Earlier today, a tweet featuring a snippet of audio from the Aug. 9 edition of Wrestling Observer Radio found its way to SmackDown Superstar Peyton Royce’s timeline. The clip featured The Observer’s Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez discussing why they feel Royce and her IIconics partner Billie Kay have struggled to find their footing on the main roster. Meltzer’s reasoning eventually focused on Peyton’s look.
Meltzer: The IIconics got boring-ed out. They’re another one. I thought they had a cool act in NXT, and on the main roster? I don’t get a thing out of them. I don’t think their promos are particularly good, their wrestling isn’t good. I think they even like - I think Peyton Royce’s transformation to look more attractive. I don’t know, I don’t want to say. But I don’t think that...
Alvarez: She was more attractive in NXT?
Meltzer: I thought so, yes. To me, yes. I would say so. But that’s neither here nor there.
Alvarez: No one’s saying she’s unattractive, by the way, everybody.
Meltzer: I know, no $#!+. Yeah, I didn’t say it at all. But I don’t think, she doesn’t stand out to me - when she was in NXT she did...
Alvarez: You know, one thing I’ve noticed about NXT is...
Meltzer: She was... she was a lot lighter...
Royce responded, taking Meltzer to task for commenting on her weight specifically and his critique being an example of the kind of image shaming which negatively impacts women throughout society:
So what would you have me do Dave... starve myself? This is how nightmares for young women start. The females in your life must be proud. https://t.co/8MNpZNsR7m— Peyton Royce (@PeytonRoyceWWE) August 15, 2018
A defense raised for Meltzer in light of Peyton’s response is that Dave was attempting to diplomatically address plastic surgery she had done before being promoted from NXT, rather than being critical of a weight gain. Even with that in mind, however, his comments are still, at best, tone deaf in light of the strides wrestling has made in presenting women as entertainers and athletes instead of eye candy. Coming from someone who is both seen as wrestling’s most well-known critic/journalist and has his own critics due to his takes on women specifically and social issues in general, a backlash was coming regardless of if or how Royce got involved.
Once she did, however, her WWE family supported her and joined in condemning Meltzer:
This is unacceptable on so many levels. How dare you say that someone is more attractive when they are ‘lighter’. You have no idea how stupid comments like this can affect someone for life.@PeytonRoyceWWE is PERFECT just the way she is. A strong & beautiful WOMAN! https://t.co/1FDakcolpf— Billie Kay (@BillieKayWWE) August 15, 2018
@PeytonRoyceWWE you are smart, beautiful, funny, caring, talented and so much more..... ♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️ love you woman— Charlotte Flair (@MsCharlotteWWE) August 15, 2018
I’m sorry. But this makes me sick. https://t.co/2khtHFgH1A— Beth Copeland (@TheBethPhoenix) August 15, 2018
What a true piece of sweltering hot garbage. You’re an angel too good for this earth. He’d be lucky if you gave him the time of day. Which you would, because you’re also a great person. Love ya girl. Let’s set better examples— Renee Young (@ReneeYoungWWE) August 15, 2018
That prompted a public apology from Meltzer. Unfortunately, that missed the mark in a few respects and did little to stem the tide of criticism:
I'd like to apologize to you. You are an exceedingly attractive woman. I do realize the lengths and pressures on women in the entertainment world to maintain unnatural looks at times and am glad you pointed this out. https://t.co/qkgOrpVQOX— Dave Meltzer (@davemeltzerWON) August 15, 2018
-6 stars, Dave.— Seth Rollins (@WWERollins) August 15, 2018
Perhaps the most useful responses came from Tyler Breeze, who both calls Meltzer out for what he sees as the issues with all his comments and offers a way forward:
There’s a way to genuinely apologize to someone and then there’s a way to pass the buck trying to redirect blame because you got called out. Own up to your words. YOU’RE the one who said them.— Prince Pretty (@MmmGorgeous) August 15, 2018
It’s not about me Dave, your voice carries weight, make it positive. https://t.co/GRNz9sXB49— Prince Pretty (@MmmGorgeous) August 15, 2018
U guys are losing sight on what’s important. Nothing being said is to chop someone else down. Be positive. If your voice has influence, build someone up. That’s all.— Prince Pretty (@MmmGorgeous) August 15, 2018
Will anyone listen, or learn, from today’s uproar? Meltzer says he will:
I would love to. That's why I thanked her for the post and hope we can all learn from my mistake. But yes, it is my mistake, not passing any bucks, nor making any excuses for it. I've learned and hope others can learn from MY mistake. https://t.co/9en9ULA7Y0— Dave Meltzer (@davemeltzerWON) August 15, 2018
We’ll see if he does, and where we go as a community from here.