Hulk Hogan will make a return to the WWE in the not-too-distant future, whether people like it or not.
The Hulkster was blacklisted by the company back in 2015, after footage of a racially charged rant was revealed by Dylan Howard and Lachlan Cartwright of the National Enquirer and RadarOnline.com.
The footage, which saw Hogan repeatedly use the N-word, came against a backdrop of sex tape leaks and litigation, which eventually found in the wrestling icon’s favour, but left him cut adrift from WWE.
Vince McMahon’s company cut all ties with the wrestler almost immediately, while any trace of the Hulk legend was removed from the WWE website. But fast-forward two years and it would appear that WWE is having a change of heart.
Marc Middleton of Wrestling Inc. reported that WWE was already considering the possibility of bringing Hogan back. That process may have already begun, with IGN and Nerdist journalist Chris E. Hayner the first to notice on Twitter that Hogan’s image had begun to pop up in adverts for the WWE streaming service.
And herein lies part of the problem: Hulk Hogan is one of the biggest stars in the history of WWE. He was The Rock before The Rock even existed, starring in a string of action movies and becoming a fan favourite, with his face plastered across a whole range of WWE merchandise.
In what are uncertain times for the future of wrestling, amid declining viewing figures, Hogan is box office and would generate headlines and viewers for both positive and negative reasons.
WWE has been keen to promote a message of forgiveness to troubled wrestlers in recent times too, evidently aware that the decision to sever ties with some one-time WWE stars has had serious consequences in the past.
It’s part of the reason the Ultimate Warrior was welcomed back into the WWE Hall of Fame despite some serious beef with McMahon and perhaps why star and executive Triple H said the following of Hogan back in 2015.
“Do I think he can be forgiven and make amends with the world and move forward?” he said during an appearance on Greg and the Morning Buzz. “Yeah, absolutely.”
Hulk Hogan wouldn’t be the first controversial WWE star to make a return, or the first athlete for that matter – Mike Tyson was welcomed back to boxing despite serving time in prison.
In any case, it appears that the WWE has already made a decision with PWInsider’s Mike Johnson revealing “The belief of those I’ve spoken to over the last year is that it’s just a matter of when a return happens.”
It’s been two years since the Hogan incident and with WWE increasingly turning to its roster of classic wrestling stars in a bid to bolster ratings and aid the efforts of its new brood, having Hogan back could be a mutually beneficial move.
Not everyone is going to like it and WWE may lose some viewers but the stark reality is that they may gain even more at the same time.
Hulk Hogan has always been a big draw. WWE needs him as much as he needs them.
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Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.