Mark for War: Black, Yellow, and Red All Over
I took last week off from writing the column and flew out to Minneapolis to see the Am Rep Anniversary Fest. Upon my return, I was set to write about Sting and the Undertaker’s roll at this year’s Summerslam. Perhaps a possible tag match, setting up a Wrestlemania clash?
But just before I began writing, my column’s topic changed, for obvious reasons.
My friend Jesse Matthewson (KEN Mode) said it best via a Facebook post on Thursday:
“Hulk Hogan is a racist, more mass shootings, and our weekly episode of ‘cops beating/killing black people.’ I’m out; if anyone needs me, I’ll be living in the forest.”
Fuck, these days I wish I lived in the forest. It seems like every day there’s another failure of humanity to deal with.
If you haven’t had a chance to peruse Hogan’s horrible rant, check out this transcript of a conversation Hogan had a few years ago; he was not aware that he was being recorded at the time.
Horrible words from Hogan, that’s for damn sure. Said words cost Hogan his job, and the respect of many of his fans. Rightfully so.
Now, is Hogan a full-fledged racist? I’d say no. Frankly, he wouldn’t have been able to survive the gossipy world of wrestling for all these years without it coming to the forefront way before this. If I had to pinpoint it, I’d say Hogan is simply a man from the baby boomer generation that has the moronic opinion that “They are re black people, and then there are…” Ironically, I first heard this lame opinion — when I was an impressionable youth in the mid-90s — from none other than Chris Rock.
I think the thing that makes the Hogan controversy interesting is actually its connection to the wrestling world. Pro Wrestling has always been a counterculture, especially in Hogan’s era. The 80s were a traveling circus that had its own rulebook. A lot of superstars from that era acted, and still act, like people from an extreme counterculture. What I find odd is that a lot of superstars are almost coddled into doing so.
Take the Iron Sheik for example. The Iron Sheik is a homophobe that still gets invited back to WWE on a semi-regular basis. When everyone brings up the fact that he is a rabid homophobe, everyone in the wrestling circle just chalks it up to “the Sheik being the Sheik.” In what other culture would this fly? It’s almost as if he’s getting a free pass for being an ass because he’s being entertaining in the process (ultimately the duty of all wrestlers).
But Hulk Hogan isn’t the Sheik. He is more than a wrestler. He is a pop culture icon. He was, and still is, treated differently by society. He has always been held to a higher standard than his peers, which is what ultimately made this situation turn in to a firestorm.
Wrestlers have always had big mouths and big opinions. So when controversy hits, it’s no surprise that everyone has to throw in his or her two cents. I wasn’t surprised to see a lot of members of his counterculture brotherhood jump in to defend Hogan. To be clear, they weren’t defending Hogan’s comments, they were defending Hogan against the allegations that he was a full-blown racist, and not just a man caught using a racist term. Is there a difference? People seem to think so. Three tweets stuck out to me: The first was one by Mick Foley, who contented that Hogan wasn’t a racist, and simply just made a grave mistake. I don’t feel there’s a superstar more in touch with reality in the history of wrestling than Mick Foley. Even though every person should be their own judge and jury, I must be honest and say that a Foley comment goes a long way with me. Well-known African American 80s wrestler Virgil also chimed in to defend Hogan, as did NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman.
It’s important to note though that all the men that defended Hogan are from a generation that WWE is probably trying to separate themselves from at this point. They like to look at themselves as a forward-thinking company. Forward-thinking and old school do not mix, unless it’s old school being manipulated by the new school. For example, the WWE’s success with their hit show on the WWE network, Legends House.
I’m not sure if the public severing with Hogan by WWE was 100% the right move. Time will ultimately tell with that. One thing I will say is that I think WWE, like no company of similar stature, possibly could have taken a different approach to the situation and arguably could have gotten a greater message across. Immediately I thought that it would have been proper for Hogan to appear on Raw Tonight, no gimmick, no music, just him being real for once, and apologizing in front of a packed arena. Something tells me that would have had a longer effect than just erasing Hogan’s existence from the company, which is damn near impossible.
Just a horrible all around incident. A sad day for wrestling fans that still have ties to the 80s era, and the majesty that came with it.
Match of the Week: Roddy Piper vs. Bad News Brown, Wrestlemania VI, April 1, 1990
An example of wrestling counterculture taking on race relations.