It’s been years now since the shattering of kayfabe in the wrestling business and the biggest factors in the revealing of wrestling’s secrets and backstage happenings have been hotlines, newsletters and probably most importantly the wrestling websites. In the last ten years a lot of sites have come and gone and they all have/had their strengths and weaknesses. From Dave Meltzer’s wrestlingobserver.com to a 14 year old kid’s Ilovedx.com, they all have made some type of mark on the wrestling fan that goes to the Internet for news and opinions, even if that impression is where the fan should not go for news. Here is a look at some of the top websites and their strengths and weaknesses.
Wrestlingobserver.com: The best part of this website is the man who essentially runs it. Dave Meltzer is the best wrestling journalist out there and he gives free daily updates on his website. Bear in mind that a good 1/3 of his daily update page is advertising for his newsletter which you do have to pay for. However you can skip that after Wednesday as it is the same tease for Saturday’s newsletter content. If there is breaking news during the day, Meltzer will have it with some analysis, although again if you want the best, in-depth analysis of wrestling you have to buy the newsletter.
There are television reviews done for all the major shows, the most known of which are the Raw (and now ECW TV) reviews by Todd Martin. Whether you agree or disagree with Martin, he is a knowledgeable fan who has a passion for the business. His reviews are worth a look. There is also Dan Whalers with his weekly column (although he is taking a break at the moment). He’s not the greatest writer, but he is another person passionate about wrestling and someone you would not mind discussing wrestling with over a beer. Added to the list of writers is Derek Burgan, formerly of the Torch, who writes regularly reviewing DVD’s or books, he also writes about current wrestling with his end of the week enjoyment index. He has become a very big fan of ROH wrestling; a fan unfamiliar with ROH should give Burgan’s reviews a look. He’s no wrestling historian, but he gives ROH the credit it deserves for giving fans something that WWE and TNA doesn’t give them. The only problem is for WWE fans, because Burgan has made it a habit lately to take shots at WWE while building up ROH, not the best persuasive argument for the upstart promotion. Burgan is not the only book/DVD reviewer on the site, Joe Babinsack also reviews wrestling media based on requests from fans. Alex Marvez is along every once in a while with an interview from a major name in wrestling as well. Wrestling Observer Live, the online audio show hosted By Dave Meltzer is not linked on the site, but is reviewed.
Grade: A-, you can’t go wrong with a site led by the number one news man in wrestling, flanked by writers who are long-time wrestling fans. Honorable mention goes to Figurefourweekly.com, which is led by Bryan Alvarez; the site contains regular audio updates, as well as a message board and daily news. Alvarez, while not the news provider Meltzer is somewhat makes up for it by being close to Meltzer (which makes his news at least somewhat reliable) and having a tremendous sense of humor. You will also find plugs and previews of Alvarez’s own newsletter entitled figure four weekly where his sense of humor is even more highlighted.
Pro wrestling Torch: Pwtorch.com is led by Wade Keller and his tag team partners (sorry) led by Bruce Mitchell and James Caldwell. Like Meltzer, the best material Keller saves for people who will pay for it, either via the paper version of the Torch newsletter and/or the VIP section of PWtorch.com. As far as the free site goes, the news is as reliable as Keller is (in other words get confirmation from Meltzer). Keller has a history of reporting bad news and now is not even in the realm of breaking stories anymore. On the plus side, for more than a decade Keller has interviewed some of the premier names in wrestling from Cactus Jack to the Rock to Kevin Nash. Based on that his opinions with wrestling, whether one agrees with them or not are not without merit.
Site features include television reviews, Keller, unlike Meltzer reviews all of the major shows for free on his site, with analysis added. Raw, Smackdown and Impact are also reviewed by James Caldwell. Caldwell has come under criticism for his seemingly harsh views on TNA and even his general writing style. With that said, that criticism for the most part has come because of his push in the torch hierarchy; he is worth a read on the free site at the very least. All of the websites regulars, which include Bruce Mitchell and Pat McNeil keep blogs which are updated on at least a semi-regular basis. Also included are fan responses to television and Pay Per View telecasts. There is a section for “specialists”, in which the idea was for one of the lesser column writers/show reviewers (ex: Mike Roe who does a Smackdown report, along with Keller and Caldwell) to have an area of expertise and write about it. If you enjoy the specialists, don’t get too attached because none of them update regularly.
You won’t find biting analysis of independent wrestling for the most part and the biggest problem with the site is the lack of UFC coverage. That is if you think that is a problem, wrestlingobserver.com is the only major wrestling site that covers MMA at all, however with the status of the Torch it could be argued that disenchanted wrestling fans want more than one place to read about UFC.
Grade: B, a solid site, but it is a case of you get what you pay for because the audio updates, online access to the Torch newsletter, newsletter achieves and a discussion forum all come only if you order the VIP section for $5.95 a month. The audio updates and the newsletter are where you get to see writers like Mitchell at their best. Reading a Mitchell blog once a week is nothing compared to the column he wrote in a recent Torch newsletter about the most successful WWE wrestlers of the last couple of years.
WWE.com: Because of WWE’s tiring of websites like the Torch and Wrestling Observer giving away news about their product, this website has become a lot more active in getting the news out first. Obviously you have to take the details and the presentation of what the news is with a grain of salt. That’s not to say the actual news is not true, under the WWE’s new vision of its site the news is factual, but one should go to less biased like a Meltzer for the how’s and why’s. As far as whether the site is work or shoot, it’s a hybrid leaning towards following the storylines, but again much like Byte This, the former audio show on wwe.com, it depends on the situation. The top 25 is an interesting fairly new feature on the site (about a year) and it shows where the top guys are on the totem pole for the week. The best part is the top 25 is someone making sense of the week that was in WWE, it’s actually if you think about it some type of accountability or forced accountability for WWE’s booking. One of the best things about the site lately is interviews with former WWE wrestlers like Chris Jericho and the Rock who have both left the company to pursue other interests. Anytime either of them is working on a new project more than likely WWE.com will catch up to them to interview them on that particular project. If they (and the fans) get lucky you may even hear their views on pro wrestling. The television shows, Pay Per Views and Divas are among the things that have their own section on the site. Also on occasion there are past video clips available, a lot of times to give perspective or a history lesson based on something that would be going on at the moment. The most important part of the site for stockholders is wwecorporate, which gives financial information on the company. It is also where you can get PPV buys, which are usually reported more in newsletters than free websites.
Grade: B+. There is nothing actively wrong with WWE.com, if you know what you are getting, just like everything in WWE there is some spin, no reason to admit to your public if something is wrong, especially since there is a subsection of the site for stockholders, the people who should really care if something is wrong.
TNAwrestling.com: Much like WWE.com, it’s a site by the company, for the company with cool features. An important, overlooked feature is the media area, especially the theme music area. A lot of the music in TNA is generic and unrecognizable, so with this feature a fan will now know who the heck is coming out when music plays. Speaking of generic, there is a column by Christy Hemme, which hasn’t really shown much yet, but it should get better with time. There are also video clips, pictures and various other media you can find on the site. When it comes to PPV events, TNAwrestling.com gives perspective by putting last year’s results of that same PPV on the page covering that year’s PPV. That feature is a great way to get perspective on what a difference a year can make.
Grade: B+…same concept as WWE.com, if you know what you are getting there should be no problems or surprises.
PWinsider.com: First of all, the problem with this site is not only is the free version of this site filled with ads, but going to this site can cause major problems with your computer. Computer problems that are usually related to spyware, which is a major strike against the site right off the bat. News wise, the site and its reporters are the same as anyone who is not Meltzer, you must be careful taking the news at face value. . Sometimes Dave Scherer and company are right on with the news and other times they aren’t. Because PWinsider.com has also developed a pay section, it allows you to take the news a bit more seriously, but it can’t be stressed enough that they aren’t Meltzer. Other than the news, the site has columns like every other site and basically is a different version of the mainstream serious sites.
Grade: B-. The site does too much damage to the computer to get a B or above and it does not differentiate itself enough from the Torch (which it may be more reliable then) or the Observer (which it isn’t) to be worth the hassle. The pay site may be though, depending on your situation. Better news and their own audio update may sway a person on the fence. The best thing about this site, is probably the same as you can say with other wrestling sites in the same realm, it’s a nice place to read and/or discuss wrestling with someone who at least knows a little about what they are talking about.
411mania.com/insidepulse.com: Both of these websites started out as wrestling and have grown into “entertainment” sites, which cover sports, music, movies, books and wrestling. As far as the wrestling section goes, unlike the other sites covered here, there is no news breaking here. All of the news is copied and pasted from the Observer, Torch and Insider. The one treat you may occasionally get is news “stolen” from the Observer and Torch newsletters, if you are not a subscriber to either one it is worth a look once a week to see if any of the news pieces on either site are credited to the newsletter. Besides that there are show recaps and columns written by for the most part up and coming writers. On a related note, Scott Keith, who has authored multiple wrestling books, has had his “rants” on major wrestling events featured on both sites. The True or False feature on 411mania.com is a personal favorite and is worth a look.
Grade: B, the columns and the features are enough to offset the fact that there news is not broken on either site.
Onlineonslaught.com: Onlineonslaught.com is run by Rick Scaia, who used to be a major part of wrestleline.com (a major website in the beginning of the decade). Scaia’s strength is that he is a writer who is very opinionated about wrestling and actually contributes alternative ideas in opposition to what WWE may be doing creatively. In terms of news he updates two-three times a week. He is not a news breaker in the realm of Keller or Meltzer, he has some lesser sources that usually confirm news items for him. Again, Scaia’s strength is taking the news and making a strong column out of it. On WWE PPV weekends he gives a very detailed review and preview of the event and also gives predictions on the even along with several members of his staff. He also reviews Raw, every Tuesday evening and one of the best things about his Raw recaps as opposed to others is that Scaia is detailed without giving play by play, which is for the most part a turn off for readers. He also recaps most PPV events that very night, not as detailed, especially because he does not watch many of them at home and is at the mercy of his fellow PPV watchers in terms of getting crowd reactions and commentary, which obviously is hard in a room or bar full of people. The Smackdown recaps have been a revolving door of reviewers, but that looks to be settling down soon. Scaia has several columnists on staffs who contribute on a regular basis, including the Raw Satire which is very funny a lot of the time. The negatives about the site are that Scaia does not follow the independent promotions (besides OVW) and does not give TNA enough personal attention. He gets credit for referring TNA events to Jason Longshore, but it is a fact that his readers would appreciate it more if Scaia showed more interest in the promotion himself. Another thing about Scaia is that the fact that he is so opinionated kind of hurts him because he can be nasty towards things or people he does not like. If you are a fan of reality television, John Cena or Randy Orton and at the same time take Scaia’s opinion to heart it could be a problem. Actually the same goes for TNA, which is written off by Scaia a lot of times as niche independent like promotion. Online Onslaught also features a discussion forum to discuss wrestling past and present.
Grade: B, solid site with an opinionated lead writer. His lack of coverage of the independent scene is a drawback as is his somewhat elitist attitude, while not elitist in the sense that every match must be a great match to be worth anything, he is elitist in his attitude toward things he doesn’t like. He says its part of his “gimmick,” but he should consider he has a lot of readers who are fans of John Cena, Randy Orton and reality television.
Thesmartmarks.com/deathvalleydriver.com: With these two sites, we will explore the main draw of the sites and that is the message boards. With the smartmarks.com, the forums feature separate sections for WWE, TNA, independent promotions, old school wrestling, sex, current events, general chat, sports, no holds barred and more. Things to look for in the wrestling sections, a ongoing Raw thread every week, that usually goes at least 15 pages (30 posts a page), a Smackdown thread that usually reaches two pages at the most, a PPV thread that can go between 10-20 pages at a time and other than that threads on various issues in pro wrestling.
Sometimes news issues in WWE and TNA aren’t worth creating a new thread over, in deference to that there is a thread titled “comments not worthy of a thread.” That thread is well over 100 pages worth of little tidbits within WWE that are worth noting, but not making a thread on. That same thread is also on the TNA board and is closing in on 25 pages. The best posters are HTQ, who has a long running subscription to the Wrestling Observer newsletter and usually post some of the tidbits of the newsletter on a weekly basis for discussion. If you can’t afford a subscription, that may be the best part of the forum.
Death Valley Driver is more known for its unique outlook on wrestling. Many of its posters do not like the wrestling style of “smark favorites” like A.J Styles and Christopher Daniels. It’s been said by many of the prominent posters on the site that those wrestlers are “too perfect” and their wrestling resembles acrobatics as opposed to what would happen in a real fight. One of the most famous threads on the site considers upwards of 50 wrestlers on the independent scene better that Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels, two wrestles who are widely regarded as the best of their generation. So who do they like? Expect of lot of praise of Finlay (who is actually a smark favorite); more non traditional praise goes to Mark Henry, who actually has been getting the love from the board since 2003. Even Gene Snitsky (possibly in a joking matter) was highly regarded when he burst onto the scene in late 2004.
Grades: A and A. Great places to discuss wrestling while having fun doing it.