Q&A: Dave Meltzer
Dave Meltzer has covered the sport of professional wrestling for over thirty years. He is the publisher/editor of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, and is involved in the rapidly growing sport of Mixed Martial Arts, by writing for MMA Fighting. In part one of this exclusive interview, ASBO chats to Meltzer about the success of the UK wrestling scene, and WWE’s growth in India...
ASBO: Hi Dave! The UK wrestling scene has grown over the last three/four years. Even the WWE has had more UK focused shows, and UK promotions like 'What Culture Pro Wrestling', and has attracted big stars like Cody Rhodes & Kurt Angle. Why do you think the UK wrestling scene has become so successful?
Dave Meltzer: Hmm, fans. It’s been successful; I mean there has been UK wrestling forever. The WWE has toured successfully in the UK for... forever. Probably twenty, twenty-five years, I’m not sure exactly how long.
ASBO: Now, it’s not even wrestling shows. It’s meet and greets with stars and autograph signings. It’s a lot of things now; it’s really cool for fans.
Dave Meltzer: They have a very passionate fan base. There has always been underground wrestling in the UK anyway, I mean, as far as independent wrestling. It’s always gone on, and you’ve always had it. But the fan base got more and more educated on wrestling, and wants to see more varied types of wrestling. So now, a lot of promotions have started bringing guys in, and they've started drawing well and have got hardcore fans. For independent wrestlers, UK trips are very, very lucrative. In recent years the UK has developed its own wrestlers that are as good as anybody else, and they are not even in WWE. I think that type of thing has probably helped a lot as well.
ASBO: I think it’s a great time for wrestling, as there are so many options for fans. There is WWE, there is New Japan Pro Wrestling, there is What Culture Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor. I feel the UK has helped create a lot of variety for fans, and has contributed a lot to the success of wrestling. Would you agree with that?
Dave Meltzer: Yeah, and I think the internet has probably been a big part of it too. Before, you were limited to television. If you were on television, then you were a star. But now, with the internet, there are guys who have learned to market themselves and have become stars based on clips on the internet, because they are really spectacular in some form or another - like Will Ospreay.
ASBO: How would you describe the current state of the wrestling business? Do you think it’s really good, right now?
Dave Meltzer: I think that as far as from an underground standpoint, it’s as strong as it’s ever been. It’s not as popular as it has ever been on a big standard. It’s not like it was seventeen/eighteen years ago. But, if you are a non-WWE wrestler, right now, the business is the best that it’s ever been. At least since WCW died, and you know, wrestling changed in 2001.
ASBO: With all the success in the UK, we have seen wrestlers like Will Ospreay, Neville, and Tyler Bate become big stars. Is there one UK wrestler that sticks out in your mind that you think will be a big star for years to come?
Dave Meltzer: God, there's so many. That’s the other thing too, you could do a show, and you know Tyler Bate is like a really good example of a guy - because there’s so many shows in the UK and its small geographically, and this is why I think the UK has developed some of the best wrestlers in the world. If you’re a wrestler in the UK, you can wrestle good people, you can learn from good people, and you can wrestle as many days as you want. I mean, you could probably wrestle three-hundred and sixty-five days a year if you wanted to. And a lot of guys do wrestle multiple dates, and you learn to get better and better and better through the amount of matches.
A guy in Japan is not gonna have as many dates; a guy in the United States is not gonna have as many dates, within a geographical driving range. So, that’s really given the modern, younger UK guys a chance to excel at a quicker level. Tyler Bate is like twenty years old, and I don’t know if there’s anyone at twenty years old as good as him in the world.
ASBO: ASBO also has connections with India, and we like to know what goes on there. We know the WWE is trying to make India a very profitable market by having Jinder Mahal as their WWE Champion. Have they made any real progress with Jinder as champion?
Dave Meltzer: It’s too early to tell. I think that they have probably made some, but I can’t define it. They have their own Hindi television show, so I’m sure they’ve expanded their fan base to a degree, but it’s not like they tour there. I haven’t heard any figures like how well merchandise has gone up to a certain percent there or anything like that. And, in India it’s not like in the UK where you can put on a show and sell tickets, because people won’t spend money for tickets there. The economy doesn’t support it. So, that’s the difference. I think it may be popular, but in the UK, people will spend money for tickets to shows, and autograph sessions etc.
Part two of this interview, to follow shortly, will cover the greatly anticipated ‘mega fight’ between Floyd Mayweather & Conor McGregor. Don't miss out!