Before I begin, I’d like to state that I usually try to avoid talking about race on a site dedicated to wrestling and nerd culture. And as far as I’m concerned, the only race I have an issue with are Klingons. They’re not all bad, but some of them give the rest a bad name; but that’s besides the point. With all of that aside, I’m an African American fan of Hulk Hogan. And now I’m forced to face the fact that if one of my all time childhood heroes were to see me on the streets, he’d probably think less of me because of how I look. And that alone is heartbreaking.
As a small chubby kid, I worshiped Hulk Hogan. He was my John Cena in my early single digit years. I’d say my prayers before bed every night. And I’d make sure to take my Flintstones vitamins every morning. I tried to exercise and lose weight because Hulk Hogan had admitted to being a chubby kid as well before losing weight. I even mimicked him and wore Hulkamania bandanas while wearing plastic shopping bags to substitute for shirts to tear open. I watched No Holds Barred a thousand times and enjoyed even his worse moments in film such as Mr. Nanny and Suburban Commando. And yes, I even watched Thunder in paradise and all of his TNT made for television movies. In my eyes, Hulk Hogan was the man! But throughout all of my young fandom, there are two moments that stood out the most for me as a kid. One very personal, and one I shared with the world.
The personal moment that stood out the most for me started in May 1990, when Earthquake delivered a number of splashes to Hogan’s ribs. Hulk was sent to the hospital and stayed out of action for a while. Fans were encouraged to send letters and get well cards to Hogan while he recovered. So seven year old me, whom had no idea that wrestling wasn’t real, sent The Hulkster a heartfelt and horribly written letter wishing for a speedy recovery. And after a few weeks, I received an unexpected surprise! Hulk Hogan himself sent me a letter back with an autographed photo! My head exploded like the Death Star! And to this day, it still remains one of my fondest memories linked to wresting. The moment I shared with the world was on July 7th, 1996, when Hulk Hogan turned heel and joined the NWO. I don’t have to go in to details with that. Because if you’re reading this at the moment, you are well aware of the reaction it received. Hell, you probably remember your own reaction at the time. But those two memories would remain a part of the love I have for wrestling, until the moment I realized one of my childhood heroes is a racist.
I shared my personal experiences in order to explain why I will not simply tear Hulk Hogan down for his poor decisions. Lord knows this isn’t the first negative thing he’s done in his life. It’s just the newest. But as a black wrestling fan with an appreciation for the man’s past work, it’s hard to believe that the man behind the legacy has such a deep hatred for black people. It’s truly sickening. The seven year old from my past may have thought Hulk Hogan was the greatest thing in the world, but the adult man I am today has learned how awful he is as a person from enough shoot interviews about him. So his remarks didn’t surprise me. They’re just extremely disappointing.
I’d like to believe that he will learn from his mistakes, but I doubt it. The type of hatred he spewed out comes from years of believing in it. I don’t believe a man in his sixties can legitimately change his racist views. So any apology he makes is more for damage control than anything else. But as WWE tries their hardest to wipe him out of their product, the most well known name in wrestling will now forever have a negative response when said out loud. And African American fans that grew up saying their prayers and taking their vitamins will have to come to terms with the fact that the “Real American” we grew up watching is simply another reflection of the ugly side of America.