I grew up in Richfield until I was about five years old, then I moved to Bloomington. These are both suburbs of Minneapolis, right next to each other. I've been just totally Twin Cities. I didn't travel much until this past year when my mom started working for Northwest Airlines. Then I started traveling everywhere. [I had] just a normal childhood. I always lived with my mom. I was into a lot of sports, but wrestling caught my eye when I was about eight years old. It was the first time I started really watching it. And by the time I was in the fourth grade, I was really heavily into it.
After begging my mom to go to about 10 cards, she finally gave in. The first card I went to was in May of 1981. It was a birthday present. It was Verne Gagne's retirement, the first of three. He was the owner of the AWA and held the title until he was into his 50s. Finally the pressure built up for him to lose it, so he lost it to Nick Bockwinkel, who at the time was in his 40s. They never really had a youth movement there, but it was really good. They were selling out the St. Paul Civic Center at the time consistently. There was even one "Super Sunday" card, it was about ‘82. They sold out the St. Paul Civic Center and the attached Roy Wilkins Auditorium with a large-screen TV. Over 20,000 people, it was the largest gate of that year. The AWA was the hot promotion of that time.
In ‘83 I started getting into magazines, reading them off the newsstands. By 1984 I was buying just about every magazine on the newsstands, spending $5 to $10 a week on them, reading them from cover to cover as soon as I got them. On the bus on the way home I would think, "I wonder if The Wrestler came in today. I hope it did. I wonder who'll be on the cover." That sort of thing. I really got into that. I've had a lot of friends who have come and gone who have been into wrestling, but never to the degree that I have.
And then in 1987, in May, I ordered and received my first newsletters, which were The Wrestling Observer by Dave Meltzer, Wrestling Forum by John Gallagher, and Global Wrestling News by Tom Burke. I got the Observer–he sells them in sets of four, so if you subscribe you get all four issues–and I subscribed at the end of a set. So on one Friday I got three issues, and then the next day I got the fourth. That was pretty much what I did that Friday night. I broke plans and I said, "I'm sorry, I've got to sit here and finish reading these." So I read each of them twice, and then for the next two weeks I probably read them four times each also. It was just fascinating. I just started getting every newsletter I could, just to see what was out there. When I saw how a lot of them looked, I thought, "I could probably do a good job if I wanted to start this." So someone I met at the matches, a friend of mine, and I decided to start one. I was always editor, and [my friend] said he would help out, so I made him assistant editor. He since has totally dropped out of the wrestling scene, doesn't subscribe or anything. In October of ‘87 I mailed out 13 copies of my first issue to a few addresses I had, including all the newsletters, and started publishing a newsletter, and it's grown from there. I was a junior in high school when I first started doing the newsletter. Then I decided to go to Macalester College. A lot of the reason I stayed local is because I wanted to keep doing the newsletter. And to do that, living at home was a must, because in a dorm room I'm not going to get this done. It's been a real challenge doing the newsletter in college, but last semester I got three As and a B, and still did the newsletter, so it's been going really well. I have two more years left. I'll start my junior year in September.
For me, I put in 20 to 30 hours a week on it. It's a 20- to 30-hour-a-week job. It's developed from basically copying news from other newsletters and trying to come up with original stuff myself to being probably one of the two main sources of news in wrestling. Dave Meltzer is beyond anything in any sport that I've seen, as far as being an expert on something. As far as putting it together, I've got sources all over the country who I'll call every weekend to get news from their territory, what was on their TV, that sort of thing. I have a lot of people who write for me. Well, actually I cut it down, but about eight people do regular columns for me. It's a matter of putting together the news and trying to be accurate.
It's real tough in wrestling, to get people to be open to you. A lot of people you talk to off record, and you can never ever say you talked to them, because some of the promoters don't like legitimate news getting out. They'd rather be in their fantasy world, such as seen on Arsenio Hall last night with Hulk Hogan, where Hulk just has built this fantasy world of his own that, of course, the crowd bought into because he's great at it. He was talking about the steroid issue and stuff like that. The newsletters are around, and people do them to refute that kind of stuff that's out there. Because I don't think that in any other sport someone can come out and lie so much and get away with it because the legitimate press won't touch it. I shouldn't "legitimate" press but "mainstream" press because I consider the newsletters to be legitimate press, at least the top few.
Japan developed pro wrestling from the United States, which was doing it before them. Then a sumo wrestler–Rikidozan–found sumo wrestling boring. He wasn't as good at it as other people, and he saw the American style and brought the American style over there and started doing it, and it really worked well. They've developed it as a more serious, more legitimate sport. Actually, it's not so much the culture difference but the quality of the editorial policy of the promoters, and the way they want to see wrestling projected in Japan. They try to project it as a legitimate sport, and the sport sections cover it as legitimate sport. They don't get in to the real/fake issue too much, although there's more of an understanding there than here, that wrestling is what it is and they don't make fun of it. They don't make a big issue out of it. They accept it for kind of a sport and cover it as kind of a sport.
Randy Savage went over there earlier this year for the [now-defunct Japanese promotion] SWS, which is affiliated with the WWF. Whenever [his opponent] wanted to lock up with him, he'd jump out of the ring and yell at the crowd, to try to get the crowds going. And they sat there and wondered, "Well, wrestle." You know, they didn't get mad, they didn't boo him, they just lost respect for this guy because he wouldn't wrestle. So they don't go for that at all. They have a couple of cartoon characters–Big Van Vader and Jushin Liger–but they're mainly right out of comic books, and that's to get the kids audience. But for the most part, all they want is solid wrestling. That's what they like to see, and that's what they give ‘em. The highlight of the match isn't the entrance music, like it is here, or the posing. The highlight there is to see who's gonna win, because there's still a mystery there with who's gonna win. So Japan, it's just taken much more seriously over there, totally. And it's much more successful at this time when it comes to house show business. You know, they don't have pay-per-view there yet, but they will probably in five years. And that's gonna be real interesting, and that's gonna change the face of wrestling over there like it has here. The American pros can learn a lot from the Japanese, but they won't. The ones that are out there, they think it's a different culture and it doesn't apply, but there's a lot of people out there like Terry Funk, who's an all-time great in the NWA and a former champion, who thinks if the United States did exactly what Japan did, they'd be a lot better off.
I decided to start doing interviews. I thought that would be good because there weren't any in wrestling, and it would be a real challenge to get people to talk to me. The first interview I did was with an independent wrestler from Minnesota–Tommy Ferrara. And then it moved from there to–I did Verne Gagne next, which was a big interview. He didn't quite know who he was talking to. He was shocked by some of the questions I asked him; in the middle [of the interview] he goes, "Who exactly are you again?" So, I don't think the person who set up the interview exactly explained to him who I was. And from there it's boomed. It's really been a good thing for the newsletter. It's really set me apart, because other newsletters don't do interviews as regularly as I do.
Usually people I talk to know exactly who I am and what I'm looking for in the interview. If they give me their b.s. stuff, you know, I just say, "No, really." If they agree to do an interview with me, usually they're people I know, who I've talked to before, and they know not to b.s. me. It would stand out, and I wouldn't print it. I've never had a problem with that. People are really open. I mean, Jim Ross [currently an announcer for the WWF] almost got fired from TBS for doing the interview with me. There was a lot of heat on him for it. He [told me], "Everyone in WCW thought that I was a WWF spy because I was the only person there who didn't have the Southern mentality and didn't speak with a twang. I had some fresh ideas, and they just frowned on my because I was a total outsider. And the fact that I like to talk to newsletters and deal with the press." He was an anchor on CNN Headline News for a while, and he's been in legitimate things before, and he said, "There's legitimate press out there, and I'm gonna talk to them. And if the company wants to give me heat for it, that's fine. Hopefully I'm good enough that that won't be an issue." So, you know, that got him in trouble.
I mailed out over a thousand this last issue, but I did some freebies. That's about what it is. With the phone calls and the traveling and the computer I had to buy specifically for this, and that sort of thing, it's really so far been a break-even thing. I'd say in 1991 I've got a chance to make some pretty decent money. I mean, by the time I graduate, in two years, I could be–the three years of investment could really pay off, and I could be making some really, really good money. Better than I could get in any entry-level job. So I feel pretty good about that.
I guess, right now, I'm more looking at journalism than I am [at] getting involved in the business, although that's certainly an option. I mean, I hope that I'm learning a lot about it where I'd be qualified to do something in the office someday. But, you know, there's always the stigma: if you haven't been a wrestler, then you don't know anything about it. I get that a lot doing the newsletter: "Well, if you've never been in the ring, how can you grade a match?"
"Well, if you're wrestling in a match, how can you grade what a fan's perspective is?" that's my response. I mean, it might be real fun to play, but it might be real boring to watch. I don't think the wrestlers are right to judge if their match is good or not from a fan's perspective, but that's the kind of stuff you get from people sometimes. But, I would say that the newsletter itself has a chance to be my source of income for a long time.
When [wrestling promotions are] making money, they're open. When their jobs are threatened, and the truth hurts, they close up. Jim Herd–he's the Executive Vice-President of World Championship Wrestling–has totally closed his door to me. The WWF doors are always closed when it comes to on-record stuff. There's always people who will say some stuff off-record, but not really too much. WCW, at times, is really good about it. I still talk with people in the company, but Jim Herd always used to return my calls, and he doesn't return mine anymore.
[Wrestling's] the way it is because of cable television and the idea that promoters can make tons of money off of the idea of pay-per-view, and putting so much money for one show has attracted people like Ted Turner into buying a promotion. And because it's cheap programming, or so he thought until he got into it. It gets good ratings for the amount of money it costs. And then pay-per-view came into the picture, and, really, promotions at this point just center everything around pay-per-view, promoting it, just basically trying to convince fans to spend 20 bucks at one time to sit in their home, and all [the promoters] have is the expense of one big show.
Right now, steroids are a problem, and that's gonna change a lot of things, or at least it could. Well, the fact that the publicity about it, promoters could–if there's testing–promoters could be forced to deal with the issue that they're basically steroid pushers, by that fact that they give the most money to people at the top of the promotion. Lex Luger's the world champion at WCW, Sting is the second-highest-paid wrestler in the promotion, and the Steiners–one of them for sure is totally heavy and the other guy has had some reasonable cycles. But the top four guys in that promotion with all the title belts are steroid–and their TV champion, "Stunning" Steve Austin, I mean, they're all huge, huge people who use some sort of artificial substance, no question about it. When you're on the road 200+ days a year, if all you did was work out 8 hours a day and ate totally correctly, yeah, you could look like that. But now with a wrestler's schedule, and, you know, you couldn't look like Lex Luger without drugs.
The WWF, they're worried about their image as being family entertainment, so they're dealing with it now, through saying they're gonna do steroid testing. But, you know, it's probably gonna be the promoter's aunt who runs the "independent" firm that tests. It's gonna be totally a farce.... So I just can't imagine the WWF actually doing steroid testing until 10 years from know, when wrestlers start dropping like Superstar Graham, having ankles fused and bones taken from your hip to replace things. It's a totally degenerative drug. Livers can go in these people. It's a real dangerous drug, and promoters can make money off the wrestlers, and the effects on the wrestler are so delayed, the promoters will never feel it. Unless they get sued, and Superstar Graham is suing Vince McMahon...or at least announcing he's going to sue him. So either way Vince is going to get sued and lose, get sued and win and take the chance, one of the two. Or he's gonna do an out-of-court settlement with Superstar Graham so there's no publicity, which will mean that every former wrestler in the WWF who's having problems is gonna come to Vince and do an out-of-court settlement, and he's gonna be out a lot of expenses. So Vince is in a tight spot. [WCW is] just driving themselves into the ground. They're so mismanaged. It's just an old-boy's network, with Dusty Rhodes [the matchmaker or booker] and all his cronies. Jim Herd, the Executive Vice-President, he was in the pizza business before, and he was bad at that. He's in wrestling now and couldn't be worse. He knows nothing about the business and then interjects his opinion consistently into what should be done, and that's just killing the group. I think by the end of they year they're gonna realize there needs to be major changes.
Dusty Rhodes as booker is doing a terrible job. I think he's just trying to earn some money so he can then retire and wait another five years until a promotion makes a real dumb decision and hires him. He's been successful at times, but he totally has absolutely no concept today how to promote nationally. [For] example, angles that he used to promote, he's now rehashing, bringing them back and doing the exact same thing.... Now he's turned five or six different people in the last two weeks from face to heel or heel to face to try to get things stirring and TV ratings up. Instead of making each turn mean something and really developing it, he does it the lazy way. He turns everyone and gets the same effect. The problem is, when you turn everyone, you're stuck for three years because you can't turn anyone again, and no one's gonna buy it. Whereas turns should occur every three to six months and really mean something. Dusty would rather hotshot his way through his contract and try to get a renewal when the time comes.
I don't think anyone has the right to say–well, they have the right to say, but I think they'd be wrong–in saying that wrestling fans typically are lower class than other fans. I mean, when I go to sports bars and see a football game on TV, it's the same crowd that I see at the bars for the...wrestling. You know, it's a bunch of guys guzzling beer, using swear words, and calling people all these stereotypical names and loving it. [Non-fans] assume when they see the homophobic and racist angles that the fan watching is into that, when, in fact, the crowds of 800 people in 18,000[-seat] buildings for WCW reflects something different, that what the wrestling promoters are presenting the fans is not what they want. For a while wrestling promotions provided a lot of hot action, angles that made sense, and the negatives, homophobia and that sort of thing. Now they've dropped the good wrestling part and just present gimmicks, cartoon characters, racist stuff. That's not drawing.
There's wrestling fans out there who want a smart person to run a wrestling business. Unfortunately, the WWF is run by smart people who have a different perception of what they want to do, which is marketing, which is where the most money is. But there should be an alternative to the cartoon, which would provide a quality wrestling product. And WCW is in the current position to provide it with their exposure, and instead they try to copy the WWF, but they'll never do a good enough job, and they'll always be perceived as minor league because of it.
The only reason I'm probably more into wrestling than I'm into hockey–I'm a huge hockey fan–is because my friends when I grew up were more into wrestling than anything else. There's something about wrestling that I like a little bit more than anything else. But if wrestling disappeared off the face of the earth, I'd probably get really into hockey. I don't think there's anything specific about wrestling that really hypnotizes me into thinking, "Wow, I need to watch this." I don't think it's anything strange. I think it's just the addiction to the soap opera of it, and that's what I get into with reading sports sections. There's so much about sports that I like, and it's behind-the-scenes stuff that I like just as much as the actual action. I think [what sustains] my interest in wrestling is the fact that I get to write about it. I really like the challenge of getting the truth out and doing a good job with it, and entertaining people while still covering it.