After a story the Cohen Brother’s couldn't write, Mr. Bollea got his catharsis. It took being set up by friends, who secretly recorded a lewd act in the name of profit. The details are as appalling as they are fascinating and worth a Google, but that’s not why we’re here. Becuase even though the court of law handed Bollea a $140.1 million redemption song, this comeback has yet to hit its final note.
Hulk Hogan awaits his moment.
Before we get to that, let’s add some context. You see, the sex tape involving Bollea/Hogan contained a little more than love and tenderness. In the video’s pillow talk segment, Bollea was caught using racial epithets. Gratuitously. In a world that hunts outrage, actually having a justifiably outrageous episode prescribed the harshest of moral repercussions.
Oh, and did they come.
Aside from being drawn and quartered by the media for being racist, ignorant, and a threat to how we do things in the 21st century, Bollea would sustain a blow that pierced his soul. WWE, the catalyst for all things good in Bollea’s life, publicly renounced him, essentially deleting him from their history.
For those that don’t know, Bollea’s character, Hulk Hogan, was paramount in making WWE a billion dollar corporation. He was the company’s founding image, their first super hero. Erasing Hogan was like Christianity hitting backspace on the New Testament. As a publicly traded company, WWE had no other choice than to execute Hulkamania.
Without knowing the man personally, headlines alone are enough to deduce that life after wrestling has been rough for Bollea. Prior to his sex tape scandal, Bollea endured a costly, public divorce. And after WWE left him, so did Hogan’s most trusted source of income.
Fast forward to 2017. Fresh off a monumental court win, Bollea can return to breathing now that the tentacles of financial strife have retreated. Bollea the man will be fine, but Hulk Hogan the character weeps in his WWE holding cell.
Cry no more, Mr. Hogan, because the time is near. No one forgives like WWE and no one likes a comeback more than wrestling fans. Very soon, the prodigal son will return.
And WWE can use him. But in what capacity?
Will it be just one night of reconciliation? Hogan gets in the ring, apologizes, cries, says thank you, hits his poses and leaves? There’s more to be had here.
Since Hogan’s racist buckshot, he’s keenly laid low. But before the Gawker saga, Hogan was making headlines by claiming he would be ready for WrestleMania 32. It was silly then, but considering what’s transpired, the irony is paralyzing.
Now, under no circumstance will Hogan ever get the final championship run his funny little mind envisioned. However, who's to say that Hogan couldn’t return as a permanent fixture, say, as a manager?
A pillar of professional wrestling, managers have gone the way of the floppy disk. In fact, there’s about 2 left, one (Paul Heyman) is rarely on TV, and the other (James Ellsworth) should never be on TV again. Despite being an endangered species, the manager still has a role in today’s WWE ecosystem. They serve as a conduit for attention. Good or bad, the manager amplifies the character he or she accompanies. Subjectively speaking, WWE's cast sits on an average volume of about 6. This is professional wrestling, not background music; we need 11.
WWE boasts a lot of new talent. This NXT generation is highly capable, but very few of them have meaningful experience in WWE’s main event. Although new faces are exciting, it’s only a matter of time until they are compared to the Rock, Stone Cold or even Hogan himself. As any salty WWE follower will tell you, today’s stars aren’t like yesterday’s. Have we slipped into the same disenchanted generational fallacy; longing for what used make us happy? Or is there something to this? A topic worthy of its own conversation, but this lack of supernova star power has become one of the most consistent gripes against WWE’s product.
At this moment, WWE employs two real stars: Brock Lesnar and John Cena. Unfortunately, they maintain sporadic schedules, leaving weekly WWE television flat. Roman Reigns is certainly on the Rainbow Road to superstardom, but his moment of crystallization has yet to fully manifest. Braun Strowman, the company’s hottest act and the smart money’s vote to become a legitimate money maker just suffered stifling injury setback. After this, the rest of the roster is subject to debate. Guys like Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, and Bray Wyatt are great but lack an undeniable connection to the crowd. This is where the dreaded level 6 volume is loudest. This is where Hogan fits.
His return would be met with fierce polarization, but frankly, WWE could use the shot in the arm. This wouldn’t be just for headlines either, attaching Hogan to a floundering act opens many compelling doors.
Estranging talent is one of WWE’s fortes. Bruno Sammartino, Ultimate Warrior, Kurt Angle, Bret Hart headline a long list of employees banished from WWE who all made their inevitable returns. Their stories are transparent arcs of human weakness and spite, which we as fans get to voyeuristically participate in their coveted crescendo.
Professional sports is littered with moral (sometimes mortal) atrocities. Whether it’s a DUI, battery, gun possession, steroid scandals, or manslaughter, there’s something within the human disposition that is willing to forgive. We actually may crave it. But only after due time. Perpetrators must learn their lessons before we allow them to return. This kind of moral incarceration has been embedded in our culture through centuries of storytelling. Sports find themselves filling this narrative void and we watch these athletes as if they were characters in a story. The Hulk Hogan character finds himself crawling out of his lowest valley to date. The prison door will open one day and the question won’t be if Hogan can help wrestling, but if we will allow it.
Photo Credit: Getty / NBC Universal Cable Entertainment Group