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Wrestling Historian Mike Rickard

Reviews The Wrestling Observer Yearbook '97: The Last Time WWF Was Number Two

For the first time ever, Dave Meltzer's famous Wrestling Observer Newsletter is available as both a print and digital book. The first of the series revisits all of the major wrestling and MMA stories from 1997 (all condensed into handy chapters for ease of reference), including:

- The Montreal Screwjob

- Shawn Michaels loses his smile

- ECW arrives on pay-per-view

- Vader arrested in Kuwait

- Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels backstage brawl

- Ken Shamrock signs from the WWF

- Riki Choshu retires

- WWF vs. WCW: The Battle of Los Angeles

- The death of Plum Mariko

- Arn Anderson retires

- AJW goes bankrupt

- Tod Gordon leaves ECW

- Randy Couture beats Vitor Belfort

- WCW breaks records

- Fan riots

- The Demise of the USWA

Plus business analysis, supercard summaries, PPV drawing cards, and the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Awards


-Promotion blurb at

The Wrestling Observer Yearbook '97

1997 was a huge year in professional wrestling, with the Monday Night War raging, ECW hosting its first pay-per-view, wrestler Brian Pillman’s shocking death, and of course, the Montreal Screwjob from that year’s Survivor Series.


Fans looking for a detailed analysis of the year 1997 should check out Dave Meltzer’s new book, The Wrestling Observer Yearbook '97: The Last Time WWF Was Number Two. The recently released book features stories from The Wrestling Observer Newsletter covering some of the year’s biggest happenings as they were reported at the time and while it doesn’t offer anything but reprints from the Observer, many fans will likely find it to be both a fun read and a handy reference tool for 1997.

Love him or hate him, Dave Meltzer has been covering professional wrestling since the 1980s and there’s no denying his influence on the grappling game throughout the years as he streamlined the process of assembling behind-the-scenes news into a weekly format. The Observer was by no means the first dirtsheet, but it’s become the best-known, regardless of how you feel about the content then or now.

While Meltzer has limited his writing to his weekly newsletter, he has produced two books containing his obituaries of wrestlers Tributes and Tributes II. These were largely reprints of his obituaries from the Observer but they were both gorgeous coffee table books, filled with color photos of the wrestlers whose lives were covered. Regrettably, this latest book is a bare-bones affair. However, at 419 pages, there’s a lot of material in the book for a reader will have a lot to sift through.


I didn’t bother reviewing the book to see if it’s corrected the typos and grammatical errors that the newsletter has made it the stuff of legend and more than a few jokes (including Eric Bischoff’s hilarious remark in his memoir Controversy Creates Cash that:

I get a kick out of Meltzer’s site. He leads people to believe by logging on his site, you are going to get information on the headlines that he posts. All he really does is tease the reader with interesting headlines, while failing to deliver any real information. For that you have to buy the “news letter” that he brags “contains over 35,000 words.” The problem is, those 35,000 words are grammatically incorrect, run-on sentences that read like a fifth-grader wrote them.

Ironically, what makes The Wrestling Observer Yearbook '97 an interesting read is also what detracts from it. Readers get to see exactly what Meltzer thought about the stories at the time as well as where he felt things were going in the wrestling industry. This allows the reader to judge just how good a take Meltzer had on the pulse of the wrestling industry. At the same time, Dave missed out on a huge opportunity to include contemporary commentary on these various news stories, comparing how they played out to how he thought they would play out. He could also add some historical notes to the book to explain what the ramifications were for the industry.


Unfortunately, there’s little effort put into this book other than slapping on a table of contents. The Kindle version is adequately formatted (although it is not enabled to perform searches as of this writing). There are no pictures in the book either other than the cover and it’s a shame that Meltzer didn’t license a few photos for the book or provide something extra for people who have read these news stories.


Still, the idea of a Wrestling Observer Yearbook is a good one and even if someone has all the issues, this serves as a more streamlined way of tracking down stories. The idea has even more potential if Meltzer were to add some editor’s notes on the stories but for this version, what you see is what you get. Based on the promotional blurb, this is just the beginning and it will be interesting to see what year “Diamond” Dave covers and whether he adds anything to future volumes.


Works Cited

Bischoff, Eric and Jeremy Roberts. Controversy Creates Cash. World Wrestling Entertainment;

Pocket Books Hardcover Edition, 2006.

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