Dave Meltzer’s Troubling History with Women in Wrestling.
Dave Meltzer is the most well known and respected reporter in wrestling media. He was one of the first to carve out a niche and actually make a living covering and reporting on the wrestling business, starting the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (WON) in it’s first forms in 1980, and then working on it full time in the late 1980’s. He’s covered virtually all of the big stories in the business since then, including providing the most documented and balanced reporting of the Montreal Screwjob in 1997 and the Chris Benoit double murder-suicide in 2007, perhaps the two biggest stories in the wrestling business in the last quarter century, albeit for obviously entirely different reasons.
Unfortunately, there has proven to be a real blind spot in Meltzer’s reporting over the years and it’s something that has flared up in the last few months, that being how he has spoken about and covered women in wrestling and the way he has covered unfortunate incidents of abuse and assault towards women from wrestlers. It has gotten to the point that many — myself included at times — have gone to the lengths to call him a misogynist, or at least to find his coverage borderline to outright misogynistic. He has on multiple occasions made statements that could be seen as misogynistic, derogatory towards women, or victim shaming. Many people on various online wrestling internet forums have been questioning these criticisms and wondering where they have come from. I have compiled several of these incidents to provide background to those who have been questioning the criticisms, and because there does need to be some accountability for these incidents, especially when you consider the wrestling business’ history towards women, be them managers, wrestlers, or fans.
This is the semi-infamous “Banana Incident” from the March 6th, 2001 episode of Wrestling Observer Radio. In the story, while discussing an angle that was booked on RAW, Meltzer recounts a story where he says he smashed a banana in his ex-girlfriend’s hair, because he felt he was owed his retribution after his girlfriend drunkenly smashed a banana in his face when they broke up a few weeks prior. Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez treat the entire deal as a joke and essentially that the entire thing was like a wrestling angle, when it quite clearly was not.
This next incident occurred back in November 2015, when New Japan wrestler Tomoaki Honma was accused of domestic violence over the previous 4 years by his wife. Here is a transcript of how Meltzer commented on the incident in Wrestling Observer Radio:
“It’s a weird thing because Tomoaki Honma actually has some deal going on television where he’s doing a gimmick where he’s in love with this very famous, or formerly famous, pop singer and model from the nineties who was really big in like 1995, 1997…Anyway, his real girlfriend, who nobody knows about, who’s actually a former wrestler from years and years back, it’s his girlfriend for 18 years, she’s jealous of this — she’s a wrestler — she’s jealous of this worked angle he’s doing on television, where he’s in love with, you know, the pop star girl. So she’s going through depression because he’s doing a worked angle and anyway, it’s women. What can I say? And then they went out to dinner- this would have been very recently — they go out to dinner and another girl shows up who I guess he was having an affair with four years ago. Now, keep in mind these two have been together for 18 years, so when you do the math, it’s not a good thing. So they get into a really big fight once they come back from dinner and she’s going off on him something fierce and I guess somewhere in the point of her going off on him, she realized she’s gone way too far with whatever she was saying, so she apologizes. And he kicks her in the face. Allegedly kicks her in the face. So, she said that and said that he’s mean to the dog and…it’s one of those things.”
This is, to say the least, a horrible way to cover a domestic violence accusation. Meltzer frames it by playing into various stereotypes of women as catty, or jealous, or vindictive, hence the “Anyway, it’s women. What can I say?” comment. He also essentially insinuates that the entire thing stems from these stereotypes and her jealousy, when in reality, domestic violence towards women is almost never about what the women herself does. The “it’s one of those things” comment at the end is also a terrible way to treat this. A women allegedly being kicked in the face and abused by her husband is not “one of those things.”
The way Meltzer dealt with and covered this was poor to say the least and certainly could be framed in some ways as misogynistic with the playing into stereotypes that he does as he describes what occurred.
A second issue with the Honma story was that during this time, Meltzer never stated that he got info from the police about what happened via an intermediary. When the topic of all this came up on the Wrestling Observer board a few months ago, Meltzer acted as if everyone should have known that’s how he knew and got this information.
This came back in June of 2016, and was in reference to the long term potential of WWE women’s wrestler Bayley. Meltzer says the character will have to be different, since Bayley can only play a “big sister” character to young girls when she looks like their big sister and not “mom’s friends.” This is pretty clearly a derogatory comment towards women’s appearance and attractiveness as they get older and is stating that Bayley will have to change her character because she won’t be as attractive or “young” and will instead be “old.” The factualness of the statement is incorrect, as there are numerous women in WWE at the moment wrestling past the age of 30, for example Bayley’s “Four Horsewomen” colleagues Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch, who are both 31. But the bigger issue is how Dave views the potential of some of the women based on what they’ll look like and that he believes Bayley will get less attractive as she ages, which again, is a derogatory and borderline misogynistic statement.
The most recent event is one that many on Wrestling Twitter have been discussing in the last couple months, and that would be the situation with Michael Elgin and a wrestling fan named Molly (her birth name, she prefers to go by Mo in her daily life.) Mo, who was a victim of sexual assault by Sean Orleans, a wrestler who worked for Elgin’s promotion Glory Pro Wrestling, saw her claims discredited by Elgin both privately and publicly. Elgin even continued to book Orleans after he was made aware of the assault by Mo. Mo has also accused Elgin of being manipulative and domineering during a relationship the two had together. This has seen Elgin fall out of favor with some in the wrestling world — though not all, as evidenced by his signing of a new contract with New Japan, and controversially being booked by AAW and IWA-Mid South— and has become one of the bigger stories in wrestling recently.
When the story first came to light back in December, Meltzer discussed it on Wrestling Observer Radio on December 10th. Despite it being known by that point that Elgin had discredited what Mo said, Meltzer described Elgin as having “said some stuff and handled an unfortunate situation badly.” That’s hardly enough attention being paid to a famous and successful professional wrestler trying to discredit a sexual assault victim.
In the December 11th edition of the Observer, Meltzer referred to Mo as “a woman using a fake name on Twitter”, described what happened as “a serious of incidents with a fan”, and then published verbatim Elgin’s 832 word statement about what had occurred.
Meltzer never once contacted Mo for comment.
He later proceeded to claim that the texts were doctored or heavily altered, he talked about how Orleans was going to file a defamation and slander case, that the texts shouldn’t be paid attention too because their meaning was changed. All of this without again, once contacting the victim of a sexual assault.
His evidence for all of this was a Tumblr blog, which was created with the intent of smearing, slut shaming, and victim shaming Mo. Meltzer, who has been a journalist for decades and learned from Frank Deford, went about this in all the wrong ways. It’s hard to believe he wouldn’t know how to cover one of these cases, or would not know to contact or get statement from both parties.
It speaks, to some degree, to not believing Mo. And the citing and sourcing of the Tumblr account, and claiming the texts were doctored, was textbook and blatant victim shaming.
This was not written with the intent of getting Dave Meltzer fired. Or trying to bring down his career and how he makes his livelihood. But this is a pattern, and a consistent attitude towards women in wrestling in all facets that is extremely concerning and that should be addressed. The leading man in wrestling media, at a time where assault and harassment towards women in various other industries is being reported unlike ever before, should not be acting in this manner. Whether Dave Meltzer really is a misogynist or doesn’t respect women or not, I do not know. But with the claims being made these days, and many people across various forums wondering why exactly those claims were made, I thought it best to bring awareness to what has been a troubling pattern of behavior.