In the last week or two, a quote from Hulk Hogan peeked many people’s interest when he told a news outlet that his imminent return to the WWE was moving “quite quickly.” If you remember, Hogan was “released” from the company in July of 2015 after audio (recorded without his permission or knowledge) was released that included him using a racial slur. He was not only fired, but all evidence of his existence in WWE lore was erased from the company’s media, right down to removing him as an alumni on wwe.com and rescinding his entry into the Hall of Fame.
Also earlier this week, I had some time to kill and decided to watch the new WWE: 24 episode about the Hardy Boyz on the Network. Social media had been flooded with rave reviews about the doc, lauding its pull-no-punches approach to Matt and Jeff’s struggles during their stay and after being released from the company, even covering Jeff’s time in TNA and Matt’s multiple stints in rehab, building all the way up to their eventual heroic return at WrestleMania 33 and their current runs as singles stars again.
And so it got me thinking- why is it that a word that was uttered in a (thought to be) private conversation has Hulk Hogan- a non debatable face on the Mount Rushmore of Wrestling- is in a still-ongoing three year exile from the WWE -a company he set on fire, made millions of dollars for, and now wants to pretend he never existed- while the Hardy Boyz are not only welcomed back with open arms, and as active performers no less, but their rap sheet is used as fodder for a documentary that is presented on the Network as a “comeback story?”
You’re telling me, considering the baggage that each brings with them, the Hardyz are fit to represent the company as active members of the roster, while Hogan can’t have so much as a t-shirt sold on ShopZone, much less be an employee of the company he helped put on the map?
The hypocrisy is almost comical.
It seems Vince’s stance on morals and social upstanding changes as often as his creative whims.
I don’t want this article to be a political essay. What Hogan did wasn’t good. What Matt and Jeff did wasn’t good. Your feelings about those individual actions are your own, and I’m not here to try and change them or debate them. The WWE felt action needed to be taken in each scenario, and did so at their discretion. It’s the inconsistency of the WWE’s enforcement and steadfastness in their apparent personal conduct policy (or lack thereof) that is the issue.
While I concede that most of the major issues and arrests that the Hardys went through were not during a time they were actively employed by the WWE, they were still most well-known for having been wrestlers for the company. Had they not been famous wrestlers from the WWE, their transgressions would not have been news. Most headlines during that time would most certainly refer to them as “former WWE star.” While not on the roster at the time, they were still indirectly connected to the company, which was attention the WWE did not want or need. Jeff’s issues included a major drug raid at his home in 2009. Matt was arrested for drugs as well in 2011, and for domestic assault and battery in 2014. If this were the NFL or NBA today, both brothers would be nearly unemployable. And yet, when you watch their WWE:24 episode, we see a slew of WWE superstars and employees, including Vince McMahon himself, all smiles and hugs and congratulatory as Matt and Jeff are welcomed “home.”
Meanwhile, Hogan remains blackballed for uttering one, albeit highly offensive, word during a recorded conversation that never was meant for public consumption if not for his personal privacy rights being violated.
Also, consider this- Jeff Hardy was just arrested IN MARCH for drunk driving. This issue was also used in the documentary. His punishment? A suspension, most of which was served while he was unable to work due to injury anyway, before returning the night after WrestleMania and immediately being placed into the main event scene.
Jeff Hardy could have killed someone.
Hulk Hogan? I was always told, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Or kill me.
Yet as of this writing, Hogan is still in the “do not talk about” category while Jeff Hardy is your reigning United States Champion.
The WWE draws a hard line on racial intolerance, but drug abuse, drunk driving, and domestic violence is OK?
Am I advocating for the firing of Matt and Jeff? No.
Am I defending what Hulk Hogan said? No.
And I’m not naïve enough to not realize that the real underlying issue here is money. If Vince thinks someone or something can make his company money, all can be forgiven and forgotten. That’s why he brought the Hardys back. That’s why I think eventually Hulk Hogan will be back. Heck, the door probably will never be completely closed for CM Punk to return.
But if the WWE is going to continue to take arbitrary stances on personal behavior and the repercussions of those behaviors, at least give yourself a leg to stand on.