World Wrestling Entertainment has never had a star quite like Hulk Hogan. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was a massive draw in the 1990s back when the company was known as the World Wrestling Federation. “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels, The Rock, John Cena and so many others have been popular characters who made the WWF money and who helped the company compete with and then ultimately defeat rival brand World Championship Wrestling. As much as each of those men cemented their places in WWE history, Hogan stands out in a different way and above every other wrestler who has ever performed in North America.
Without Hogan, it is possible and maybe even likely that the first ever WrestleMania would have been a massive flop, a mistake that would have meant the end of the WWF. Hogan not only became the face of what grew into an international property. He branched out beyond the ring, becoming the star of a television show and also a Hollywood actor long before Rock was featured in summer blockbusters. Hogan, in many ways, paved the way for the men and the women who could go on to become superstars in the WWE years after the Hulkster made his first departure from the company.
By now, you probably are aware of the comments made by Hogan that resulted in the WWE ending its relationship with the wrestling icon in 2015. Hogan has not denied that he has, in the past, used regrettable and hateful language. Apologies made by the legend of the wrestling industry have not, as of the posting of this piece, meant much to the WWE. Hogan remains a missing figure on the website for the WWE Hall of Fame. Hogan said some awful things. There is no question about it. With that said, the time should eventually come when the WWE forgives Hogan;
10 The Punishment Doesn't Fit The Crime
It is probably for the best for everybody involved that the WWE does not immediately re-hire Hogan before giving him a segment on weekly editions of Raw. A complete banishment, as if Hogan never existed in the first place, is a bit much considering the circumstances. Hogan is not, as an example, Chris Benoit. The Hulkster made hurtful and offensive comments, and he deserved to be punished by any employer for those words. The WWE distancing the brand and the company from anything Hogan-related is understandable; for a time. Hogan being forever banned for things that he said years – plural – before those comments saw the light of day is harsh.
9 Hogan Has Defenders
The immediate reaction one could have had upon learning of the comments made by Hogan is that the wrestler is a racist. Not all who worked with Hogan agreed with that take. Former National Basketball Association player Dennis Rodman, who was part of the New World Order with Hogan in WCW, took to social media to defend Hogan. Virgil, who worked with Hogan in the WWE and WCW, told TMZ Sports that Hogan “has never given me a reason to believe he is a racist.” Kamala had positive things to say about Hogan during an appearance on the Two Man Power Trip podcast.
8 His History With WWE
One could not possibly write an adequate history of the WWE without dedicating multiple chapters to Hogan. Hogan was a cornerstone and mainstay of the company during its growth in the 1980s. Hogan helped force WWE Chairman Vince McMahon and others to change the direction of the company when Hogan and the New World Order turned WCW into the hottest promotion in the land. For all of his many flaws and mistakes, Hogan is too important to be erased from the history of the company minus his old matches that are shown on the WWE Network. He could make a quiet return to the WWE without anybody even noticing.
7 Give Him A New Role
Here is an easy way that the WWE can forgive Hogan without angering investors or giving advertisers reasons to contemplate taking their cash elsewhere: Have Hogan make sporadic appearances working with the wrestlers at developmental brand NXT. Hogan obviously can no longer go inside of the ring. There is, however, nobody out there who could better teach those performers how to wrestle, talk, walk and act like stars than “Hollywood” Hogan. Those wrestlers could also learn about what not to do professionally and personally from a man who has, on multiple occasions, found himself no longer welcomed at WWE events.
6 His Age
This one is rather morbid, but it is a point that has to be made. Hogan is not a young man. He is in his 60s, and his body has been through quite a bit of punishment over the decades. We are not just referring to substances that Hogan may or may not have used over the years. The repeated bumps that Hogan took during his wrestling career have left him more damaged than many others his age. Make no mistake about the fact that the WWE will have to honor Hogan once he is no longer with us. It would be a shame if his passing was the next time that Hogan's name was mentioned during a WWE program.
5 The Be A Star Program
The Be A STAR program that was launched in 2011 has, per its website, a mission “to ensure a positive and equitable social environment for everyone regardless of age, race, religion or sexual orientation through grassroots efforts beginning with education and awareness.” John Cena is featured in this initiative. Go back and watch some of Cena's older work in the company, even from as recently as 2011. Those comments that Cena made while in character occurred on WWE programming. Both Cena and Hogan could serve as cautionary tales and as stories of men who learned lessons as adults about what they can and cannot say.
4 What's The Worst That Could Happen?
What, realistically, is the worst that happens if the WWE were to wait an entire year or so before bringing Hogan back for a one-off appearance? Reactions would probably fall into the following categories: Critics who already do not watch the WWE would have hot takes while promising to forever ignore the product, others will have forgotten that Hogan was even in the news in 2015, and wrestling fans inside of the arena will pop because of the nostalgia they feel upon hearing Hogan's “Real American” theme. There would be no long-term boycotts of WWE. Advertisers would stay put. The company would go on just the same. You're kidding yourself if you believe otherwise.
3 Could Be Useful For The WWE Network
The increased popularity of reality television shows has brought many lessons to the entertainment industry. Two such lessons stand out as it pertains to the Hogan situation. One is that TV viewers love to follow the fall and then potential rise of a celebrity. Another is that viewers are willing to embrace train-wreck programming. The WWE is a business that is, above everything else, interested in making money. There will, at some point, be a business opportunity in presenting a repentant Hogan on a reality show that features a remorseful Hulkster trying to make things right. This could air either on the WWE Network or, if the right deal were to come along, cable television.
2 He Was Not On The Job
It should not be forgotten that Hogan was not working as a wrestling character when he made those horrible comments. He was not working as a WWE employee at the time. Hogan was in an intimate setting behind closed doors. Depending on what you choose to believe, Hogan may not have been aware that he was being recorded at the time. Hogan's comments were reprehensible. He undeniably dug his own professional grave. Think of all of the things that you have said and done in private as an adult before you embrace the WWE pouring dirt over Hogan's legacy once and for all.
1 Time Heals All Wounds
This was mentioned earlier, but it deserves its own section at the end of the piece. Not only does time heal all wounds. Time allows us to forget, let alone forgive, individuals such as Hogan. Skip ahead 12-to-24 months ahead past November 2015. By then, people will not only have forgotten why Hogan and the WWE parted ways in the first place. Everyone will have moved on and become either outraged by some other celebrity or consumed by a different cause. The WWE choosing to forgive Hogan will eventually not even register a blip on the entertainment radar. It is just a matter of “when.”