Hulk Hogan returns to WWE Raw for the first time in four years, as part of a special tribute to his recently deceased friend "Mean" Gene Okerlund. In the eyes of many diehard fans of pro wrestling, there has never been a better time for the WWE than the "Hulkamania" era of the 1980s and early 1990s. While Hogan himself deserves a lot of the credit for that as WWE's top star of the time, he was backed up by an incredible cast of legendary characters, including Andre the Giant, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, The Ultimate Warrior, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, and "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase, to name only a few of the most famous.
Not all of the most memorable WWE personalities of the "Hulkamania" era were actual in-ring competitors though. Announcers like Gorilla Monsoon, Jesse "The Body" Ventura, and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan delighted the ears of fans via their amusing color commentary on each show, while "Mean" Gene Okerlund served as the WWE's main resident interviewer. Whether backstage, in the ring, or on the WWE's old raised interview platform near the entrance ramp, "Mean" Gene could always be counted on to ask wrestlers the tough questions, and his segments often served to advance WWE's various storylines of the time.
Okerlund's most entertaining interview segments were no doubt the ones that placed him opposite Hulk Hogan, whose promos during the 1980s were infamously over the top, and often veered into bizarre tangents. Hogan would always begin by saying "Let me tell you something 'Mean' Gene," which is rivaled only by Ric Flair's "'Mean,' WOO, by God, Gene" during Okerlund's WCW tenure when it comes to beloved ways he'd be greeted. Hogan and Okerlund were also close friends in real life, with Hogan inducting Okerlund into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that Hogan will return to WWE Raw this Monday to pay special tribute to Okerlund, as announced today by WWE.
In addition to Hogan and Okerlund's tremendous chemistry during interview segments, Okerlund even once actually participated in a match as "The Hulkster's" tag team partner. At a 1984 show in Minneapolis, Hogan and Okerlund teamed up against heels George "The Animal" Steele and Mr. Fuji, a match preceded by hilarious training segments in which the famously muscular Hogan tried his best to get "Mean" Gene into fighting shape. While Okerlund understandably didn't do much in the ring, letting Hogan deal with the bad guys, he did get the honor of scoring the pinfall over Fuji for his team. One assumes this match will be one of many moments included in Hogan's remembrance of the man he shared so much screen time with.
Hogan being announced for an appearance on Monday's Raw only adds to an already stacked night, as also advertised are the Raw returns of John Cena and Brock Lesnar. Cena hasn't appeared on Raw since April, and Lesnar hasn't since November. Hogan hasn't appeared on Raw since 2015, a few months before the scandal involving a leaked racist rant led WWE to cut ties with arguably its biggest star of all time. The company recently welcomed Hogan back into the fold at November's Crown Jewel event, held in Saudi Arabia. Not everyone is happy about his return, but WWE seems to have made their decision.