The New York Times has published an article profiling longtime wrestling news reporter Dave Meltzer, editor of the frequently-attributed Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
Meltzer has been publishing his newsletter since 1983, which was initially considered groundbreaking since he divulged insider news and various behind-the-scenes happenings in the professional wrestling industry when its secrets were heavily guarded. The intriguing publication, which was referred as a “dirt sheet” by wrestlers, was passed around in locker rooms, with some even subscribing under their birth names in an attempt to hide their identity.
“They didn’t think I knew their real names,” said Meltzer. “I did.”
While legendary wrestler, promoter and trainer Stu Hart was an avid subscriber to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter—he would have wife Helen read it to him at their Calgary home—iconic grappling son Bret Hart, on the other hand, wasn’t fond of Meltzer revealing the secrets of professional wrestling.
“I wanted to punch him out,” Hart said. “I didn’t like the idea of somebody trying to tell everyone what was going on.”
J. J. Dillon, who worked as a front office executive for Vince McMahon in the World Wrestling Federation from the late-eighties through the mid-nineties, added, “There would be a board meeting and information that was only discussed in that meeting with key people and Dave would report on it. It drove Vince nuts.”
An “exasperated” McMahon began communicating with Meltzer when he was hired in 1990 as a wrestling columnist for short-lived The National Sports Daily, elevating his reputation and readership.
“That was the difference from eking out a living to making a good living, that exposure,” Meltzer said.
In 1997, Hart signed a contract to perform for World Championship Wrestling after having been affiliated with the World Wrestling Federation since 1984. McMahon sought to prevent Hart from leaving the organization as the champion, but Hart was unwilling to lose the title to Michaels—with whom he had been irritated by—at Survivor Series in his home country of Canada. McMahon then conspired to ring the bell prematurely, awarding the strap to Michaels. When McMahon went to Hart’s dressing room and tried to explain himself, Hart angrily rebuffed him and warned him to leave immediately or risk being punched. An altercation ensued, with Hart dropping McMahon with a single punch. Hart contacted Meltzer shortly thereafter, with the entire scene being relayed in an issue of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
“I knew then why I needed Meltzer,” Hart said. “It wasn’t a storyline, it wasn’t pretend. Wrestling writes its own publicity. I was always grateful for someone allowing the truth to come out.”
While many of Meltzer’s readers digitally subscribe to the newsletter at F4WOnline.com, about thirty percent of his audience prefer the printed version.
“Things haven’t changed that much,” said Hart, who still visits locker rooms after retiring as a wrestler. “Everyone fights for The Observer just to see if they’re in it. Sometimes you’re in it and sometimes you’re not. Sometimes you like what he writes and sometimes you don’t. But I think wrestlers realize it’s good to have someone speaking for you.”
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