Hulk Hogan’s return to WWE was going to be controversial no matter what, but this takes things to another level.
The pro wrestling legend made his return to the company Friday at WWE’s “Crown Jewel” pay-per-view event from Saudi Arabia.
WWE terminated its legends contract with Hogan after he was caught making racial remarks during a sex tape that was released without Hogan’s consent. The former world champion eventually sued the media company Gawker (and won), but the public perception damage obviously was done. WWE removed him from its Hall of Fame and stripped his likeness from many of its platforms.
His appearance Friday, as host of the “Crown Jewel” event, was his first public appearance for the company since 2015. However, WWE reinstated him into the Hall of Fame earlier this summer, and he appeared backstage at a pay-per-view event where he apologized to the current locker room.
That Hogan made his on-screen return at the “Crown Jewel” pay-per-view only makes things more controversial, though. WWE received plenty of criticism for going into business with Saudi Arabia, and that was before the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The ensuing cover-up of Khashoggi’s murder has been exposed in recent weeks, and WWE even reportedly considered moving the event, but that would have been in breach of a contract with Saudi Arabia. The 10-year deal, which is part of the Saudis’ “Vision 2030” project, reportedly will net WWE more than $400 million. Apparently believing it couldn’t step away from that sort of money, WWE announced the show would go on as planned.
This is the second show in Saudi Arabi this year after the “Greatest Royal Rumble” on April 27. Women weren’t allowed to perform at either show due to the country’s laws limiting women’s rights.
WWE received obvious pushback when the deal was struck, and those gripes have only intensified since the Khashoggi murder. Two of WWE’s biggest stars, John Cena and Daniel Bryan, reportedly asked to be taken off the show. Both wrestlers were scheduled to wrestle at the show, but they were removed and replaced on the card in the last week.