Ahh yes, it’s Wrestlemania season.
The two-night “Showcase of the Immortals” is set to take place on Saturday, April 10 and Sunday the 11th. COVID-19 forced last year’s event to take place at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, and this year the company will get an opportunity at a do-over and host the grand spectacle at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium in front of a 36 percent capacity crowd, or roughly 25,000 fans.
Last week the WWE announced the on-screen hosts for Wrestlemania. One is superstar Titus O’Neil, real name Thaddeus Bullard Sr., who has become a staple in the Tampa community and has become synonymous with his charitable work and involvement in terrific causes.
The other is Hulk Hogan — real name Terry Bollea — who along with being the biggest name in professional wrestling in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s and basically building the Wrestlemania brand, is a known pariah.
It’s been nearly six years since the Hulkster was fired from the company for being caught on tape making appallingly racist comments, and three-years since the Tampa native was reinstated into the WWE Hall of Fame by the company, where he subsequently made an apology to the locker room that African-American wrestlers like the New Day and Titus O’Neil himself (!) found disingenuous.
Since then Hogan has made sporadic appearances to do his schtick on WWE television, and now at the event that he made famous being held in his hometown, he’ll be a featured act on the show. And while I get the WWE reasoning behind trotting out a former superstar of his caliber for nostalgia purposes and potentially drawing more eyeballs, Hulk Hogan shouldn’t be showcased like this anymore.
Showcasing Hulk Hogan is a contradiction to the recent years they’ve spent actually making an attempt to rectify the issues they’ve had with racism and stereotypes in the past. Look up and down and you’ll see the most diverse crew of superstars they’ve had, most of whom are afforded the agency to display this through their characters.
The aforementioned New Day have been one of the primary staples of WWE television since 2015 with Tampa native and Intercontinental Champion Big E being positioned as a breakout babyface singles star (he’s utilized his platform to promote his “Our Heroes Rock” black history project). Bobby Lashley will arrive to Raymond James Stadium as the first black superstar to enter Wrestlemania as WWE Champion. The main event of night one could feature two Black women in Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair for the Smackdown brand, while a Japanese talent like Asuka has been the face of the Raw women’s division for months.
Up-and-down the card, you’ll see men and women of different races, ethnicities, backgrounds and colors being featured in front of a worldwide audience. Then in the middle of all of it, boom, you’ll be greeted by face of Hulk Hogan, a walking contradiction to everything I just mentioned.
Vince McMahon built his national empire on the back of Hogan in the ‘80’s, and the first decade of the big moments in Wrestlemania history is a giant Hulk Hogan highlight tape. There’s no denying that. What you also can’t deny is that the hateful words that he was caught on tape casually saying haven’t and won’t be forgotten, especially for wrestling fans who look like me. And in the years since, he hasn’t taken the steps to publicly rectify this.
We have moved past the need for Terry Bollea on our screens, and it’s time to leave him home for good.