Ripper’s Bad Gimmick Of The Month #4

Joining the Gobbledy Gooker, Giant Gonzalez and The Shockmaster in Triple R’s Hall of Shame is a rather obscure choice, but still so cringe-inducing that it had to be included at some point. From the bowels of Herb Abrams’ UWF, it is Davey “The Observer” Meltzer.

Launched by Abrams in 1990, the similarities between his UWF and “Cowboy” Bill Watts’ version in the mid-to-late ‘80s ended at the fact that they had the same name. Although Watts’ promotion was successful for a time because he put emphasis on building newer stars and featuring the best wrestlers in matches against each other on syndicated programming, something even the WWF and WCW seldom did at the time, Abrams instead put emphasis on mostly veteran talent and featuring them in squash matches in a retread of the formula WWF and WCW utilized for their weekly syndicated shows.

Just to give readers an indication of what Herb was like, he announced Bruiser Brody and Adrian Adonis as two of the stars he would be interested in signing to the UWF. That is pretty nice, considering that both had been dead since 1988. In addition to ripping off WWF and WCW’s formula for squash matches on syndicated shows, Herb also hired jobbers that either had a cup of coffee in the WWF or were such terrible workers that they could never get a job in the major leagues. However, it was all worth it to get five-star classics like Don Muraco versus Terry Cooley and Billy Jack Haynes versus Larry Ludden. Not helping was the fact that when big name talent in the UWF actually had matches against each other, most of these matches ended without a decisive finish. The Saturday Night’s Main Event broadcasts had more clean finishes involving big name talent in one year than the UWF had in its six-year run. Not counting disqualifications, countouts or jobs on nontelevised shows, the most notable people to be pinned or made to submit in the UWF from its TV debut to their final televised event in 1994 were Louie Spicolli, Cactus Jack, Colonel DeBeers, David Sammartino, Tom Brandi, Boris Zhukov, Barry Horowitz, Candi Devine, Bam Bam Bigelow, “Cowboy” Bob Orton, Mando Guerrero and Tina Moretti.

Of those names, Spicolli and Horowitz were still jobbers to the stars and would not sniff mainstream success until the New Generation era, Cactus Jack was a relative newcomer gaining experience during the tail-end of the territory era, DeBeers was off the heels of the abysmal AWA Team Challenge Series, Sammartino was never anything remarkable despite who his father was, Brandi was doing jobs years before he did jobs as Salvatore Sincere in the Fed, Zhukov was best remembered as the weaker half of the Bolsheviks, former AWA Women’s Champ Devine’s career was on wind-down mode, Bigelow was in between runs with the NWA and the WWF, Orton was settling into his role as an old-timer working the indies, Mando was one of the more obscure Guerreros and Tina Moretti was nowhere near what she would become in 2001 as WWF Women’s Champion Ivory.

On top of a surplus of veteran wrestlers who seldom did the job for one another, Herb also had his own crop of homegrown stars, each more fail-tastic than the last. Want a funny heel manager like Bobby Heenan or Jimmy Hart? Tough. Herb gave fans Colonel Red, a dumpy confidant to Ivan Koloff complete with a white tuxedo, a cane and him shouting in an over-the-top Southern accent until blood pooled in people’s ears. Searching for a charismatic muscular marvel like The Ultimate Warrior or Rick Rude that people of both genders would swoon over? They had Samson and the Irish Assassin, two ‘roid monsters who were Norman Osborn levels of green. Eh, one out of two is OK. Craving a thrilling tag team like The Rockers or The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express? Uh, is Wet & Wild acceptable? Now to their credit, Wet & Wild was probably the one homegrown attraction that Herb’s UWF had that was somewhat of a hit with the fans. So naturally, Herb broke them up. Of course. Sonny Beach went on to stink up the joint at UWF shows, but still maintain his awesome John Ratzenberger from “Cheers” mustache. As for “Wild Thing” Steve Ray, it looked like he was going to be a big deal, but Herb was suspicious that Ray stole his stash of cocaine and fooled around with his girlfriend. Aw, isn’t it comforting to know that the promoter of a wrestling company was not only concerned about his lady, but also a raging cocaine addict? So, like any sensible businessman, Herb gave “Dr. Death” Steve Williams a couple of dead presidents to go out and break Ray’s nose during one of their TV tapings leading up to their only PPV event. Ray’s schnozz recovered, but his standing in the company never improved after that.

Rounding out Herb’s cavalcade of characters was Davey “The Observer” Meltzer, a potshot at journalist Dave Meltzer that had all the subtlety of an air horn going off in a library. Meltzer was never the biggest Herb Abrams fan even before the UWF began proper in 1990, but thought so much of the UWF that he gave them a few awards.

  • Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Worst Announcer (1990) – Herb Abrams.
  • Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Worst Promotion Of The Year (1991) – UWF.
  • Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Worst Television Show (1991) – UWF Fury Hour.
  • Wrestling Observer Newletter’s Worst Major Show (1994) – UWF Blackjack Brawl.

Instead of simply ignoring these criticisms and focusing internally, Herb, fueled by revenge, booked a rookie straight out of wrestling school as Davey “The Observer” Meltzer, a badly coiffed, muffin-topped jobber to the stars. “Meltzer” had the distinction of working the first match in UWF history alongside “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, which lasted just under four minutes before Williams beat him cleanly. To rub salt or dirt, as the case would have it, into “Meltzer’s” wounds, Williams shoved a newsletter right down his paunchy opponent’s throat and sprinkle dirt over his body post-match. This was all supposed to be a reference to dirtsheets and the Wrestling Observer Newsletter that the real Dave Meltzer was a leading journalist for, but this was 1990. Most casual fans had no idea about the lingo that was used by people working with the wrestling business, so Abrams’ Meltzer character and the post-match antics with the newsletter and the dirt went over most of the audience members’ heads. Those that were smart fans or industry members saw it for what it was: an incredibly petty barb thrown by a promoter at a journalist all because of the latter’s opinions.

Davey would have two more matches for the UWF that same year. After jobbing to Cactus Jack, Davey competed in what was easily his most competitive match with fellow jobber The Black Knight. Of his three matches, his brush with The Black Knight is the only one available on YouTube, courtesy of user Jason Lock. Those that check out the seven minute video get to check out Davey at his peak: flopping down the mat like a flounder when taking standard bumps, howling in agony off of back-raking, taking a beating with “boring” chants peppered in and delivering some of the most graceless elbow drops set to Herb Abrams’ award-winning commentary. Why? Because nothing screams a five-star match more than Abrams and a disinterested Bruno Sammartino dedicating a chunk of the match wondering why “Meltzer’s” opponent wears a mask.

The fact that “Meltzer” not only got in some offense, but had a competitive match begs the question of “Why, Herb?” Granted, Black Knight would go on to beat him, but there was no logical reason as to why this jobber character created by a petty, immature booker should have landed a punch, let alone look like he had the potential of sneaking an upset win. “Meltzer” would be gone after his trio of losses, Meltzer would still be regarded as one of the greatest pro wrestling journalists over two decades later and Abrams would enjoy one of the worst PPV buyrates in history in 1991 and a disastrous final live TV event in 1994.

There is no doubt that Triple R will revisit ‘90s UWF, but for now, it is proud to recognize Davey Meltzer as one of Ripper’s Bad Gimmicks. Designed with the intent to bury a credible journalist and failing miserably, this is the definition of a character that swung so far below a zero that it was a perfect 10 or more fittingly, five stars.

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