Hulk Hogan is arguably the biggest star in pro wrestling history. Sure, some might say that The Rock has surpassed Hogan’s mainstream recognition, but on a global scale, there are still a lot of wrestling outsiders who refer to the sport as “that Hulk Hogan stuff.”
That’s why it was such a shock when the WWE blacklisted and wiped Hogan from the Hall of Fame last summer. This was a man who didn’t just help build the WWF in the 1980s, but the entire world of professional wrestling. The business would likely not exist, at least to the vast capacity that we enjoy today, if not for Hulk Hogan.
A lot of people thought it was unwise of Terry Bollea to sue Gawker for releasing a private sex tape of himself and his friend, radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge’s wife (which wasn’t as taboo, since they had an open marriage, and Mr. Sponge was encouraging it).
But why shouldn’t Hogan have sued? Celebrities, as well as regular citizens, have been victims of this kind of intimate candid camera, whether it be for revenge or just to make a pretty penny off of a tabloid, since the birth of the Internet. The people will see it. Humans are curious creatures. But that doesn’t make it morally justified. Gawker robs people of their privacy for profit.
However, Gawker hot tagged in with more audio of Bollea. This time, they put Hogan in an ethical corner. Following the release of a racial slur-ridden conversation, WWE needed to make an example of one of its biggest names. So, in order to protect their no-tolerance image, the WWE released Hogan and his name from the Hall of Fame. It was harsh, but WWE didn’t want to take any chances. Hogan’s racist tirade has no place in the PG era.
Things may have been a little different in the Attitude era. Eric Bischoff, or even Vince Russo, likely would’ve had a field day with such publicity, positive or negative. Hell, they could even just claim that it was just a part of his Hollywood Hogan persona. They could’ve had a major black superstar like Booker T confront NWO Hogan and work toward a big payoff match. It certainly wouldn’t have been worse than anything else in the waning days of WCW.
Now, WWE tries too hard to be family friendly, or close enough to it, to harbor a known racist in their employ. So here was Hogan, a man without a country, or a universe, as it were. Of course, attacking Hogan’s integrity didn’t divert him from his initial focus. In fact, what Hogan was doing was commendable. He was standing up to a media outlet that had wronged him, and had wronged so many innocent people over the years. Gawker had quite the rap sheet of published sex tapes and nude photos of people who were completely oblivious and unwilling.
But Hulk Hogan is a real American. He fights for the rights of every man (and woman). Hogan is also notoriously stubborn and is a backstage politician. A man known for never wanting to lay down for anybody wasn’t about to put over a jabroni like Gawker. They had successfully picked Hogan apart. Hogan was disgraced and big booted out of a title he had worked his entire career to achieve, a Hall of Fame ring. Gawker had done absolutely everything in its power to discredit Hogan, applying a signature maneuver. A Prejudice Plunge. A Racism Running Lariat. A Bigot Bear Hug (you get the idea). So, in the main event, the cheap shotting, villainous heel that is The Gawker thought they had Hogan beat.
... Had they never seen a Hulk Hogan match before?
In classic Hulk Hogan fashion, he no-sold Gawker’s finish. His Hulkamaniac lawyers rallied behind the Hulkster. Hogan started Hulking up, absorbing blow after blow by The Gawker, until an emphatic finger point and a cacophonous “You!” from the jury blows the roof off the Silverdome, brother! A few colossal punches into an Irish whip off the ropes sends The Gawker flying face first into Hogan’s big yellow boot! And then, the finishing touch. The immortal one delivers a $115 Million leg drop across the throat of The Gawker. Hits the 1...2...3! And the crowd goes wild!
Because when it comes crashing down and it hurts inside, when you’re publicly exposed in illegally obtained documents, ya gotta take a stand. It don’t help to hide. Hogan’s victory over Gawker was not only good for Hogan’s image, but it sets a healthy precedent for humanity. Hulk Hogan may have completely redeemed himself in the public eye, by protecting future victims of the media infringing on their rightful privacy.
Now, Terry Bollea isn’t a Saint by any means, no matter how many prayers he says or vitamins he takes. But in his own efforts of self-preservation, the Hulkster may have accomplished something truly noble, perhaps without even meaning to.
There is a grace period, of course, before allowing Hogan back into the WWE or the Hall of Fame. But I don’t think he’s banished forever. He has publicly apologized for his racist comments, and in the end, has countered a bad deed with a good deed. Gawker did successfully destroy the public perception of Hulk Hogan. But Hulk doesn’t give up. It just goes to show that there’s always a chance of a comeback. When the odds are against you, and you’ve been disgraced and humiliated in front of the whole world, you have to Hulk up and fight. Fight for what’s right. Fight for your life!