This past weekend, WWE announced that Hulk Hogan was “reinstated” into the WWE Hall of Fame, after a three year suspension. The original banishment stemmed from the video which became internationally notorious, not just for its salacious nature, but for the flurry of racist comments which spewed from Hulk Hogan’s… from Terry Bollea’s mouth.
Let me be clear: there is no excuse for racism. Period.
The question raised now, is can people change? I believe so. However, change requires sincere effort. Is it possible that the man that is Terry Bollea has taken the time to make himself a better person? To realize the pain he inflicted, not with his words – but with his beliefs?
Obviously, nobody can read what another person is thinking, but it must be considered that people are capable of expanding their thoughts. Terry Bollea is a smart man. He was smart enough to lead a worldwide revolution in professional wrestling – making it more mainstream than it had ever been. He manipulated an audience to not care whether or not what they were watching was real, but that it was something they had to see. That isn’t an easy task, and takes a conscious effort to read into the mass emotions of a fan base.
Terry Bollea has made a living of peddling insincerity. Pro-wrestling at its heart is a clever ruse, which when done best is when it is at its most entertaining. We, as fans, accept that we are being duped into actual combat, while at the same time still hang our hopes on a desired outcome. As fans, we buy into the ridiculousness of it all, because at the end of the day, it’s an alternate reality.
A Hulk Hogan sex tape has debuted on the internet & if u thought wrestling was fake, wait til u see this http://t.co/imrVcEdA
Then the Gawker lawsuit happened. The videotape went viral, and while first almost motivated to chuckle at the thought of a “Hulk Hogan Sex Tape” was setting itself up for punch lines, it was what would follow that made things even uglier.
The words were said. There is no context that makes them right. Yes, it was a private happening. It is believable that Bollea didn’t know he was being recorded. It could have been a dark time in his life – lord knows we all have them. The trial was embarrassing and bizarre. At the end of it all, I was truly ashamed to have been a Hulk Hogan fan.
However, my fandom is irrelevant. The level of hurt and pain his vocalized beliefs inflicted is immeasurable by any standard.
At the same time, when do you stop punishing someone?
Bollea has his detractors, yet those who have worked alongside him have said that he is sometimes “loyal to a fault” when it comes to who he stands with and trusts. There are countless stories of the charitable person that he is, and what he has meant to so many in a positive light.
There are those who will never forgive him – and they have every right to feel that way. Personally, the day this happened I wasn't too happy to hang up my Hulkamaniac status. I had been to WrestleMania X8, the event where fans welcomed Hogan home. When the Red and Yellow made its way back, I was on board. The feuds were entertaining, and the matches were mostly memorable. I even paid an embarassing amount of money for one of the fastest meet and greets of my life. I didn't care, he was Hulk Hogan - nostalgia with years of childhood memories all looped into one person.
Nevertheless, Terry Bollea didn’t live up to the character he didn’t just create, but touted to be just as good as. Forgiven or not – the only positive outcome is that he realizes he has to live with this for the rest of his life - which is a catalyst for opportunity to learn and be better. One can hope that this is a final sincere moment of redemption for a man whose legacy should have been celebrated - instead of asterisked.