In recent years, they’ve toned down on the celebs because they haven’t needed them. Depending how business is in three months and how the buy rates pan out, that will probably decide their thoughts as far as celebs when the time comes.
Moderator: We’re going to take one or two more questions.
Seadawg: Why do so many wrestlers like Bret Hart and Lance Storm look down on the Lucha Libre style, saying it’s too spotty? That’s like saying a good match has to have x or y. A good match, Lucha, Worked Shoot, or American Style, is a good match.
Dave Meltzer: I agree. There’s a very important saying in wrestling that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. For example, when WWF was on fire two years ago, that doesn’t mean their style was the “only” style of wrestling that can work. Lucha style is different. They may look down on it because the nature of the wrestling as they were taught, the lucha stuff doesn’t look realistic enough, but if it works, more power to it. Wrestling has been an important part of their culture for decades and it still draws well and if you look at this as the business it is, you don’t have to like what works and it may not be your cup of tea, but you should respect that it works.
Mike Sempervive, Ocean City, MD: Mr. Meltzer, I consider Bruiser Brody’s death the biggest black eye in wrestling history (only because Owen was an accident – not cold blooded murder). There were always rumours about what Tony Atlas saw. To your knowledge, who knew what and when? And why in the world does any wrestler, from America or not, still want to work for Carlos Colon/WWC? And good luck with your book!
Dave Meltzer: We’ve learned a lot in the aftermath of Brody’s death because with the exception of Dory Funk and Stan Hansen, I think every wrestler who worked Puerto Rico before Brody’s death, that WWC wanted, eventually went back. There are documented interviews with Tony Atlas where he specifically said he witnessed the stabbing. Nobody testified on behalf of Brody. Some were probably afraid to. Dutch Mantel, who didn’t see it, and because of that couldn’t have been an eye witness, got his subpoena after the trial ended. I think the fact that Gonzalez wrestled that night is more mind-boggling than Vince McMahon continuing the show after Owen’s death, even though when Gonzalez wrestled, Brody was still alive. The idea he’d go home after doing that, change and come back to wrestle is really freaky in hindsight. The fact he returned after the trial, and here we are, 13 years later, and is still wrestling and is something of a national wrestling hero speaks volumes about the power of television. The idea he’d reprise the angle for Japan, even though it was never followed up on, is amazing as well, not so much for him but for FMW that had the idea of doing it.
Moderator: SLAM! Wrestling would like to thank Dave Meltzer for participating in this live chat. Be sure to check out Dave’s book Tributes, available through his website,www.wrestlingobserver.com. You can also purchase a subscription to Dave’s fantastic newsletter The Wrestling Observer on the website. The last word goes to Dave!
Dave Meltzer: Thanks very much. I really enjoyed the questions and it was a lot of fun. Hopefully we can do this again.