Hulk Hogan: a reminder it’s hard out here for a black wrestling fan

I’ve been a wrestling fan literally as long as I can remember. For ‘Inside Out‘ fans wrestling is embedded as a core memory — one that’s provided decades of great moments in my life.

But sometimes like the same week I heard disappointing news about Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan regarding blacks, it’s hard not to think that a key aspect of my childhood (and adulthood) has been irrevocably damaged over something so stupid as the color of one’s skin.

My parents, family and friends helped instill in me a firm color blindness of which I’m forever grateful, but it still felt pretty special watching Ron Simmons and Butch Reed (with manager Teddy Long) defeating the vaunted Steiner Bros. to become the first black NWA tag team champions in 1990.

Doom world championsIt was cool seeing guys who looked like me as champions something I hadn’t witnessed since I started watching in 1984. That Doom went on to have the longest title reign in WCW history at 281 days was even more impressive. Although they were heels, my loyalty was always to Doom who weren’t booked as dancing, jive-soul bros, but rough and rugged wrestlers who just happened to be black.

Back in 1987, it was a big deal when Doug Williams became the first black quarterback to win the Super Bowl.When Russell Wilson won two years ago, it was hardly a major storyline heading in to Super Bowl week. I felt enormous pride and some disbelief when  Simmons defeated Big Van Vader to become the first black world champion in 1992.

Booker T wins WCW titleThat thrill of seeing a black champion hasn’t lessened over the years whether it was Booker T winning the WCW world title on the final episode of Nitro, The Truth capturing the TNA world title or most recently Jay Lethal winning the ROH world title.

But as I’m in the process of re-editing my wrestling collection onto Blu-Ray, I’m stumbling into more and more instances where I wish I remained ignorant as I read or see a YouTube clip with wrestlers whose exploits I thrilled to in the past having disturbing and disgusting interactions with their black peers.

Wrestling like everything else isn’t immune to racism. It’d be foolish to think that in this fairy tale world of sports entertainment make believe that everyone would treat everyone based on their work ethic, dedication and ability, not the color of their skin.

This was not the guy Hogan was upset Brooke was dating.
This was not the guy Hogan was upset Brooke was dating.

But man, it sucks to read comments like Hogan’s that bash a guy his daughter’s dating and basing so much on it about his race, not cause he’s a scumbag or treats her bad. It’s a half-assed gripe and probably indicative of how Hogan’s life was spiraling out of control when the video was recorded.

For me, wrestling is escapism at its best so it’s disheartening to learn that a guy like Dick Murdoch was rumored to be in the KKK or the shameful attitudes of guys like Bill Dundee.

It’s equally hard to find some sort of context for the “old-school” wrestling mentality where racism was just another way to test and provoke peers to determine their toughness.

Crazily enough, my mind starts going into excuse mode to try to explain away the comments and actions. But they’ve got black friends! Some of the older black wrestlers say they respected the outright racists more because they knew where they stood!

Of course, can I honestly say I’ve never made a racist/hurtful statement back in the 80s, 90s or 00s that I deeply regretted and wouldn’t want blasted on my site? Can any of us? Still, there’s something damning when your childhood heroes fall so mightily.

Snoop Dogg and Hulk HoganHere’s Hogan’s statement to People.com

“Eight years ago I used offensive language during a conversation. It was unacceptable for me to have used that offensive language; there is no excuse for it; and I apologize for having done it,” Hogan said.  “This is not who I am. I believe very strongly that every person in the world is important and should not be treated differently based on race, gender, orientation, religious beliefs or otherwise. I am disappointed with myself that I used language that is offensive and inconsistent with my own beliefs.”

WWE quickly responded to the news with this statement released earlier today:

“WWE terminated its contract with Terry Bollea (a.k.a. Hulk Hogan). WWE is committed to embracing and celebrating individuals from all backgrounds as demonstrated by the diversity of our employees, performers and fans worldwide.”

For WWE’s quick attempts to scorch the Earth after news of this Hogan recording came out, they’ve yet to have a black wrestler (not named The Rock) as its WWE champion. Sure Booker T and Mark Henry won the world heavyweight title, but not the title whose lineage dates back to Bruno Sammartino, Bob Backlund, Bret Hart and John Cena. And it’s not like the dancing, singing and church act by The New Day is all that progressive in 2015.

The immediate gut reaction is to take a similar approach to my wrestling fandom, but there is some bright spots. Ring of Honor has at least six black wrestlers on their roster. The number that involves even thinly veiled stereotypes of rappers and dancers? Zero.

roh-jay-lethal-champThe world champ is Jay Lethal, who is also the ROH TV Champ in an unprecedented angle for any wrestler let alone a black wrestler where he’s defending both titles. ROH is definitely a promotion that doesn’t just talk about being inclusive, but acts on it as well.

In the end, Hogan screwed up. Like we all do. I suppose in the end, it’s more about being a better person than complaining about our heroes who so frequently remind us that they’re just as human as the rest of us.

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

–Gandhi

  • I heard about what Hogan did though I’m not entirely surprised. After all, the guy is a piece of shit. He constantly puts himself over and exaggerates so much over the years. He wasn’t a good person and all of those saying your prayers, train, eat your vitamins bullshit were lies just like the bullshit John Cena tells his idiotic fans.

    WWE fires Hogan which is good but it’s still not enough considering that this is a company who still employs a known racist scumbag in Michael “P.S.” Hayes while treating most of its African-American performers as stereotypes. Plus, who could forget this moment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nn-x6tMm-M

  • I really don’t get the deal with Hayes since so many fans think he’s the worst of the bunch. WWE definitely isn’t wiping him out of their history for some new dedication to enhancing how blacks are portrayed on their shows that’s for sure.

  • This is an excellent, well thought-out article. I personally haven’t watched wrestling since the early 80s so I can’t comment on how any of the organizations deals with employees of color. I do know that back then the WWF, as they were called, portrayed nearly every non-white wrestler in broad stereotypes. I wish I could say I was mature enough to notice this and that has something to do with my decision to never watch, but I can’t. I was in middle school and had other reasons. Sad to hear the news about Hogan and Flair, but I can’t say that I’m entirely surprised.

  • Thanks Wendell, WWF has been up and down with its portrayal of people of color, but it seems some of the higher ups think fans want that same old, same old when so much in society has changed…to some extent.

  • Hayes is an old fart that still thinks he is all that. Yet, I don’t think he’s as bad as Kevin Dunn and Vince himself.

  • keith

    i kind was out after DX did the black face. I dont ever cared once rock left. Im glad he left this shit and became a real star

  • I was listening to a podcast and they were talking about Rock and how some people don’t even know he used to wrestle he’s become such a big Hollywood star now.

  • keith

    I think you are more forgiving than me, but WWE need to look in the mirror as THEY have waaay too much history in slighting black folks, racist steroytypes, and vince being arrogrant wanna be donald trump over the years. I know its hard as kid, you kind of look at these guys as almost superheroes. yeah we liked comics and such but these guys were real jumping off the top rope, being tough guys. And yeah we all fail but we face the results of that failure. I can see hulk not being everyday racist but clearly when his sweet daughter came home with well you or I the freaking lid blew off. for some folks it there but it take some levels to reach it

  • keith

    yet i know i love flair (always thought hulk was boring or wack) but i know he another serious ring winger “country boy” the four horsemen always alluded to it especially with the managers they have had. Its like you always know but you werent adapt as a kid to know what was going on.

  • Exactly, WWE is so two-faced in all this, it’s almost laughable.

    To be real man, there’s a certain subset of ours that embraces ignorance, lacks consideration for anyone and are just outright disrespectful to everyone that makes all of us look bad. And if my daughter was dating that kind of dude, I’d be blown to, but Hogan really shouldn’t use that word in any context because it just looks awful.

  • keith

    I feel but you but WE all must be accountable for offensive behavior and that includes privileged guys who usually skirt the law, punishment ( cops as of late), they always flip it around than face their own demons and get better. Paula deen’s family any one? Yet true i want my daughter if i had to bring home a respectable man no matter the color. No one getting bonus points for being one color or another. This guy seemed to be bashed by hogan just for showing up and that needs to stop in relation to race relations. WWE must been sick of hogan and well eventually want to distance itself from its not to far off racist past ( dx black face, The guy who played a pimp, etc or in the old days other than JYD guys who couldnt get a shot to be wwe specific)

  • Oh I’m definitely not giving the offenders a pass, it just seems that we don’t want to act like there’s way too many of us that embrace and feed into these twisted stereotypes.
    I doubt WWE is gonna go much further at all. They’d been better off suspending Hogan so when they bring him back it doesn’t look like they’re softened their stance.

  • keith

    i feel you but its kind of like that chicken or the egg thing. All i know I see guys as we all do who do nothing wrong, upstanding, and get misused because of this stuff. I feel like we turn a lot cheeks and forgave a lot. I agree lots our folks can do better, just remember why the term institutional racism came about. Are our folks the cause or the symptoms of something bigger? History shows it.. Im keep it light after this lol but Hogan can drop off the face of the, so can these rebel flag losers, the mass murdering gun nuts, crooked cops, etc. Thats where i kind of been since its folks who look like us getting accused of killing ourselves and the like?? Its just a lot of things need to change

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