“I am a real American, fight for the rights of every man, I am a real American, fight for what‘s right, fight for your life.”
So goes the unmistakable hook of the most famous wrestler in history, the immortal “Holywood” Hulk Hogan. A hero to weans and men in their thirties the world over, slayer of baddies, defender of all that’s good and true, massive racist?!?
This week it transpires the Hulkster’s interests in the rights of “every man” may be rather more limited than his catchy theme implies, as details of an unbelievable racist tirade are doing the rounds online. The extracts, taken from a sex tape, over which Hogan has sued Gawker Media, were not denied by Hogan, who has apologised and insisted his words don’t represent his views. In case you missed just how insistent he was about the fact he is a racist, here’s is just some of what he had to say about the fact his daughter was doing a business deal with an unnamed “black billionaire”:
[CONTENT WARNING: racism, racial slurs]
I don’t know if Brooke was fucking the black guy’s son.
I mean, I don’t have double standards. I mean, I am a racist, to a point, fucking n******. But then when it comes to nice people and shit, and whatever.
I mean, I’d rather if she was going to fuck 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. Fucking n*****.
Hogan was instantly fired from WWE, the company with whom he’s been most closely associated throughout his years as a wrestler. Starting his 2nd run with the company back in 1983, he quickly defeated that evil Iranian guy (The Iron Sheik) to win the WWF World Heavyweight Championship, which he held on and off for much of next decade, finally leaving in 1993, having dropped the belt to the devious Japanese one (Yokozuna) who was so deviously and Japanese, he was actually Samoan. No racism to see there then.
When he wasn’t beating up foreigners for our entertainment, Hogan was well known for telling his many adoring young fans to, “train, say your prayers and eat your vitamins.” In 1994, Hogan told the trial of WWF owner Vince McMahon that he had been taking drugs for years, in order to gain size and weight. His catchphrase was never updated to “train, say your prayers and inject yourself with anabolic steroids.” More’s the pity.
In mid 1994, he unexpectedly signed with the struggling World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and would be instantly slotted into their main event slot. After a year or so beating monsters like he always had, the act was becoming stale. On July 7th 1996, the unthinkable happened, Hulk Hogan became a bad guy. Just as his emergence as the hero had coincided with the wrestling boom in the 1980s, his transformation into an arrogant villain was seen as the catalyst for the 90s heyday.
Like any boom, it’s only a boom for certain people, particularly for those who have a clause in their contract known as “creative control.” I don’t think I’m revealing any secrets here when I point out that the results of wrestling contests are pre-determined. Hogan’s contract allowed him to be the one who would decide if he won or if he lost and how, something he employed with liberal effect over the years.
As time went on, Hogan’s ego resulted in all kinds of nonsensical shenanigans both inside the ring and behind the scenes, as he refused to lose or only lost in the most convoluted ways. Perhaps the most notorious single incident is the “fingerpoke of doom“, when a much hyped match ended when Hogan beat Kevin Nash for the WCW World Title with a single fingerpoke to the chest. The crowd in attendance were many kinds of pissed off and didn’t like being reminded they were watching something clearly fake, controlled by an ageing gentleman with improbably large arms, who could make himself champion on demand.
He threw another wobbly in his final appearance with WCW, which only wasn’t as famous because no-one was even watching by this stage. I won’t bother explaining what happened, or was supposed to happen, but the net result was Hogan being called a “piece of shit” and most cuttingly “bald” live on air by the promoter, as the bemused fans again wondered what the Hulk was going on. Less than a year later, WCW went out of business. While the reasons for this are many and varied – and best documented here – no name is mentioned more than Hulk Hogan.
Not everyone who worked at WCW while Hogan was there was taking home Hulkish amounts of cash. In 2002, 9 African American wrestlers and Japanese manager Kazuo “Sonny” Ono, brought a racial discrimination lawsuit against WCW, alleging they were severely underpaid, didn’t have the same opportunities as white performers and were forced to take part in racist and degrading storylines. The action was eventually settled out of court but not before much damning evidence emerged. One wrestler, Stevie Ray, filed the following submission,
On one occasion, plaintiff and his brother were led in chains into a match by a Caucasian performer whose stage name was Colonel Parker. This was extremely demeaning and derogatory as Colonel Parker was depicted as a southern plantation owner and The Harlem Heat appeared as slaves.
Stevie Ray’s brother is Booker T, perhaps the most successful black wrestler in WCW’s short history and the man who held the WCW World Title when the company closed its doors in 2002. Even he began his career there as a slave, then a prisoner before graduating to being from “the street,” you know, that place where all the black people live.
Both of Hogan’s still active former employees, TNA and the WWE, have completely purged any mention of him from their websites. WWE has been making a big song and dance lately about its commitment to diversity and not before time.
As recently as the 90s, the WWE can boast of offering fans such enlightened characters as Saba Simba, the tribesman from Uganda (i.e. Virginia), who came to the ring carrying a spear. “Simba” was in fact Tony Atlas, who had previously held the WWF World Tag Team Championship. His tag team partner back then was Rocky Johnson, father of Dwayne Johnson AKA The Rock. The Rock himself first rose to fame in 1990s in a group called the Nation of Domination, a sort-of-parody of the Nation of Islam who feuded with the Puerto Rican gang (Los Boricuas) and the White skinhead biker gang (The DOA) in
a series of multicultural athletic contests a televised interracial war.
Fast forward a decade or so and WWE superstars Shad Gaspard & JTG burst onto the scene as the duo known as “Cryme Tyme.” They were young, black and they…committed crimes. After being inundated with complaints following their initial promos, WWE were keen to point out this was all a big joke we just weren’t clever enough to get! Cryme Tyme were obviously a parody, which made light of previous portrayals of black wrestlers and it was funny because there wasn’t any racism any more, so we were told. For Cryme Tyme’s gimmick to work, it was necessary to suspend our disbelief and pretend racism was all finished. Lumbering these 2 young athletes with comedic hoodlum characters suggested that in fact, racism was alive and kicking in WWE.
Wrestling is an industry based on stereotypes, where we’re encouraged to delight in the one dimensional battles of people who are entirely good against people who are entirely evil. So is anyone surprised the guy who’s spent so much of his life battling against those from “parts unknown” is a total racist? Probably not. Clearly wrestling has a massive problem with racism that goes way beyond just one person or organisation. You could be forgiven for thinking that despite appearances, very little may have changed since “glory days”, where the big white guy beat up all those nasty foreigners.
On the one hand, the current WWE Tag Team champions are The Prime Time Players, they’re young, talented, reasonably popular, black, one of them is openly gay for good measure. They aren’t savages or militant nationalists, they don’t want to hold you up or get off with you – although their subtle similarities to groups such as Cryme Tyme remain a matter of great debate. And then there are characters like Rusev, who played an evil Russian until recently and now plays the less well treaded (but at least more accurate) “evil Bulgarian.” He’s a figure who wouldn’t be out of place battling our “Real American” hero, Hulk Hogan, about 3 decades ago during the Cold War. Is this really progress or is the appearance of progress just quite a good storyline in today’s climate? As is so often the case when it comes to wrestling, it becomes difficult to tell who’s fooling who.
One person who’s not fooling anyone is Hulk Hogan. Usually at this point in his battles, when he’s against the ropes, Hogan employs a timeless trick – drawing on inner strength, his army of Hulkmaniac prayers and definitely not anabolic steroids – he HULKS UP, rips off his shirt, shouts “YOU!” while pointing at his opponent before flooring them and finishing them off with his legdrop of doom, so called because it sounds a bit scarier than what it is, a legdrop.
Hulking up this time seems to consist of Hogan retweeting people demanding to know why Obama can use the n-word and still be in a job yet he can’t. If Hogan still needs that explained to him, it seems unlikely we’ll be seeing his doom laden legs in a wrestling ring any time soon. You can’t Hulk up from the immortal words, “I am a racist,” that’s a phrase that can only land you in one place, the wank bank.
If ever there was a time for the wrestling industry, which has been so reliant on using racism to sell tickets over the years, to make an example of a baddie and finish him off once and for all, now is that time.”
So Hulk Hogan *rips shirt* *points* YOU!…are a wanker.