Hulk Hogan’s an asshole (but he’s not the bad guy here)

Hulk Hogan is a bad person.

There’s no getting around that now. For years, his defenders have made excuses for him. We’ve tried to get around the fact that he just isn’t that great of a wrestler by going on about how great he is at working the crowd. We’ve tried to downplay the behind-the-scenes politics of the various companies he’s wrestled for, and all the stories of careers screwed over and storylines abruptly dropped to assuage his ego. We’ve put up with his, shall we say, slight tendency to exaggerate his own importance because, once upon a time, he actually was as big a deal as he acts. Wrestling as we know it would not exist today, were it not for the game-changing phenomenon that was Hulkamania.

But Hogan has proven himself to be a racist asshole, and I can never truly respect him in the same way anymore. To many people, this kind of thing was a long time coming: the final nail in the coffin of Hulk Hogan as the ultimate role model for kids, and recasting him as a totem of everything wrong with the social attitudes of the wrestling industry as a whole. He brought this on himself.

That being said, was kicking him out of the Hall of Fame and pretending he never worked for WWE really the way to respond here?

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I should provide some context. Do you have any idea how many WWE superstars are convicted drug dealers? How many have been killed because of their connections to organized crime? “SuperFly” Jimmy Snuka was accused of murdering his girlfriend. Chris Benoit actually did murder his family, before killing himself. And there’s not enough time to go into all the penny ante charges of drug use, family abandonment, and assaults that have accumulated over the years. Many of the most beloved wrestlers in history have been genuine, dyed-in-the-wool bad people. What is it that makes Hogan so special?

Hogan actually did say all the things he’s been accused of saying, and they are vile and reprehensible. But let’s consider the circumstances here. Hogan said something in private, which was leaked to the outside world, and almost immediately got the hammer dropped on him. (Or the Atomic Leg Drop, if you enjoy the poetic justice of it.) He’s apologized and seems to be sincere, but whether or not that’s true, he’s been completely unpersoned by the WWE. He’s been kicked out of the Hall of Fame and supposedly is no longer considered to have ever been World Heavyweight Champion. (I don’t know if you could call it being stripped of his title, since it’s one he didn’t currently hold, but for lack of a better term, we’ll say he’s been “defrocked”.)

Hulk Hogan's an asshole (but he's not the bad guy here)

Do I have a problem with him getting fired? No. He should have known better. But the extent to which WWE has disciplined him seems suspicious. I won’t go into how Hogan has burned pretty much every bridge he ever had behind the scenes and McMahon and Triple H were looking for just about any reason to get rid of him once and for all, but consider this: The two most prominent of Hogan’s contemporaries these days are the Iron Sheik and the Ultimate Warrior. Sheik has experienced a huge resurgence in popularity, due in large part to having one of the most hilariously offensive Twitter accounts ever; Warrior (as it once said on his driver’s license, seriously), spent years as a punchline before enough people at WWE just kind of forgot how much they hated him. He’s such a golden boy for the company right now that not only did they put him in the Hall of Fame, but after he died, they named a goddamn award after him! All this, despite the fact that Warrior was a terrible wrestler who couldn’t even work a match well enough to equal Hogan’s own infamous “Five Moves of Doom”. (Though, to be fair, Andre the Giant wasn’t much for actual wrestling either, but if you say anything bad about him in my presence, we’re gonna tangle.) So, yeah, I can get past that part.

Hulk Hogan's an asshole (but he's not the bad guy here)

Here’s the thing, though. A common occurrence on Sheik’s Twitter is that, completely in character, mind you, he’ll commonly refer to someone he doesn’t like as “fucking cheap Jew son of a bitch”, or words to that effect. He uses “Jew” as an insult is the main takeaway here. And Warrior, when he wasn’t running failed wrestling schools and comic book companies, spent the better part of a decade being paid good money to speak in public about how “queering don’t make the world go ‘round!” Both are things I would argue are just as bad as what Hogan said, but not only were they never punished for their actions, they’ve been rewarded. Hogan spoke his piece in private, and got his legacy taken away from him, but these two publicly said awful things in the name of profit, and WWE didn’t seem to care.

(In the interest of full disclosure, even I’ve moved past a lot of the shit that Warrior pulled, both in terms of harming the wrestling business and the hateful things he said about the LBGT community, but that has more to do with the fact that I’m a firm believer that one shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, because they’re not here to defend themselves.)

It’s also worth mentioning that WWE isn’t exactly known for its cultural sensitivity. With a roster that’s included such legends as “Big Cat” Ernie Ladd, Junkyard Dog, Ron Simmons, Ahmed Johnson, Abdullah the Butcher, Mark Henry, Booker T, and Dwayne Johnson, there have been a shockingly low number of non-white heavyweight champs*. (There have been plenty of Intercontinental Champions, to be fair.) Or the fact that any time they’ve tried to do an angle about racism or racial injustice, the non-white wrestlers are always the bad guys. Or how the company let one of their wrestlers appear in blackface once. Hell, back in the day, saying the N-word in public was half of “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes’s whole gimmick!

[*It varies depending on how you define “non-white”, but my count puts it between two and five, plus Antonio Inoki’s unofficial win in 1979.]

Hulk Hogan's an asshole (but he's not the bad guy here)

It’s not that wrestling fans don’t know any of this. I’d say a fair amount of what’s been coming out of the Internet wrestling community (or IWC, for the cool kids) has much more to do with longstanding grudges against Hogan ruining WCW and TNA than the actual words that came out of his mouth.

Also, has there… actually been that much of a backlash against Hogan? I mean, there are all sorts of memes floating around about how he’s been erased from history, but if there’s been a huge outcry from the public, it hasn’t been anywhere near as visible as what’s been coming directly from WWE itself. To be blunt, this really feels more like something they’re telling us that we’re angry about. Almost as if they’re depending on the Internet Outrage Machine to cover what’s very clearly the culmination of decades’ worth of backstage drama, trying to manipulate Hashtag Activism to distract everyone from the naked power play by a bitter, paranoid old man against a bitter, paranoid, slightly younger man over who really made the company what it is.

(Oh, but you better believe that the minute Hogan dies, the company is going to rediscover how much they love love love Hulk Hogan, and have a whole new line of merchandise ready based on what a great guy and friend to all the children he was. Remember where you heard it first!)

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that this ploy doesn’t seem to be working, though I shudder to think just how easily it still could. Hate Hogan all you want. Call him out for his backwards attitudes and the level of hubris that allowed him to think expressing such thoughts, even in private, would never come back to haunt him. But after all of that, you must admit that there’s more going on here.

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  • Gallen_Dugall

    Otherwise intelligent and decent people can find themselves embracing bigotry simply by accepting a stereotype and never challenging the view in their mind. Someone who thinks all trees are the same is not a person who has had much thought about trees. Having such prejudices is natural as a result of the generalizing used by basic thought processes; we depend heavily on such gloss to function. Embracing these assumptions as a rationalization for bad behavior (for example as an excuse to avoid thinking about a difficult topic or inflicting sadistic harm on another) is the problem, and such people are bigots. That their bigotry is “racially” motivated is irrelevant; they don’t have a belief, they’re just being intellectually lazy.
    Bigotry is correctable through mental exercise and self-discipline.
    Real racism is a strong indicator of physical defects in the brain.

    • MichaelANovelli

      Someone on Facebook made a comment to the effect of, “At least Hogan’s had the courtesy to keep his views to himself all these years.” I’m not sure whether that means he knows what he believes is wrong, or if he’s only come to believe them recently, but my experience tells me that people who believe in racial superiority tend not to be shy about saying it. So, who knows?

      • Gallen_Dugall

        The “Your right to believe something unchallenged ends where it expresses itself to another being capable of thought.” philosophy.
        I should work this into a book.

        • MichaelANovelli

          Sure, I’ll buy that…

        • Capt. Harlock

          That’s the essence of PC, in a nutshell. Absolutely counter to the concept of Free Speech. Sorry, but you do NOT have the “Right” to walk about the World free from that which may offend you. When some idiot spouts off, the only Right you have is to ignore them or walk away. What you advocate is nothing more than the idea of “ThoughtCrime.”

          However, the statement that you have altered/corrupted is True in it’s original form, as far as Rights go; “Your Right to freely swing your fist ends at the tip of My nose.” The difference between the two is the difference between thoughts and actions. It doesn’t matter if the crotchety curmudgeon at the end of the block hates blacks/kids/whites/asians/whatever. It only matters if he acts on those hatreds.

          • MichaelANovelli

            I’d add that as someone who depends on people liking him to earn a living, perhaps keeping his thoughts to himself may have been more in his self-interest…

          • Gallen_Dugall

            I have to say you’ve got it backwards. Political correctness denies the right of free speech. You’re not allowed to say things someone might find upsetting, unpleasant or offensive. All this says if you say something others have a right to respond in kind and you can in return respond, but if you don’t say anything you should be left alone – no thought police. That is free speech; speak responsibly and accept the consequences of inevitable disagreement.

            No one has the right to speak unchallenged. Claiming that you have the right to not be challenged in what you say is the essence of political correctness.

            This may be confusing because SJWs interpret free-speech as an invitation to “bully, shout-down, shame, and degrade” people into not saying things they find upsetting, unpleasant or offensive. This is free speech as exercised by intolerant bigoted assholes. Free speech gives them that right as well as giving me the right to point out that they’re intolerant bigoted assholes.

          • “Political correctness denies the right of free speech.”

            Nope.

            “You’re not allowed to say things someone might find upsetting, unpleasant or offensive.”

            No, you’re allowed, you just can’t bitch and moan when people call you on it.

            “That is free speech; speak responsibly and accept the consequences of inevitable disagreement.”

            Or just call critics “SJWs” as if working for social justice is somehow a bad thing.

            “This may be confusing because SJWs interpret free-speech as an
            invitation to “bully, shout-down, shame, and degrade” people into not
            saying things they find upsetting, unpleasant or offensive.”

            Case in point. The actual answer is that assholes interpret free speech as the right to be colossal douchebags with no concern for the consequences. People like you view the offensive as the only type of speech worth defending, and try to shout down anyone asking for some basic human decency, accusing them of “censorship,” falsely equating the people you bully on-line telling you to stop with some government agency kicking down your door for criticizing a politician.

            “This is free speech as exercised by intolerant bigoted assholes. Free
            speech gives them that right as well as giving me the right to point out
            that they’re intolerant bigoted assholes.”

            Wait, so to you the social-justice crowd are the bigoted assholes, but the bigoted assholes are victims of political correctness? I suppose you say “Goodbye” to people when they enter the roiom, and “Hello” when they leave if your view of the world is so back asswards

          • CaptainCalvinCat

            Watching your tongue can’t be a bad thing. Same goes for actually stopping and thinking about what one is about to say. In school, we learned about the 4 ears model, created by a guy named Friedemann Schulz von Thun: Basically it says, that every message you send out can be interpreted by us, the recievers in four different ways.

            Let’s just take the very simple sentence: “Die Ampel ist rot” (The Traffic lights are showing red).
            That is a sentence, that one can utter on a daily basis – now, what does this simple sentence mean?
            Within the 4 ears model you have four different ways to interpret that sentence.

            We have the “matter layer” – which is just stating, that the traffic lights are showing red.which are part of the news.
            The self-disclosure layer is telling the listener, how I feel about the lights showing red – panic, admonishing, just “oh, look, the traffic lights are red”.
            Then you have the Relationship layer, that can show how I think about the listener.
            And we have the “appeal”, which basically means “Just hit the breaks, please”.

            Now, every sentence can be interpreted through the 4 ears model, so – like I said – maybe we should think about the words we put in the sentence, how they would make other people feel etc.

            that has nothing to do with “thought policing” – although put to an extreme it can lead to that. But – everything put to an extreme can be hurtful.

            I mean, even today we have people running around, being dicks towards other people and eacht other – and when you talk to them about how their behaviour might inflict pain to other people, their reaction is: “I’m the way I am – I’m just honest and if you cannot handle that, that is not my fault.”
            That idea taken to the extreme would lead to us not giving a crap about how we talk to other people – and, even worse, how we see other people.

          • jjramsey

            Or just call critics “SJWs” as if working for social justice is somehow a bad thing.

            That assumes that so-called SJWs are actually working for social justice. I think Gallen_Dugall has in mind a definition of “SJW” similar to what’s found in the Urban Dictionary: “A pejorative term for an individual who repeatedly and vehemently engages in arguments on social justice on the Internet, often in a shallow or not well-thought-out way…. The SJW’s favorite activity of all is to dogpile. [emphasis added]”

          • MichaelANovelli

            Well, around these parts, we’re not so much SJWs as we are G.I. Joes!

          • Gamermage

            And who gave these punks the right to label us all as warriors? I’m not a Social Justice Warrior, I’m a Social Justice Mage!

          • MichaelANovelli

            So, we should all cast reflect on ourselves?

          • Gamermage

            Nah, I’m thinking Stone Armor or Elemental Weapons. =D

          • MichaelANovelli

            But then, how will we grind?

          • Gamermage

            By summoning Elemental spirits to help, of course! Oh wait, how high is your Spirit Control stat? Mine’s at 2 or 3.

          • CaptainCalvinCat

            Allow me to teach you a german word.
            “Gutmensch” – (english): do-gooder, goody-two-shoes or starry-eyed idealist – is a term, my people like to use on others who try to make a difference in the world, who are out and about to help people in need, who are vocal when it is about the question if refugees should come to Germany.

            Some of my fellow Germans want to help other people, want to stop cruelty in the world – and are called “Gutmensch” for that. And not in the way “Oh, what a good person you are, we should follow that example” – no. More in that way: “You’re an idealist, you have no idea, how life is really working.”
            Often it is followed up by “Well, if you love your refugees that much, why don’t you let them live in your house?”
            “Why don’t YOU pay for them, then?”
            “Why don’t YOU take responsibility for them?”

            Point is, that you can quickly dismantle well meant arguments, if you just call the person, who is vocal for an idea “Gutmensch.”

            Same thing with SJW.
            Those persons might have good ideas, might be fighting for equality – but you can quickly dismantle that, if you call those persons just “SJW”s. The rest of the internet will quickly follow and say “Yeah, they don’t have any clue, what they are talking about.” “They are just feminazis!”

            That’s why I say: “To hell with those lables. Or at least think about what you might be doing, if you call a person this or that.”

          • “That is free speech; speak responsibly and accept the consequences of inevitable disagreement.”

            Have you considered that everyone else telling you you’re an arsehole for what you say is just the inevitable response of them disagreeing with you and considering you an arsehole? And before you say it, no you should not be allowed to say anything you want, if your greatest dream is to shout racial slurs at black children society should prevent you from doing that.

  • mamba

    Thank you for separating the MAN Hogan with the CHARACTER Hogan.

    The CHARACTER Hulk Hogan was a fan favorite and a legend, and earned his accolades. (as much as one can earn anything in a scripted sport), while at the same time the MAN Hogan was a stupid arrogant jerk who was hated by a LOT of other people behind the scenes. But the 2 are SEPARATE entities.

    So yeah, kick out the MAN Hogan, but the CHARACTER Hogan’s accomplishments are the same as they always were.

    Same as Tom Cruise. I personally like his movies and his characters, but if offered $1000 to sit in the same room with the guy for 10 minutes would turn it down flat out!!! One can hate the guy but admire the work, just like people do with hundreds of celebrities and the shit they do regularly. In fact, we’re pretty good at ignoring the shit they do and some of it’s pretty serious!

    So yeah, this is decades of a personal grudge against Hogan coming forth, and yeah we’re being told that we should hate him. Is he sorry? Not a chance, just sorry it was recorded! But you put it best…he’s not worse than most of the other assholes that we admire. hating him now is just a fad.

    (for the record, I always hated the guy and the character…he was a bad wrestler and a general annoyance. I can see him easily being the bully at a gym or a school, no problem.)

  • Murry Chang

    My first thought when this news broke: Old white guy is racist, news at 11!
    Seriously, everyone needs to stop freaking out about the old white racist guys. You’re not going to change their minds, you’re going to have to wait for them to die.

    • MichaelANovelli

      My general rule of thumb is that anyone who was famous in the 80’s is currently insane. The numbers DO seem to be piling up…

      • Murry Chang

        You’re not wrong there:)

    • Gallen_Dugall

      I’ve been hearing that for over forty years and so I’ll disagree. We need to embrace a change to our culture so that it respects and promotes achievement, logic and reason. Ours doesn’t. Our culture places a premium on who-you-know and not what-you-can-do let alone what-you-know. Racism isn’t going to go away because of (what in the south we call) the good-old-boy-network is self perpetuating by selecting like minded people for success. If you want to get ahead, be like the people in charge.

      • Murry Chang

        Things are actually improving though. Sure, I know Democrats who didn’t vote for Obama because he’s black, but none of them are in the under 45 demographic. Of course there actually are racists that are younger, I’m not going to deny that, but in the past few decades we’ve made a decent amount of progress.

        I think the point you’re getting at is that classism is the root problem here, and that is correct:)

        • Gallen_Dugall

          You raise an interesting point with the age issue as it brings to mind something I’ve heard Rush Limbaugh say more than once, “No one is going to let you make serious money until you hit your mid-forties.” Combining these two thoughts has me suspecting that’s the age at which people start to believe the things they’ve been saying just to go along and get along.

          • Murry Chang

            It’s a good idea to assume anything Rush says is completely wrong, because more than 99% of the time it is.

          • MichaelANovelli

            It’s also a safe assumption that he doesn’t actually believe most of what he says, given that being a talking head is his job and all…

          • Murry Chang

            Which is even worse than him just saying it to begin with.

          • MichaelANovelli

            I agree. But, that’s the nature of the beast…

      • tcorp

        “We need to embrace a change to our culture so that it respects and promotes achievement, logic and reason. Ours doesn’t. Our culture places a premium on who-you-know and not what-you-can-do let alone what-you-know.”

        Good luck with that. I don’t think this is as much an American culture problem so much as it is a human problem. With the exception of highly specialized fields, there are enough people who are “good enough” (or are thought to be “good enough,” as in the investment management field) to perform certain jobs. People choose among candidates based on who they know. This trend reinforces systemic racism, as I’m sure you know (so I won’t get into that here); but everybody does it.

        People do things to benefit themselves because, in their minds, they’re the hero of their own story. It’s amazing to me how truth, justice, and the American way go flying out the window the minute someone receives a subpoena, for example. It doesn’t matter what race, religion, or whatever someone is: a person gets into power and immediately starts putting other people in power that serve that person’s interest–whether that’s family or just another “yes man.”

        So if people really want to change the world, people have to stop being selfish on an individual level. But it’s not gonna happen.

  • The_Stig

    Let’s not forget that WWE still employs Michael “PS” Hayes who once called African-American wrestler Mark Henry the N-Word and only got a few months paid suspension, and who also called an Indian-American writer a “Sand N-Word”. No punishment. Hayes is also reported to have a habit of offering alcohol to women.

    His biggest crime though is that he’s the reason that sentient Real Doll Rosa Mendes is still employed.

    • MichaelANovelli

      Or that McMahon used the N-word on live-TV, once. Only just found out about that, or I’d have put it in the article…

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