Aaaaaannnnd we’re back! It’s been almost a month since I last covered Raw – many thanks to the One and Only
Ricochet Nate Craver for so ably standing in for me towards the end of last year – and personally, I’ve been itching to get back at it.
In just the short time I was away, the McMahons ushered in a fan-centric “New Era” of WWE, General Managers have been dispensed with, and… well, aside from a snappy new graphics package, surprisingly little has changed really. For the most part, the matches still follow the same basic “rest hold, move, rest hold” structure, bouts are plagued by screwy finishes and, despite promises to the contrary, existing feuds have remained largely intact.
That was, at least, until this week’s episode of Raw. With the Royal Rumble starting to take shape, last night felt suddenly – at times tragically – different.
— WWE (@WWE) January 8, 2019
Prompted by the sad passing of ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund last week, it was announced that several wrestling icons would be appearing on Raw to pay homage to the legendary announcer and backstage interviewer. A touching gesture, no doubt, but even in honouring the departed, WWE couldn’t help but veer into the controversial. Because, amongst all the voices paying tribute, who should be selected to make a contentious return to TV? None other than one Hulk ‘Be Careful Who’s Recording’ Hogan.
Now would I personally have invited Hogan back to Monday Night Raw? In case my tone didn’t already make it clear, of course not. If I had it my way, he would be Amore’d back into wrestling oblivion; put out to pasture along with every other self-confessed, unrepentant racist. But last night wasn’t about me or my preferences. Nor should it have been. It was entirely about Gene Okerlund and the memory of his immeasurable contributions to the business we hold so close to our hearts. And Gene almost certainly would’ve wanted Hogan involved in any tribute that WWE staged on his behalf, regardless of circumstance.
After all, Okerlund’s close friendship with the Hulkster is well documented, their careers being so inextricably linked. Hulk was there for Gene’s first foray into WWE, he contributed to some of Okerlund’s earliest backstage segments, he bore witness to Gene-o-mania and the interviewer’s assent to all-time greatness, and he ultimately, fittingly, inducted the legend into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006. And so it only seems appropriate, after all of that, that Hogan would be afforded the opportunity of publicly commemorating his fallen friend.
The cynic in me nevertheless wonders how much of Hogan’s TV return can be attributed to ‘Mean’ Gene and how much was simply a convenient opportunity of gauging fan response to a potentially expanded role for Hogan in the near future. But that discussion is neither relevant nor appropriate at this stage. Last night’s tribute was about something far larger; about someone far larger.
Rest peacefully, ‘Mean’ Gene. We’ll miss you.
On to the best and worst from last night’s Raw.