It is impossible to recount the history of professional wrestling without mentioning the likes of Hulk Hogan, but a few years ago, referring to the Hulkster became a dangerous game. After a racist audio tirade leaked online which contained Hulk Hogan using the N-word, WWE quickly cut ties with the man that carried their most popular brand on his back for 10 years, WrestleMania. Besides a distancing of themselves from Hulk Hogan, they also removed his name from the WWE Hall of Fame.
Until recently, Hulk Hogan was an ultra sensitive name to bring up, and it still is somewhat, but with WWE’s recent announcement that they’ve reinstated Hulk Hogan to the Hall of Fame, and rumors of his on-screen return running rampant, WWE has seemingly split the roster and fans of any race that may have strong opinions on the subject.
WWE needs to be really careful now that Hulk Hogan is back in the Hall of Fame and possibly on-screen soon. Vince McMahon can make a few big mistakes when it comes to reintroducing fans to Hulk Hogan. Vince McMahon definitely needs to be extra sensitive and make sure Hulk Hogan’s programming has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with him pioneering the WWF and how it fits into today’s crowded and competitive WWE landscape.
Now, there is a rumor circulating the web right now that Bobby Lashley will defeat Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam due to a Hulk Hogan interference which will cause the crowning of the first ever African-American, WWE Champion. This is the worst thing Vince McMahon could do if this is true. Forcing Hulk Hogan upon a black athlete in a scripted show just makes WWE look desperate to make reparations and repair the relationship between Hulk Hogan and the fans.
What WWE should do if/when the Hulkster returns is keep him in fluffy and entertaining storylines, at least until he has shown that he’s tried to improve himself and that he’s sorry.
Many people remember Hulk Hogan’s apology from years prior, an apology that he should have to make again. Regardless, Hulk Hogan met with the entire WWE roster at Extreme Rules to share with them the news of his return.
The bottom line is, WWE must be really careful in walking the tightrope of Hulk Hogan’s return. They need to convey Hulk Hogan as a changed man while not making the company seem desperate for fan forgiveness. They need to make sure they don’t further offend any talent or fans, and they need to keep Hulk Hogan in a purely fictional wrestling role.
A few members of WWE’s black roster have released statements regarding Hulk Hogan’s return. You can read them below.
The New Day – “How do we feel? Indifferent. We are not happy or sad, angry or resentful. Who WWE puts into the HOF is totally and completely up to the company and from a career standpoint, there is no argument on whether or not Hogan should have his place. We do not respond with more feelings of hate. Instead, we just do not associate with the people who convey or have conveyed this negative and hurtful mindset. This instance will be no different. Perhaps if we see him make a genuine effort to change, then maybe our opinion will change with him. Time will tell.”
Titus O’Neil – “I can only communicate that I am a proponent of second and even third chances for individuals that show true remorse, acknowledgement of wrongdoing, fulfill their punishment, if applicable, and otherwise put forth sincere efforts to correct the issues. I must echo the sentiment and dissatisfaction expressed by many of my fellow contemporaries concerning Mr. Bollea’s apology and its lack of true contrition, remorse and a desire to change. Mr. Bollea’s apology that he didn’t know he was being recorded is not remorse for the hateful and violent utterances he made which reprise language that has caused violence against blacks and minorities for centuries.”