AS I SEE IT 2/2: Major shakeup at one of wrestling's major newssites

by: Bob Magee

A major shakeup occurred on January 27th at one of professional wrestling's destination news websites, 1wrestling.com.

Oddly enough, it turned out to help the flagship site of the column, PWBTS.com. More on that later.

January 27th saw 1wrestling.com lose four of its major name staff/reporters; as Dave Scherer, Buck Woodward, and noted and respected independent wrestling reporters Mike Johnson and Jess McGrath left the website to form and staff a new website called PWInsider.com. The website was originally set to officially open on February 1st, but wound up opening 4 days early when news of the staff's departures broke on several websites, including A1wrestling and The Other Arena.

In the statement announcing the "staff changes" that appeared last week on 1Wrestling.com, Bob Ryder and Joey Styles thanked Dave Scherer for "his contributions to the site" and "wished him the best of luck in the future". They gave no such thanks to the other departing staff members.

Along with Scherer, Paul Belfi, President of SportsTalkCleveland (a joint venture of Belfi and local ESPN radio affiliate WKNR 850 AM), is leading the development of the new website through his own Belfi Web Design. Belfi has prior involvement with the former 1wrestling.com staff, as his SportsTalkCleveland.com currently hosts the Pro Wrestling Insider wrestling radio show, hosted by Belfi, Dave Scherer, and Buck Woodward. Belfi himself has occasionally posted items on 1wrestling.com as well.

The first public notice of this situation occurred about two weeks ago when Dave Scherer noted on 1wrestling that he would be absent for several days due to a "personal situation". The "personal situation" may or may not have been the rumored request for Scherer to take a 15% major pay cut, reported to me last week by a former news contributor to 1wrestling.com.

It was also speculated that another factor playing a part in the shakeup was the sale of a controlling interest last week by majority owner Bob Ryder to 1wrestling.com co-partner Joey Styles (a move later rescinded, but read on...).

Dave Scherer seemed to attempt a public denial that either of the above items played a factor in his farewell column suggesting that "it was just the right time to leave".

But while those leaving 1wrestling.com made little or no public comment, save those cited at the bottom of this column, sources from the new website speaking on the condition of anonymity stated that there has been dissatisfaction behind the scenes at the destination website for some time now, a belief that may be borne out by the fact that the PWInsider.com site had been registered back in June 2003.

A cursory WHOIS check of the PWinsider.com website shows that it was registered back on June 30, 2003, as were mirror websites DaveScherer.com (registered to Dave Scherer) and Buckwoodward.com (registered to a J. McDonough, the same name PWInsider.com is registered under). All the sites, however, use the same contact phone number listed under Scherer's registration, located in New Jersey.

The mirror websites are both mock-ups for the PWInsider.com website, with animated ads for the Sports Talk Cleveland, Pro Karate Weekly, and Pro Wrestling Insider radio shows all run by partner Paul Belfi (all of which are also designed by Belfi Web Design). Accordingly, it would seem that the decision to leave 1wrestling.com was being considered for some time.

The departure of these reporters will significantly affect the operation of this major wrestling news site, as those leaving the website have been the bedrock of the 1wrestling.com reporting staff over the last seven years.

Dave Scherer founded The Wrestling Lariat in 1995, which was then purchased by Bob Ryder in the summer of 1997. Scherer partnered the newsletter with 1wrestling.com after the purchase. Scherer has also served as a writer for the WOW and ECW magazines, and wrote a weekend wrestling column at New York's Daily News for two years. He served as the webmaster for the ECW promotional website until the company's 2001 shutdown.

Buck Woodward has played a significant role in the 1wrestling.com website during its operation; assisting Dave Scherer and reporting WWE and NWA-TNA news, as well as doing notable interviews for the website. During that time, Woodward also served as color commentator on the WK Media sponsored Hardcore Japanese Wrestling PPV series, which featured matches from Big Japan Pro Wrestling and All Japan Women's Wrestling.

Mike Johnson is a noted and respected source for puroresu and other international news, as well as being a major source and proponent of and for independent wrestling; acting in this capacity from 1996-2004 for the Wrestling Lariat, and for 1wrestling.com from 1997-2004. Johnson also worked on ECW's promotional website from 1996 until the promotion's closing in 2001. Johnson served as a researcher for former ECW announcer Joey Styles, particularly on incoming and international talent within the promotion, and performed a similar function for the ECW DVD series produced by Pioneer Home Video.

Johnson currently heads up WrestlingBusTrips.com, which promotes regular trips to Ring of Honor, CZW, JAPW, and other major northeast independent wrestling events.

Jess McGrath has been one of the most well-known reporter on the independent wrestling scene with his longtime Moonsaults columns, to be re-titled "Indy Kingdom" on the PWinsider.com website.

It remains to be seen what Ryder and Styles will do to replace these notable writers, and to retain the readership that these writers have brought to the website over the last several years. 1wrestling.com indicated that Georgianne Makropoulos and Brian Fritz would remain with the website, and that former TNA/independent manager David Webber (better known as Mortimer Plumtree) will joining 1Wrestling in what appears to be a replacement for Scherer's major role in posting much of the day to day news updates and reviews.

Webber was noted by a number of TNA staff as one of their hardest behind-the-scenes workers before he decided to move back to home to Minnesota.

One of the items that's been noted since the change has been the absence of bylines on 1wrestling.com on news items, as well as the fact that all news items (save for one writer) are said to be run through Bob Ryder and David Webber prior to their posting, a fact confirmed by one 1wrestling.com writer.

A number of 1wrestling.com readers are not happy with the changes, particularly those who've paid for the Premium version of 1wrestling.com. The premium accounts entitled readers to an ad free version of 1Wrestling.com (without banner or pop-up ads), as well as content exclusive to Premium subscribers. An obvious problem, however, is that the "exclusive content" was largely being provided by Dave Scherer, Buck Woodward, Mike Johnson, and Jess McGrath.

Since most pop-up blockers already allow readers to bypass the ads on 1wrestling.com, and since those who have provided commentary and news to the premium version of the site have left the website, a number of readers have requested pro-rated refunds for their accounts, as seen on messages posted on 1wrestling.com's "1wrestlingtalk.com" board.

Bob Ryder has thus far refused refunds to those requesting them, with the following message sent to those making these requests last week:

"We can note your account so it does not renew at expiration but we don't offer pro-rated refunds for early termination. We will be announcing several enhancements and changes to our premium service in the next 7-10 days."

One reason for this may be the fact that one of the departed staff told me months ago (long before PWinsider.com was even registered, let alone before any of the issues cited above were made public) that "the Premium site was the one thing keeping 1wrestling.com afloat". If this is the case, then there may be problems ahead for 1wrestling.com, as a number of those who can decline to renew their 1wrestling.com Premium subscriptions coming due for renewal at the end of January are apparently doing just that.

One of the only enhancements seen in 1wrestling's premium service as of this writing is Brian Fritz being added to the 1Wrestling.com premium service. Fritz is a excellent addition to the Premium service, with his show interviewing notable figures in wrestling including "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock, Mick Foley, Bret Hart, Vince McMahon, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, Booker T, Rob Van Dam, Terry Funk, Chris Jericho, and Eddie Guerrero, among others.

There's one problem, however. The audio content that Fritz is supplying (at least for the moment) to 1wrestling's premium service is the very same content that's available for FREE on his Between The Ropes website and on Orlando's Sports Radio 740 "The Team".

As for PWinsider.com, on the January 28 Pro Wrestling Insider show on Sports Talk Cleveland, Buck Woodward stated that hundreds of people have subscribed already to the new PWInsider.com "Elite" (premium) service. This is especially notable, given the facts that the service is barely open (with many people just receiving passwords allowing them to access the service), due to the accelerated start of the PWinsider.com website.

In one of the two public comments by any of the departed staff, Woodward referred to what happened between the four departed staff (who he jokingly referred to as "the Four Horsemen") and 1wrestling.com as simply "a marriage that didn't work [anymore]".

Bob Ryder offered his thoughts on the "divorce" in a "Notes From Bob" column this past Saturday. Ryder stated that while they knew Scherer was leaving and thought Jess McGrath would leave with Scherer...Ryder claims they did not expect Mike Johnson and Buck Woodward to do so (odd, given the registration of the Buckwoodward.com mirror site in June 2003).

Ryder reports that the sale of controlling interest has been rescinded (making the two equal partners), and that as a result if the departures of Scherer, McGrath, Johnson and Woodward that he will become MORE involved rather than less involved in the site, with Styles handling the business side, and Ryder handling content.

Finally... late Saturday in a NWA-TNA news report by Dave Scherer on PWinsider.com, readers saw what could be interpreted as the first potshot between the two websites (remember who works for NWA-TNA):

"'This isnít earth-shattering news but it cracked me up nonetheless. It seems that a memo was sent from boss lady Dixie Carter to the staff at the NWA TNA offices yesterday telling the folks who work in the office to stop leaving their food wrappers all over the place and to clean up after themselves. You would think adults would know how to clean up after themselves. I know there is some kind of flippant remark to be made there, but I will refrain.'"

One other interesting side note I mentioned at the beginning is that PWBTS has benefited from this "divorce", as noted 1wrestling.com columnist and Michigan indy reporter Jim Hall will now be joining the PWBTS staff. It seems that for reasons known only to Joey Styles and Bob Ryder, they were no longer interested in Hall's column for 1wrestling.com. When Hall contacted Dave Scherer, he was told that PWInsider.com feels that Hall's being an active booker for a Michigan independent disqualifies him from writing and reporting on Michigan wrestling.

Well, readers....their loss is PWBTS's gain. We welcome Jim as of January 31 to PWBTS.com.

Until next time...

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If you have comments/questions, or if you'd like to add the AS I SEE IT column to your website, I can be reached by e-mail at bobmagee1@hotmail.com)