With the Hulk Hogan-Peter Thiel-Gawker lawsuit coming to a close, it is being reported that the WWE Hall of Fame wrestler is “expected” to return to the company in time for WrestleMania.
Many WWE fans are going to celebrate his return. It makes some sense too, as nostalgia in the sport is often king and Hogan was the introduction — and first hero — to pro wrestling for many people who began to consume it in the 1980s and continue to do so today.
That’s all relatively fine, if we’re only viewing this from the surface and solely want to view this as the return of the character Hulk Hogan, and not also the return of the person who plays it.
Yes. America is the home of second-chance stories. We revel in redemption stories, returns from the abyss, and want nothing more to watch a person who fell off a pedestal to be gently placed back on it. So, for some, this is exactly what this will end up being.
However, Hogan returning to the company is a bit more complicated than that.
His story will not be one of redemption. He’s a man who has been involved in a sex-tape scandal, a lawsuit that has bankrupted a media company, and was caught using racial slurs while discussing his daughter’s relationship with a man of a different race.
Not to mention the countless other “iffy” stories we have heard about the man well before social media helped to bring them to light.
Our hero, essentially, has become to be known to be the exact opposite of the character he portrayed on wrestling programs for three decades.
He’s not a vitamin-loving fellow, but a guy who was once entrenched in the sport’s steroid scandal. Hogan perhaps isn’t a man who believes in the prayers he often preached to young kids to say, but is more than willing to commit what can be considered immoral acts. And, yes, his ego not only fails to know zero bounds, but is regularly willing to put himself at the forefront of things only because it may solely benefit him… other people be damned.
There’s more to him as a person, obviously. To wet-blanked him as some horrible human being would not only be unfair, but can be considered as unjust. Defining anyone by only their worst actions is a wretched way to go about life.
Still, that’s how many are going to think of the man for the rest of his time walking through his life. Despite that, the WWE may feel enough time has gone by to welcome him back with open arms.
This decision by the company does make something abundantly clear: The WWE was never actually repulsed by anything Hogan did, which led to its initial decision to distance itself from the industry’s most legendary star. Rather, the WWE just didn’t want to be associated with anything Hogan-related while it was still tainted.
With some of that negative perception being lost to time, while some narratives have allowed a more positive picture of him to be painted, the WWE may not be bringing him back because it feels as though he deserves another chance or that he’s paid for his (relative) sins.
No. This wouldn’t be an altruistic move. This is the WWE knowing that if it were to ever once again capitalize off Hogan, the time is now. Furthermore, it may be assuming its original stance of pretending he never existed for the time being will be enough for people to perceive that the WWE is as progressive a company as it regularly touts itself.
It is not, though. This is the very same federation that consistently relies upon xenophobic or nationalistic tendencies to create heels, continues to create “Instagram model” characters during its supposed women’s revolution, and will play to its fanbase’s lowest common denominator if it meant getting the crowd reaction it wanted — the taste in how it does so having no impact.
There’s even more — less icky — to this.
The WWE’s newest angle to push itself as being a progressive company is this idea of a new era of pro wrestling happening in the federation. That the focus is on the wrestlers of today and tomorrow; not the ones of yesterday.
Yet, here we are, on the precipice of seeing part-time wrestlers from another era — Brock Lesnar and Bill Goldberg — headline one of the WWE’s four major Network Specials. Now being added to that is a potential infusion from a star from three eras ago (though, having played a part in two more recent ones).
It is actually somewhat baffling. To present a product as new and fresh and trendy and progressive, then to bring in the 63-year-old Hulk Hogan, who has his off-screen troubles, as a way to do what to help highlight any of those ideals the company swears by?
Second chances are great, if not deserved blindly, for many people. Generally speaking, though, the opportunity tends to only present itself to those who have shown contrition or has enough (real life) goodwill builtin that it is warranted.
Hulk Hogan — the character — might have all of that, but the man who plays him, Terry Bollea, does not have that history.
So, sure, celebrate the return of one of the sport’s greatest icons. That’s fine. Just know that this is what the Internet Wrestling Community swears it is often rebelling against, which is an older star coming in to take away chances and opportunities from younger talent.
More importantly, it is the presumed return of a person who might not be exactly deserving of the second chance being given to him.
Here’s to hoping I’m wrong, and this all works out swimmingly, but there’s nothing in that man’s history — nor in the WWE’s for that matter — to signify this as being anything other than a lazy attempt at a money-grab… while all earnest good intentions are swept under the rug to make a quick buck.