Many people would claim to be WWE’s Greatest Fan, but only one New Zealander can back it up. Grady Hooker writes about his experience being named WWE’s Greatest Fan 2016 and shaking his “white boy hips” in front of a sold-out crowd at Vector Arena.
To get the full story I’m going to have to roll back a few weeks. A competition appears run by Madman Entertainment to name WWE’s Greatest Fan for the three Australian shows – and one for Auckland. Not really expecting anything I decide to throw my hat in the ring with a video of me doing some quick impressions of WWE Superstars.
About two weeks ago I get an email with the subject line “You are the Greatest WWE Fan! (Auckland)”. I assume it’s a runner-up prize or something else. After three other people check the email and confirm to me it says what I think it says I still can’t believe it.
I’ll take a break here to throw a big thanks to those sponsors of the competition because that prize-pack was insane: two ringside tickets, meet and greet entry, VIP party entry, a “walk on” experience, and a limited edition championship belt.
Some reselling of tickets and debates with family as to who is accompanying me later and it is finally the day of the wrestling. I take a lecture off from university so I can make it down real early.
They rolled out the literal red carpet for the VIP entry. Once the initial introductions are done we get shuffled up to the VIP party and have a great view of the arena before doors open. It is this point where it starts to settle in what I am going to do, even if they haven’t told me anything yet.
The whole way through the VIP Party we got to see WWE Superstars The Usos and Charlotte, New Zealand celebrities like Savage (musician) and Pua Magasiva (actor), and all sorts of people from very important companies including NZPWI Editor David Dunn, who made damn sure I was going to write an article about my experience.
Fast forwarding a bunch of waiting around, small details dropped and a whole lot of nervousness and I am being taken down to production by WWE’s head of security for the night. It was an awesome (I’m going to use that word a lot) experience to just stroll through production like I belonged and see guys like Karl Anderson just standing around. We get out the other end and I get told I am going to be the special guest timekeeper. I need to ring the bell for the third match of the night and get to sit at ringside.
The first two matches could have been the most stressed I have ever been in my life – just standing there knowing that I’m about to step out in front of 10,000-plus people packed into Vector Arena and quite possibly be booed out of the building (which we 100 per cent prepared for).
The Usos walk up the ramp after they send Strowman packing and that’s my cue. My escort comes and takes me down the ramp. I get quickly introduced to the timekeeper and JoJo, who are ringside.
Next thing I know I’m being beckoned into the ring to do a quick piece before the match. That’s when then the chorus of boos hit – but I didn’t give a shit because I was having the time of my life. Right back out and I get coached on how to hit the bell, which you do with a spanner (super high tech). The New Day hit the ring and then antics ensue with The Club. I just sit there bent over waiting for my cue and then I nail it and the match begins. A lot of the match is a blur to me and I don’t remember a lot of it other than Big E coming down and me not missing my cue for the end of the match bell-ring.
I assume it is all said and done. I relax a little and then I look up and Big E is waving at me to come into the ring. Oh god, it’s not over. Next thing I know I’m shaking hands with all of The New Day and being handed a massive silver championship belt, which is much heavier than I was expecting.
Then I get asked to do one simple thing, and my white boy-hips were not sure about it. I remember the one piece of advice I got: “Be animated and have fun” so I rock my hips around like what can only be described as a newborn giraffe learning how to walk. I had no idea how the crowd were reacting, I was so engrossed in dancing.
All is said and done, we are heading out the exit and my mind flicks back to a promise I made to a very special six-year-old up in the stands. I stare out into the crowd and do a big point in my cousin Jackson’s direction. I’m told he went nuts for the gesture.
Security escort me back up the ramp and I get to do one of the things I have always wanted to do, walk up a ramp and high-five a line of fans. I really felt like a rockstar for that moment. When security took me to my seat, people around wanted a photo of the belt too. Who was I to say no?
The rest of the comes and goes (I’m sure you will get another report about the wrestling in the show itself) and we are heading out and people are congratulating me and complimenting me on my dancing. Then the moment of my night (at this point) where I am waiting for my grandfather and I see a child looking my way and talking to his dad. They’re shooting glances and I hear, “You can ask him”. I know what he wants.
I wave the guy over and hand him the belt. His eyes light up as he takes the weight and then his father asks for a photo and I let him hold the belt with me as pose for a photo just outside Vector Arena. Then just to trump that my cousin Jackson, who got pointed at, comes screaming around the corner all excited with his parents and my mum and we reunite as a family and talk about the show. Jackson’s mouth is running a mile a minute.
I didn’t get to say it on the microphone, but I did have a little promo in my head if I was asked so I am going to end this article with the unspoken words of Grady…
I would just like to thank two groups of people: first up the WWE for coming back after five years—a damn long five years it’s been—and bringing their A-game with this show they are putting on and everything they have left. Secondly, everyone in this arena. Not being cheesy but you guys have cheered, you have booed and you have blown the roof off this place and we are only three matches in – you have shown WWE that New Zealand is the place to be!