Well, if you’re a wrestling fan and haven’t been under a rock today you’ve probably heard about Hulk Hogan being all but completely disappeared from WWE history after some pretty damning quotes in a court transcript were released that showed Hogan using the n-word a whole bunch of times and letting his inner racist out of the cage and fly like an eagle. And as a result his contract with WWE has been terminated (up through this past week he was a judge on WWE Tough Enough), and he’s been scrubbed from the WWE website in a manner not seen since Chris Benoit. So many questions to answer here, like:
Was it the right call?
In a word, yes. While a lot of people would be able to compartmentalize things enough to separate Hulk Hogan the character from Terry Bollea the man, there just enough return to warrant the PR risk. Even before this happened Hogan was more of a ‘hey, Hulk Hogan’s on the show, cool’ person than a ‘Hogan’s gonna be on the show, I gotta tune in!’ one. He was there as a liaison to the company’s history, a reminder of the early years of Vince McMahon’s ownership. He was a nice addition to any show but not a necessity.
In 2015, you’re not surviving this kind of scandal. The WWE didn’t even wait for any pressure groups to get a hold of it before pulling the trigger. If they’re going to end up there anyway there’s no point in giving anyone a chance to make hay of it and drag them through the mud. And besides, the WWE and pro wrestling in general has not been a bastion of racial progressiveness over the years. Every high mark (Ron Simmons and the Rock winning world champonships) is more than offset by outright buffoonery (characters like the Junkyard Dog, Slick, and Koko B. Ware) or flat out racism (characters like Col. DeBeers and the confederate flag wearing Fabulous Freebirds). The last thing you want is for that to be pored over by people who were previously disinterested in your show.
Is he gone for good?
Well he’s obviously done as any kind of on-air performer or contributor. He’s gone from Tough Enough, and a possible farewell match at WrestleMania 32 is out of the question (Thank God; I wanted no part of that). Like I said earlier there is nothing in it for the company to bring him back. What about the upcoming WWE 2K16 video game? If they’re past a point of no return in production he likely stays in but if he can be removed they just might scrub him out. And what about the website? Will he be back there at some point? I would think yes. Hulk Hogan is the man who is most responsible for Vince’s first boom in business and was the linchpin to the nationwide expansion that enabled Vince to get the drop on all the old territory guys and eventually put them under. Without Hogan there’s no WrestleMania. To make him a ghost forever would be like erasing George Washington from the history books; utterly ridiculous.
But that doesn’t mean Vince won’t stick with the decision he’s made as of now. Vince is both an egomaniac and a vindictive SOB. In 2015, some 30 years after things took off for him, Vince likely still wants you to believe that Hogan was just a vessel for his genius and that he could have replicated that with almost anyone. He’s also likely still pissed off over when Hogan testified against him in court in 1993. Remember, Vince wouldn’t let WCW icon Sting go over at WrestleMania even though that was a no-brainer booking choice. There’s a very good chance that he was merely tolerating Hogan for business reasons, and that once there was no business benefit he was going to treat Hogan to an off camera version of the Montreal Screwjob as payback. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Hogan’s image is gone until Vince is no longer in charge.
What does the company do about race?
In light of this there is going to be a greater spotlight on the business, and it won’t be pretty. People with no sense of the history of the business are likely to drag up every image of a black wrestler that won’t make the company or Vince look good, even those who weren’t his creation (like Kamala the Ugandan Giant). Racist characters like DeBeers will possibly be dug up even though they never worked there. And people who used to work for the company and failed on their own merits will find their way to media outlets to air their grievances and accuse Vince of being racist towards them. All of that might happen anyway, but it was sure to happen if they tried to stand by him.
Going forward, don’t be surprised to see some gestures to indicate they are serious about racial diversity. In their defense, they already have a good storyline going on between two teams comprised of Black wrestlers, The New Day and The Prime Time Players, fighting over the tag team championship. There are other members of the roster who can put into title pictures or be given more prominent roles. But the next week or so will likely be touch and go. Expect a lot of deflection and a lot of attempting to get us to pay attention to Summerslam. Which actually won’t be that hard for me seeing as how I’ve never been a big Hogan fan anyway. Adieu, Hulkster!