Now that Hulk Hogan has been booted from the WWE after making racist comments, Steven Barnes charts the next steps for the fallen idol.
Wrestlers are performers. They get paid on the basis of being an entertainer. Whether it be due to their athletic prowess or their talent on the mic “cutting promos”, professional wrestling is all about the larger than life personalities.
Throughout a wrestler’s career, they may start travelling across the world just to be booked, to be seen and to hone their skills, with pay being a bonus. Constant abuse of their bodies and constant cross-country travel is a rite of passage, competing anywhere they can.
Then one day everything changes. WWE, the golden ticket of the industry. All the years of hard work have paid off, suddenly your social media account blows up, you have millions of followers hanging on your every word and you have thousands cheering your name. Wrestling is a young man’s game, however, time outpaces you, with the damage on your body too much to bear and you are forced to retire. Suddenly, thousands aren’t cheering your name. They’ve moved onto the new wave of people who looked like you used to. Your followers online are the only remnants of your glory as you fight for relevance.
This last glimmer of hope, however, is a double-edged sword.
With the revelation of a sex tape and now an audio transcript of Hulk Hogan using the “N word” being circulated on the internet it begs the question whether the internet has been a beneficial platform for wrestlers to promote themselves, or whether lack of media training, especially amongst the older generation of wrestlers, has only aided in tarnishing their own legacies.
There has been both condemnation and support for Hogan since the news broke, with many in the African American community vilifying his actions, but some close to him claiming that Hogan himself is not a racist. In the age of the internet, a thought can be instant, but the consequences long-reaching.
So on that basis, the WWE’s preemptive termination of his contract was a no-brainer. A golden opportunity to reflect their mission statement of total commitment in upholding the rights of all in the community.
The question is, where does Hulk Hogan go now?
Professionally, he’s flip-flopped between TNA and WWE in recent years, Hogan is a nomad with no clear place. Hogan’s best hope is to rally support to help rebuild his reputation and his brand as a whole. In this way, social media has been the downfall of Hulk Hogan but also his only way out.
With retweets and fans supporting Hogan the scandal has been less impactful than if Hogan was silent. His willingness to acknowledge the mistake and to harness social media to help reinforce his belief that he is not a racist is something that has saved him from being universally despised.
Whether we will see Hulk Hogan in a wrestling ring again is unknown. WWE, playing the jilted ex, has removed Hogan as a judge of their reality program Tough Enough and flamed his digital footprint from the company. As far as the WWE is concerned, they have packed up his things and flung it over the balcony.
In the coming weeks and months we will see how cynical Hogan is through his social media use. Although the rally of support is needed now, this cannot continue indefinitely. If retweets from fans are all Hogan does, the smell of desperation will start to emerge.
Positive, active community involvement needs to happen to help rebuild his image. Hogan needs to be willing to not only apologise, but also right his wrongs.
Hulk Hogan has redefined wrestling once, but this will be his toughest comeback.
Here’s hoping he can rise and become a real American.