This is a list of both active and inactive Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards created by professional wrestling and mixed martial arts (MMA) journalist Dave Meltzer. The first fourteen awards were created in 1980 as an informal poll between Meltzer and his friends and others he corresponded with on the subject of professional wrestling at the time. After starting the Wrestling Observer in 1982, the awards took on a greater life, with an increasing number of awards given out every year.
The awards were created to recognize the individual achievements of a select few wrestlers who exemplified a specified criterion. The awards are given every year in various categories such as Wrestler of the Year, Most Outstanding Wrestler, Tag Team of the Year, Most Improved, Pro Wrestling Match of the Year, etc.; there are also a handful of awards to recognize the dubious distinctions in the business during that year such as Most Overrated and Worst Match. There are currently forty-five categories that are actively assessed every year and twenty that are no longer active. The awards are voted for by the newsletter's paying readership, primarily wrestling fans, although it is claimed that some industry workers also vote.
Over the years, various MMA promotions or individual mixed martial artists were deemed eligible to win some awards when it seemed as though they were more deserving to win than the conventional wrestler or wrestling promotion. This led to, in 1997, the creation of Shootfighter of the Year and Shoot Match of the Year to recognize MMA achievement specifically. Still, some primarily professional wrestling-focused awards remained intact for MMA promotions/fighters to win, due to the similar business aspect between both sports (i.e. Best Box Office Draw and Promotion of the Year). In the December 3, 2007 edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, it was announced that from that year onwards, mixed martial artists are no longer eligible for the Lou Thesz/Ric Flair Award, thus reserving it for professional wrestlers only. Shootfighter of the Year was renamed to Most Outstanding Fighter and Shoot Match of the Year was renamed to MMA Match of the Year to match a new award called Mixed Martial Arts Most Valuable, which is similar to the Lou Thesz/Ric Flair Award except it is for mixed martial artists.
The Wrestling Observer Newsletter (WON) Hall of Fame is a professional wrestling and mixed martial arts hall of fame that recognizes people who make significant contributions to their professions. It was founded in 1996 by Dave Meltzer, editor of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Like many other wrestling halls of fame, such as the WWE, Impact, ROH and WCW halls of fame, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame is not contained in a building, and there are no ceremonies for inductions other than a highly detailed biographical documentation of their career in the newsletter. Inductees include wrestlers/fighters, managers, promoters, trainers, and commentators. On ten occasions, groups, either tag teams, trios, or quartets, have been inducted rather than the individual members of the group. This first occurred in 1996, when The Fabulous Kangaroos and The Road Warriors entered the hall. The Fabulous Freebirds, The Midnight Express, The Rock 'n' Roll Express, The Assassins, The Holy Demon Army, The Sharpe Brothers, Los Misioneros de la Muerte, and Los Brazos all also entered as groups. On occasion entire wrestling families have been inducted into the hall. This first occurred in 1996 when The Dusek family entered the hall; in 2022, the five man familial team of Los Villanos was inducted.
Meltzer began the Hall of Fame by choosing a list of 122 inaugural inductees in 1996. Since then, wrestlers from past and present, others employed in the professional wrestling industry, and wrestling journalists and historians have been selected by Meltzer to cast secret ballots to determine annual groups of inductees. Voting criteria include the length of time spent in wrestling, historical significance, ability to attract viewers, and wrestling ability. Inductees must have at least 15 years of experience in the wrestling business or be over 35 years old and have 10 years of experience. To gain membership in the hall, potential inductees must receive 60% support on the ballots from their geographic region. Any person that gets less than 10% of the vote is eliminated from the ballot. If a person fails to get inducted 15 years after being put on the ballot, they must get 50% of the vote or be eliminated. There are 248 inductees, including the multiple teams, trios, and stables.
Founded in print in 1982 by Dave Meltzer, the Wrestling Observer website merged with Bryan Alvarez's Figure Four Weekly website in 2008, becoming Wrestling Observer Figure Four Online. Issues are offered in print and digital. The newsletter is often considered the first "dirt sheet", which is a wrestling publication which covers the art from a real-life perspective.
The beginnings of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter date back to 1980, when Meltzer began an annual poll amongst those with whom he corresponded regarding professional wrestling. According to Meltzer, he was just a fan at first. A short time later, he began maintaining a tape-trading list, and would occasionally send match results and news updates along with tape updates. Meltzer stated that he wanted to keep his friends in college "in the loop" for his tape trading as well as the happenings in the business, as the mainstream wrestling magazines catered to a somewhat younger demographic.
This led directly to the formation of the WON, which Meltzer first began publishing in 1982 as a way to keep fans informed of various wrestling regions that readers may not have been aware of or had no access to. The WON has been published from the start from various communities in Northern California, except for a six-month period in late 1983 and early 1984 when Meltzer resided in Wichita Falls, Texas. For most of its existence, it has been published from Campbell, California, a suburb of San Jose. The publication was originally a 16- to 24-page publication on 8½-by-14-inch paper, and published roughly every two or three weeks.
Meltzer contemplated a career change during the mid-1980s. He was to be hired to cover soccer instead and just contribute to other wrestling newsletters. In 1985, he announced that he would be ceasing publication, citing disinterest in the wrestling landscape of the time and too much time having to be spent on bookkeeping and mailing lists. At that point, he continued offering the WON on a "temporary" basis as an 8-page weekly on 8½-by-11-inch paper only to fill out the remainder of his subscriptions. Reader response convinced him to pursue the WON as his career instead. He started writing the WON full-time in 1987, retaining the smaller 8-page format. By this point, Meltzer began making appearances at major wrestling events, at first mostly in Japan. He was seen as a spectator in the front row at Chi-Town Rumble in 1989, seated next to Brad Muster, at the time a fullback with the Chicago Bears.
The WON's earlier years were also marked by revealing insider news and various behind-the-scenes happenings in the industry, a groundbreaking approach in a kayfabe-heavy era. Meltzer's approach benefitted from professional contacts, a historic perspective, and his own analysis of trends, data, and events. The WWE's 1997 "Montreal Screwjob" was exhaustively covered by the WON, including backstage events, including from Bret Hart himself. Meltzer published data-based evidence suggesting inflated record attendance figures for WrestleManias III and 23. He gave extensive space to various wrestling scandals, including Vince McMahon's 1990s steroid trial, the Chris Benoit murder investigation, and the high drug-fueled death rate within the wrestling ranks. His newsletter was also known for its lengthy obituaries of deceased wrestling figures, as well as a desire to chronicle the deaths of every wrestling figure possible, no matter how minor.
Meltzer stated that this new, more journalistic approach to covering wrestling earned him scorn from many within the wrestling business. However, Terry Funk and Bill Watts were early supporters of the WON from within the business. When readers first began hotly debating whether wrestling promoters actually read the publication or not, Meltzer published a letter to the editor from Watts, at the time still promoting. He also credited Houston promoter Paul Boesch for taking him under his wing in the 1980s and teaching him how the business works. As the business evolved along with the newsletter, Meltzer gained a little more acceptance.
Since major wrestling promotions would never acknowledge the existence of any "dirt sheets", Meltzer had to find other ways to advertise his newsletter. Advertisements and other promotion were often published in kayfabe and semi-kayfabe publications. Early sources for knowledge of the WON's existence were The Wrestling News published by Norman Kietzer, as well as Factsheet Five. The latter was decidedly a non-wrestling publication, though the WON and other wrestling sheets made up a significant amount of its coverage. Other magazines such as Wrestling Main Event and Wrestling Eye also provided mention. Meltzer was also able to advertise his publication during various guest appearances on wrestling radio shows and guest editorials in various national newspapers.
With the ubiquitous emergence of the Internet and wrestling web sites that are able to provide news in real time, today's WON differs in the way it covers the wrestling scene in that it provides more of an editorial and analysis on the news and what impacts it could have on the business. Wrestlers such as Konnan have noted seeing copies of the WON on Vince McMahon's office desk. It is believed many, if not most, of the biggest stars in WWE and other major promotions are subscribers, although few would admit it publicly. Several subscribed under their birth names, instead of ring names, thinking Meltzer would not find out their true identities. Howard Finkel's wife was publicly acknowledged by Meltzer as an early WON subscriber, and at the time, the closest reach the publication likely had to McMahon, which was in response to a reader questioning the likelihood of McMahon himself reading the publication. 781b155fdc