Thursday, June 15, 2017

So Meltzer Gave a Match 6.25 Stars...

This is Meltzer when you rage over a star rating
I try not to navel-gaze at the wrestling news/writing industry too much because look, it's ultimately meaningless. It's not that wrestling news and commentary itself is meaningless, but the amount of importance given to, say, Dave Meltzer compared to his relative power within the biz compared to other journalists in other fields is about as top heavy a ratio as MODOK or to use a wrestling analogy, ol' chicken legs Kevin Nash. It's also not to say that the distribution of power within the cottage industry isn't wholly undeserved for Meltzer. I have my problems and criticisms of him, and hoo boy, are they deserved. But the thing is, he's done the work. The man has been covering the biz, for better or worse, for nearly 40 years, a self-made industry giant who is able to rile up everyone from Vince McMahon (whether or not he'll admit otherwise) down to the randomest rando on Twitter Dot Com with three followers and an avatar of his dog draped in the American flag.

Nothing riles up the chaff on the aforementioned Twitter Dot Com than Meltzer's star ratings. Whether it be folks mad that he didn't give a WWE main event match like John Cena vs. AJ Styles five stars, or an excellent NXT match like Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate five stars, or some indie match that didn't happen in Reseda, CA five stars, or the fact that he appears to give, on average, New Japan Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla matches inflated star ratings, or the fact that he divides down his star ratings in quarters, someone is always going to find something to be mad at vis a vis the ratings he gives matches. They are treated as gospel even though Meltzer himself says they're done in the moment and never thought of again, which kinda makes the people getting mad at him look silly and Meltzer himself look like a goddamn terrible critic. But I digress.

Meltzer really ruffled feathers in the wake of WrestleKingdom 11 this past year when he broke his normal five star scale and gave Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada an extra sixth star for their main event. He's broken out the sixth star once before for the Toshiaki Kawada/Mitsuharu Misawa match from June 3, 1994 (which I've seen and can conclude that maybe Big Meltz was onto something). It meant to specify a really special wrestling match (even if it did spoil perhaps the best wrestling-related joke on Twitter ever), and yet people lost their shit over it. But then the rematch from Dominion (described by our own intrepid New Japan superfan, Elliot here) happened, and Meltzer gave the match six-and-a-quarter stars. At this point, it's clear he rated the match just to rile people up, which is his prerogative. The man has never really had a reputation for getting jokes, let alone partaking in them himself, or at least if he had, the jokes weren't really that good. But a troll rating of one quarter star over his previous ceiling paints an utterly dire picture of where wrestling criticism is, and it has fairly little to do with Meltzer himself.

Sure, Meltzer has the mantel of the top guy in wrestling journalism, stewardship of history, and criticism. However, the fact he wears all those hats speaks to how threadbare the landscape is, and how hard it is to break through and be considered part of a group of critics alongside of Meltzer. Even those who do try their hands at criticism are either always comparing their criticisms or facing unbearable comparison from the outside to Meltzer's work, which to be bluntly honest, contains fairly little in the way of actual criticism outside of the star rating. The equivalents to Roger Ebert in wrestling writing toil in obscurity thanks to how big Meltzer's cult of personality is, and the man himself basically does mostly play-by-play runback with a rating at the end. I'm not saying something is wrong with that format altogether because of how close to a sport wrestling appears to the untrained eye, and because of how Meltzer is so meticulously cut from the cloth of a sports journalist. He's regarded as one of the best mixed-martial arts journalists too, and that undoubtedly is a sport.

The problem is the lack of a community of voices that accurately reflects how varied an art wrestling is and the infinite lenses one can use to view it. As long as people treat Meltzer's star ratings as the ultimate arbitration of what quality is in wrestling and don't take into account other voices outside of that SCOOPS bubble, then the same cycle of outrage is going to continue. I mean, Meltzer's opinions are that of one man. Does it really fucking matter if one man thought Dunne/Bate didn't attain a perfect star rating? What about people writing at other major sites? What about those doing critical writing at other blogs around the web without the reach of an UPROXX or a Cageside Seats? What about voices across the racial and gender spectrum that aren't centered on cishet White maledom? Hell, if I may be selfish for one second, WHAT ABOUT THE GODDAMN WRESTLING BLOG, Y'KNOW THE SITE YOU'RE READING RIGHT NOW?

So miss me with your "Meltzer is making a mockery of wrestling criticism with his Omega/Okada ratings" takes, because while he may be making said mockery, it's your fault that they're held in such high regard. That's also not saying Meltzer is an overall good. I mean, at best he's a problematic fave, and his social takes alone are reason enough to put him under a microscope and allow other demographics to take over with their viewpoints. People like Leslie Lee III, Elle Collins, or even Lacy right here at TWB. They're all out there and in greater numbers than you would imagine. It's time to end Meltzer's hegemony over opinion and broaden scopes. Maybe then, y'all wouldn't get your fuckin' blood pressures so high that you stroke out over a quarter-star over six.