This past Friday, hundreds of Hulkamaniacs of all ages packed the Mall of America to meet the man as he stopped by to sign copies of his new memoirs, My Life Outside the Ring.
Before he let Hulkamania run wild on the M.O.A., however, the Hulkster sat down with Gimme Noise to talk about his relationship with the tabloids, his family, wrestling and Rocky 3.
Gimme Noise: In your new book, you definitely pull back the curtain and pulled no punches in terms of talking about your life. At any point while you were writing the book did you think that, as a guy who has spent over 20 years as a role model and an icon to so many people, that maybe you were exposing a little too much about your life, and making yourself a little too vulnerable?
Hulk Hogan: Well brother things change, you know? You try to go with the flow. Back in the 90's when all of the steroid talk broke everyone started panicking and asking each other, "Oh no! How do we handle this?" Same thing with wrestling. Back in the early days if someone told you it was fake you'd slap the hell out of them. What I'm saying is that everyone has been reeducated and changed their mindset.
In terms of why I wrote the book, it got to the point where - I don't want to say it was forced - but I almost had to write it because several things were all happening at once. With the divorce, I was just getting barraged with something new every day. I had my wife's publicist and lawyer saying things about me in the press and finally, after about four months of staying silent, people were telling me, "Hogan, if you don't speak up soon you're not going to have a career left." So I went on Larry King and I did an interview with People to try to clear the air, and then I kind of did a volley with the tabloids for a couple of weeks. They would stay stuff like, "Your wife says you beat her up for 23 years," and this, that and the other. Next thing I know she's filing a restraining order against me, and then she's claiming that I'm stalking her 18-year-old boyfriend and the cops actually arrested me at one point because of it. They did the whole thing where they threw me on the ground and said I was violating a restraining order before realizing there was no truth to the matter, and then they picked me up and let me go. But next thing I know, it's all over the tabloids that I was stalking my wife and I got arrested and all that.
So finally I decided to write the book to say that I'm over the tabloid thing and that I was done with this back and forth volley thing we had going on. And really, this book isn't just my way of saying, "Oh life is tough but you can get through it." I'm telling people that I really bottomed out and this stuff wasn't a game. This wasn't a dress rehearsal, man; this shit really happened. I went down the tubes. Bad. I lost everything I had financially and lost my family in a really short amount of time.
GN: When you say you went down the tubes, how did it all go so wrong so quickly?
HH: For a while it seemed like just when things had become the worst they could possibly be, something else would happen. Perfect example is when the prison tapes between me and my son were released. I mean, we knew that they were recording our conversation for security purposes, but no one ever said they were going to be released for public consumption. You never hear the OJ tapes or the Paris Hilton tapes, but suddenly our conversation was being replayed every two minutes and everyone wanted to talk about it and point fingers about what we were talking about. The bottom line with that was that those conversations were about me trying to talk to my son who was sitting in solitary confinement - where most people don't last even three days but he stayed for 28 days - and trying to keep him from doing something like biting his own tongue off or eating his own feces in that cell. So I was saying things like, "Hey brother, we're going to go to the beach when you get out and maybe we'll do a reality show," and talking to him about the laws of attraction.
And then we got to talking about John, the kid in the accident. I mean, he lived with us and we loved him, but he had problems. He treated gay people a certain way. He treated black people a certain way. We were trying to straighten him out, and I was trying to tell Nick that God must have laid some heavy stuff down because of all that other stuff and then that all got turned around on me. That's why I finally decided to just sit down and write this book so I could just tell you everything without holding back. Period.
GN: You recently signed with an organization called TNA Wrestling. What made you decide to get back into the mainstream wrestling world?
HH: That's a huge deal for me, man. I never thought that they would bring me in to like the Vince McMahon role with another wrestling company kind of like I did with WCW years back. I actually used to have this same role back in the day, except it was unofficial. Vince's dad ran the league while I was down here in Minnesota kicking ass with Verne Gagne and when he died, they talked me into coming back. So I came back and found that Vince McMahon, who owns the company now, didn't really understand the business. So I moved in next door to him in Connecticut and taught him all about lifting weights and riding motorcycles and partying like a mad man; and then I taught him about the wrestling business and making money. And now I'm doing that again with TNA Wrestling.
The reason I decided to get back into it is because I'm ready to flip this business over again. It's getting real boring with only one company stuffing this programming down your throat and not allowing fans and the wrestlers the chance to make a choice, and I think it's really important to be able to make that choice instead of just having one option and one option only.
GN: How do you think your presence will help improve the visibility of TNA Wrestling and overall buzz about wrestling in general?
HH: The proof is already out there. In the course of a few days we've got more buzz going for TNA Wrestling then it's had in seven years. For example, no other wrestling organization had ever been able to get into Madison Square Garden in New York for like, 100 years, because Vince owns it and his family owned it before him. So I came in and was like, "Watch this." And we did a press conference at Madison Square Garden.
All I told these guys was that they should give me a chance. If they didn't like what I was doing they can tell me to take a hike, but let me have the chance to come in and take a shot at it. Let the fans and the other wrestlers take a look and decide for themselves what they're in to and I'm confident that I will get this thing rockin'.
GN: Switching gears a little bit, how is your son doing these days and do you think he has any aspirations to break into the wrestling world?
HH: You know, Nick blew my mind a little bit the other day. He's out in L.A. right now and he just finished up a little role in an independent film. So he's out there and he's going on auditions and working with a couple of charities that he started, but then I found out that he was also going and training at a wrestling school at the same time. So he's been doing that for the past couple of months and, you know, I guess we'll see.
GN: You've done a lot of acting and appeared in a lot of movies over the years. What was your favorite movie that you ever appeared in?
HH: Well you know, I actually appeared in like 17 low-budget kids movies and did a bunch of cameos in other movies, but the one that stands out for me was Rocky 3 because so many people still love to ask me about it. That one was especially cool because Stallone came up to me while we were working on our scene and asked me, "What do you think would actually happen if a real 300 pound wrestler fought a 160 pound boxer?" And I told him that if he wanted to know what would really happen in real life, the answer is that he would get his ass whipped. So Stallone actually let me map out that whole match between me and him to make it more realistic and life-like. That was cool.
GN: Big picture, between wrestling, acting, writing and everything else you've accomplished to this point, what do you see for the next chapter in the world of the Hulkster?
HH: The thing for me is that I've tried all this stuff, and my wife used to always tell me that I should have branched out more and gone with more acting and saying stuff like, "Why do you need to keep wrestling? Is that all you can do?" But to make a long story short, bro, wrestling is what I know. I mean, if you get this thing up and running its a billion dollar business. That's what I want to do. I think I have a lot to contribute and I think I have a great understanding of the business. Just watch and see, brother.