Professional wresting fans were told by Hulk Hogan for years “Hulkamania would never die.” No, despite any new nemesis who would come his way and claim he was the one to end Hogan’s powerful marketing brand, the Hulkster would end up with his hand raised, and the appeal of the iconic wrestler would live on.
How ironic it is Hulkamania’s demise came not at the hands of some dangerous foe in the wacky, scripted world of wrestling, but by Hogan’s own tongue. When reports surfaced of a racist rant spewed by Hogan in 2012, his employer WWE quickly terminated all ties with both the in-ring personality and his real life counterpart Terry Bollea.
If you head to WWE’s website today, you’ll find very few mentions of his name. His profile and items from the company’s shop have been removed. And what of his many landmark wrestling matches? They’re still up on the company’s Network app, but odds are none will ever be prominently featured on the service again.
It seems a sad end to a man who WWE head Vince McMahon once labeled “the Babe Ruth of Sports Entertainment.” For three decades, Hulk Hogan has been synonymous with professional wrestling more than any other name. He’s been on t-shirts, cereal boxes, pinball machines and energy drinks. He’s even had a moderately successful reality show on his family added to his resume.
But perhaps the term “sad end” is in the eye of the beholder. While the public persona of Hulk Hogan incorporated all the bravado and thrill of an all-American hero, Terry Bollea the man was known to have a gargantuan ego that made him difficult to work with backstage and loathed among groups of “smart fans” who kept track of the behind-the-scenes gossip of the business.
The transcript excerpt with Hogan claiming of his daughter Brooke, ““I mean, I’d rather if she was going to f*ck some n*gger, I’d rather have her marry an 8-foot-tall n*gger worth a hundred million dollars!” plays right in line with the reputation Hogan developed at the now-defunct World Championship Wrestling. He was one of the first stars to be given a guaranteed contract worth millions of dollars and granting him substantial creative control over his in-ring character.
One would hope with such power would come a certain amount of responsibility as a leader to other wrestlers in the locker room. Instead, the whole affair turned into what Hogan would later describe as “the biggest ATM I’ve ever seen.” He walked through matches and rarely put over any younger talent, which could’ve benefited the company greatly.
The Hulkster even had a little trick to boost his brand appeal management didn’t catch onto while in business. WCW aired their programming on the Turner networks, which also had a big deal with the NBA in the mid-1990s. Often during NBA season, professional wrestling’s televised ratings would take a hit because fans were watching basketball instead. Hogan, knowing this, would schedule “a break” during the height of the NBA’s seasons when ratings dropped. Then, when the season ended, he’d return to TV, thus making it look like ratings increased simply by his presence. If only his mind had tried to develop a similarly brilliant strategy for saving WCW, which, thanks to his incompetence and many others, went out of business in 2001.
Since that company’s closure, Hogan has had an on-and-off relationship with World Wrestling Entertainment, the place his career was launched and shot to superstardom in the 1980s. Again, it’s one riddled in controversy. He’s parted ways with the company numerous times over – what else – than money and “taking a loss” to certain talent. Perhaps WWE owner Vince McMahon finally got wise to some of the complications, and when bringing Hogan back in 2014, restricted him to strictly serving as “an ambassador for the company” and not an in-ring competitor.
But now even the “ambassador” title is gone. It’s bad enough to have a behind-the-curtain greedy star promoting your brand, but when the situation turns to public racism, the company had little choice but to sever all ties with Hogan. It was the right call, and while longtime fans are having a difficult time stomaching the moment, it’s one most will eventually will agree was the best move.
Yes, Hulkamania is mortal, and its run appears to have come to an end. The ego Hogan kept hidden from the cameras for so long has finally landed. For decades, the Hogan has been telling us to “eat our vitamins and say our prayers.” If only the Hulkster had followed his own advice.