Wrestling Observer Blows Torch Out In Gagne Death Coverage

Dave Meltzer shows why, when it comes to obits and contextualizing icons, no one does it better
The wrestling world was saddened to learn Monday night of the death of legendary wrestler and AWA promoter Verne Gagne at age 89. But in these somber events readers typically find some of the sharpest wrestling journalism available.
Tonight, we image, is but the first sign of things to come in the days that follow.
The Sandwich first read of Gagne’s death while researching WWE Raw coverage on the PW Torch VIP news site. I clicked the link announcing the death, and saw an inoffensive report from James Caldwell reporting the particulars.
Gagne dead at 89, according to a tweet by former AWA and WWF announcer Gene Okerlund, with some color around Gagne’s battle with dementia for several years, requiring assisted living. Caldwell then offered this by way of background on who Gagne was:
“Gagne battled Vince McMahon during the late stages of his career in the 1980s, but was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006. WWE also released a DVD on the AWA’s long history.”
When looking at Meltzer’s report, however, there was no comparison.
The pioneer of wrestling journalism wasted no time in filing a 430 word look at Gagne, recapping his career from the NCAAs, to his in-ring years as one of the industry’s top pros and ultimately among its greatest promoters.
Granted, Meltzer has likely written bios for Gagne in the past, whether for his own Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame, or for his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006. Still, one can hardly count that as a detriment to the story, as it is more a testament to Meltzer’s dedication to being a solid historian and journalist that he would have a profile like this for Gagne on file.
Even the recent news, and color around Gagne’s dementia got a deeper look from Meltzer as well:
“Gagne had suffered from dementia for many years, including a 2009 incident where he threw down a fellow nursing home resident, Helmut Gutmann, 97, breaking his hip and Gutmann died three weeks later.  While the death was ruled a homicide, Gagne was never charged due to his mental condition as he had no recollection any such thing happened.”
It will be interesting in the coming days to see how the continued coverage on these two large pay sites compares. With Wade Keller’s proximity to the story, and propensity for audio guests and interviews, I anticipate great audio coverage. While everyone who’s ever read the Observer for very long knows what we can no doubt expect when the next edition of the newsletter lands later on this week.


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