Hulk Hogan was in New York earlier this week to spread the good word about TNA and, miraculously, the living legend was kind of enough to take time out of his unconscionably busy day to have lunch with me and answer some questions. Considering Hulk just underwent yet another hip surgery and had a rather exhausting day, I’m thankful I managed to walk away without taking any chair shots to the dome, and ate pork rather than turnbuckle stuffing.
Q: You’re in town to promote TNA’s “Bound For Glory” pay-per view this Sunday and I understand part of the weekend will include Sting being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Can you tell me a little bit about the event?
HOGAN: Yes, this is it, this is the Super Bowl for us. It’s a huge deal for a company that started out eight, nine years ago. They said it wouldn’t last six months, so to have an awareness and a following, and then all of a sudden to have been around long enough to have a Hall of Fame. It’s a big deal. To induct Sting as the first one kind of sets the bar for what you have to do. Sting has been around almost as long as myself and you know for him to be a main event guy all these years and actually be inducted into the Hall of Fame while actively wrestling is a statement in itself. I think it’s amazing TNA and Sting can have this moment.
Q: Do you see TNA ever giving WWE the kind of run that we saw during your days in WCW with the NWO?
HOGAN: It really wouldn’t take much. I had dinner with Dixie Carter’s parents awhile back, and I was explaining to them that this could be a billion dollar business if there were a couple of the right moves made. Going live is the first move, and basically taking the show on the road is the next move. But, it does feel like WCW used to. I mean, when I first went to work for Ted Turner, we were filming at Disney on a small sound stage like we are now. And all the sudden, I came on board along with a few key guys like Macho Man and other major players. This has the feel of WCW right now, we’re hitting on all eight cylinders and the storylines are consistent. The action is very consistent and it translates in any language, and there’s room for more than one. WWE has their own brand, their own audience, but the door’s wide open if Bob Carter and his wife decide to step up. The door’s wide open for this thing. This thing could take off really, really fast. It feels like WCW did right before Ted Turner dumped a ton of money in advertising. If all of the sudden there was an open gate for an advertising and publicity budget, this thing could take off.
Q: You mentioned the Macho Man. Obviously, it would be impossible to think of WWE in the 80s without thinking of you or the Macho Man. Can you give me a few words on Randy?
HOGAN: If I had to pick one guy, and there was Andre the Giant, Piper, those guys, but Randy Savage was a guy that every time you put Randy Savage in a ring with Hulk Hogan it changed the amount of revenue that was generated across the board, with Elizabeth as the extra piece of the puzzle to keep the door open. Elizabeth didn’t necessarily have to sell the storyline, but just to have her as the third cog in the wheel. I made more money working with Randy than anyone else because he was such a professional. And he was actually the same way out of the ring as he was in the ring, with the voice and the attitude. He lived Macho Man. He didn’t bring character because that was him. To go through that whole business with him and be such great friends, and then to have a falling out that lasted 10 years. And then all of the sudden to reunite and regroup and just see how happy he was, I mean he was re-married. We would meet and have barbecue’s at his mom’s house and then all of the sudden he died tragically, it was like, a shock. I mean, if the wrestling business had a couple more Macho Mans around, it would change the business again. He was a true professional and a great guy.
Q: That kind of brings me to my next question. When I was a kid, my dad used to take me to wrestling events at the Spectrum and MSG. I think back to those events, the characters from Jake the Snake to Mr. Perfect to Rick Rude, and they were so memorably distinct and well defined that they felt like human cartoons. What do you think has changed the most in wrestling over the last 30 years?
HOGAN: I think things move much faster, there are more choices today. Between satellite, cable and just the entertainment of reality TV, and this and that. Wrestling didn’t take care of business the way they should have. Like, a Hulk Hogan after his 10-year run should’ve been followed by a new crop of Macho Mans and Hulk Hogans, but we were so dialed in and so focused that instead of my career lasting 10 years, it lasted almost 30, and there wasn’t really a backup plan. But things were so great, all of the sudden, you know, 25 years later I walk through with the Rock at WrestleMania and blow the roof off the place. So I had this life expectancy that lasted longer than anyone expected because there wasn’t anyone else to step in and take over. I lived this business. I slept in my damn car for two years because I didn’t make enough money to rent rooms. It was in my blood … the whole thing now is different. All of the sudden they’re like interchangeable parts. It’s harder to find a One Man Gang or a Tugboat or an Earthquake.
Q: I know Andre the Giant was a good friend of yours. People can never get enough of Andre the Giant drinking tales. Can you give me a fun Andre drinking story?
HOGAN: Once we became friends, and it took quite awhile to win him over, but once we became friends, I was one of the only people he called. One time he was in Tampa and he was changing planes and had a layover, so I headed over and cut through security. It wasn’t like it is nowadays. So I zipped down to the gate, sat down with him and he’s got the normal 12 oz. glass. He ended up drinking 108 beers before he got back on the plane. And that was like you drinkin’ a Diet Coke. That’s not even a big story for Andre …
On his birthday, I was in Japan and ran down to the bus at seven in the morning. Everybody told me it was Andre’s birthday. So I went “holy shit,” and went and woke up a buddy of mine who had a liquor store and bought 12 bottles of a very, very strong French wine. When Andre came down, I ran back to the bus and said “happy birthday, boss” and gave him these 12 bottles. So we took off. At around 11am, he kicks my seat. He was all pissed off. I turn around and say “give me a drink of that wine.” He yells “it’s gone!” I said, “what, how the hell did you drink 12 bottles of wine?” …
I used to sit with him in the dressing room and he’d drink two bottles of Crown Royal before he’d go to the ring. And you’d want Andre to drink before he went to the ring because he was a much nicer giant as long as he drank.
Q: Vince McMahon has obviously done a ton for the wrestling industry. No one can argue what he’s done, but I imagine every wrestler at some point or another has wanted to punch him in the face [laughter] and you got to beat him up a little bit at WrestleMania 19. I assume there was a little satisfaction there?
HOGAN: The weird thing is, getting in the ring with him. It’s either really easy with somebody or really hard, depending on how much response you get from the crowd. But getting in the ring with him wasn’t like I had to work my ass off for 20 minutes to get a reaction. As soon as I got in the ring, I’m like oh my god, people hate him so much he made it easy. It was like dancing with a broomstick. It was just so easy. But with Vince, there’s no animosity there. No matter what we’ve been through, and people don’t understand this, but Vince McMahon completely separates personal feelings. He’d give you the shirt off the back on a personal level, but business is business. If he needs to make another move, he doesn’t give a damn who you are. That’s just business. But on a personal level, he would give you the shirt off his back.
Q: I’m sure through all the years you’ve wrestled, there’s got to be at least one or two notoriously smelly wrestlers you’ve dealt with in the ring. Is there anyone that sticks out?
HOGAN: What do you mean smelly?
Q: You know, guys with a severe odor issue.
HOGAN: Oh. When I first started in Atlanta, we all lived in a place called Falcons Rest. It was in Hapeville, Georgia, right near the airport. All the wrestlers lived in this boarding house that was like a bunch of duplex apartments. I just remember it was so bad, all of us got together to buy a can of deodorant for Bret Hart. He smelled like somebody from Europe that decided not to take a shower … I’m sure he’s gonna love that.
Q: Every time you go out in public, it’s an absolute mob scene. Does that get tiring at any point?
HOGAN: It starts out that you’re on TV, and all of the sudden you’re like “oh my gosh, why is this happening.” Then you get to the point where you go, “it never stops.” And then you get to the point where I’m at now, where after all these years you go “thank god it’s happening.” Because, at my age, and to be around this long, I could’ve become old hat or people wouldn’t care. But now I say thank god that people still get excited.
Q: Some of the classic characters back in the day were the managers, which we really don’t see anymore. Guys like Bobby the Brain, Mr. Fuji, Slick, Jimmy Hart, Paul Bearer. Were any of those guys popular with the ladies?
HOGAN: [laughter] Well Jimmy’s still doin’ his thing. I did a show with him in New York a few weeks ago. He’s in his mid-60s and he’s still goin’ at it. And Paul Bearer, well, he was scary man. He had that gimmick down. And Slick, that guy was a minister. He’s a preacher in real life.
Q: Does it scare you that Paul Bearer is actually a licensed funeral director and embalmer? Because it scares the hell out of me.
HOGAN: Wow, I didn’t know that. I didn’t know that. God, I had no idea. That’s a little creepy.
Q: Mean Gene always managed to play it straight to the point he would’ve made for a shrewd White House correspondent. How did that guy never, ever break character?
HOGAN: Yeah, he’s a real professional. You know, I met him in Minneapolis when I was single back in the 80s and he and I ran around partying like crazy nutcases.
Q: Mean Gene liked to party?
HOGAN: Oh my god yeah. When I came to New York, I brought him with me to work for Vince Jr. and he’s always been the consummate professional. And still, to this day, when someone hits me with a microphone, the natural instinct is to go “let me tell ya somethin’ Mean Gene!” That’s the natural instinct after 20-plus years of him standing at my right side. So it’s just weird without him.
Q: Now this next question is from one of my followers on Twitter: If you had to go on an 18-hour road trip with the Iron Sheik or the Ultimate Warrior, who would you choose?
HOGAN: Oh god. Iron Sheik all day long. At least he’d tell the truth. He’s brutal, but he’s funny.
Q: Do you follow him on Twitter?
HOGAN: I can’t help but hear his comments. I was telling someone earlier today when they asked me about him. The standard thing is “screw Hulk Hogan the f’ing faggot, and I’m gonna bang him in the ass!” You know, standard Sheik stuff, right. Every day, all day long. So I’m in New York six months, a year ago, doing a photoshoot and someone tells me the Iron Sheik is downstairs. So I told them to send him up and he did. He’s always been cool to me. Dude, he sat there and almost drank a whole case of beer. Finally, he had to be somewhere, so when he’s leaving he says “Terry, I love you so much.” As soon as he cleared the room, he’s yelling “fuck Hulk Hogan, fuck him in the ass.” I was like, I give up. Sheik’s dangerous, you gotta watch our for him.
Q: I read what you told Howard this morning (Tuesday) about the sex tape. What’s the last week been like for you? And I assume you’re aware Sex.com says they have an open checkbook?
HOGAN: Yeah, I would never even consider something like that. I don’t know if I told Howard this, but I’m the king of stepping up and being accountable. I always have been. You have to be accountable for everything that you do. Like they say, everything you do comes back to you. That’s true. It’s so weird and it’s such a test. To go through what I went through with the divorce, the civil lawsuit with my son getting in a wreck and my son going to jail, having eight back surgeries, and all the craziness. To actually start a new life and have somebody help me understand how great life is. To have this whole new life and all of the sudden something that happened over six years ago, to drag this dead animal back to life is actually a blessing. After that cloud clears and the sun’s behind me, it’s just another test. It’s just another way to reinforce the fact that I’m a much better person than I was six years ago. You know, it’s a hard lesson to learn, but some of us are hard-headed. Hopefully you’re a lot smarter than I’ll ever be. It’s just so crazy to me that people still function on that low level, bottom feeder, negative level that they would throw this out there to try and hurt me. I feel sorry for them and I pray for them. It’s been a tough day but it’s been amazing how supportive everyone has been. And we’re starting to put pieces of the puzzle together. It’s disturbing to figure out who’s involved. A lot of people who I thought were my friends. I’m now realizing there’s a whole group of people involved in this. And it’s not gonna be pretty, but the story has to be told now. It’s gonna be crazy. It’s just sad it has to go this route.
[Photo via salilgulati]