Wrestling: The Wrestling Observer Newsletter

"Hooooooooow's it going everybody?'"
Bryan Alvarez

The Wrestling Observer Newsletter (WON) is a Professional Wrestling magazine first published in 1983 by Dave Meltzer. Initially published as a way to keep wrestling fans in the loop of smaller and international promotions that wouldn't be covered by other, more mainstream publications, it eventually grew in reputation as a Smark friendly magazine, and is to this day the most well respected publication covering pro wrestling.

Ric Flair mentioned in his 2004 autobiography, To Be the Man, that the WON is the Bible for wrestlers. Aside from Flair, several professional wrestlers or promoters have read or made a mention to it, among them being Vince McMahon, Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart and Mick Foley.

Particularly notable is the "5-star" match rating system, to which Meltzer has given a 5 star rating to only 76 matches in the publications multi-decade spanning history. The most recent of these matches was Shinsuke Nakamura vs Kota Ibushi at the New Japan Pro Wrestling Wrestle Kingdom 9 event (shown on iPPV) on January 4, 2015.

In 2008, the Wrestling Observer website merged with Bryan Alvarez's popular wrestling website Figure Four Daily. Meltzer now pens regular news updates to the website, while the Wrestling Observer brand is applied to a daily radio show hosted by Alvarez. There is also a weekly Wrestling Observer Live show hosted by Alvarez and Mike Sempervive which airs on the Sports Byline USA satellite radio network. In recent years, both the Wrestling Observer and Figure Four Weekly have dedicated more and more coverage to MMA this has proven to be no small cause of controversy among fans of the site.

Though both the Wrestling Observer and Figure Four Weekly are published under the same brand, the two newsletters have distinctive feels. The Observer focuses more on straightforward news coverage and historic profiles, while Figure Four Weekly is focused more on Alvarez's comedic status as a Caustic Critic. On the radio shows, both Alvarez and Meltzer are masters of snark. The Bryan & Vinny Show is a more comedic-oriented show co-hosted by Bryan's long-time friend and Figure Four Weekly editor Vince Verhei, and can delve into such topics as sports (Verhei was once a sports correspondent), movie reviews (usually featuring wrestlers), and the misadventures of Bryan's cats. It also features Bryan's grandmother, Gladys Gibson, whose own perspective on the news of the week has been a distinctive feature not long after the show's conception.


Examples:

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     Wrestling Observer Newsletter 
  • Award Bait: The Young Bucks 2014 finisher (and winner of 2014 Best Move Award) where one brother holds an opponent to do a piledriver, aided by a springboard somersault. The name? The Meltzer Driver.
  • Broke the Rating Scale: Dave and Bryan infrequently rate horrible matches with negative ratings (Bryan's "MINUS FIVE STARS" for Jenna Morasca vs. Sharmell being infamous), but a match between The Bushwackers and The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff was rated "absolute zero" by Dave and "minus more stars than there are stars in the universe, and the universe is infinite" by Bryan.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Meltzer seems to be one in a whimsical sense.
  • Insult Backfire: When Hulk Hogan appeared to burn a copy of a "rag sheet" at World War 3 1995, he shouted "OBSERVE THIS!" Moments before he claimed that it said The Giant was going to win at the main event (Meltzer predicted Sting or Randy Savage) and claimed that a report stating Savage had an arm injury was false (despite the injured arm being noticeably smaller than the healthy arm and the commentary playing it up). Despite the misinformation, Meltzer took it as a compliment that the biggest star in wrestling spent a whole segment burying him.
  • Long Runners: Established in 1980, making it the longest running wrestling newsletter in print today.
    • To go even further, Dave has been writing newsletters on-and-off since 1970!
  • Letters to the Editor: Used to dedicate several pages to letters received until the website became a more integral part of the newsletter. Now, major feedback and letters of interest are posted to the website, and Dave spends several minutes answering fan submitted questions on Observer Radio shows or several hours doing so on the monthly "Sin Limite" show with Observer Live host Mike Sempervive.
  • Shown Their Work: Anytime a major wrestler passes away Dave Meltzer goes out of his way to write up an in depth biography for next week's newsletter.
    • Dave also frequently goes above and beyond the call of duty for the annual "Hall of Fame" issue.
    • Dave and Bryan are both athletes (Dave played sports as a youth and weight trained until recently and Bryan was a former gymnast, pro wrestler, and current jiu jitsu instructor), so they both have firsthand experience in wrestling/MMA training and fitness. Vince Verhei was also a pro wrestler on top of being an sports corespondent.

     Wrestling Observer Radio and other shows 
  • Artifact Title: Dr. Keith Lipinski no longer hosts "Dr. Keith Presents."
    • Wrestling Observer Radio also features MMA discussion, to the point that some readers think a rename is in order.
  • Berserk Button: Senseless "fuck-finishes" that are meant to protect someone but harm everyone, e.g. distraction finishes, "disqualified for kicking too much ass" (I.E. not letting up from beating a guy into the ropes), no contests, etc.
  • Insistent Terminology: They often use the most famous name for a Finishing Move (eg, the STO will be called the The Downward Spiral), but Bryan once stopped a review to explain that he will only refer to Beth Phoenix's Glam Slam as the Bitch Clamp due to Rule of Cool. John Cena's Attitude Adjustment is still sometimes called the FU.
  • Precision F-Strike: Usually when Dave swears, one time describing a nonsensical TNA angle with Dixie Carter and ending by shouting "What the fuck!?"
  • Shaped Like Itself: "It was a match" or "they had a match" is often said to describe a So Okay, It's Average wrestling match. This can extend into entire shows.
  • Southern-Fried Genius: Karl Stern
  • Verbal Tic: Dave says "ya know" a lot.
    • Lance Storm, a regular guest on the Figure Four Daily radio show, says "it's one of those things" very often, and in one episode of The Bryan & Vinny Show, Bryan quipped that when someone pointed it out in the form of a compilation soundbyte, Lance became very self-conscious and didn't say it at all on his next appearance Figure Four Daily.

     Figure Four Weekly 
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Started as a parody newsletter. Then the parody articles were folded into a section called "Frank A. Gotch's Flying Mare" before ultimately being phased out.

     The Bryan & Vinny Show 
  • Caustic Critic
  • Christmas Episode: An annual tradition centered on drinking.
  • Cool Old Lady: Granny
  • Covert Pervert: Tuesday night co-host Craig, who is a laid-back, church attending man who never swears but makes many sexual remarks.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Brent Kremen... dear god.
    • Granny has her moments.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Vince Verhei
  • Hypocritical Humor: Anytime Bryan complains about people who spell their name differently, such as replacing the "i" in Brian with a "y".
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: Shows often open with old blues songs.
  • A Rare Sentence: From their review of the Silent Night, Bloody Night Match from a Christmas episode of TNA Impact: "He must circumnavigate the tree!" Particularly notable for forcing Bryan to move away from the microphone due to laughing so Goddamned hard.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: This seems to be Brent's relationship with Vinny in real life.
    • Bryan has had this relationship with several board posters, specifically Anchor.
  • Stupid Statement Dance Mix: Listeners frequently send in clips of songs "enhanced" by samples from the radio shows or wrestling television. Many a Crowning Moment of Funny was borne from Bryan and Vinny's reactions to the more well-realized ones.
  • You Answered Your Own Question: Bryan once asked out loud if the Elimination Chamber match they were watching was elimination or one fall rules.