The Fall of Hulk Hogan
You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain. Terry Bollea, better known to the world as Hulk Hogan, has reached the latter; the hard way. For years, the Hulkster was a hero to wrestling fans around the world, slaying monsters, winning championships, overcoming incredible odds and, most importantly, standing up for doing things the right way. All of that has come crashing down on today, July 24th, 2015. Barring a massive, massive change in the coming years, today is going to be known as the day that Hulkamania, the movement that carried Hogan to fame and fortune, died. It didn't die gloriously, and it didn't die tragically. It died because of a several year old sex tape, which featured Hogan saying things that would make Donald Sterling shake his head.
This would be the part where you'd expect to crack jokes on the matter. And believe you me, that will be coming following this column here. In a way, this moment right here is just another hysterically bad moment for a man with a long list of hysterically bad moments, whether it be backstage politicking, his borderline crazy children or his bizarre friendship with worst person ever nominee Bubba the Love Sponge (who's largely responsible for Hogan being in this mess). But while there is also fun to be had, there's also a serious aspect of this bizarre and, frankly, terrible situation. Like many wrestling fans, I grew up with Hulk Hogan on my TV screen (though I first saw him as the leader of the nWo as opposed to most who saw him as wrestling's white knight), and like many of those fans, I recognize him to be the biggest name in the history of the industry. And even though I've drifted to the lucha libre section of the wrestling world in recent months, I still feel as though I should have an opinion on this matter. Or perhaps more specifically, these following questions that I'm sure many people are having. Are these comments as terrible as they seem? Is Hulk Hogan actually a racist? Can WWE forgive him? Can I forgive him? And is this the end of Hulk Hogan as we know it?
I've thought long and hard about those questions. And this is what I've come to conclude.
1) Yes, those comments are as horrible as you think they are. In fact, what Hogan said, to me, is completely and utterly unacceptable, the kind of ignorant, mindless, stupid shit you don't even hear when you're saying off color stuff with your friends (then again, my circle of friends is quite small, so what do I know?). Where I differ from many people is that I'm not surprised that Hogan said these. Unlike many people, I've never been a Hogan fan; for all the great things he's done for wrestling, he's also done nearly as much harm thanks to his egomaniacal, power playing ways over the years. To find out that his ego was so big that he thought he could get away with saying terrible, stupid things in the house of Bubba the Love Sponge? The only thing surprising is that we didn't find this out sooner.
2) Whether Hogan is a racist or not is a more difficult question. My gut tells me that he is. Even without hearing the tone of his words, the shit that he says doesn't strike me as someone who made a mistake, but as someone who has the feeling in their heart and soul. And I seriously doubt his anger towards his daughter dating an African American suddenly just sprang out of nowhere. At the same time, Hogan is the same man who once teamed with legendary African American wrestler Junkyard Dog, the same dude who was best buds with Dennis Rodman, and the man who main evented the first Wrestlemania with Mr. T. Is it possible this was just a terrible moment of weakness, brought on by a terrible time in Hogan's life? Could it just be a terrible mistake? In fairness, I suppose anything is possible, though again, my gut tells me that you don't make the comments Hogan did because you had a moment of weakness.
3) The next two questions largely depend on the other. Whether WWE is able to forgive Hulk Hogan or not will rely on one thing; whether Hogan can make the company money or not. Let's not forget that WWE isn't exactly the poster child for a non prejudicial workplace, and there will be (and rightfully so) be heat on the company in the next few days for several other past occurrences, from Vince's own use of a racial slur on live TV to long time rumored racist Michael Hayes. If the company believes you can make them money, it wouldn't matter what you've done, they'll take you. The same will apply to Hogan, which means it comes down to whether the fans will accept him again.
In some instances, I think fans will be willing to forgive in spite of Hogan's actions. Make no mistake, there's still many people today who love Hulk Hogan, some just because he's meant so much to their lives and some because there's actually people who unfortunately liked the awful things he said. Provided Hogan's public apology tour is handled well, those people should welcome him back with open arms. But will the rest of the wrestling fan base? Will my Uncles Todd and Shawn, the two men responsible for my wrestling fandom and fathers of six African American children combined be able to forgive him? Will their kids, almost all wrestling fans, be able to forgive him? Will their friends? That is an incredibly difficult question to ask and an even harder one to answer. And it leads us to our last question.
4) Is this the end of Hulk Hogan? If I once again had to answer with my gut feeling, it would be yes, at least from a WWE standpoint. For one, even if the WWE were to forgive Hogan, I'm pretty sure his pride and ego wouldn't forgive them for leaving him hung out to dry (the right call on their part by the way). And secondly, I don't think it will ever get to the point of WWE forgiving Hogan. Make no mistake, this incident is going to follow Hogan from now till the end of his days, the same way Gibson's own intolerant statements have followed him. Aside from a few lower budget films, Gibson's career has never been the same as it was before. Hogan's isn't going to be either. So while I can see him definitely showing up in TNA at some point in the distant future (both entities are desperate enough to make that reunion happen), a comeback to the WWE is just simply out of the question for me. There are some things you just cannot come back from, and Hogan's infamous rant, caught on Bubba the Love Sponge's camera, is enough to hold him down. It's enough to kill Hulkamania.
Let me say this in closing. There's been a few people out there who have said they feel bad for Hulk Hogan today. Why? Regardless of whether he knew he was being taped or whether or not he is truly racist at heart, what Hulk Hogan said is something that immediately disqualifies his right to sympathy. He deserves none. You know who does deserve sympathy? One, the son of Brooke Hogan's record producer, who was the target of Hogan's mindless rant. Two, the Hulkamaniacs out there who have gone from believing that Hogan was a hero to seeing he's nothing more than a really flawed, perhaps terrible human being. And three, this whole fucking world. It's amazing to me that in 2015, we still haven't come far enough that a blatantly ignorant statement like Hogan's doesn't draw unanimous disdain or positive discussion, but instead arguments of what is too sensitive or not sensitive enough. And it's shit like this that makes me sit back, shake my head, and prefer to write jokes about Hulk Hogan in order to hold back the tears. In the end, I look back to this situation, and I recall the words of CM Punk standing over a fallen John Cena and the Big Show. "And the winner is...nobody," Punk exclaimed, "They're both losers." I couldn't think of a better quote to describe this shit.
Hulkamania has fallen friends. And I'd be shocked if anyone picked up the pieces.
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