Being a black pro wrestling fan is more difficult than you think.
In the last couple of weeks, events in the pro wrestling industry have done more than enough to test my mental fortitude, discernment, and judgment towards personalities and fans alike. As you may or may not know already, the WWE reinstated wrestling icon Hulk Hogan into their Hall Of Fame after an exile lasting 3 years. What was the cause of this ban you might ask? It was Hogan admitting to racist ideologies in a secretly recorded rant expressing his feelings about his daughter’s interracial relationship. It went a little something like this:
“I mean, I don’t have double standards. I mean I am a racist, to a point, f****** n*****. But then when it comes to nice people and s***, are whatever.”…
It doesn’t stop there, he had more to say.
“I’d rather if she was going to f*** some n*****, I’d rather have her marry an 8-foot-tall n***** worth a hundred million dollars! Like a basketball player”
“I guess we’re all a little racist. F****** n*****.”
That was it, it was that leaked audio of him devaluing me and people that look like me into nothing more than n****** not worthy of his daughter unless we put a basketball in a hoop. These words by him once discovered immediately disgraced the former WWE and WCW World Champion, stripping him of his Hall Of Fame nomination and any mention of him on WWE television or memorabilia indefinitely. All it took was 3 years for Vince McMahon to wait for this to blow over and take the coward’s approach of reinstating him, bringing him into the fold to give a half-hearted apology, and McMahon himself not being present to explain himself.
For Hogan (real name Terry Bollea), his rants were more than just a layer from a white man who has built a character later in his career at the expense of popular black culture. From wearing an assortment of Jordans and durags to refusing anyone to wear the same type of clothing at his beach restaurant, it seemed a little excessive to create a dress code that aims at a particular group of people. Also coming from the same era where wrestling icons of of the 80s and 90s were freely dropping racist slurs in front of targeted minorities, it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
It didn’t take long for the news to face backlash from a number of fans and media outlets, even the talent themselves had words. The New Day and Titus O’Neil both shared their thoughts on the reinstatement, feeling that the character Hulk Hogan has earned his place there but the man Terry Bollea have so much more to prove in his sincerity:
— King T’Kofi (@TrueKofi) July 18, 2018
My TRUTH!! pic.twitter.com/3HgsmXOOEg
— Titus O’Neil (@TitusONeilWWE) July 18, 2018
O’Neil has stated in his letter that Hogan wasn’t truly sorry for what he said, he was only sorry that he was caught. WWE should know that this will be a complete PR nightmare and for that it makes little sense to bring him back up in the first place.
Like The New Day and Titus, I also know that forgiveness does not come easy. He no longer belongs on WWE television and any version of him appearing as far ambassador, an angle, or even a public apology would come off as contrived. The more I think about how far this went between the two parties shows how much the wrestling industry as a whole fail to acknowledge the grievances of their minority audience. You will have old guardsmen like Jerry Lawler (alleged statutory rapist) shout how much this about PC culture and Eric Bischoff proclaiming that it is just “haters” instead of using common f****** sense. What Hogan said was reprehensible and it’s something I simply ‘won’t get over’ because f*** that, he doesn’t deserve my forgiveness.
Which makes it all the more upsetting when I see those that support his return and defend his actions are those that are seen as the tastemakers of the wrestling media. The majority of them are middle-aged white men who have no inclination of the world outside of their bubble entirely designed by New Japan and Attitude Era DVDs. For far too long I have to hear from these people who haven’t shared my experiences tell my kind that we should move on from facing discrimination and the societal hurdles. No, it’s bigger than just boycotting WWE because they’re a “nazi organization” when these same nerds are seeing nothing wrong with what Hogan has done.
It’s clear there’s a severe lack of representation of voices in wrestling media, not excluding the talent representing in these companies. I had to see one of my peers lambasted and ridiculed on Twitter simply because he questioned the lack of panels featuring POC and Women for September’s Starrcast event. Instead of responding to the questions at hand of whether they reached out to any podcasts, they circled around posting a link saying people from all over are attending. At this point it is a disservice to keep a loyal, yet fringe market in the dark when there are unique perspectives that need to be heard.
It’s more than just black-and-white, there’s women of all racial backgrounds that have extensive knowledge on topics that many men aren’t capable of attacking in an intelligent manner (see. Sexual Assault). There’s LGBTQ voices that see things in complexities that I have understood but still willing to learn. Until these voices are featured on the notable platforms housed by the typical generic gatekeepers, we as a united fanbase are still far behind.