Originally scheduled to premier in mid-2021, presumably after WrestleMania 37, WWE finally released its documentary Superfan: The Story of Vladimir. I won’t speculate on why it took so long to release, or why it was released now, because the important thing is that it’s now available to stream on Peacock, and it’s a relatively short documentary at 37 minutes. I recommend you check it out.
I’m not someone who was familiar with or even aware of Vladimir. In fact, I think the first time I even heard of him was after his appearance at The Wrld on GCW, at the Hammerstein Ballroom, in January 2022, where he was like an Easter Egg for those in the know, which admittedly I was not. Either way, I was eager to watch this documentary about a fan of professional wrestling, rather than an in-ring talent. It’s like something ESPN would have made a 30 for 30 documentary about, and in that, I think, lies the greatest strengths and weaknesses of this documentary.
The film opens on a shot of a door with the name Vladimir scribbled under the peephole. Vladimir is getting dressed in his modest apartment. It’s New York in 2020, mid-pandemic. The streets are empty and everyone is wearing a face mask. A voiceover, provided by Jeff Jarrett, states that wrestling is part of Vladimir’s moral fiber, it’s his identity. Vladimir is now standing in front of an empty Madison Square Garden. He says he misses his friends.
Superfan then cuts to October 20, 1986. Roddy Piper, Paul Orndorff, and Bobby Heenan are standing in the ring. Piper says he’s going to talk to his “manager” and ask him who his tag team partner should be. Piper calls Vladimir into the ring, asks him who his tag team partner should be, and Vladimir exclaims, “Hulk Hogan!” It’s Vladimir’s big debut at MSG, and he nails it.
The film then introduces a series of fellow fans, talking heads, and wrestlers, as they wax poetic about the idea of fandom, such as Vladimir’s friend Charlie Adorno, whose old school chiron reads “Sports Entertainment Fan,” and Sam Roberts, who talks about seeing the same fans “over and over and over.” We then see Jeff Jarrett, who spends a lot of time on camera in this, as well as Sean Waltman, who says they all knew Vladimir by name, and Kevin Owens, who says that you “can’t help but notice” the fans who are always there, sitting in the front row. The documentary quickly shows examples of other superfans, like Frank the Clown and the ECW superfans. Sam Roberts even says he wanted a Vlad Hasbro toy to put ringside when he played with his other WWF Hasbros, which is finally becoming a reality, thanks to Figure Collections
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— Figure Collections (@figcollections) October 30, 2023
Superfan then begins to show a series of clips of Vladimir at various events. “He’s got a look to him,” somebody states of his large eyeglasses and muscular physique. We see Vladimir chanting “Nitro sucks!” and “Rocky sucks!” Some of the myths and urban legends of Vlad the Superfan, and how he ended up in the front row of all these shows, include that he was related to the McMahons, that he was “getting hooked up” by his “superstars friends,” or even that he was Vince McMahon’s personal trainer or bodyguard, or he was a lottery winner who cashed in his winnings and quit his job to follow the WWF/E. Bruce Prichard says that he thought he was Russian (because of the name Vladimir, presumably), but it’s clarified that he’s actually Haitian.
The documentary then cuts to September 2019, to an interview with Vlad the Superfan, whose full name is Vladimir Abouzeide. Abouzeide came to the United States from Haiti with his mom. She is 92 years-old at the time of filming, and he still works to support her. He then begins to reminisce on the first wrestling show he attended, which he snuck out to see. He even remembers the section in which he sat, 14E. He says it was “amazing to see it live.” From then on, he and his friends would get in line at the MSG box office at 6am to get tickets for the shows. This was before televised pay-per-view events, so Madison Square Garden was the “mecca” for big WWF shows. Hulk Hogan says that MSG was like the Roman coliseum for wrestlers, Shawn Michaels calls it the “mecca for sports,” Vince McMahon says, “You won’t find more loyal or appreciative fans than in New York,” and Vladimir is both.
Vladimir says that other fans often ask him how to get on TV, and he says, “Just be yourself, yell, scream, and they’ll respond,” and we then see a montage of wrestlers hugging and engaging with Vladimir. We see Vladimir holding up kids for Bret Hart to give them his glasses. He says he was at hotels and bars and parking lots. He was even outside the Lex Express. This is all interesting to see through a modern lens, when fans today are frequently ridiculed for similar behavior, and some wrestling organizations have released statements asking fans not to do this. As for rumored handouts or having ties to the McMahons, Vladimir responds, “I worked hard to save money to go to the shows.” He even states that he trained to become a wrestler but couldn’t do it, which I would like to have heard more about.
Superfan then cuts back to September 2019. Vladimir says that he’s lived in Manhattan for over 50 years, and reiterates that MSG was the best, “the mecca,” which we’ve heard multiple times now by various personalities. In addition to Vladimir, this documentary is like a love letter to Madison Square Garden. We then see Jarrett backstage at RAW, hugging and talking to Vladimir like they’re old friends. I’m surprised by how much of Jarrett we see in this, especially now that he’s such a prominent talent in AEW. Then we are shown Vladimir outside of RAW, taking pictures and talking to other fans who recognize him. Vladimir says he’s been to 34 WrestleManias, he’s only missed one, and the next WrestleMania, in spring 2020, will be his 35th. “I’m home again,” Vladimir says, holding a souvenir chair outside MSG.
We then jump ahead to March 2020, and Vladimir says, “COVID changed everything.” Vladimir and Charlie Adorno were set to go to WrestleMania in Tampa, Florida, when it was moved to the Performance Center. During this time, Vladimir had hip surgery and had to rehab for six months. In addition to this, his mom fell and got injured, had surgery, and rehabbed in a nursing home while COVID was surging. Vladimir says his mom was home for one week before she got sick, and died shortly after, so Vladimir lost the two things in his life that were most important to him.
“This is what I want,” Vladimir says, “I want my mom back and I want wrestling back.” At about 17 minutes into the documentary is when it gets very dark. Vladimir says he attempted suicide three times, once with sleeping pills, but he’s going to therapy now. “I wish I could go to one show to see these guys,” Vladimir says. He says that would be his best therapy. We’re then back in Vladimir’s apartment, where he’s showing off his impressive collection of toys and souvenirs, like the Honky Tonk Man’s guitar, beer cans from Steve Austin, and a T-shirt from The Rockers. He even has an American flag with Hulk Hogan’s blood on it. “I wouldn’t trade this for nothing,” Vladimir says.
The documentary moves on to December 2020. Vladimir enters a dark, empty studio with a smartphone on the table, where he’s shown watching a recorded message from Shawn Michaels, thanking him for being a fan. We then see Jarrett, who also thanks him and jokingly calls him a “slapnut.” Sgt Slaughter is in the message, as well, and Hogan, who says, “We’re all gonna be here for you.” Throughout this, Vladimir is responding and talking to the video message, repeatedly thanking them, saying “I love you, guys,” and, “Thank you, Vince. I love you, ma, thank you for allowing me to go to wrestling.” The camera is just rolling, filming Vladimir during this extremely emotional moment. Vladimir is clearly very vulnerable and the camera is lingering on him. This is probably the saddest moment of the documentary, and I think hinges on exploitative. It feels too personal, and uncomfortable to watch.
We then jump to the uplifting part of the documentary, in April 2021, and the return of a live WrestleMania, with somewhat limited fans in attendance (25,000), in Tampa, Florida, and Vladimir is going with Adorno. We see them greeting each other in a nearly empty airport. Everyone is masked and Vladimir is now walking with a cane. Vladimir says, ”This is my medicine.” Vladimir keeps repeating, “Can’t wait, can’t wait, can’t wait,” with childlike excitement.
Vladimir is backstage at WrestleMania, where he’s greeted by Kevin Owens, who says he has memories of matches he watched and loved, and Vladimir is part of that. Vladimir is shown talking to Sean Waltman and Scott Hall, who asks, “Are you on the payroll?” We see Drew McIntyre, who says Vladimir “exudes passion for the industry,” and Damien Priest says meeting Vladimir was special for him. He felt honored.
Vladimir is shown posing and flexing in front of the WrestleMania sign, and off to the side, we see Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, coming to surprise Vladimir like he’s an old friend, or family even, and I had a surprisingly emotional reaction to this “reunion.” They present him with an official WWE Superfan framed title. Stephanie says she “grew up” at “the Garden” and saw him her whole life, but this was the first time they officially met. Vladimir says, if his mom was still here, she would say, “Vladimir, I love you. You deserve it,” and Vladimir replies, “Thanks, mom. I miss her.” We then see Vince McMahon’s speech before the start of WrestleMania, and he says, thank you, and welcome to WrestleMania.
“It’s like I never left,” Vladimir says. We then see Cesaro and Shane McMahon, who are both obviously no longer with WWE. Vladimir says this is “motivation for me to go on,” and, “If you take wrestling from me, I have no life,” which is honestly a little troubling to hear. We then see Vladimir meeting and taking pictures with more fellow wrestling fans, and then it cuts to Hogan, who says, “I love that guy. He’s the greatest of all.”
Vladimir then says, “I’m not part of the show, but I’m part of the family,” and “I’m gonna go to wrestling until I die,” and the screen reads that Vladimir has been to over 1,000 WWE events, and “He remains a true superfan,” and finally we see Vladimir rewatching his big “debut” at MSG in 1986.
For a relatively short documentary, that’s basically the length of an episode of television, it packs an emotional wallop. Of course, it leans heavily into the WWE narrative, which the audience can view though their own personal preferences and biases, but I did feel there were times when Superfan was on the brink of exploitation. The documentary shines a light on a man who was experiencing possibly the most difficult times in his life, as he was living though a global pandemic and had experienced the loss of his mother, and I wish the creators of the documentary were a little more graceful in their choice of what to keep on film. With that being said, as someone who really wasn’t previously aware of Vlad the Superfan, I enjoyed this exploration into the life of a unique, wrestling-adjacent personality.