There’s an ancient proverb that claims that a cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays. If recent reports are to be believed, Hulk Hogan could well be entering his seventh existence.
WWE themselves have very recently changed their stance on Hogan. Back in January, they issued a statement saying that, “At this time, WWE remains committed to its decision.” Their decision referring to Hogan’s ostracism from the company after the racist comment debacle back in 2016 and the lengthy Gawker lawsuit battle that followed it. The official company line was recently updated to state that, “We have had discussions with Terry Bollea (aka Hulk Hogan) about how he can help others learn from his mistakes, however, he is not under any contract with WWE.”
While clearly not a direct admittance that Hulk will be returning to WWE television, the fact that communication between the two parties has been re-established at least hints to some kind of reconciliation. For some, including soon-to-be Hall Of Famer Mark Henry, the timing of such a return isn’t right. During a recent interview, Henry stated, “I don’t know if I’m ready [to see Hogan return]. There’s a lot to be done.”
Henry is right. Despite Hogan’s two years in the wilderness, the timing of his potential return feels much too soon. Recent reports suggest that Hogan may return in time for WrestleMania, or perhaps as an on-screen GM replacement for Daniel Bryan, facilitating his return to in-ring action. Hogan has had so much time to reflect on his actions, but there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of remorse for what happened, let alone an acceptance that he was in the wrong to begin with.
In January, Hogan said, “I don’t know if they want me back. I think the fans want me back. I think that I’m part of that company from the ground up. Triple H I know is a huge fan of the guys that gave their blood, sweat and tears and their personal life to make this happen. I know Triple H would love to see me back on the inside again.” This doesn’t sound like a man who is repentant but more like a man who feels like he’s been hard done by. To go back to the proverb, Hogan feels like he should still be playing instead of straying.
If the naming and subsequent renaming of the Fabulous Moolah Memorial Battle Royal should have taught WWE anything, it’s that wrestling fans have long memories. For better or worse, we are more knowledgeable than ever before. Wrestlers’ personal lives are no longer off limits. Bringing Hogan back in the wake of the Moolah debacle would be ridiculous. If WWE thought they’d seen a backlash with that faux pas, it would pale in comparison to the reaction to a Hogan return. You have to feel that if Snickers were upset enough to interject in the naming of a battle royal, they’d be less than impressed with Hogan appearing on the grandest stage of them all.
WWE has a history of benevolence when it comes to former employees. They have repeatedly put aside personal differences to bring wrestlers back to the fold. Brock Lesnar, The Ultimate Warrior, even Bret Hart have all made their peace and re-signed at one point or another. McMahon and company are more than prepared to reconcile with those men and women who move the needle and make them money. While I’m sure that a returning Hogan would do wonders for their t-shirt sales, I’m not sure what else of value Hogan offers at this point in 2018.
He’s not going to wrestle again. He’s not a suitable replacement for general manager Daniel Bryan. Given everything he’s been through, he’s not the kind of goodwill ambassador that WWE needs right now. He’s out of time and out of place. Hogan is right when he says that he’s part of the company from the ground up, without Hogan there likely isn’t a WWE as we know it, but that doesn’t give him the right to continue to earn a living from it. With the amount Hogan received from the Gawker trial settlement (although nowhere near the initial $140 million), Hogan could have disappeared from wrestling forever. Yet, here we are.
Hogan may not have nine lives but he has more than most. Despite having hips of dust, he always lands on his feet. He’s played and he’s strayed but has he earned a return? WWE’s statement clearly says that Hogan isn’t under WWE contract, but such is his standing with the company, many are treating it as a formality that he will return sooner rather than later.
It’s easy to understand why. WWE’s desire to rehabilitate wrestlers who can increase their bank balance, along with Hogan’s notoriety when it comes to politicking makes for a lethal combination. Time may prove me wrong, but I don’t think that there’s the desire that either Hogan or WWE think there is to see him back in a WWE ring. Certainly not now. Not, as Mark Henry alluded to, before a lot of work is done to show that Hogan has actually learned from the mistakes he has made.