When World Wrestling Entertainment made the decision to cut ties with Hulk Hogan after his private statements became public, it was a shock that the WWE would just let go of their greatest legend.
Immediately, fans began to find the hypocrisy in WWE’s decision. From the racial stereotypes of Cryme Tyme to the racial insensitivity shown by writer Michael Hayes to wrestler Mark Henry in the past to Vince McMahon himself saying a racist word on television in a comedy skit, it isn’t hard to dig up dirt that if the WWE are trying to wash their hands clean of a racist spouting Hulk Hogan, they are doing it with hands caked in mud. It was just a few weeks ago that Stephanie McMahon ignited the “Divas Revolution” by forming two factions separated right down the middle by race. WWE is terrible at racial sensitivity.
Since then, it’s pretty easy to go around the wrestling community and find those sympathetic to Hulk Hogan, especially after his recent apology. Both Dave Meltzer and Bret “The Hitman” Hart have talked about how common the word in question has been said in locker rooms like it wasn’t anything special. Meltzer and Hart are both completely missing the point (I do have to tip my hat at Hart for at least being consistent with his opinion of Hulk.) since it wasn’t just the racial nature of his statements but the classism of preferring a rich African American basketball player to date his daughter instead of a non-affluent African American DJ. Words mean something.
The problem with this is pro wrestling fans are pretty much confirming the insults bestowed upon them by the WWE product itself: they have short term memories and are quick to forget history.
In 2013, two pro wrestling legends lost their WWE deals in succession. The first was Ric Flair, who appeared a bit intoxicated at a WWE2K14 panel regaling stories of wrestling’s more seedy nature. It was all in good fun and 2KSports loved it, but the WWE considered it an embarrassment. Ric Flair was dropped from his Legends contract. The other was Jim Ross, the moderator, who was expected to be on his best behaviour and reel in The Nature Boy in this sort of situation. He let The Nature Boy be The Nature Boy. In turn, WWE gave him a forced retirement, a way to push him aside and try to save face doing it. Of course, everyone figured out Ross didn’t retire voluntarily in seconds.
While both men have created their own podcasts and now generally live outside of the WWE Universe, they both make appearances in WWE content quite often since the incident. Everything is pretty much forgiven. WWE has been trying to replace Jim Ross on commentary for years so him not going back to the booth isn’t that big of a deal. Much of Ross’ recent projects are due to him enjoying his own freedom, not the WWE refusing to forgive him. Ric Flair, on the other hand, has been on countless WWE Raw and NXT segments since being cut from his Legends deal because, quite frankly, the WWE was just trying to make a statement and send a message. Message sent. Welcome back Ric.
This also happened with Roddy Piper. Back in 2003 he made statements on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel about the wrestling business destroying wrestlers. WWE fired him. Was that the last of the Rowdy One? Of course not. He did a little stint in NWA:TNA before coming right back to the WWE in legends appearances and even showed up for the WWE Network reality show Legends House. His return for Cyber Sunday where fans picked him to appear in a wrestling match saved his life.
I feel like I don’t have to, but Warrior had a DVD dedicated to disparaging his career and character, plus insensitive remarks towards the homosexual community and is now treated like the symbolic statue of virtue and respect in the WWE Universe.
That’s how these things work. The idea that Hulk Hogan is getting the “Chris Benoit treatment” because WWE took his name off of the WWE Hall of Fame website and won’t accept his apology yet is ludicrous. The WWE just wants to make sure they don’t look like they are supporting his statements. At some point after all of these apologies, Hulk Hogan won’t be in the limelight and his comments will be looked upon as past regressions. When that time comes, Hulk Hogan will return to the WWE fold. Maybe they’ll induct him and the New World Order into the WWE Hall of Fame as his big return.
Of course, Hulk himself needs to stop stupid things like “All Lives Matter” when asked about Black Lives Matter or trying to defend his actions based on how racist everyone used to be in the 70s. None of this is helping the cause for everyone to forget how racist and classist his statements were and instead giving the WWE even more reasons to erase him from history. The most powerful tool in professional wrestling is not a person but a pencil. The eraser at the top can make it seem like you never existed but everything erased can be pencilled right back in.
My advice to Hogan? Stop excusing your actions and justifying them. Work with those in the African American community who can give you advice, guidance and therapy on how to rectify the situation (just don’t demand or expect they do so). You’ve done countless hours of charity in your career. Do it again. Show true empathy for the hurt your statements made and recognize that what was just a word in a locker room is a tragic reminder of struggle today. Stop hanging around Republican icons with dubious racial sensitivity records themselves. Stop begging for forgiveness and start working towards rehabilitation. Then, and only then, will anyone believe in the tears you shed.
Stop begging. Start learning.