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David A. Meltzer (October 24, 1961) is the editor of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (WON). Sports Illustrated senior writer Frank Deford had praised Meltzer's work, saying that "Meltzer, I believe, is the most accomplished reporter in sports journalism." Meltzer had written for the Oakland Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and The National. He had also been interviewed in the wrestling documentaries Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows and Beyond the Mat.
Meltzer also had extensively covered mixed martial arts since UFC 1 in 1993. He had covered MMA for the LA Times and FoxSports.com, and was one of the three ringside judges for UFC 18. He had recently covered the sport for Yahoo! Sports, a UFC partner.
Meltzer was born in upstate New York before eventually relocating to San Jose, California. Meltzer earned a journalism degree from San José State University. He showed an interest in professional wrestling and a journalistic approach to same early on in his life, starting out as a sports writer at the Turlock Journal. 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 date back to 1980, when Meltzer began an annual poll amongst those he corresponded with 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 Observer, 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 Observer has been published since the start from various communities in Northern California, except for a six-month period in 1983 and 1984 when Meltzer resided in Denton, Texas.
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 that he would be ceasing publication. At that point, he continued offering the Observer on a "temporary" basis as an 8-page weekly on 8½ by 11 inch paper, available initially only for a maximum subscription of 4 issues. The response to this change was apparently enough to convince him to pursue the Observer as his career instead. He started writing the Observer full-time in 1987, retaining the smaller 8-page format.
The Observer'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 Observer, which featured accounts from within the backstage rooms where some of the interaction occurred. 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. As the business evolved along with the newsletter, he became more accepted. However, since major wrestling promotions would never acknowledge the existence of any dirt sheets, Meltzer had to find other ways to advertise his newsletter. Adverts were often posted in kayfabe and semi-kayfabe publications such as Wrestling Main Event magazine and Wrestling Eye magazine. 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 Observer 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 have noted seeing copies of the Observer 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. Howard Finkel's wife was publicly acknowledged as an early Observer subscriber, and at the time, the closest reach the publication likely had to McMahon.
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.
In his first autobiography, Mick Foley declared that it was the Observer's coverage of his independent circuit matches that caused WCW to consider signing him, since he was against "type." Foley also wrote that promoters as influential as Bill 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. Before 2004, the last match rated five stars in the US was in 1997. There were been sixty-three matches that received the honor since 1983, when Dynamite Kid and Tiger Mask I had the first one ever. Mitsuharu Misawa has the most five star matches with 24 (including one match wrestling as Tiger Mask II).
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 Observer Hall of Fame. Pro Wrestling Illustrated has adopted the Observer Hall of Fame as their own.
Wrestling Observer Live
Dave Meltzer was the former host of Wrestling Observer Live, a popular wrestling radio show. Co-hosting the show with Dave was Bryan Alvarez, editor of the Figure Four Weekly newsletter. Dave and Bryan 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 its doors 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 on March 17, 2002, and had stayed in its current position ever since. The WWE does not allow its talent or employees on Wrestling Observer Live as a guest.
As of September 30, 2007, Dave Meltzer began to show declining interest in Pro-Wrestling. In an effort to distance himself from the industry and to fully immerse himself in MMA, Bryan Alvarez was assigned host of Wrestling Observer Live.
In September 2008, the time was moved from 8pm to 6pm EST, eliminating the conflict on PPV nights.
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), the Observer became available to subscribers online through the website. Dave Meltzer penned 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 - fewer updates in number, but usually lack the style of his colleague.
- Tributes: Remembering Some of the World's Greatest Wrestlers (Winding Stair Press, 2001, Hardcover) ISBN 1553660854 ISBN 978-1553660859
- Tributes II: Remembering More of the Worlds Greatest Wrestlers (Sports Publishing, 2004, Hardcover) ISBN 1582618178 ISBN 978-1582618173
- Home of the Wrestling Observer Live radio show
- Official website of the Wrestling Observer
- 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