Another day, another rumor about Hulk Hogan making his long-awaited return to WWE after being fired from the company for a slur-laden racist rant released as part of his sex tape trial in 2015. This time, PWInsider reports that WWE has been in talks with Hogan about a return to the company, though the role Hogan would play is unknown. But rumors that WWE is considering bringing back Hogan started almost immediately after he left, so that in itself is hardly news.
What's interesting, however, is that WWE provided a statement to PWInsider confirming that talks with Hogan have taken place, though it's very carefully worded to keep as much heat for considering bringing back a wrestler who was captured on camera repeatedly using the n-word off of WWE as possible.
We have had discussions with Terry Bollea (aka Hulk Hogan) about how he can help others learn from his mistakes, however, he is not under any contract with WWE.
But for WWE, there's no value in bringing back Hogan unless it's in a public-facing role. Hogan was never known for his in-ring skills, even though he was one of the most successful pro wrestlers of all time. He was also notoriously involved in nonstop manipulative backstage politics that WWE certainly doesn't want him teaching to anyone else. The only real value in Hogan for WWE is getting a nostalgia pop from the crowd by playing Hogan's music and parading the geezer down to the ring to flex his muscles and pose for the crowd at special events like WrestleMania and selling Hogan-branded merchandise on WWE.com.
Hogan was a massive part of WWE's history, and it's understandable that the company wants to be able to capitalize on the multiple eras that Hogan's career spanned. But for that to work in WWE's favor, it has to be more lucrative for WWE than the negative publicity of having Hogan's racist rant brought up in association with WWE is damaging. Just last week, WWE was forced to rename the Fabulous Moolah Memorial Battle Royale after allegations about financial and sexual exploitation of trainees resurfaced about the late women's champion, leading WWE advertiser Snickers to confront the company about the name. Earlier this year, they fired then-current Cruiserweight Champion Enzo Amore after it was revealed he was the subject of a rape investigation.
In confirming PWInsider's story with the above statement, WWE is testing the waters for the eventual news of a Hogan return, and the wording of the statement could hint at WWE's plans to rehabilitate the Hulkster's image. First step, it seems, will be showing that Hogan has learned from his mistakes by having him teach others how to avoid them (don't be racist on camera?). After sponsors have gotten comfortable with Hogan in the role of remorseful career guru, it will be easier for the company to eventually shift him into the role of feel-good nostalgia act.
Even better for WWE, they'll be able to milk at least a few WWE Network documentaries out of the whole process.