I read a couple of days ago from Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer site that World Wrestling Entertainment is going to be pairing up with Comcast Ziddio to identify the greatest WWE fan in a contest that will lead to a $25,000 first prize.
The contest will open on May 18 and run until the end of July, and Ziddio will be accepting videos of up to 60 seconds for fans to explain why they are the biggest WWE fans. The list will be narrowed down to 10, with those 10 winners being flown in for the WWE Summerslam pay-per-view event and will be judged by a panel of wrestlers.
The contest could provide some interesting footage from WWE with all this footage of people demonstrating and explaining their lovemarks for the company and its wrestling product, and it will be interesting to see if they use some of this footage prominently on their Web site or in their TV shows as the contest progresses.
Meltzer had several comments about what would politically be more likely to get the attention of the WWE, but he raises some intriguing questions about how one is expected to perform as a fan. He says, "Don't mention you read this web site and God knows don't mention you try and find out actual information about WWE. Dress up like a wrestler and memorie every HHH interview ever done [ . . . ] Since the wrestlers are judging, it will help a lot to be a female with a good ass. If you're a guy, maybe dress like a female with a good ass and hope they don't check."
While his comments were obviously meant to be at least a little tongue-in-cheek, Meltzer raises a point about all contests of this type. The question to winning a contest is not to display your fandom but to try and figure out what WWE wants its fandom to be portrayed as through this particular contest and then to give them that.
Of course, more so than many types of fandom, WWE fan communities are called on to perform as a fan on a regular basis, in the wrestling arena. Wrestling creates a strange bridge, then, between sports fandom on the one hand and entertainment fandom on the other.
In November of last year, I wrote about the phenomenon of fans of fans, which plays itself out in the wrestling world, especially in places where the wrestling matches were filmed every week in the same location or small-town shows where the same crowd gathers on a regular basis and develops a community. In short, because the fans are performing as much as the wrestlers, fans themselves can gain significant followings.
Even in the nationally touring wrestling organizations like the WWE, these fans can become well-known. Longtime wrestling fans are often well-aware of the Hulk Hogan lookalike who appeared ringside at many of The Hulkster's most important matches over the year. When Hogan first turned into a villain in the mid-1990s, a significant number of fans debated and wondered what Hogan's superfan would do. Would he support Hogan through his "heel" turn or would he consider it a betrayal?
Extreme Championship Wrestling used to have a fan that sat in the front row at most of its events. The man always wore a hat and became known as "Hat Guy" to the fan community. He became an important part of the shows in ECW's home arena in particular, and fans considered him a key part of the ECW mythology. When the organization closed in 2001, documentaries and books about the history of ECW always included Hat Guy as one of the important figures in the ECW mythology.
Of course, some fans who have come into contact with Ziddio might be suspicious that their submitted video will never make it any farther. See, for instance, the Ziddio/Endemol Ten Day Take contest, which still has not declared a winner and still has the same message up indicating that a decision will be announced soon. As that post emphasized, participants in the contest are well beyond frustration by this point.
In the past, WWE has even recruited its performers through its own Web site, as I wrote about in February 2006.