Pick My Brain Interview: Dave Meltzer
Editor of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter
Dave is God to a proud and loyal wrestling audience that lives and dies with every word he writes in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. It’s the Bible of professional wrestling, and it has been the cause of many divorces thanks to husbands hiding for 60 minutes every week when the newsletter comes in the mail.
Ever wonder why the Observer is mentioned in every major wrestling movie and book? Or why legends like Ric Flair, Jim Cornette, Mick Foley, the Funks, Paul Heyman, Jim Ross, Bret Hart, Billy Graham, Lou Thesz, the Destroyer, Bill Watts, Chris Jericho, Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, Vince McMahon, Konnan, Bobby Heenan, Brian Pillman, Joel Gertner, Bruiser Brody, Steve Williams, are/were devoted readers at one point? They’re not reading it for their health. They’re reading it because it’s the Bible of wrestling, and you should read it too.
Tributes II is a must-read collection of obituaries of superstars like Lou Thesz, The Sheik, Owen Hart, British Bulldog, Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig, Andre the Giant, and many others. The pictures are great, and Bret Hart does a very interesting foreword to open the book. In addition, the book comes with a DVD that contains an interview with Meltzer himself. It’s the perfect Christmas gift for any wrestling fan, and really, it’s a perfect give for anyone, at any time of the year.
Enough babbling, let’s do it.
1. We’re going to plug you like you’ve never been plugged before. Please take this opportunity to plug your website, newsletter, book, radio show, and anything else you want. And by the way, should we order your book directly from your website, or from Amazon.com? We want as much profit margin to go to you as possible. It’s time to cut out the middleman.
You can get info on subscribing to the newsletter at WrestlingObserver.com as well as special offers for new readers and details on the current issue. Radio show is every Sunday night on the Sports Byline radio network from 8-10 p.m. Eastern time and repeated 6-8 a.m. Monday mornings. You can also hear it on Sirius satellite radio Ch. 122. You can listen at SportsByline1.com.
Probably the best way to order the book is through the WrestlingObserver.com web site and you can also get the first tributes book or the 100 top wrestlers of all-time book with Tributes II for just $5 extra, so that’s a great bargain.
2. Enough about you already. T ell us about Mary Anne Mirabal, the woman who stole Dave Meltzer’s heart. Her age, occupation, hobbies, likes, dislikes, does she like wrestling, is she a good cook… you know the drill. It’s not that we’re stalkers, but we’re trying to show the human side of you. And unless you want to sleep on the couch tonight, I suggest you say nice things.
Mary Anne is 27, very fitness oriented, good cook, hates wrestling. Very good mother.
3. For years, you hinted in the Observer that you’d never get married. All those in-laws, you said, would ruin your holidays and interfere with your watching the All Japan tag team tournaments. Here we are in 2004, and you’re married. Why the change of heart?
All Japan’s tag tournament has sucked the past few years.
4. You’ve said before that in your free time, you like to hang out with your wife and dogs. How many, how old, and what breed?
Two dogs, a lab that’s 9 1/2 and a German Shepherd who is 5 1/2.
5. Yes or No, has Dave Meltzer ever:
Wanted to tell Ed in San Antonio, Mitch in Berkeley, and Jonathan in Savannah to stop calling into your radio show every single damn week: No. I like talking with anyone on the show as long as they are reasonably intelligent.
Accidentally called your son by your dog’s name, and vice versa: Never.
Had heat with a relative because you missed a family event due to deadlines or PPVs: Constantly.
Gotten carpal tunnel syndrome: No.
Taken creatine: Yes.
Seen the Von Erichs wrestle the Freebirds live in Dallas, at their peak: Yes.
Tuned into KGO 810 AM radio just to hear the local traffic report and laugh at all the suckers who have to drive to work every day while you sit home and type: No.
Lied to your brother and told him his stand-up act was funny, when in fact it wasn’t: No
Wondered if you, Raven, and Brian Pillman were triplets separated at birth: No. I don’t look like either of them anymore although in 1991 Scott Levy and I did look like twins.
Woken up your family by laughing too hard at Figure 4 Weekly: No, because I always read Figure Four in the afternoon. But I do annoy them by laughing loudly at it most weeks.
Realized that your son and Kathie Lee Gifford’s son have the same name: I knew it, but never gave it a thought until you brought it up. Now I want to change his name.
Received death threats during your coverage of the WWF scandals of ’92: Yes, but I didn’t take them seriously.
Purchased an ergonomic keyboard: No.
Been to the Ribera Steak House in Tokyo: Yes, dozens of times.
Considered growing your hair long again: Not really.
Used a self-tanner: Yes.
Been nominated for an Oscar for your performance in Beyond the Mat: In the split second version or the second split second on the DVD?
Realized that by us asking you to do this interview, we’re trying to get the “rub” from you (don’t pull a Kevin Nash on us, please): It could be worse, you could be trying to get a rub from Vince Russo by asking him how to book wrestling and who the most intelligent man in wrestling is.
(Editor’s note: Russo yesterday did an interview calling the Ultimate Warrior the most intelligent man in wrestling.)
6. You’re at a bar, and Tito Ortiz is calling your wife names. He’s really laying into her, calling her things too nasty to print. Your wife has no idea he’s a UFC champ, and she tells you to go punch him out. Do you:
A. Go over and punch him, get the snot beat out of you, but at least you’ll have defended your wife?
B. Go over and push and shove, hoping someone will break it up before he kills you, and come off looking brave?
C. Ignore him and look like a chicken, but at least you’re alive?
D. Grab your wife and leave, and hear her complain for years how you didn’t defend her, but at least you’re alive?
E. Spray him with pepper spray and make a run for the exit?
F. Other (please specify)
Something similar to this actually happened, except it was Bas Rutten, he didn’t call my wife names, and we all knew who he was. Luckily he recognized me right away and apologized. If he hadn’t, I saw no reason to start a fight that I’d end up getting killed in.
7. Few people know this, but in 1999 the San Jose Mercury News featured you in their “How I Stay Fit” article. They showed a picture of you and everything. You were quoted as saying “I eat what I want, but I eat good food.” Please, tell us what a typical breakfast, lunch, or dinner for you looks like (include protein shakes, if any).
Nothing is really typical. In those days I was a lot more strict because I cooked for myself. Eggs (whites only) with pineapple & banana in the morning. Tuna sandwich for lunch. Chicken breast with rice and pineapple for dinner and chicken breast before going to bed. I could eat that way forever and never get in a bad mood and staying lean was a piece of cake.
Now I eat whatever is cooked for me, but thankfully, it’s usually good for me.
8. Many of your readers have become cult favorites just from being associated with the Observer and getting their letters published. Please tell us whatever happened to these famous subscribers:
Mr. Mike (cartoonist from your old yearbooks): Still gets the Observer, I think he’s got a subscription until 2010.
Dan Farren (referee from Slammer’s gym and overall nice guy): Still around, haven’t heard from him in a while.
Chris Zavisa (ex-Torch columnist, Observer fan, and Japanese wrestling guru): Lost interest in wrestling when Japan started going downhill.
Teresa DeMarie (Roddy Piper groupie wanna-be): No idea, long gone.
Ernie Santilli (once wrote a hilarious rap in your Readers Pages in 1991): Hear from him all the time.
John Arezzi (ex-New York wrestling radio show host): Still subscribes, I think he works in the country music industry now.
That kid from the Donahue show with the Lex Luger shirt who got clowned by Bruno Sammartino: Don’t know.
Fred “The Elephant Boy” Schrieber (does he still subscribe?): Haven’t heard from him in years.
Steve Friedlander (largest tape collection in history): Still around. He’s got a great collection.
Kim Wood (former Cincinatti Bengals coaching staff, source of juicy Brian Pillman gossip): No longer with the Bengals, but a very good friend.
Frank DeFord (legendary sports writer, supporter of yours): Still famous and writing for Sports Illustrated.
9. In the early 90s, you and Wade Keller were invited to WWE’s headquarters in Stamford, CT for a tour and meeting with Vince McMahon. Both you and Keller have been suspiciously tight-lipped about the whole thing, almost as if Vince threatened to put a hit out on you guys if you ever talked about what happened. Come on now, can’t you tell us something (anything?) about that whole thing? Curious subscribers wanna know.
Nothing much happened. We toured the place and were introduced to a lot of people. Wade Keller and Basil DeVito got into a debate which was funny. Vince and I had a discussion regarding steroid testing. He said he his doctor had come up with a new test that would catch guys using GH and this was in 1991. Here we are in 2004 and no such test has been developed. That’s Vince for you. Originally, Vince asked me if I wanted to come, and brought up Steve Beverly and Alex Marvez coming. He didn’t know Wade Keller at the time but I suggested Wade Keller’s name. Next thing I know, there were a bunch of others invited.
It was amusing. These radio guys kept begging for Vince to do an interview. I mean, kissing up in the most pathetic way possible. At one point Vince and I were arguing over, get this one, whether Hogan’s physique had anything to do with his success as a wrestler. Vince argued it didn’t, by the way. It was actually Wade Keller who immediately pointed out that after every match, he poses for five minutes. Vince said, “But he doesn’t have a cut on his body,” like somehow a jakked up 320 pounder in the 80s is expected to be ripped. Anyway, just about everyone else in the room started siding with Vince about how Hogan’s physique had nothing to do with his ever getting over. That was too funny for words. I read interviews with some of them and they couldn’t understand how I could even have questioned Vince on that one.
Don’t get me wrong, Vince was very cordial and most, but not all, of our discussions over the years have been.
10. Which do you prefer:
Bench press or fly: I haven’t done a bench press probably in 16 years, and a fly in longer than that.
Machines or free weights: Depends on the exercise. Machines in general are easier, but probably slightly less effective at the moment. But they are also generally easier on your joints, so in the long run they are going to be more effective.
ROH or OVW: ROH for the wrestling, OVW for the amusement of trying to figure out before WWE does how they are going to botch the promising talent up.
Being a husband or being a bachelor: Husband, for sure.
The BackBeat or the Palace: Neither.
Harry Denton’s or Ruby Skye: Never been to either. Almost went to Ruby Skye to see Lucha Va Voom, but it was a Wednesday and I didn’t wind up going.
Joe Weider or Jack LaLanne: Jack LaLanne. He’s real. Joe Weider to me was always a fraud. I’ve met both and it only confirmed my beliefs on both.
Ripped Fuel or ICOPRO: Neither. Aside from creatine, I don’t think I’ve taken any bodybuilding supplement since the 80s.
Great American Bash ’89 or Wrestle War ’89: Bash ’89. More good matches even though the main event at Wrestle War was slightly better.
Low reps/heavy weights or high reps/light weights: Low reps heavy weights until your body can’t hold up to the weight, then you’ve got no choice but to do high reps. I think high reps are better for wrestlers, because it does them no good to get injured in the gym.
VHS or DVD: DVD is far superior, but most of my tapes are VHS.
Roy Shire or Ray Shire: Roy Shire as a promoter, Ray Shire as a wrestler.
Barney or The Wiggles: Not really a fan of either. It seems to me the Wiggles are on here every morning. Barney not as much. Little Bear, Bob the Builder, Dora the Explorer and Thomas the Train are the big ones, though.
11. In the past, you’d use funny nicknames like Junkfood Dog, Anabolic Warrior, HGH (for Triple H), Greg “Human Intermission” Valentine, the Big Slow, and Bobby “Bumps” Eaton. The use of nicknames has all but disappeared. Why is that? Lawsuits?
Generally speaking, the caliber of wrestlers like Warrior and JYD who deserved those nicknames got weeded out as the fan base grew smarter. HGH is only funny once in a blue moon.
12. We’ll ask you the same question we asked Bryan Alvarez. How come people whom you’ve criticized for years, such as Dusty Rhodes and Eric Bischoff, came on your radio show and never seemed angry with you? Don’t they know about all the things you wrote about them, or do they just not care? Bryan’s answer was that in wrestling, people will be your friend if they have something to sell or promote, regardless of past heat.
You’d have to ask them.
13. One thing we all miss is your yearbooks. I know, we understand how much work they were and how they ruined your holidays. Here are three suggestions:
i) Change the voting period to simply “January 1 through January 31.” See, nice and simple, and your holidays are free to enjoy.
ii) Hire Mike Coughlin, Todd Martin, Ben Miller, and Dan Wahlers to help tally the ballots, contribute articles, and handle the formatting and publishing. All you’d have to do is oversee it, write an article or two, and promote it on your site and newsletter. Those guys would be more than honored to do it, and they’d work cheap.
iii) Do this for 15 years, and you’ll have paid off your son Cody’s private school, college, grad school, and probably his first home.
What do you think?
I’ll never do another yearbook. The business has changed and people aren’t into that type of stuff nearly as much anymore.
14. Let’s play the “Last of Dave Meltzer.”
Last time you changed Cody’s diapers: This morning.
Last time you went to the Pruneyard shopping center in Campbell: Not all that recently. Ever since the newsstand went out of business, I haven’t had a reason to go. We go to different restaurants now.
Last time you drove through The Armpit’s hometown of Contra Costa County: Probably the last time I went to Tracy, so a few months back.
Last time you went to the beach: I don’t remember the date, but it would have been in September, but I’m going in a few days.
Last time you felt an earthquake: Whenever the last one took place. I don’t think it was all that long ago, but after the 1989 Earthquake, I really don’t pay much attention to the small ones.
Last time you argued with Mary Anne: When Mae Young showed up on Tough Enough. Even though I agreed with her, she was so mad, we ended up arguing anyway.
Last time you took the dogs for a walk: Two days ago.
Last time Vince McMahon called you: A couple of years ago. Right before the popularity of his product collapsed. The funny thing was, I told him exactly what to do to avoid it, he did exactly what I warned him not to do, and well, you know the result.
Last time you saw a 5-star match: Saturday.
Last house show you attended: Whenever the WWE last ran a house show in the area. I always go to the WWE events here. Unless you’re talking indies, and that would be when Misawa & Ogawa worked for IRON and I went to one APW show about two months back. I was going to go to the Chickfight for APW but my brother-in-law had a football game so I couldn’t go.
Last movie you saw: I saw a DVD of the Wayans Brothers dressed up as women over the weekend.
Last book you read (Tributes II doesn’t count): Jerry Jarrett & Penny Banner’s books.
Last time someone called you a sissy for talking about Joey, Friends and Will and Grace on your website: Never.
Last 900-line update you did: 1999.
Last time someone told you wrestling is fake: In person, many years. On MMA boards people keep insisting that it is. The intelligence level of 90% of MMA boards is scary. It makes you appreciate wrestling fans. Well, some wrestling fans.
Last time you checked your PO box: This morning.
Last time someone asked for your autograph: When Misawa & Ogawa worked the IRON show I think.
Last time some stupid little kid asked you, “Do you know the Rock?”: Many years. But when I was going to get married, there were friends of my wife who were asking, “Is the Rock going to be there?” Funny thing was, there were just as big stars planning on coming, but we ended up switching dates to avoid the pressure and didn’t let anyone know more than a few hours in advance.
Last time you posted on WrestlingClassics.com: I think maybe 2 weeks ago
15. Ever heard of Word Association? Well we like NUMBER Association. Please give us a number for the following:
Number of email messages you receive each day: A few hundred, but most of them are junk mail.
Percentage of those you have time to actually respond to: If they ask questions, most of them.
Number of hours per day you spend writing: 12.
Best year you ever had in terms of newsletter subscriptions: 1997, 1998, 2002.
One-rep bench press max: No idea. I never tried a one rep max since my senior year in high school. I’m sure I could have done low 300s but doubtful 350.
Number of pull-ups you can do before passing out: Now maybe 13 or 14, younger easily 20.
Grams of protein you ingest each day: No idea. I’ve never counted grams of protien or fat or carbs.
Number of meals you eat per day: 3 now, 4 when training hard.
Percentage of your friends who got laid off during the Silicon Valley meltdown of 2001 and 2002: A lot of them. I’d say 50% really at one point or another.
Number of readers who have asked you to stop covering MMA in a pro wrestling newsletter: Maybe one every two months. I’d say five times as many want more MMA coverage and less WWE. The biggest complaint is too much TNA coverage because so many people don’t care about it.
Words per minute you type: I’ve been timed at 90, but I don’t know about it now.
Number of listeners Wrestling Observer Live has: Not a clue. On eyada, we had 50,000 streams on an average show, sometimes as much as 80,000. The key was the archives, because live it was maybe 10-15,000, but people listened at their convenience. The current show isn’t archived.
Number of videotapes you own: Thousands.
Number of times you laughed while reading our HHH-Stephanie wedding spoof: Many.
Age that Paul Heyman looks, regardless of how old he really is: early 40s
16. Howard Stern always seems to affect your career. His friend Chaunce Hayden was the star of Eyada.com, which brought the station and Wrestling Observer Live loads of publicity. Now, Stern is going to Sirius, home of your current radio show, bringing it yet more publicity. You’ve been a critic of Stern in the past, but after hosting your own radio show for 5 years and knowing how difficult it is, do you now have more respect for Stern’s talent? You gotta admit the man is smooth, calm, and in control behind the mic, which you can’t appreciate unless you’ve done it before.
He’s awesome. I just thought his New year’s Eve special many years ago was total trash. But his radio show is good.
17. I confess to paying $100 on the black market for all your back issues from the 80s. Don’t blame me, this was back before you offered back issues for sale.
a) What took you so damn long to offer back issues for sale? Talk about easy money.
No good reason
b) Instead of asking fans to pay for a back-issue index, why can’t Grant Zwarych just post that information on a website? Makes sense to us.
Ask Grant Zwarych.
c) And why Grant, anyway? He lives in Canada and doesn’t accept PayPal. Money orders are a pain in the butt. He’s not making the process very easy for us. Time for him to either move to the USA or be given the heave-ho. His longtime Observer loyalty be damned, we want our back issues and we want them now!
Ask him to move.
(Editor’s Note: Grant DOES accept PayPal. We were wrong.)
18. Let’s play Favorites:
Favorite Flair-Steamboat match: I guess New Orleans, but I have a Capital Centre house show match that was incredible on tape.
Favorite Misawa-Kobashi match: 1998 as a match, but for the drama and being the last match and the fact Kobashi was supposed to be done forever and Misawa was supposed to be washed up, 2003 was the most memorable.
Favorite version of the Horsemen: Windham-Tully-Arn-Flair. I don’t think many would argue that one.
Favorite character from Three’s Company: Larry & Mr Furley.
Favorite thing to say when someone uppity, like an art professor, says something derogatory when you tell him/her what you do for a living: I only remember father’s of girls that I dated making remarks like that.
Favorite Roller Derby star from the past: Cliff Butler and Mike Gammon. Before he died, Tony Roman was very nice. Joan Weston was also very nice. Ann Calvello was interesting. Richard Brown. I think the one I knew the best was Buddy Atkinson Jr. In the early 80s at games in San Jose, we always talked business. It was in his blood and he wanted it so bad for his son, who would have been awesome had there been a Roller Derby in the 80s and 90s. I was never into the Charlie O’Connell deal, maybe because he was already past his prime when I started watching, but he was a legend. Charlie, to me, was an incredible heel, far more than a babyface, but was best known as a babyface in San Francisco.
Favorite type of music: That’s like favorite style of wrestling. It’s not the type, it’s if it’s good within it’s style.
Favorite band: Springsteen.
Favorite year to be a wrestling fan: 1989, 1998, 1997, 2000, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1996, 1993. Really, anything except maybe post-WM 17 with the exception of the first few months of this year which were fun.
Favorite line from Jim Cornette (Ours is, “They say Paul E. Dangerously has wavy hair. The problem is, it’s waving good-bye.”): The one where David Crockett was standing there while Tony Schiavone interviewed him, and he looked at Crockett and said, “that’s what happens when the fetus doesn’t get enough oxygen.” That and when he started making fun of John Laurinaitis saying that he should still be riding skateboards to the ring and getting carried by Shane Douglas.
19. People on our staff have seen you walking around town with no shirt on. Quite frankly, you’re ripped to shreds. For the ectomorphs out there, please tell us your secret?
I used to train very hard. There were no secrets. I always thought supplements and gimmick diets were a fraud because I’d see people go crazy on them and me and my friends never did anything like that, always trained hard, and could be in shape 365 days a year.
20. You used to advertise and throw tape-watching parties in the 80s. Those days are gone. Why? (check all that apply)
A. You’re afraid that if you advertise a party, your enemies in wrestling will show up and kill you.
B. You’re married and don’t have time for that crap anymore.
C. Who has time to clean up after all those slobs anyway?
D. None of your friends in the Bay Area watch wrestling anymore.
E. There are no good wrestling matches to watch nowadays, so why bother.
F. You’re sick of everyone saying, “Screw wrestling, let’s just watch p*rn.”
G. You’re too damn busy.
H. Other (please specify)
21. We figure you’re good for about 7,000 subscribers or so. If you figure at least $1 per issue in profit, that’s $7,000 per week, or over $350,000 per year. Throw in your salary from the radio show, throw in revenue from back issues, and throw in income from your hot-selling books. And then, throw in the enormous equity from your house, assuming you bought it pre-1998. Adding it all up, that makes you a gazillionaire. Seriously, if WWE went belly up and your readership tanked to unprofitable levels, what do you think you’d be doing for a living?
Well, writing for a newspaper looks like it’s out the window, so I’m praying for a WWE comeback that doesn’t look like it’s happening so soon.
22. Last question, and it’s a grim one. You’re the master of writing obituaries. On the horrible day when your time finally comes (we don’t even want to think about it), who would you want to write the obituary, biography, and tribute to the one and only Dave Meltzer?
Someone who is a good writer. I don’t know. I guess Bryan Alvarez. He could make it funny.
We want to thank Dave Meltzer for being a super sport and putting a lot of effort into his answers. Dave is one incredibly busy man, and he took the time to respond to our ridiculous questions, and gave us one Hell of a great interview. This is by far the most enjoyable thing we’ve ever done, and the fact that we did it is going on our tombstones.
Go to WrestlingObserver.com and subscribe to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Do it today. Do it now. Do it yesterday. Do it twice.
Again, thank you to Dave Meltzer for forever changing our lives.
[Editor’s Note: It goes without saying how fond we were of Dave for many, many years. His work was very influential on us, of course. However it’s also obvious in recent years that Dave Meltzer has lost all credibility, and we no longer read or support his once-great newsletter.]