Superfan: The Story of Vladimir (found WWE documentary; 2021)
Superfan: The Story of Vladimir is an unreleased WWE documentary. Originally set for release in mid-2021, it documented Vladimir Abouzeide, who became famous for his dedication and influence as a major fan of professional wrestling, often being in the front row of many WWF/WWE shows. While a trailer was showcased and a release date announced, the documentary wasn't released on WWE Network or other television/streaming services in that time frame for unknown reasons. The documentary was quietly released by WWE on the WWE Network and Peacock (in the USA) in October 2023 and was met with positive reviews.
Born in Haiti, Vladimir Abouzeide moved to Manhattan as a child and quickly became a fan of professional wrestling being promoted by the WWF. He was frequently in the front row of many Madison Square Garden shows, most famously exclaiming to Roddy Piper that he should team with Hulk Hogan against Paul Orndorff and Harley Race during an October 1986 edition of Piper's Pit. Another key moment was being positively namedropped by Diesel at WrestleMania XII as he walked down to the ring. By that point, he became a mainstay within the front row of numerous WWF/WWE events, and subsequently got extreme recognition as a dedicated wrestling fan over 30+ years. While the Covid-19 pandemic prevented Abouzeide from attending shows for months, consequently impacting his life and identity, he was among those who returned in-person at WrestleMania 37 in 2021. He was even declared the first WWE Superfan and received an award by Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.
Abouzeide's recognisability and strong connection with WWE and many of its wrestlers inspired the company to create a documentary about him. Titled Superfan: The Story of Vladimir, it featured interviews from Abouzeide, as well as The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Bruce Pritchard, Jeff Jarrett, Sam Roberts, Jimmy Hart, Shawn Michaels and other wrestling personalities discussing their encounters with Abouzeide and how he essentially became "a part of the show in many respects" according to Pritchard. It also touched upon how Abouzeide's interactions led other wrestling fans to question how he attended so many events, and how the Covid-19 pandemic affected him and other wrestling fans worldwide.
Trailer, Los Angeles Shorts Screening and "Indefinite Shelving"
Coinciding with Abouzeide receiving his award at WrestleMania 37, WWE officially released the Superfan: The Story of Vladimir on 11th April 2021, with a planned release on Peacock sometime in the Summer that year. In June 2021, the film was screened for a week alongside another WWE Network documentary, Heaven, as part of the Los Angeles Shorts International Film Festival. The documentary received critical acclaim among those in-attendance, including PWInsider's Mike Johnson. With the documentary reportedly being finished post-production, a full release on the WWE Network seemed inevitable. However, following a final promotion on the 11th September edition of WWE Raw, the documentary remained unaired. Since then, WWE has not publicly acknowledged the film.
Two months later, Johnson reported that according to several sources connected to WWE, Superfan: The Story of Vladimir was being shelved indefinitely by the company. Johnson and other wrestling news sites were unable to elaborate further, though Johnson claimed that the decision to withhold the documentary was "a truly sad shame". As Johnson was a close friend of Abouzeide, PWInsider received numerous requests for updates on the situation. In February 2022, Johnson wrote an article stating not only was the project remaining unreleased, but that Abouzeide had received no contact with WWE for several months. A rumour emerged that WWE were planning to release the documentary for WrestleMania 38, with supporting evidence including other WWE Network documentaries being typically released during WrestleMania season, though this eventually proved unfounded. Had this occurred, some scenes would reportedly require editing to avoid becoming outdated.
It was also confirmed that the documentary was not the only scrapped WWE Network project. Around the same time period, a WWE Icons episode on Lex Luger, a Money in the Bank documentary, and a Ric Flair documentary focusing on his battles with health problems were all cancelled, again for unknown reasons. The Luger documentary was eventually reworked into Biography: WWE Legends production, released on A&E in August 2022. This seemingly confirmed speculation WWE was planning to air its other withheld documentaries on A&E, though Superfan: The Story of Vladimir has not yet received the same fate.
Despite the documentary's completion, Superfan: The Story of Vladimir was initially never publicly released outside of its Los Angeles Shorts International Film Festival screening. Two years on from the trailer's unveiling, Johnson campaigned for the documentary's release. Aside from noting he had seen the full film, having declared it a "snapshot of why people fall in love with professional wrestling in its purest forms", he also elaborated that following Abouzeide being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, the documentary needed to be released so Abouzeide can still physically enjoy others' reactions to it. Alas, the film remained locked away in WWE's vaults for over two years, with the only publicly available footage from it arising from the trailer. Nevertheless, he also confirmed Abouzeide had seen the film in 2022 at a private screening made by WWE personnel. Abouzeide could not provide any further details on the film's shelving.
On October 27th, 2023, Superfan: The Story of Vladimir was quietly uploaded to the WWE Network and Peacock with no announcement from WWE themselves, though was quickly discovered by fans who spread the word around social media. Johnson posted on Twitter that "I was told earlier today it was 'close to finally being released.' I had no idea how close."
Lasting for just over 37 minutes, the documentary was met with positive reactions from critics. Many were touched on the sensitivity and care the documentary took when talking about Vladimir's personal life and his struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which his mother and some of his friends passed away, as well as his struggle with suicidal thoughts.
- WWE.com announcing the documentary. Retrieved 25th Apr '23
- SEScoops reporting on the documentary's announcement. Retrieved 25th Apr '23
- Inside the Ropes summarising the film and reporting it was being indefinitely scrapped. Retrieved 25th Apr '23
- WWF Old School reporting on the documentary's screening at the Los Angeles Shorts International Film Festival. Retrieved 25th Apr '23
- PWIinsider reporting on the delay on the film's release, with Johnson noting he had seen the documentary. Retrieved 25th Apr '23
- PWInsider campaigning for the film's release, two years after the trailer was dropped. Retrieved 25th Apr '23
- PWInsider announcing the film was being indefinitely shelved alongside other WWE Network projects. Retrieved 25th Apr '23
- Wrestling Inc reporting on the update regarding the unreleased documentary. Retrieved 25th Apr '23
- PWInsider elaborating further on WWE's shelving of the project. Retrieved 25th Apr '23
- Daily DDT elaborating on the scrapped WWE Icons episode on Lex Luger, which was eventually reworked into a Biography: WWE Legends documentary. Retrieved 25th Apr '23
- PWInsider reporting on Abouzeide being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Retrieved 25th Apr '23
- WrestleTalk reporting on the documentary's release. Retrieved 30th Oct '23
- Mike Johnson's Twitter post announcing the release of the documentary. Retrieved 30th Oct '23
- Cageside Seats reviewing the documentary. Retrieved 30th Oct '23
- 411Mania summarising and reviewing the documentary. Retrieved 30th Oct '23