Today millions of wrestling fans around the world have received a monumental, unavoidable surprise: their fave is problematic.
As you may have seen on our front page, we at Femmezuigiri promote a Hulkamania-free space to grapple with the nasty -isms rampant in professional wrestling. So when the hot button issue of the day is the icing on the red and yellow cake which sent Hulk Hogan abruptly out of WWE, it brought up a lot of different feelings.
If you’ve been anywhere on social media since yesterday evening when warnings of a breaking story — as well as the removal of the Hulkster from WWE’s website — first got out, you’ll probably find most everyone else is at varying stages of processing the information, and are there ever levels to process.
It started last night when a thread on forum site thecoli warned of an audio recording that would be published so full of racial slurs it would lead to WWE severing all ties with Hogan. Several hours later WWE.com had removed as much Hogan-related content from its site. His profile was removed from the Superstars roster, he was no longer listed as a judge on the Tough Enough reality series already in progress, Hulk Hogan merchandise was removed from WWE Shop and Curtis Axel who had been running wild with Axelmania as of late returned to his pre-Royal Rumble incarnation.
Hogan’s first statement on the matter was a brace for impact tweet at 1:00 am EST suggesting what was to come was in the hands of God.
Even before the Enquirer’s article was published word had spread of Hogan’s potential wrongdoing through a misleading article which cited a podcast where Hogan uttered a racial slur. The Enquirer would then publish the content of the recording, thoroughly demonstrating the degree of trouble the Hulkster had gotten himself into.
WWE would soon follow up the story with a statement confirming the termination of Hogan’s contract stating they are “committed to embracing and celebrating individuals from all backgrounds as demonstrated by the diversity of [their] employees, performers and fans worldwide.”
The termination also includes Hogan’s removal from the WWE’s Hall of Fame which he was inducted to in 2005.
Hogan has since apologized, expressing disappointment in using language “inconsistent” with his beliefs. Hogan has also selectively replied on Twitter to fans pledging their continued solidarity to Hulkamania, and standout members of society have been at ready to have Hogan’s back such as MMA fighter and domestic violence enthusiast Tito Ortiz as well as Dennis Rodman.
In a situation where the largest professional wrestling company in the world unsanctimoniously excommunicates the biggest star wrestling has ever seen — and the one who arguably put said company on the map — it comes as a surprise to no one that the news has garnered attention from out there in the real world, and it hasn’t all been pats on the back for WWE removing a racist from its payroll.
Articles from several well known publications’ online platforms have made ample light of the numerous occasions where WWE’s characters, storylines and Chairman of the Board have far from celebrated and embraced cultural diversity. Many of you reading right now can probably count at least five of these occurrences off the top of your head, onscreen and off (take your time, I’ll wait it should only take you a few seconds). On top of that, it is an open secret that POC wrestlers are rarely if ever granted the opportunity to propel themselves to the main event. With the extensive (and The Rock means EXTENSIVE) laundry list of terrible race representation in the WWE, it’s incredibly suspect that only now and in this moment they’ve decided to rise above racism. After all, Michael P.S. Hayes is still employed.
For WWE, this was a case of the receipts being so good they couldn’t not do something. It’s conclusive evidence of one of the most recognizable names in wrestling and greater pop culture being overtly racist. An offensive storyline, gimmick etc. is only a problem when the negative backlash goes beyond the fanbase eg. that fucked up Muhammad Hassan bit on Smackdown (interesting to think about whether WWE would have even backtracked were there no timely real life terrorist attack). If D-Generation X puts on blackface to impersonate the Nation of Domination or another POC wrestler debuts with a painfully stereotypical gimmick a few of the overly-sensitive lefties may go up in arms but WWE figures they’ll be back next week tuning into Monday Night RAW anyway. Once the outer reaches of society uncharacteristically pay attention to professional wrestling for once, then it’s an issue. Then a McMahon has to actually be accountable to someone who has no shares or any ownership of the company.
Because of this, 90% of fans remain incredulous, a little bit puzzled and definitely skeptical that this is a sign of WWE trying to leave the blackface, racist caricatures and glaring inequality on the roster behind. For all we know JBL will be back on commentary saying black wrestlers lack intellect, the Prime Time Players could end up returning to their old spot being a charismatic tag team that’s overlooked by creative and Team BAD may only ever see themselves wrestling on Main Event or Superstars. It’s a horrifying stretch but some would be neither shocked nor appalled, it’s something fans come to expect from WWE.
Despite skepticism on WWE’s policies regarding POC talent, we are still left with the reality that the biggest star in wrestling history has been not only axed, but wiped clean from the records. It’s incredibly difficult to wrap your head around, isn’t it, considering this is someone who main evented seven of the first nine Wrestlemanias, (eight if you count the whole Bret/Yokozuna/Hogan thing at WM IX) consistently drew crowds and admiration, and up until today was praised by WWE for his legacy (read: he got them a buck or two more when he showed up).
Ignoring how weird it’s going to be for WWE to overlook many iconic moments in professional wrestling history, some won’t find it too difficult to adapt to Hulkamania not running wild in the company: the late Lou Thesz did say Hogan “couldn’t tell a wristlock from a wristwatch” and that his “grandmother could do a better leg drop.”
There are still of course, the countless fans who regarded Hogan as a hero, looking up to him during childhood, appreciative of the fond memories his work in wrestling brought to their lives. While the past can’t be erased regardless of WWE redactions, the reframing of what Hulk Hogan means and represents can happen. Remember when you found out that Hogan loved the backstage politics and had a tendency of making it all about him? Similar process, only racism.