In the 1980’s, Hulk Hogan was a phenomenon. He was the most recognizable face of professional wrestling for decades, and “Hulkamania” swept the nation, creating never-ending waves of merchandising, tie-ins and sound bites. Many people were inspired to wrestle after watching that golden-haired Hulk leg drop competitor after competitor. Others were inspired to name their children “Hulk.” Now, through Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit with Gawker Media, news has emerged that Hogan made racist remarks found in a leaked sex tape transcript. This news has caused the WWE to fire Hogan and scrub their sites of his existence.
So how do parents who named their children after the wrestling icon feel now that we know he’s a flaming racist?
Bo Cooper, a dad in Lincoln, Nebraska named his son “Hulk” after Hogan’s WrestleMania III win in 1987 against André the Giant. “There was electricity that night,” said Cooper. “When Hulk took André off his feet and leg dropped him, it shook me to my very person.” It shook his wife Cathy also and she went into labor following Bo’s hootin’ and hollerin’ at the match. That night, Hulk arrived. “Hulk Hogan was so powerful and strong, I just wanted my son to be like that,” said Cooper.
He has mentioned Hulk Hogan’s racial missteps to his son, now 28. “Yeah, I saw on Facebook that Hulk Hogan is racist, and I told my son that it ain’t the same Hulk he was named after,” Cooper said. “That tape was made in 2007, and the way I see it, Hulk wasn’t even with the WWE then. He was with Memphis Wrestling that year so it’s entirely possible he was just playing some other character all the time.”
“Big Teddy” Nicnicky, of San Antonio, Texas was a wrestler in the Alabama circuit from 1977-1980 and saw a much younger Hogan wrestle in person, years before naming his son “Hulk” in 1992. “He was so fast and charismatic, that’s why I liked him,” said Nicnicky, who named his son after Hulk Hogan secured his back-to-back Royal Rumble wins in 1990 and 1991.
Hulk Nicnicky, 23, now a salesman for a small pharmaceutical company in Houston, says that ever since the news broke last week, his life has been in a tailspin. “Coworkers have been passing by me today, shaking their heads,” Nicknicky told 8BitDad. “They keep reporting me to my boss, saying that I’m using racist language. I didn’t. That was the other Hulk and they know it.”
Hulk Nicnicky says he wasn’t even welcome at Jamba Juice, his normal lunch spot because the employees refuse to call his name when his power-sized Protein Berry Workout Smoothie is ready. Nicnicky says his father has called him and left voicemails about the issue, even offering to rent Hulk Hogan’s sex tape and watch it with him so they could make an informed decision about it all. Hulk hasn’t returned his dad’s voicemails as of the printing of this article.
This isn’t the first time that a revered character has made parents second-guess their children’s names. Nearly one month ago, the first chapter of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman (which Lee wrote before To Kill a Mockingbird) revealed that America’s model father, Atticus Finch, was a teensy bit racist. A Colorado family even renamed their 14 month old baby after reading the news, saying that the name “does not at all encompass the values that we want for our son to have and know.”
It was a similar situation for Jerry Harris and his son, Hulk Harris. Jerry was so taken by Hulk Hogan’s original 1980’s and early 90’s runs that by the time Hogan triumphantly returned to the WWE for the third time, his wife was pregnant. As it turns out, his son was born the same night that Hulk Hogan was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, April 2nd, 2005.
“Sure, [my wife] Melissa put up a little fight over the name,” said Jerry of the night Hulk was born, “but destiny is destiny, and you can’t change that.” Jerry showed his wife the “Real American” video on YouTube and that (as well as fatigue after an 18-hour labor) gave way.
“But the stuff that Hulk Hogan said, it ain’t okay,” said Jerry from his home office in Bismarck, North Dakota. “The N-word, and that stuff he was saying about his daughter, well it just ain’t the kind of values I want for my son to have and know.”
Jerry yanked his now 10 year old son, Hulk, out of bed early Monday morning and headed down to the Bismarck Courthouse to change his name. The two settled on a different name that wouldn’t carry the stigma that “Hulk” now does. “Terry’s as good a name as any, and it’s got a certain ring to it,” said Jerry of his son’s new name. “And it ain’t associated with that ignorant racist guy in the least.”
Of his name change, Terry Harris said, “I’m pumped, brother.”