Friday afternoon I opened my Twitter app and read that Hulk Hogan was returning to Monday Night Raw to pay tribute to Gene Okerlund. I thought “Wow, even in death Okerlund is a prop try to get Hulk Hogan over.”
This isn’t the first time I’ve gone public with my thoughts on Hulk Hogan. He is indeed a racist and told us so himself on that tape that leaked out over a decade ago. He has demonstrated no actual public or private remorse for the people he’s hurt and offended, and no award from a Boys & Girls club will move me off the position that Hulk Hogan is no longer needed in a visible capacity for WWE in 2019 and beyond. His half-hearted apologies wreaked of deflection tactics and were completely deconstructed by men like The New Day and Titus O’Neil, and many fans who were still looking for legitimate contrition. Hogan responded by saying “some wrestlers don’t understand the brotherhood.”
WWE could easily have produced a live sit down (they do have a network don’t they?) with Hogan where he bared his soul for the audience he’s actually returning to rather than wrapping him in red and yellow nostalgia and hair extensions. I guess the flaw in my thinking is that the entire audience actually wants him to apologize in a more thorough fashion. Maybe WWE doesn’t think so either.
His most recent return to the company before Saudi Arabia, and we’ll get there shortly, was a mere 5 years ago and lasted around a year and a half before his white supremacist ideology, including comments about who his daughter should date and what that person should be worth monetarily, and racist comments ended his employment with World Wrestling Entertainment.
For people clamoring for him to return now, has it been that long since you’ve seen a Hogan nostalgia run? Is he making you buy tickets? Merchandise that you somehow DON’T already have? You know, since you’re such a big Hulkamaniac? Do you want to see him show up in an NWO shirt for the zillionth time? It’s none of that, it’s about restoring someone that has been “wronged” by our society now, even though its Hulk Hogan’s actions that led to all this.
His phantom 3-year suspension which was never announced until his reinstatement was a house built on a shaky foundation the entire time. Sure, he was removed from a few web pages and confined solely to the WWE Network, but slowly WWE began a methodical push to ease his name back into consciousness. Adding him to video packages, offhand comments on commentary, and strategically placed endorsements for Hogan’s return by other legends via outlets like TMZ.
And then the worst scenario of them all happened, they rolled out a few black wrestlers to campaign for his return like Mark Henry and Booker T. Creating a “see, they can get over it why can’t you?!” talking point that is rooted in silencing people. In the public, that was the strategy to begin the conversation. In private, all they were counting on was enough time to pass to where sponsors wouldn’t pull their advertising.
WWE positioning themselves as allies and rehabilitators of Hogan’s image and legacy is another example of forgiveness not being decided by the actual people who were hurt by something. This stinks of a “Hulk Hogan reclamation project” which can be packaged and sold to sections of WWE’s largely white audience that wants nothing more than to wrap their arms around a hero that showed he wasn’t a hero a long time ago.
WWE still operates like they are scared straight of a negative Hogan reception, and you can just look at these two instances where he’s being brought back in. Flashing back to October, WWE was not only getting lit on fire by their fanbase for their continued dealings with Saudi Arabia, and insistence they were there to “change the world” rather than cash a check in the aftermath of Jamal Khashoggi’s dismemberment, but they got their beloved “mainstream media” attention as well, with John Oliver tearing them to shreds for the Crown Jewel show.
In the midst of this, Hulk Hogan was added because from WWE’s perspective, how could it get any worse public relations-wise? The conversation was so focused on Saudi Arabia, Hogan’s appearance and the discourse around it largely went under the radar because there wasn’t room for two stories to dominate the news cycles. They steered clear of mentioning him, only using his photo in the advertised talent section for Crown Jewel on the WWE.com site. Which makes what happened Friday even more ridiculous.
Mean Gene Okerlund passed away at the age of 76. Okerlund, one of the few characters in wrestling history with nearly 100 percent approval across generations of fans is set to be honored throughout the next few weeks in WWE. His voice and stern humor was “the soundtrack to an entire era” as Triple H put it. What did WWE do? They flat out announced that Hulk Hogan was returning on Twitter to pay tribute to him on the same day and were promptly ethered in the replies to oblivion.
This forces us to take our eyes off Mean Gene, and it makes this moment about a Hulk Hogan return, in addition being a ploy to help cratering ratings, rather than allowing Hogan to return on his own merits. This controlled environment is another charade to allow Hogan to return in the safest manner possible. I’m sure he’s getting overwhelmingly cheered also, so it won’t break my heart when it happens.
It was predictable he was always going to come back, and anyone that thought otherwise, and I hate to say this, got their hopes up for nothing. For black wrestling fans, this is another event to compartmentalize as we deal with a company that continues to show they don’t understand us, value us and stands essentially in opposition to many of us on this Hogan issue. They can line up for all the safe charities, and portray themselves as this company fans should be proud to support, but it’s not real. It is another chapter of the famous Stephanie McMahon tweet. “Philanthropy is the future of marketing, it’s how brands are going to win. We’re all about to be sold The Hulk Hogan Redemption Story. I reject it wholeheartedly.
Hulk Hogan is not owed my or your forgiveness no matter how many times WWE hastily shoehorns him back into the conversation.
“Mean By God Gene” > “Let me tell you something Mean Gene.”
I expect the hit dogs to holler.
Rich Latta is a writer for LordsofPain.net & SocialSuplex.com. He hosts the One Nation Radio Podcast on www.SocialSuplex.com & LOP Radio where he recaps Raw & Smackdown Live Weekly with James Boyd. GFX by @SirMikeFergus Give him a follow on Twitter, @RichLatta32 or drop him a comment below. If you like hip-hop, check out his music here. www.Soundcloud.com/RichLatta Look Him Up On Youtube As Well.