I may be dating myself here, but my first exposure to "dirt sheets" (in a way) was in the late 80’s, calling Coach Kurt’s Wrestling Line out of New York.
My question: During what year (or years) would you say that the "birth" of the dirt sheet occurred? Also, what kind of process would a fan go through at that time in order to grab some insider info (as it had to be, for the most part, a niche market)?
There were fanzines and prototypical versions of what we’d consider "dirt sheets" as far back as the 60s, and in fact Karl Stern has included some notable examples on his Stern Sticks over the years. Guys like Paul Heyman even did their own in the late 70s. The most obvious is Meltzer’s Observer, which started as a yearbook of sorts in the 70s when he was in college, and turned into a weekly newsletter in the 80s. Most of his business was obviously word of mouth at that point, but by the time RSPW became a thing there was an address in the FAQ if people wanted to subscribe. For me, it was prohibitively expensive as a university student to shell out $120 US at a time, but I certainly knew exactly how to get it if I wanted it. Most people called the free hotlines that were offered by phone companies at the time, which generally were comprised of info culled from the Observer second or third-hand.
So it’s not like you could just go to the drug store and buy a magazine with insider info, but it’s also not like fans were a bunch of stupid hicks in smoky bingo halls like WWE portrays it.