Pick My Brain Interview: Dan Wahlers

Internet Wrestling Columnist

As if we couldn’t swing from Dave Meltzer’s nut-sack any more, we decided to interview the last writer affiliated with his website, wrestlingobserver.com.

For those of you who write us and whine about not interviewing more famous people, you can eat it. We interviewed DAN WAHLERS. They don’t come bigger than that.

Seriously, Dan’s a good guy who works his ass of writing long, well-researched articles each and every week for no pay. We can definitely relate to that. And when we interviewed everyone else who writes for Meltz, we felt bad when we left out big D.W. So here it is.

Special thanks to Dan for doing this interview and being a good sport. He asked for it, and now he’s gonna get it.

1. We’ll start with a serious, poignant, educated question. Who the Hell are you? And what plugs do you have?

My name is Dan Wahlers, and I’m a 24 year old wrestling fan from New Jersey. Dave Meltzer was nice enough to take me in off the streets, and give me a spot writing for his page two years ago, and that’s where you can find my columns on a semi-weekly basis.

That’s it for plugs. Oh wait, shop at Target! That’s where my real job is, and no I’m not a cashier. I work in security, and I’ll stop now before I go off on a tangent, which I have been known to do from time to time.

2. Seriously, we’re well aware of your work on WrestlingObserver.com. You write some great, well-thought out columns there. Almost too well-thought out. How do you make time for these articles? They seem like they must take you hours to write and research.

It’s becoming harder and harder to make time, not to mention hard to come up with fresh, original ideas to write about every week. I mean how many Raw reviews can you do before people get sick of them? Wrestling just doesn’t interest me as much now as it did even several years ago. I know I’m definitely not alone in feeling that way. It’s almost become a chore to watch in some respects.

But yes, when I do write my columns, they do usually take me several hours to complete. When I get going, I usually have a lot to say. Some would say too much. I have sometimes been accused of having my columns run too long. I guess that could be a good thing, or a bad thing depending on your point of view. What can I say, I like to give the people their money’s worth.

Oh wait, WO.com is a free site isn’t it? You certainly won’t have time to have a cup of coffee, and a sandwich waiting for the pop up ads to finish loading, that’s for sure.

3. You recently did a column on ROH’s 3rd anniversary, including an exclusive interview with Gabe Sapolsky. You sly dog you, we’ve been trying to interview Gabe and never could. And you did. For people reading this who may not be familiar with ROH, please give us your best sales pitch on why we should check them out?

I can’t say enough nice things about Gabe. He was refreshingly honest, and forthright with his answers to some pretty tough questions. It wasn’t the typical “kayfabe the writer” garbage you sometimes see from people in the wrestling business. I thought the interview came out well. Gabe liked it, the people involved in ROH liked it. I was glad to have been able to do it.

You should check out Ring of Honor, because it’s the place where the actual art of professional wrestling is still appreciated, and treated with respect. The guys that work their shows might not be household names, but you can be guaranteed they will bust their asses out there for you every time. They don’t insult you with B-level comedy sketches, or left over soap opera storylines. It’s just wrestling, and if you’re a fan of the in-ring aspect of wrestling, then ROH is definitely something you need to check out. If you haven’t yet, then you’re only cheating yourself.

4. Yes or No, has Dan Wahlers ever done the following:

Felt “left out” when we interviewed Dave Meltzer, Bryan Alvarez (twice), Ben Miller, Mike Coughlin (twice, and #3 is coming soon), and Todd Martin (twice): Yes, what took you so long? I realize I’m not in law school, and I haven’t ever gotten my face bashed in for money, but I like to think I’m a pretty interesting person.

Wondered why you write your columns in the first place, since you make no money from them: No, although getting paid to write about wrestling would be the ultimate job.

Used a calculator to try to figure out Dave Meltzer’s annual salary: No, Dave only yells it at me every week right after I get done putting the second coat of wax on his car.

Pierced your skin while trying to open a stapled issue of the Observer: No

Spilled something on the Observer, or gotten food stains on it, and gotten mad at yourself for doing so: Yes, chocolate does not come out of the Observer.

Gotten writer’s block: Yes, especially lately.

Brought an Observer to a doctor’s waiting room or family get-together in which you wanted something to read to pass the time: Yes.

Done voodoo on us because we interviewed everyone else on the WrestlingObserver.com staff except you: Yes, now you know why your ears have been burning for the past six months.

Met Dave Meltzer in person: No, though I would love to some day. He needs to venture to the East Coast more.

Emailed Dave and called him a cradle-robber for marrying a woman some 17 years younger than he is: No, I don’t call that being a cradle robber, I call that being smart.

Emailed Dave and called him a lucky s.o.b. for marrying a woman some 17 years younger than he is: No, but he is a lucky s.o.b.

Ordered back issues from Grant Zwarych: No

Gotten thanked in the “Special Thanks to” section of the Observer: Yes, many times.

Had a letter published in the Observer: No

Seen the Chyna-X-Pac sex tape: Hell no.

5. Todd Martin’s a liberal and proud of it. Mike Coughlin’s a conservative and proud of it. Who in the Hell knows what Ben Miller is. Where exactly does Dan Wahles stand, and why?

I guess you can call me a liberal. I voted for Al Gore in 2000, and John Kerry in 2004. I volunteered for the Kerry campaign here in New Jersey. I despise George W. Bush, and what he’s done to this country.

More than 1200 young men and women dead, and for what? So he can just move along, and invade the next country he feels wronged us. His ideas for the country are wrong, and sooner or later people will realize it. I could go on all day about politics, another passion of mine, but you only have so much room to fit this interview.

6. What does the “NJ” in your email address stand for?

A. New Jersey
B. New Japan
C. Nude Johnsons
D. Naked Jobbers
E. Necklace Jizzers
F. Necrophilia Jabberwocky
G. Nipples n’ Juggs
H. Nasty Jesus
I. Nerdy Jabroni
J. Narcoleptic Jury
K. Never Jewish
L. Nigerian Juice
M. Noble, Jamie
N. New Jack
O. New Jammies
P. Nash & Jarrett
Q. Need a Job
R. Nidia’s Jockstrap
S. Other (please specify)

NJ stands for my home state New Jersey, a great place to live, despite the bad reputation it gets. We’re not all in the mob, and we don’t all listen to Bruce Springsteen albums all day. When it comes to NJ rockers, I’m partial to Jon Bon Jovi myself.

Necrophilia Jabberwocky sounds like a storyline idea for the next Raw.

7. Time for some numbers. Let’s test your math skills.

Your age: 24, will be 25 on March 16th

Number of years you’ve been watching wrestling: 19

Year you first subscribed to the Observer: 2000

Number of columns you’ve written: More than 100

Amount you’ve been paid for writing them: $0.00

Number of subscribers you think Meltzer has: 5,000

Number of subscribers you think Wade Keller has: Wade who?

Number of subscribers you think Bryan Alvarez has: Bryan has a newsletter?

Percentage of reader mail you get that is hate mail: 5%

Your height: 6’1″

Your weight: 230 lbs

Your waist size: Are you buying me a pair of pants? If so, I’m partial to Old Navy Carpenter Jeans.

Your body mass index, if known: No clue

Your body fat percentage, if known: What kind of site are you running here?

Number of 5-star matches Mabel has had: You must mean -***** matches.

Number of 5-star matches Ric Flair has had: Do the matches with broomsticks count? I don’t know if Flair ever had a 5-star match, some of his matches with Steamboat probably come close. Five stars is a hard plateau to reach.

Number of women Vince McMahon has cheated on Linda with: Probably a lot more than Linda knows about.

Number of nose hairs HHH has: 62,351

Number of good ideas Vince Russo has had: One, his idea to get out of the wrestling business.

Number of TNA shows you’ve seen (include PPVs and TV shows): Have never seen one of their PPV’s, don’t plan to either. Have seen their TV show a handful of times. They have some good, young talent, but if I wanted to watch a bunch of washed up, has-beens hog the main event spots, I’d pop in an old tape of WCW Nitro from 1999. Another reason, five words. Jeff Jarrett as World Champion.

Number of ROH shows you’ve seen live: 8

Number of pounds Gabe Sapolsky is overweight by: Is he overweight? I’ve seen him stop and eat one time, and it was after the show was over.

Age you’d want your son to be before you let him hang out with Rob Feinstein: 35

Number of brain cells Mike Coughlin has lost since getting hit in the head in MMA matches: 122

Number of times you’ve regretted asking us for an interview ever since you started reading these questions: None.

8. I’ve noticed your columns are very good, but sometimes overly optimistic about wrestling. Aren’t you a little concerned about the future of wrestling, or are you banking on a turnaround?

I am very concerned. If I seem optimistic it’s because I like to look at the positives in life, rather than always dwelling on the negatives. You can dwell on negatives, but what an empty life you would lead. I’ve been a huge fan of wrestling all my life, and want to see it do well. I feel like it will do well again in the future, because the popularity of wrestling goes in cycles like a lot of things.

Wrestling as a whole will always be ok, it’s just in a terrible funk right now. I believe it can, and will be fixed.

It’s a matter of finding a new group of guys that click with the fans, and motivate them to buy tickets like Hogan, Austin, Rock, and countless others have done in the past. Unfortunately, I don’t see that guy on the horizon.

Triple H can call himself the best wrestler all he wants, but how many new fans has he drawn during the time he’s been on top? Batista has connected with the fans, but I don’t know if he has what it takes to go to that next level. I guess time will tell.

9. Let’s talk politics. Please give us your brief opinion on each of these current events.

Privatizing Social Security: I think the idea of giving young people a choice is an idea that should be explored more. But what happens to the people that are on Social Security who already paid into the system, and the people that will go on it in the coming years, where does the money come from if less is going in? Money doesn’t magically appear out of thin air.

Refusing direct talks with North Korea: Stupid move on Bush’s part. While he’s been busy distracting the American people with what’s going on in Iraq, North Korea has been busy working on their nuclear weapons programs. He invades the country where no weapons of mass destruction were found, but ignores the one that actually has them, and has a leader crazy enough to use it. What kind of sense does that make? It’s a shell game, and Bush obviously bamboozled enough people.

Staying in Iraq for the long haul: We have to stay there now. We made the mess, now we have to clean it up. Iraq has been screwed up so badly from day one, it should have never come to this. What’s happened in Iraq has been one of the biggest disgraces of the last 50 years, at least since the last biggest disgrace, which was the Vietnam War.

Nationwide crackdown on obscenity by the FCC: I think there are some things that needed to be cracked down on, because there were some entertainers that were going too far. But I also think the government has gone too far from one extreme to the other now too. There has to be a happy medium somewhere.

Federal funding of stem cell research: I’m all for it. If there is a cure for cancer, Alzheimer’s, or some other terrible disease out there, then wouldn’t it be a shame to not look for it?

Limits on malpractice lawsuits: There are definitely too many frivolous lawsuits out there. But I think some of these laws passed by Bush have been nothing more than pats on the back for his good friends in big business. He certainly loves taking care of his friends.

10. Please give us your single favorite memory of the following years of WWE history:

1987: I’d like to say Savage/Steamboat, but I was only 7 at the time, so it would definitely have to be Hulk Hogan defeating Andre The Giant at Wrestlemania 3.

1989: Hogan beating Randy Savage in the main event of Wrestlemania 5.

1991: Randy Savage reuniting with Elizabeth at Wrestlemania 7. Even I cried with that one.

1992: Ric Flair winning the Royal Rumble, in one of the greatest one man performances in wrestling history.

1997: Being at Summerslam 97 live, and meeting The Undertaker backstage before the show.

1998: The Undertaker/Mick Foley Hell in the Cell Match

2001: Wrestlemania 17

2004: Attending Wrestlemania XX live, and especially seeing Chris Benoit finally win the World Championship. Most fun I have ever had at a live event, and memories that will last forever.

11. Rank your top 5 WrestleMania’s of all-time, and if you feel like telling us why you ranked them that way, go right ahead:

1. Wrestlemania 17: One of the greatest shows ever, the height of WWE’s popularity in this era. Austin/Rock, Benoit/Angle, Undertaker/HHH, TLC II, and even Vince/Shane all stand out in my mind.

2. Wrestlemania 10: Bret/Owen, HBK/Razor Ladder Match, enough said.

3. Wrestlemania 3: Savage/Steamboat was a classic, and Hogan/Andre was one of the most important wrestling matches in history.

4. Wrestlemania 19: Lesnar/Angle, HBK/Jericho, Austin/Rock for likely the final time, and even Hogan/McMahon all delivered. Last of WWE’s stadium shows for a long time.

5. Wrestlemania 20: Because I was there. It may not have the top to bottom great card of other WM’s, but this is my list, and I’ll put what I want on it.

12. Three-part question: a) Were you a big WCW fan b) Have you read Death of WCW and c) In your opinion, what was the greatest contributor to WCW’s downfall?

No, I wasn’t a big WCW fan, in fact I wouldn’t consider myself a WCW fan at all. I taped the replay of Nitro every week, and I watched it to keep up with what was going on, but I was, and still am a WWE fan at heart. Sometimes I get flack for it, but I make no apologies. WWE is what I grew up on. During the height of the wrestling war, I hated WCW. The war was not only real to the people in both companies, but it was real to the fans as well. Those were the good old days. I haven’t had the chance to read Death of WCW yet, maybe Bryan can slide me out a free copy? I do intend on reading it at some point. Right now, I’m backed up with books I’m supposed to be reading.

It’s hard to point to one thing as being the main contributor of WCW’s downfall. There were a lot of factors. Eric Bischoff’s mismanagement of the company is a big one, and the fact that he let people like Hogan and Nash run the show, and run it right into the ground in the process. Bischoff also deserves blame for being short sighted enough to let people like Jericho, Benoit, Guerrero, and the others leave the company for WWE.

Vince Russo gets a lot of blame, and rightfully so. But in reality, WCW already had one foot in the grave when Russo took over, he just helped shovel some dirt on to the already rotting carcass of the company.

Goldberg jobbing the title to Nash, and then the infamous finger push title switch debacle that followed. There are so many factors to look at as to why WCW is no longer in business. There is no shortage of blame to go around, and to lay it at the feet of one person wouldn’t be right.

13. Another 3-parter: a) Were you a big ECW fan b) Have you seen Rise and Fall of ECW and c) In your opinion, what was the greatest contributor to ECW’s downfall?

I wasn’t a big ECW fan either. I caught the show they used to run at 2AM on Saturday night on the MSG Network when I could. I have seen the DVD, and it’s fantastic. It was a great history lesson for someone like myself who missed the boat on ECW the first time around. It was very well done, and told the story from an ECW perspective, and not a WWE version of history like the Monday Night Wars DVD. I definitely recommend it to ECW fans, and non-fans alike.

The biggest reason for ECW’s downfall is that Paul Heyman is a creative genius, and a terrible business-man.

That, and the fact that Vince McMahon, and Eric Bischoff took most of his major talent. Heyman was great at taking guys with not a lot of talent, and getting the most out of them, to the point that people actually believed some of them were great wrestlers. He has a great mind for the ins and outs of putting a wrestling show together, and getting guys over. But when you start not paying people, and lying, the ship was bound to sink sooner or later, and it did.

ECW was more than just a blip on the radar screen, though. The presence of ECW forced WWE and WCW to change the way they did business, and change their product to appeal to a different group of fans. In a way, ECW was an important part in WWE creating the “Attitude Era”, which was the most successful period in WWE history. So in that regard, ECW is a very important part of the wrestling fabric. They had a hardcore, loyal group of fans, much like ROH does now. The difference is ECW was on a much higher level than ROH is right now.

14. Say one thing negative about Dave Meltzer.

Dave is very stubborn to change. I have proposed different ideas to help him make WO.com better, and my ideas have gone ignored so far. Sometimes my column, and other people’s columns get buried under news, and other reports on the main page, and then once they fall off the main page they’re gone. I proposed an idea of having a separate page on the site dedicated to columns, where all the columns would go every week, and they would be in the same place. You wouldn’t have to worry about the column you put five hours into falling into the Bermuda Triangle, after it leaves the main page. If you like that idea, e-mail Dave, and tell him.

15. Now say 3 things positive about Dave Meltzer.

Dave is the best wrestling journalist there is out there. I’m not just saying that because I write for him either, I’ve always thought that. There’s no one even close. He sets the standard, and everyone else just follows. He’s very easy to talk to. He doesn’t talk down to you, or outright ignore you like some other journalists out there who shall remain nameless.

There have been times when I have had questions come up when writing a column, and Dave usually always has the answer, and if he doesn’t have it off the top of his head, he’ll look it up.

Third, he gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to write for his website, which is certainly something he didn’t have to do. He’s been extremely helpful to me, giving me praise when I need it, and critiques to better myself when I need them as well. I’ve never met him before, but in the short time I’ve known him, I can say he’s a quality person.

16. Which do you prefer:

Observer with staples or Observer with stickers: stickers, the staples often caused a lot of pages to get ripped.

Todd Martin’s Raw reviews or Mike Coughlin’s Raw reviews: Todd Martin

Samoa Joe or Austin Aries: Samoa Joe

Jack Evans or Teddy Hart: Jack Evans

Fabulous Freebirds or Fozzy: Freebirds

Wrestling Observer Live or Get in the Ring: Wrestling Observer Live

Figure 4 Weekly or Pro Wrestling Torch: Figure 4 Weekly

nWo or Kings of Wrestling: nWo

“Here and There” or “Other Japan Notes:” “Here and There”

PCs or laptops: PC’s

MTV or VH1: VH1

Christy Hemme or Carmella Decesare: Christy Hemme

Spanky in WWE or Spanky in ROH: Spanky in ROH

ROH pre-Feinstein or ROH post-Feinstein: ROH post-Feinstein

Todd Grisham or Lord Alfred Hayes: Lord Alfred Hays

Marty Jannetty or Robert Gibson: Marty Jannetty

Eaton & Lane or Eaton & Condrey: Eaton & Lane

Evolution or 4 Horsemen: 4 Horsemen

Batista’s face turn (soon to be) or Randy Orton’s face turn: Batista’s face turn

Undertaker’s dead man gimmick or Undertaker’s biker gimmick: Undertaker’s Deadman Gimmick

Condie Rice or Colin Powell: Colin Powell

Bill O’Reilly or Al Franken: Bill O’Reilly

Fahrenheit 9/11 or Supersize Me: Farenheit 911

Meet the Parents or Meet the Fockers: Meet the Parents

Rundown or Walking Tall: Rundown

17. You see a job you really want. You apply for it. The hiring manager Googles your name and sees you’re a wrestling fan. He/She brings this up in your job interview. What is your response?

My response would be what does being a wrestling fan have to do with whether I’m qualified to do this job or not?

18. WrestleMania is coming up. On the Raw after WrestleMania, they’ll probably do a draft and have some guys switch to Raw, some to SmackDown, and vice versa. Which 3 guys would you switch from each side, and why?

Chris Jericho needs to go to Smackdown. He’s gotten beyond stale on Raw, and a switch to Smackdown would breath some life into his career, and into the show as a whole. I would look at other people on Raw that aren’t currently doing much of anything. I would move Randy Orton to Smackdown. In my opinion, he needs to get away from Raw so he can form his own identity on Smackdown. A heel Orton against a face Cena would be a great feud. Shawn Michaels is another name I would send to Smackdown. He has been through everyone there is to work with on Raw. On Smackdown you have Angle, Guerrero, JBL, Cena, Undertaker, Mysterio, and others that would be fresh opponents for HBK.

I would love to see Eddie Guerrero come to Raw. It would be great to see him work with Chris Benoit again, either against him, or perhaps as a tag team. HHH/Guerrero is a feud that has also never been done. I think Rey Mysterio could become a big star on Raw if he were moved from Smackdown. He’s kind of lost in the shuffle there, and I see him as someone that could have main event appeal. Finally, I would move Carlito to Raw. He has the potential to be a breakout star, and Raw is the place to do it. They have a storyline already in the place that would explain his departure, with his feud with Smackdown GM Teddy Long.

19. What’s the one thing that made you a wrestling fan for life. There’s always something that makes us a fan, but what particular match, angle, or wrestler really hooked you for life? For me it was Savage-Steamboat. For you it was….?

I wouldn’t be a wrestling fan if it weren’t for Hulk Hogan. He was larger than life to me back when I was a young kid. I had all the Hulk Hogan toys, and I watched WWF programming every week hoping to see him. He was the reason I watched. He hooked me to wrestling for life, and somehow I suspect I’m not alone in that. It’s fashionable nowadays to knock Hogan, but in reality he was probably the biggest, most widely known wrestling star in history. If there was no Hulk Hogan, would wrestling exist as it does today? I have my doubts.

20. Last question. Dan, thanks so much for your time and for doing this interview with us. You knew what you were in for. Please take this opportunity to say something to your readers, and if he’s reading, to Mr. Meltzer himself. Thanks again. We’ll keep reading your columns.

The readers are why I do what I do. If I was writing these columns, and not getting feedback on them from people, then what would the point be? I love the interaction I have on a weekly basis with other wrestling fans out there. So I thank everyone who reads my column on a regular basis, and more importantly the people that take the time to e-mail me to let me know how I’m doing, even the negative e-mails. The negative e-mails help me better myself, and improve as a writer. I like to think I have improved since that first column I wrote back in March 2003. I can only hope to continue getting better, and I have no intention of stopping anytime soon.

To Dave I say thank you very much for the opportunity writing for you. It has been the chance of a lifetime, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. You have my utmost respect, and appreciation. This experience has allowed me to get my name out there, and write about the sport I love. Doesn’t get a lot better than that. Thanks to Dave, thank you to all my readers out there.

Another controversial interview. Don’t worry, Republican readers. I’m sure Mike Coughlin will get his chance when we interview him next.

Dan really put some effort into his answers, and we respect that. Plus, he had what is my favorite line of the year so far, when asked how many good ideas Vince Russo had: One, his idea to get out of the wrestling business. Dan deserves an award for that comment.

Not only that, but he admitted he cried when Liz and Randy hugged at WrestleMania 7. That takes balls. If you want more of Dan’s writing, check out his weekly columns at www.wrestlingobserver.com. Thanks a bunch to Mr. Wahlers for this interview. And yes, we do shop at Target from time to time. It’s a cheap man’s paradise, so I encourage you all to go.