Jonathan Bachman/Associated Press
Hulk Hogan‘s exodus from WWE won’t be permanent.
The controversy surrounding The Hulkster will dissipate enough to clear the way for a return. A forgiving audience and the company’s desire for star power will lead to the former WWE champion making his way back to the spotlight, warts and all.
That didn’t seem possible when Hogan was mired in a lawsuit, a leaked sex tape was in the news and everyone was talking about him repeatedly firing off the n-word.
In 2015, the Hall of Famer suddenly found himself ousted from the company after the emergence of a racially-charged rant (link contains profanity) revealed in a report by Dylan Howard and Lachlan Cartwright of The National Enquirer and RadarOnline.com.
WWE cut all ties with Hogan immediately. He was mostly scrubbed from WWE.com.
It’s now been over two years since his forced exit.
Is that long enough for those wounds to heal? WWE is reportedly asking itself that very question. According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t Marc Middleton of Wrestling Inc) WWE has considered the possibility of bringing back Hogan into the fold.
Todd Williamson/Associated Press/Associated Press
That will eventually happen.
The wider the gap gets between Hogan’s darkest days and the present gets, the more likely we’ll hear Real American on WWE TV as Hogan makes his triumphant return. That will irk some of its audience, but it’s inevitable.
Hogan remains a huge name. His presence would generate nostalgic euphoria for many.
For special shows like Raw’s upcoming 25th anniversary, The Hulkster is one of the biggest stars from the past WWE can bring in. And it will do just that once it believes the negative feelings toward him have died down enough.
The 25th Anniversary of #RAW is guaranteed to be LEGENDARY! @RealKevinNash @ShawnMichaels https://t.co/H8bAvcW10G
Ultimate Warrior spouted off a long list of controversial and offense statements as detailed by Rob Rousseau on Vice Sports. He had been at odds with Vince McMahon for years after a famous backstage dispute. But WWE eventually welcomed him back, inducting him into the Hall of Fame.
Hogan now feels poised to make his own comeback.
And WWE seems to be inching toward that by slowly including his name and image in its programming. Paul Heyman referenced Hogan in a Raw promo on Jan. 30. As Chris E. Hayner, who writes for IGN and Nerdist, pointed out last September, WWE began to insert Hogan into advertising for its streaming service:
Chris E. Hayner @ChrisHayner
Lots of Hogan in this WWE Network commercial. Testing the waters maybe? #WWEClash
Will WWE take the next step and bring Hogan life and in the flesh on TV?
Sources have made it clear to Mike Johnson of PWInsider that the answer is yes. He wrote over the weekend: “The belief of those I’ve spoken to over the last year is that it’s just a matter of when a return happens.”
While many Superstars’ returns hinge on their ability to recover from injury, Hogan’s comeback is dependent on rehabbing his public image. And we’ve seen the court of public opinion shift on the contrite over time. Many have softened their stances on Mike Tyson, Jane Fonda and others despite what they have done in the past.
WWE star and executive Triple H, for one, believes in the power of redemption.
The Game appeared on Greg and the Morning Buzz in late 2015 and addressed the Hogan controversy. “Do I think he can be forgiven and make amends with the world and move forward?” he said. “Yeah, absolutely.”
It may not be long before he is proven right.