In his first interview since WWE announced he was reinstated into their Hall of Fame, Hulk Hogan addressed his backstage apology to the locker room before the Extreme Rules pay-per-view (PPV) event in Pittsburgh on July 15.
As you’ll no doubt recall, Hogan was apologizing for a tape - released in 2015 but recorded years earlier - which captured him, among other sentiments, referring to himself as a racist and using slurs for black people. After his speech to the locker room, Titus O’Neil and Kofi Kingston (on behalf of The New Day) issued public statements explaining why they found his apology lacking.
Hogan’s version of events, presented on the first episode of legendary wrestling reporter Bill Apter’s new show The Apter Chat, includes multiple things we’ve heard before from the 65 year old, as well as several remarks which sound addressed to O’Neil, Kingston and others who didn’t welcome him back.
When Triple H and Vince McMahon spoke to him about returning to WWE, Hogan says they wanted him to address only the black wrestlers on the roster. He says he insisted on speaking to everyone. Hulk said he had “never been that nervous before in my life talking to a group of my peers” and had two “trains of thought”:
- To say he was sorry and be accountable, while repeatedly mentioning that the tape was made “12 years” ago and he “didn’t even remember they [his words] were said until three years ago, cause that’s when they came out” and that his comments were “out of character” and made in “a fit of anger”.
- Emphasize that in a company like WWE, every mistake a performer makes will be amplified, no matter how small - “don’t even slip on a banana peel” because “people have cell phones and cameras and just be careful”.
On the reaction to his speech, Hulk said:
“A lot of people accepted my apology. And a lot of people heard what they wanted to hear and a lot of the narrative that came out of the meeting was on point. A lot of the narrative was really different because I was surprised to hear some people interpreted what I said that I was just sorry I got caught on camera, whatever they interpreted, but I never said that.
But I guess sometimes the media and people go with the most negative narrative that can come out of there.”
Even as he’s says he’s owning his words, Hogan continues to make excuses and blame others. He also reinforces the idea he’s remorseful for hurting the wrestling business instead of black people, and singles out those who don’t accept him back in the business as not understanding it or not really be a part of it themselves:
“I said those words, it was totally unacceptable and I just really wanted to get in front of all the talent and apologize because I know I hurt this business and I just want to move forward.
I just hope the brotherhood can get back to the way it was. Because when you’re in the ring and somebody’s bodyslaming somebody or piledriving somebody, you protect your brother and you make sure physically they’re safe. And outside the ring, you’re supposed to protect your brother.
In this case, it’s a situation where 75, 80, 90 percent of the wrestlers are protecting me and they’re giving me another chance to move forward. There’s just a few wrestlers that kind of like don’t understand the bond and the brotherhood of wrestling, and hey, if someone makes a mistake, you need to forgive them and move on and try to let them prove themselves. I just feel that I wish I could have one-on-one conversations with people who really don’t know me and try to maybe explain myself better.”
Again, Hogan puts the onus on the people who he hurt to reach out to him. The action he’s willing to take to atone for his mistake is to make himself available. He just wants things to be the way they were before. The work of learning is on others:
“I’m not here to judge [anyone’s reaction to his comments or reinstatement] because it was just so crazy, inappropriate, out of context shocking that those words came out of my mouth. It was totally unacceptable. All I know is to move forward, to be able to work through this the last three years and to be able to meet people face-to-face. Even in the meeting when I was done talking, with all the talent in the meeting I said, ‘Does anybody have any questions?’
The only person that stood up was Mark Henry. And I just wanted to be able to, if anybody had any questions or anybody had anything to say at that time, I really just wanted them to say it to my face so I could address it. Hopefully understand the issue and hopefully get them to understand me, that even if you don’t know me, this is a huge mistake. I just really want to try and prove to myself that I’m who everybody else knows I am.
It was just something that, even though the WWE brought me back, I don’t even question their decision because it [my words on the tape] was so inappropriate - whatever happened happened and I’m just glad we’re on track moving forward now. And it just makes me want to work harder and if there are certain WWE Superstars that don’t know me or have questions, I would love to be able to sit down and talk with them. I would love to be able to sit down and let them get to know me and try to figure me out even more than they already think they have.”
Intentional or not, Hulk not looking at the situation from anyone’s perspective than his own is an issue. There are plenty of reasons the only person who would question him in the wake of his speech would be another Hall of Famer and locker room leader who’d already spoken publicly on his issues. Instead, he again shifts responsibility to others.
We’re more than a month removed from Hogan’s reinstatement, something he describes as “a big right first step in the right direction”, and the criticism of his speech by Kingston and O’Neil. What we’ve seen since is more of the same from Hulk Hogan the public figure - and very little difference in Terry Bollea the man.
And that doesn’t indicate he heard what New Day and Titus, or any of his critics, had to say at all.
You can hear the entire episode of The Apter Chat the above quotes are transcribed from here.