It’s been a month since a leaked recording of Hulk Hogan’s sex tape lawsuit, which revealed that the once wholesome “real American” went on a racist and homophobic tirade after having sex with his best friend’s wife.
Hulk Hogan was appropriately fired by the organization, and any traces of his likeness have been erased from the Hall of Fame and WWE online store.
His attempted erasure from the WWE history books should come with a re-evaluation of some of the practices that still undermine an already lowbrow form of “sports entertainment”. Hogan is a morally starved racist asshole, but the industry is made up of wrestlers, writers and managers that are just as despicable.
Despite WWE’s strong response to Hogan’s racist comments, it should not be forgotten that this is the same company that cannot depict a black wrestler unless he’s some kind of tribal warrior, convict, ex-convict, pimp, servant, witch doctor or dancing comic relief. These culturally insensitive characterizations are made all too real when current fan favourite stables like The New Day are still made to be on-stage laughing stocks compared to their white superstar counterparts.
For instance, when then-rising-star Booker T lost a racially charged feud between him and Triple H, the latter looked down on what would have become a rare success story for a black wrestler and said “Booker I think you’re a little bit confused about your role in life here. Somebody like you…doesn’t get to be a world champion.” Highly scripted and over the top? Yes, but when a setup like that resulted in Booker ultimately losing, it cannot help but feel like an all too appropriate metaphor for the larger issues embedded in the organization as a whole.
The writing team, all controlled by in CEO Vince McMahon, produces storylines that are laughable at best, and cringe-inducing at their worst. McMahon is responsible for so many awful on-screen and off-screen moments and is more than happy to walk the line between fictional and real life harassment and abuse.
In 2005, McMahon had his infamously scripted “n-word” drop on camera with John Cena, an angry Booker T and Sharmell. Although the clip was supposed to be an “outlandish and satirical skit involving fictional characters, similar to that of many scripted television shows and movies” according to a WWE rep during an in-character feud with the Undertaker leading up to the 2003 survivor series, McMahon threatened to have the wrestler’s house set on fire and have his wife “raped by a motorcycle gang, right in front of the Undertaker.” An adulterer in reality, McMahon used his “creative” powers in the WWE to make out with superstar diva Trish Stratus, Tory Wilson, and several other of his employee while the character of Vince McMahon drugged his actual wife (who was somehow roped in to becoming another WWE character) until she was comatose and wheelchair bound. McMahon proceeded to subject his life-long partner and viewers at home to his sexual escapades with employees young enough to be his daughter. This included Sable, wife of Brock Lesnar, who filed sexual harassment and unsafe working condition allegations against the organization just a few years beforehand.
It doesn’t take much digging to discover a disturbingly long list of sexual assault allegations against McMahon and other WWE and WCW officials. In 2006, McMahon was accused of groping and sexually harassing a tanning salon employee. A 2002 transatlantic flight carrying a variety of WWE superstars ended with a lawsuit by the airline, in which it was revealed that wrestlers sexually harassed the flight attendants. The list included Ric Flair, who flashed his penis and forced himself onto one of the attendants.
Professional wrestling is big, loud and stupid. It has always been hyper machismo to a fault, and has rightfully struggled to garner a consistent mainstream audience ever since the steroid induced 80’s and the graphic 90’s era. No matter how much the organization tries to rewrite their history books, it’s unlikely that the executives and celebrities participating in a disgusting and violent culture are going to change their ways.