Source: Lynn Venhaus of the News-Democrat
Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, Hulk Hogan has been reborn.
Rock-star famous and living the American dream in a Florida mansion after 12 world wrestling championships and pop culture prominence, Hogan’s real world took a body slam of Andre the Giant proportions a couple years ago.
His 24-year-marriage, already on the skids privately, unraveled publicly on a reality TV show. His soon-to-be ex-wife, age 48, took up with an 18-year-old boyfriend. His son Nick was sentenced to eight months in jail on reckless driving charges at age 17; Nick’s best friend John Graziano was left paralyzed. His daughter Brooke moved out to her own apartment, trying to break in to the music business. He was dropped as host of “American Gladiators” on NBC. His career stalled. Bruised and battered, with bad knees, a hip replacement and several back surgeries, he was a broken man.
It might have been tougher than the Iron Sheik’s camel clutch, but he has come through stronger and wiser.
As candid as he is charismatic, Hogan spoke no-holds-barred recently about getting up after the smackdown. There’s an almost Zen-like calm when he talks about life’s challenges.
“It was a test. God has a plan. We just don’t see it,” he said. “You have to have faith, not pay attention to what people were saying. It was toxic. You have to get away from the negative. It’s about positive energy.”
At age 56, the most famous wrestler in America is back in his beloved ring, and orchestrating moves behind the scenes, too, for the new “Total Nonstop Action Wrestling.”
Tonight, on “TNA Impact!” (Spike TV, 8 p.m.), he will debut alongside Abyss as they take on Hulk’s biggest nemesis Ric Flair and A.J. Styles in a tag-team event.
Aware of his physical limitations, he is excited to still be involved in the sport he has been passionate about since he was a teenager.
“It was a necessity — financially and personally. I needed a job. I decided to go back to doing what I love,” Hogan said. He missed the drama, energy, comedy, conflict and teamwork that was part of this unique sports entertainment.
He could have moved to L.A. and worked in supporting roles. “I did 17 low-budget kids’ movies. An agent assured me there was work for me,” he said.
But after talking with TNA Wrestling’s Dixie Carter, he was convinced that they were the future of wrestling and he wanted to be a part of it.
“She had a different vibe. She had a vision. She said I could start my life over and make history,” he said. “It’s been great working with these guys.”
His a-ha moment came when he walked by a ring in a gym.
“I reached out and touched it, and I got goosebumps,” he said. “I knew I had a problem, kind of like being an addict. I said, ‘Oh, boy.’ It’s like driving a fast car or being on a date with a beautiful woman.”
Pumping up the fans
The Hulkster, whose real name is Terry Bollea, visited with fans and media in St. Louis recently to promote ticket sales for Lockdown, an all-steel cage live pay-per-view on April 18 at the Family Arena in St. Charles, Mo. Reigning world heavyweight champion A. J. Styles, Mick Foley, Ric Flair, Samoa Joe, Jeff Jarrett and Team 3D will participate.
A TNA Fan InterAction will take place on April 17, and fans will have the opportunity to get autographs, photos and talk to the TNA superstars.
He also presided over judging a Fu Manchu Mustache Contest, selecting a man who traveled by bus from Minneapolis, Minn., who referred to himself as “The Black Hogan.” The winner wore the signature red-and-yellow outfit and of course, sported a blond fu manchu.
St. Louis holds a special place in his heart — the legacy of Wrestling at the Chase, the first events at Kiel Auditorium and the Checkerdome.
“It was a hotbed. It goes back to when wrestling was protected,” he said, noting that he learned much from his early idols — how to move, what he could pull off, strategies.
The Fu Fest footage is airing on “TNA Impact!” and also can be found on www.tnawrestling.com.
Hulk revealed that he grew his first mustache at a girl’s request, he said rolling his eyes. He was playing bass guitar in a rock band at the time.
Growing up in the tough part of town, Port Tampa, the son of a construction foreman and a homemaker, he learned to work hard and value family. In his reality show, “Hogan Knows Best,” he came across as a loving but strict and protective father.
Ask about his kids, and he smiles broadly, mentioning how Brooke lives close to him and Nick’s in L.A., trying to rebuild his life. “We talk three, four times a day,” he said.
“The guys I grew up with are either in construction, work the docks like I did, or are dead,” he said matter-of-factly. He dropped out of University of South Florida and spent 10 years playing bass guitar in various bands, including Ruckus. He met some wrestling promoters while working out, and the rest is history.
The Hulkster first rose to big heights in Japan. Gargantuan and gregarious, they loved him. His persona switched from a heel to a good guy, and he became the face of pro wrestling in the early ’80s. With cable TV, Hulkamania exploded.
He reminded Hulkamaniacs of his “Demandments”: Training, saying prayers, taking vitamins and believing in oneself. Wearing his cherry-red and sunshine-yellow outfits, Hulk ruled among youngsters. Entering the ring, he would rip his shirt, flex, point fingers and take care of business. The Big Boot, Atomic Leg Drop and a lariat forearm move were his signatures.
The passion lives
Today, he knows that if he is going to survive without any more surgeries, he can’t do what he used to do. It will be smoke and mirrors.
“It’s hard when the fans are yelling ‘Hogan! Hogan!” — I’d pretty much do anything.” he said, but three back surgeries in the past year have made him more cautious.
However, mentally, he’s still fired up. Tanned and fit, but walking slow, he continues to train — only it’s limited.
“I’m trying to eat better.” He’s tempted too often by the chocolate chip cookies and Peanut M&Ms in the hotel mini-bars, and has to lay off the ice cream. “I am an ice cream freak. I know I should stop.”
His real-guy nature comes through during his encounters with the fans. He’s gracious, calling guys “brother” and charming with the ladies, generous with his time — signing autographs, posing for pictures, even allowing a weakling reporter to look like he was winning in an arm wrestling contest.
Living in the public eye has its downfalls, but he has managedto make peace with it.
“I have tried to be accountable. I’d brutally honest. My life’s out there for everyone to see.
He did, however, stop in his tracks when he was grocery shopping and saw a tabloid in the checkout lane. The headline stated that Hogan had suffered a stroke. It was untrue, but it was out there for all the world to see.
After a couple of years of feeling lost, he is happy now, thanks in part to his fiancee, Jennifer McDaniel.
And, you tend to believe him when he looks back over his life and says, “I wouldn’t have changed a thing.”
Source: Lynn Venhaus of the News-Democrat