If there is one thing that has become clear to me in reading back over the Wrestling Observer of the mid-80s, and into the 90s, and continuing to present-day, there has been one constant:
Dave Meltzer hates WWE.
From his abject ridicule, scorn and disrespect shown in his newsletter in the 1980s, to the notion that Meltzer’s best, most enthusiastic work outside of wrestlers dying, is shown best in stories where he can stick it to Vince McMahon, it is abundantly clear.
I no longer think it’s a coincidence that Meltzer’s best stories over the years have been the ones that make WWF/E look their worst.
For him to give them, or anyone closely associated with them who isn’t a source, the benefit of the doubt is probably among the most alien of concepts to him.
The most recent example of this is in comments he has made following the WWE Beast in the East event, live from Japan regarding the commentary work done by Michael Cole and Byron Saxton.
In the aftermath of the WWE Network exclusive event, much scrutiny has been offered regarding the work of Michael Cole on the show. Opinion seems to be divided into two camps:
1. He did a really good job, deserving praise for improving over his usual work on WWE Raw, and WWE Pay Per Views
or 2. That’s not worth noting at all because he got details wrong because he said Sumo Hall was the largest in-door sports arena in Japan (it isn’t) and got the number of WWF/E titles that changed hands in Japan wrong.
Leading the charge in favor of number two, and catching some heat among several of his readers, is Dave Meltzer, who spent a good portion of the first several minutes of his podcast reviewing the show running Michael Cole down, and dismissing the thought that he’d done a better job than usual on the show.
Meltzer took at shot early at Cole for seemingly no reason other than he was aware that Cole had been getting praised for his work on the special. It seemed out of place given how dismissive Meltzer usually is of the poor announcing quality in WWE, generally glossing over it when his co-host Bryan Alvarez makes mention of how bad it is.
Yet, here, when much is being made of the efforts Cole made to up his game, Meltzer, for whatever reason, can’t refrain from being a stick in the mud.
Of the opener, Meltzer said,
“You couldn’t have asked for a better way to start the show if two other people were announcing, although I will say they did get better but, you know…”
This prompted co-host Mike Sempervive to mention how Cole had gotten kudos on the work he’d done on the show.
“I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it. I mean, I guess when you compare it to Raw Michael Cole, he was better than Raw Michael Cole, but it’s just like, when I’ve seen Mauro Ranallo, or Mike Tenay, or Jim Ross do Japan, they’re so much better. I mean it’s not even close.”
But Michael Cole wasn’t doing Japan. He was doing WWE, and staying true to WWE product.
This is something Wade Keller of PWTorch noted in his VIP Hotline reviewing the show, calling out how refreshing Cole’s commentary was.
“Hearing Michael Cole calling WWE matches like it’s a sport, there wasn’t a bunch of banter… they used facts in their commentary.”
Keller joked that he had forgotten about what that was like since Jim Ross and Mike Tenay went off the air, but praised the WWE announce team for calling out facts in the matches like the history of Finn Balor in Japan, Brock Lesnar formerly holding the IWGP title in the past, and Chris Jericho being known as Lionheart when he wrestled in Japan in the 90s.
But none of this mattered to Meltzer, who referred to Cole’s announcing as perfunctory at best, and cringeworthy at worst, and holds Mauro Ranallo’s work on New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV as one of the better announcing jobs in wrestling.
But where Meltzer finds Cole perfunctory, Ranallo’s is seen to some as a superficial recitation of facts with only a pretense of context or importance; the same way someone reading a dictionary lauding themselves highly intelligent would come across to listeners.
His incessant enunciation of every syllable of every word in an over the top delivery akin to Kevin Harlan, only without the actual personality and passion is a chore to listen to for some.
Everything sounds important, but nothing stands out.
But this is Dave Meltzer we’re talking about. A man for whom presentation in his own product has rarely, if ever, mattered.
Of course he would find someone reading a dictionary riveting, because there are FACTS involved, and no matter how dry or over the top, this is a man who craves knowledge of facts above all else.
He knows not this “presentation” of which anyone else speaks – in his newsletters, in his radio shows, on his website, it doesn’t matter. If the information is there, how it is presented, and how the readers or listeners consume it does not matter.
He yammers, stammers and babbles incessantly on his shows to get his words out (in the form of fact… usually), he is famous for a preponderance of run on sentences and careening shifts in focus abrupt and jarring enough to give a reader actual whiplash if not careful. And, to anyone reading this, I would suppose the website Daily Update and his archaic fixation with that wall of useless plugs that he insists is essential to his business need not be mentioned.
To compound matters, Meltzer’s details aren’t always up to premium standards, either. Which, when you think about it, is actually kind of worse than Michael Cole, paid to sell fiction by a company known for its grandiose tales and outright lies, getting his facts wrong. Meltzer is paid by subscribers to report facts, analyze stories with precision, and provide accurate, insightful details.
But, take his coverage of the Dusty Rhodes death as a recent example of where his coverage, in the immediate aftermath of the legend’s passing, was imprecise, inaccurate, and lacking any actual insight.
On the June 11, 2015 Wrestling Observer Radio Breaking News Audio Meltzer reported that, while details were “pretty sketchy,”
“He (Rhodes) collapsed at his home, was rushed the the hospital and his kidneys were failing, but then what happened after that I really don’t know, but this all happened today…”
But, a few days later, we would learn that this had all, actually happened, the day prior, and that Rhodes had spent about 24 hours in the hospital before dying.
But Meltzer got that wrong, too.
“This was not expected. He was fine yesterday.”
But Rhodes wasn’t fine the day before he passed. In fact, according to friends and closer acquaintances in the days after he had died, word was that he had been ill for some time and hiding it admirably.
Which isn’t to say that Meltzer should have known that, but it is to say that, when you know you don’t know something, just don’t say anything. Or say you don’t know.
And, for sure, refrain from doing those things when you make a habit – no, a business! – out of taking other people to task for mistakes in their details.
Of course facts are facts, and Michel Cole should’t have gotten a free pass for mixing them up, or getting them flat out wrong. But to bury the effort, and dismiss the improvement shown in favor of exacerbating the negatives just comes off as unnecessary and, frankly, mean spirited.
I mean, to say Matt Striker does a better job? Come on Dave… Come on. You’re joking.
It also calls into question another aspect of Meltzer’s persona in recent years, where he clearly gives favor to those with whom he is acquainted or friends.
The Young Bucks regularly receive passes for their spot-fest performances where others are dismissed for doing too much for no reason. The Bucks, of course, have a finisher named after Meltzer.
Ranallo frequently makes mention of Meltzer in his commentary, and can do no wrong in his play by play.
Josh Barnett makes himself look like a complete moron in being totally oblivious to Yujiro Kushida’s wearing an orange nylon vest over a denim jacket in homage to Marty McFly in Back to the Future, calling out his fashion choice as a joke despite the Time Splitters logo being clearly based on the Back to the Future title logo, yet Barnett can do no wrong.
Of course, to be fair, there is no way Meltzer is getting that reference above, either.
As one subscriber at F4Wonline told Meltzer, “…the only demographic that would care about such a thing is the 15 minutes till Wapner crowd,” before going on to note, “Oh fuck, a dated reference. Have fun obsessing over that while your smoke detector goes ape shit.”
It’s unfortunate, really, that a guy who used to be fun and witty and full of passion and insight for the business of professional wrestling is now more mean and nitpicky.
As another subscriber would characterize the change, “We want Dave Meltzer the analyst, not Dave Meltzer the nickpicking curmudgeon.”