As noted in the first post of this series, wrestling journalist extraordinaire Dave Meltzer has issued his first ex cathedra comments about my book CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death. In the book, I take some shots at what I consider the shallow coverage by the wrestling media – at whose apex rests Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter – of the aftermath of the tragedy.
Unlike GeorgiaWrestlingHistory.com (which gave the book a rave) and SLAM! Wrestling (which published a mixed review), Meltzer has yet to say in his own voice exactly what he thinks of CHRIS & NANCY. The Observer website did publish a review by one of its regular online contributors, and its daily update has linked to other reviews, and I appreciate that. But if Meltzer’s position is that this book is beneath engaging himself, he ill serves both his readers and the public issues embedded in the Benoit story.
Over the weekend, Meltzer jumped into a thread on his site’s discussion board, headlined “Irv Muchnick on Big Dave,” in a way that I think is both unfortunate and juvenile. Especially so since he demonstrates elsewhere, week after week, that he is capable of writing with more care, precision, and thought.
“Irv Muchnick on Big Dave” started with a subscriber’s posting on the board of a three-minute clip from my interview on a Georgia Wrestling History podcast. Did Meltzer even listen to it? The answer isn’t clear. He appears to have been most interested in finally finding the right platform for addressing CHRIS & NANCY without really addressing it. Dave is too smart not to know that his “amen corner” of discussion board cultists will reflexively buy his dismissive tone, or whatever he is selling. So we can expect the heated follow-up debate on the board to be along the lines of “Muchnick: Threat or Menace?”
Meltzer also knows better than to reduce my take on the Benoit story to “how the wrestling media covered up for Vince McMahon.” That is an awfully Manichean, black-and-white reading of a lot of gray.
As an independent journalist and author, I don’t apologize for looking at the evidence and concluding that Meltzer covered the Benoit scandal surrounding narrative less thoroughly and faithfully than he told, say, the tale of the “Montreal screwjob” at the 1997 Survivors Series. And I think the superiority of the coverage of treachery in showbiz choreography, over coverage of the corporate spin of three brutal deaths in the real world, is revealing.
On the WON discussion board – a forum specializing in exaggeration, ad hominem drivel, and sheep-like groupthink – Meltzer says I opportunistically “claimed a falling out” with him. Those are his words, not mine. In my words, we have had differences of opinion and perspective. In CHRIS & NANCY I call this “a clinic in the vagaries of ‘wrestling communication.’”
But as long as we’re on the subject, let me add that the book also points out that this isn’t the first time Meltzer has found it convenient to play-act aloofness from a non-trivial criticism of his work.
In June 2008 Jerry McDevitt, the lawyer for WWE, had a lively email exchange with me. (I recently re-ran the full text in a 400-part Twitter series.) In the middle of the exchange, I blogged that WWE had sat for weeks on the Signature Pharmacy information from the Albany district attorney’s office before suspending the talent involved in that scandal. My accusation was wrong. I promptly ran a retraction.
Like tens of thousands of others, I had gotten this erroneous fact from a prominent and unambiguous story nearly a year earlier in … the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Yet, so far as I know, Meltzer has not informed his readers:
* that WWE never complained to him about his root report (suggesting that, for all his huffing and puffing, the corporation regards WON as, at worst, harmless); or
* that his report of how slowly WWE acted on Signature Pharmacy information warrants correction.
Look, we all make mistakes – David Bixenspan busted CHRIS & NANCY for a couple in his SLAM! review, and I acknowledged them. I’m sorry that Dave Meltzer is so reluctant to admit his own fallibility, and relies so heavily on an army of followers who now, no doubt, will proceed to interpret these posts as those of “a jerk who tries to claim that everything is Big Dave’s fault.”