After his controversial return at WWE’s Crown Jewel Event in Saudi Arabia, it looks like the WWE is going to give Hulk Hogan another chance, as the company just announced that he will return to Monday Night Raw this week to honor the life of “Mean” Gene Okerlund.
Some of Hogan’s most famous promos started off with “Let me tell you something, ‘Mean’ Gene,” so it does make sense for Hogan to be one of the people involved in formally remembering one of the best backstage interviewers in the history of professional wrestling.
In fact, the WWE actually described Okerlund as a “cornerstone of Hulkamania in the 1980s.”
On its website, the WWE said, “In the wake of Okerlund’s recent passing, Hogan returns to WWE programming this Monday night on Raw to honor his longtime friend.”
After it was announced that Okerlund had passed, Hogan posted a rather heartfelt comment on Twitter.
“The best partner I ever had. We never rehearsed or did anything scripted from a writer. Gene would ask me ‘hey big man what do u want to do?’ I would always answer ‘just follow you brother’ and it worked from 1980 – 2017. RIP my brother.”
When one sits back and thinks about just how hugely popular Hulk Hogan was in the ’80s and ’90s, it’s impressive to think about just how big of a role Gene Okerlund played in that popularity.
It’ll be interesting to see if there’s a negative backlash to Hogan’s appearance on Raw this week. Will fans perceive his appearance as exploiting the death of Okerlund to get Hogan back in the fans’ good graces, or will it be received as a friend genuinely wanting to honor the life of someone he was close with?
— WWE (@WWE) January 4, 2019
On July 24, 2015, the WWE terminated their contract with Hulk Hogan over racist comments he made. The company removed him from its Hall of Fame and stopped using him on all programming. When the scandal broke, Hogan was a judge on WWE’s Tough Enough reality show, and he was immediately replaced.
Hogan was first reinstated to the Hall of Fame on July 15, 2018, and he was brought back to the company in a backstage meeting with the WWE performers at Extreme Rules on the same night.
His statement and apology didn’t go over very well with the WWE roster, and he wasn’t mentioned much in the WWE until he appeared at the Crown Jewel event on November 2, 2018. Again, his return wasn’t greeted with a positive response, and he wasn’t used again by the WWE until the announcement of his appearance on Raw this week.