Greetings grapple fans. Hopefully a few of you recognise me from last year’s World of Sport Wrestling reviews that I provided for this blog. Scott Keith has kindly welcomed me back on board as I chronicle a very different kind of series of matches from start to finish, and I hope a fair few of you join me on this journey and we create a bit of a discussion about an increasingly culturally significant aspect of pro wrestling fandom, and many other forms of arts and entertainment.
It was obvious very early on with WOS Wrestling, by which I mean within the first five minutes, or, to put it another way, the seven hundred and ninety seventh baffling camera edit, that I would need to find means to amuse myself to prevent chronicling these ten episodes becoming too much of a challenge. It struck me as I wrote my summary of the first match that I will be expected to give the match some sort of scaled rating. More often than not that takes the form of a star rating.
Whilst I am someone that has used ratings both to quantify how I feel about something (usually for films or music, rarely for books, TV or live shows like comedy or theatre), and I use websites like Metacritic to gauge whether something is worth seeking out, I do find the application of mathematical certitude to artistic endeavours fundamentally absurd, but still useful despite its absurdity. We’re constantly overstimulated. There’s too much available to us to make it easy to know what to prioritise. If we can find trusted sources who can provide us with an easy-to-understand shorthand so that we can hopefully catch what are the essentials for something we’re interested in, be it for arts, food, travel or whatever, then a ratings system is justified in its existence.
In order to provide both a rating and allow myself a unique, hopefully humorous, take on the show, I decided to combine my ratings with something to thematically link it to the show’s intrinsic British-ness. So instead of rating a decent match as three stars out of five, it became three cups of tea out of five, or three conversations about the weather out of five, or three attempts at keeping a civil conversation going between two dog owners whilst their pets’ activities take a turn into the socially uncomfortable out of five. All very funny, I think we can all agree.
One of the reactions on the first episode’s comment thread that I noticed was someone pondering if this was some “anti-Meltzer” thing. To make this point clear enough, it was never intended as a diss on Meltzer or anyone else who chooses to use the star-rating system in their reviews. What that query did make me ponder, though, was my personal stance on a man whose every proclamation seems to be under more intense scrutiny now than it ever has during the near forty years he has made a living as a one-man journalism industry at the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
Whilst I knew of Meltzer’s existence fairly early into the smark period of my wrestling fandom (all chronicled in my book Confessions of a “Smart” Wrestling Fan available to both those who pronounce it aluminium and those who say aluminium) I had little first-hand experience with his written or audio content, protected as it was by a paywall. It was actually partly due to the Observer recaps that Scott Keith started up on this very blog, and the 90s/00s version of the same recaps provided on Reddit, that made me really start to directly engage with Meltzer’s writing.
I signed up as a Figure Four subscriber and for the past few years have dipped in and out of the Wrestling Observer audio content, archival newsletters, and most up-to-date editions. What has struck me more than anything is just the depth of Meltzer’s knowledge and breadth of his skills as a journalist. The man is at the same time a daily newsbeat reporter, a business analyst, an historian, a correspondence writer, an obituarist, and an art critic.
Whilst my personal favourite parts of Meltzer’s work have been his longer form pieces about history (be they unfortunately premature obituaries for wrestlers both nationally and internationally famous, and the likes that only the more devoted fan would instantly recognise, or providing a single promotion or specific method of promoting an historical context) I, like many, became increasingly intrigued as to whether a match that I had seen or heard about its high quality in the previous weeks may get that once rare, now not so much, plaudit of being seen as essentially faultless in the eyes of Meltzer and provided a perfect five-star rating.
Of course, ever since WrestleKingdom 11 on 4th January 2017, what people have become even more excited about is whether Meltzer will break his once unbreakable five-star barrier. And since he gave Omega-Okada I six stars out of five, he has given a further ten matches more than the previous high of five stars, to the point that some matches gaining either five stars (or even worse a mere four and three quarters!) has elicited disappointment in some.
I try to stay away from the raging dumpster fire (or as we Brits call it, a skip combustion) that is Twitter as much as I can, but on the odd trip to the office toilets, or a work lunch break, I may dip back into the old Twitter stream. As well as following Meltzer himself, there are a few other Twitter accounts that provide some great GIF footage and thoughtful wrestling analysis that actually make the app feel like it might not be entirely awful, even after it does inevitably contribute to at least one international conflict (if it hasn’t already). One of those accounts that I would recommend to others is @allan_cheapshot, and he appears to be another man who will have forgotten more about wrestling than I will ever know.
One particular thread that I enjoyed was when he did a list of all the matches that Dave Meltzer had rated five stars or higher, provided a GIF if available, and his own assessment of the match, which provided the inspiration for a new project for my wrestling podcast I co-host with the Lioness Asuka to my Chigusa Nagayo, Simon Cross.
After our first foray into show recaps for WOS, I settled on trying to do the audio equivalent of that Allan_Cheapshot thread. Since around September of 2018, to allow us time to create a backlog that will hopefully account for any personal reasons we have to be able to record together via Skype for an extended period of time, we’ve been recording episodes ranging from around ten to forty-five minutes discussing every match that Dave Meltzer has rated five stars or higher in chronological order. Since New Year’s Day 2019 I’ve started uploading them at approximately an episode every three days.
To hopefully raise the podcast’s profile, to spark further discussion and debate with new listeners, and to offer a written reflection on the more free-flowing conversational nature of the podcast, I will be uploading weekly compilations of the episodes released in the previous seven days, with some further thoughts and links in the blog.
The first two weeks’ worth of matches will be given an entry in this blog in the next day or so and will continue covering two weeks until the blog is caught up with the release schedule of the podcasts.
I hope that this quick introduction has whetted your appetite. If you need further whetting then why not listen to the introductory episode where myself and Simon tried to lay out our intentions and ambitions for the series.
You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes via this link.
I’ll be back in a day or so with reflections on matches involving wild gaijin brawls, the early days of shoot-style wrestling, the sorts of crowd screams you’d expect at a boyband concert, and perhaps the most artistically influential match in the history of modern wrestling.
Hope you’ll all come back for seconds. Thanks for the read, and I hope you have a five-star time until the next time!