On March 23rd, 2015, WWE terminated the contact of Hulk Hogan with immediate effect, and set about systematically deleting any reference to his long and illustrious Hall of Fame career. It was a complicated and emotive situation, and Hulk, to his credit, quickly admitted his past mistakes.
Hogan's highly public personal life was always going to be an issue in the PG Era, but when the now defunct gossip website Gawker posted a sex tape of Hogan with Heather Clem (the wife of his former friend Bubba the Love Sponge), it was clear just how badly things had spiralled out of control. After winning the ensuing multi-million dollar libel case, the illicit recordings continued to haunt Hogan, when private conversations recorded during the sex tape were controversially leaked online, exposing Hogan's racist slurs towards a music mogul his daughter Brooke was dating.
WWE was of course, correct to release him. You can't have a damaged Hulk Hogan representing a Worldwide business that is both inclusive and diverse in terms of fanbase and employees. Every media appearance would be surrounded by uncomfortable questions.
Hulk is not alone in being intentionally forgotten by the company he helped build. WWE are highly skilled when it comes to self-editing pro-wrestling archives; their industry dominance bringing with it the ability to present false versions of the past without fear of reprisal. Chyna, Ultimate Warrior and Randy Savage all found themselves expunged from the history books due to Vince McMahon's personal animosity.
TNA founder Jeff Jarrett, notoriously sacked by Vince on live television, still finds himself on the blacklist, even though he's a 6 time Intercontinental Champion and 4 time WCW World Heavyweight Champion. In recent year's CM Punk's soured business relationship with the WWE has led to an almost total silence on his notable career. The less said about the tragic story of Chris Benoit, the better.
But wrestling fans don't forget. You can't erase the time Hulk lifted Andre The Giant at Wrestlemania III, or the heel turn that shocked the world during Bash at the Beach, and with it the creation of the New World Order. You don't forget the moments that made you fall in love with wrestling.
Time heals wounds, and anyone that follows Hulk's social media can see his life is in a more stable and positive place; he's been working very hard to rebuild any harm done to his public reputation - and his settlement with Gawker undoubtedly eased any financial pressure. As a kid, Hulk seemed superhuman, a God amongst men... but the man behind the myth, Terry Gene Bollea, led a chaotic and fundamentally flawed life. I personally believe that Hulk deserves an opportunity to prove he's beaten his demons.
Does WWE need Hulk Hogan? Using Hogan in some capacity - whether it be doing autograph signings, appearances at major promotional events, both in the U.S and abroad - makes good business sense in drawing crowds and selling merchandise. There's still a lot of value in Hulk's name... and bringing him back opens up a lot more Network content, and with it the ability to produce new shows with him. I'd love to see a Table for 3 with Hogan, Hall and Nash.
As an onscreen character... well that's up for debate. Could you use Hogan in backstage segments? Has he got one last match, even if it was just a cameo like his appearance during Triple H vs Sting? Hulkamania running wild for one last time?
I'd feel angry if Hulk spent the remaining years of his life without the support of the WWE Universe. His legacy should be heralded not hidden. Can you imagine the pop at Wrestlemania 34 when that music hits... even if it's just for a few minutes. Rumours have been going around that Hogan and WWE have been talking again. Hogan's name has been dropped by various talent on WWE television recently; Paul Heyman in his recent promo on Jinder Mahal. It's time for Hulk to come home... perhaps not the same Hogan but a happier and more humble one.