On April 1, 1990, I cried profusely as my hero, Hulk Hogan, lost the WWF title to the Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania 6. Now that the cold hard sting of reality has reared its ugly head again, I realize that I was the victim of a 25 year April fool’s joke.
I would give anything to hop into Doc Brown’s DeLorean and travel back in time to that now tainted evening.
I’d sit next to my eight-year-old self on the couch, look him right in his watery eyes and give him a big hug while trying to convince him that the red and yellow man on the TV screen isn’t worth our tears.
Late last week, Hulk Hogan was fired from WWE after The National Enquirer, and Radar Online released a transcript of Hogan’s racist comments on the sex tape he is currently suing Gawker Media over. Hogan repeatedly used the N-Word, called to racial stereotypes as fact, and admitted that he is a racist.
Unfortunately, celebrities getting caught making racial remarks is nothing new. However, this one hurts a lot because we are talking about Hulk Hogan. The rise of Hulkamania is what catapulted WWE into American mainstream culture. He is the biggest star in the history of the business and a hero to many children the world over.
Honestly, I’m not shocked by this, but I’m disappointed. I’ve spoken to wrestlers of color over the years, and they’ve all told me in no uncertain terms that wrestling is a white man’s business. These wrestlers were a product of Hulk Hogan’s era, and after I was able to process all the information, it’s kind of easy to connect the dots.
WWE has never had an African American WWE World Champion in its 51-year history and too often features African American wrestlers as stereotypical troupes or animalistic villains. Hopefully, it’s a question WWE will be forced to address and change in the future. However, their rapid dissociation from Hogan before the news broke will prevent that from happening anytime soon.
With the racial controversy of Alberto Del Rio’s release from WWE last year and now the revelation of Hulk Hogan’s comments, I find myself wondering why I continue to watch wrestling. There are two reasons at the top of my list.
One: You can’t hold the entire business accountable for one company’s shortcomings, even if it’s the industry leader. There is a slew of great wrestlers, promoters, and companies that do things the right way and keep race and creed out of the equation.
Two: Speaking as a half-back and half-white person, we have the right to watch and or participate in professional wrestling. Yes, it stinks that WWE wrestlers such as R-Truth, The New Day, and Naomi are stereotypically loud, ghetto, and dance. In a small way, I liken it to African American actors in the early 1900s who could only get work in the entertainment industry by wearing blackface and performing as mammy stereotypes.
People today might scoff at or dismiss those who purposely subjected themselves to such degradation. The reality is, actors such as Hattie McDaniel and Bill Robinson sacrificed a great deal to blaze a trail for contemporary actors of color. African Americans in WWE are currently doing the same thing, even if they don’t realize it.
There are a lot of people publicly sticking up for Hulk Hogan, and I’m not surprised. There are still those who defend Chris Benoit to the nth degree, and that guy murdered his family. The common argument in supporting such a stance is that we should separate the man from the character.
I disagree, but I understand that point of view. Terry Bollea did his job very well. He got millions of people to believe that the character he portrayed, Hulk Hogan, was a true paragon of virtue. It’s hard for people to admit that they backed the wrong guy and for friends to acknowledge that their colleague is in the wrong. I get it; however, when you say, “you don’t bang with any N-Words under 8 feet tall,” it’s as clear as day that you’re a racist.
I’ve been called every slur in the book and looked down on due to my skin color. Those words and actions no longer have any power over me. When they did, I remember a demoralizing experience that made me want to crawl into a hole because I was made to feel that I wasn’t cut out for this world.
Hogan’s comments have made a lot of people feel that way in some shape or form. What makes it worse is that he did it under a heroic veil of training, prayers, vitamins, and patriotism. Everyone is entitled to their opinion on this matter and beyond. As for me, well, this former Hulkamaniac will no longer look at some of those joyous wrestling matches of the past in the same light as I once did.
Can Hulk Hogan recover from this? In my opinion, he shouldn’t, but his chances seem to be 50/50. Even if he is eventually given a pass, things will never be the same for him or that eight-year-old that still exists in so many of us.