Dave Meltzer Explains The Basis For His Much Debated Star Rating System

Pro wrestlers and fans alike have talked about Dave Meltzer's five-star rating scale for years. The "Wrestling Observer Newsletter" journalist himself recently sat down with Chris Van Vliet on "Insight" to discuss the criteria of his ratings.

"I just watch the match and when it's over, it's like, 'What did they accomplish? Did it look good? Did the crowd get off on it?' Sometimes the crowd will get off on it because the two personalities are so strong," Meltzer said.

"The most successful matches, you start at this point and you build, build, build, and you peak at the finish, which means having a good finish," he elaborated. "A lot of people think the most brilliant finishes [have] all the referee bumps, the run-ins, and all that. And if it works for the crowd, then that's fine. But a lot of people also hate those finishes because they want the clean finish and they get mad. Sometimes, if it doesn't work, and people boo at the end or groan... then to me, the finish didn't work."

Crowd Reactions Are Important

While finishes are up for debate, it seems that crowd reactions are an integral part in determining the final star rating.

"Certainly, it's about crowd reactions, but it's not necessarily decibel levels, although that's a big part of it, for sure," Meltzer continued. "If you do a lot of unique, cool things and just do things out of the pattern that kind of shock you... If you're expecting something and they do something different and, 'Oh my god,' if they can do that real well, surprise the audience in a good way where they react, I like that rather than just pattern."

"But pattern when it works, simple pattern, is not wrong either," he said. "At the end of the day, it's just what's working and what's getting the crowd going. It's a complicated thing, but in other ways, it's not complicated. You just watch it and where the audience is at that moment."

Meltzer explained how if he and a friend are sitting at a show and are within 0.25 or 0.5 stars apart from each other, then that means they agree it was a great match.

Meltzer Doesn't Want Five Stars To Be A Benchmark

"I try to do a fair job," Meltzer said. "In the end, it's a recommendation of, 'This is how bad you should go out of your way to see the match if you didn't see the match.' That's how I'm mentally looking at it. But I also think it's not nearly as important as so many other things that I do. I think the business analysis is by far the most important thing, and people will get all hung up on the ratings aspect."

When Van Vliet mentioned that Kurt Angle has never received a five-star rating from Meltzer and that others view the five stars as a benchmark, Meltzer explained why receiving something close to that isn't a bad thing.

"Five stars to me, that's freaking elite, elite-level. Again, here we are arguing a quarter of a star or whatever, but... Well, it shouldn't be [a benchmark] because if you're at four and three quarters, that means that I'm thinking you should be considered for match of the year," he clarified.

If you use any quotes from this article, please credit "Insight" with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.