Hulk Hogan interview: ‘I’ll be in wrestling business until day I die’

Published Jan 26 2012 | By Lara Martin
Hulk Hogan has returned to the UK for the first time in a very long time as TNA Impact Wrestling prepares to tape its first ever TV event outside the USA at London’s Wembley Arena on Saturday night (January 28). The wrestling legend will be joined by Sting, Kurt Angle and a host of other TNA superstars at the iconic London venue, as well as live events tonight (January 26) in Nottingham and tomorrow night (January 27) in Manchester.
Digital Spycaught up with Hulk just before he headed off to Nottingham to talk passionate fans, TNA Live, whether he ever gives into the temptation to Google himself, and what Oscar-nominated movie role he turned down…
Hulk Hogan    © Rex Features / Startraks Photo
Why have you been away from the UK for so long?
“I don’t know what happened, it seems like I’ve been missing out. I was saying the other day I snuck in here a couple of years ago to do QVC and it was great because this buzz started happening when I was in town and people started showing up at hotels and restaurants although nothing was announced…”

Well, I can’t imagine you’d really be able to sneak around unnoticed…
“I did pretty good for a few days! This time the fans have acted like I’ve never left. They are so kind and so nice here it’s ridiculous. I got remarried last year and my wife is here and she says, ‘I can’t believe how nice everybody is, it’s just amazing’.”

You’re over in the UK for three shows in Nottingham, Manchester and London, with the London show at Wembley on Saturday being taped for TV. What can fans who’ve never seen TNA live before expect?
“Hopefully you will get to see what I expect. I know what happens every time I get in front of a UK crowd – they just go nuts and they are so nice and excited and crazy and they won’t sit down. There will be excitement during the show. I know when I come out there I have such a crazy relationship with the fans. I’ve been around so long and no matter if I’ve done good things or bad things, or my personal life has been good or bad, the fans have always stuck with me. I can tell you when I come out there it will be insane! I’m sure I will get physically involved with something because I usually do even though I try to keep my nose out of everybody’s business!
“In my opinion this is the most important night for this company, this is what we should be doing. TV gets pumped into all these different countries and different areas, but you need to go and service your fans and show up in person. Instead of just showing up and wrestling we’re actually filming TV and producing television, which is what we should be doing with pay per views and all kinds of stuff. This is what the company needs to do and this is the most important night in the history of this company coming up on Saturday.”

Surely it’s a massive challenge sending everything over to the UK for these shows – how far in advance are these things planned?
“Well, that’s pretty funny. This tour was planned months and months and months in advance and I wasn’t on it, and all of a sudden they called me three weeks ago – to show you how quickly this happened – and said, ‘We’re thinking about doing TV’. I said, ‘Can you get everyone over there?’ A lot of the people they hire are independent guys, especially the guys we call the shooters, who walk around with the hand held cameras. You need to break these guys in and spend years training these guys.
“We have two or three guys who are really good but they didn’t know about this and booked themselves out doing other shows. My first question was, ‘If you’re doing TV over there who are you going to get for shooters to catch all the action?’ I knew a couple of people who used to work with another company (laughs) so I made a couple of suggestions and got a couple of really good guys on to do that.
“Actually, they just made the decision to do the TV here three weeks ago. They’d told me they might be doing that, and I’d had some problems with my face – a dental surgery gone awry – and I needed two operations which they were going to spread out, but I told Eric, my partner, that I wanted to do both operations right away just in case they got the TV clearance and I could fly over. So I had the two operations and two days later they said, ‘Can you fly?’ and without even asking the doctor I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll be there’. Actually, it doesn’t take long to take all the equipment over here, but it kind of freaked me out they wait until the last minute to do it!”

Lots of wrestlers are on Twitter now so fans can really engage with them. How much do you think that has added to the sport?
“I think it helps with a lot of the talent, it makes them more tangible. I hate to toot my own horn but I just feel that I know people and I know fans and I don’t feel there is that Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt barrier with me. I’ve always felt from everyone I talk to that the fans feel like I’m tangible and they can talk to me and they know me. I think it’s helped with a lot of the wrestlers; fans feel more comfortable, they can know them better, they warm up to them, it’s helped personalise the wrestlers a lot, so it’s helped across the board definitely.”
Hulk Hogan

© Rex Features / Startraks Photo

You’re on Twitter but are you ever tempted to Google yourself?
“No I don’t. I finally got a Hulk Hogan website up and they wanted to show me how many people were ripping me off. They googled Hulk Hogan and there were 4,000 different websites and one guy was making like two and a half million dollars, three million dollars a year just selling my merchandise. We had to shut him down but he was making some serious money just selling my stuff.”

Talking of merchandise, I remember having Hulk Hogan dolls as a child. What’s the best piece of Hulk merchandise you’ve ever seen?
“There have been like 40 different dolls. Stretch dolls, dolls that vibrated – which were quite controversial – dolls that talked, dolls that would hulk up with the arms, dolls that would rip the shirt off. The coolest thing, and I have it at home, is a huge Hulk Hogan, normal-sized pinball machine. When people come over they play it for hours. When you hit the bumpers and the bells ring it goes, ‘Oh yeah!’ The whole time you’re playing this machine it’s yelling and screaming at you, ‘What you gonna do, brother?!’ I think that’s the coolest.” You’re obviously in incredible shape for a 58-year-old. What motivates you to stay fit?
“I’m real critical of myself and if I take the bandana off my head I’m completely bald headed and go from being 58 to looking 68 instantly. I train all the time and the weird thing is I’m in the gym with people between 20 and 25 years old and I look in the mirror and I look better than they do and they are young kids – either they haven’t trained hard enough or they aren’t serious enough. It’s kind of like that whole male ego thing of getting competitive in the gym with other men. Sometimes I’m stronger than they are, sometimes I’m not, but when they take their shirts off I look better than they do and I’m like, ‘What are you guys doing wrong?!’
“I guess it is an ego thing to try to stay in shape as long as you can. It’s like yesterday on Loose Women when the lady said something about her blood pressure going up, that made me feel good and it’s kind of cool. When I say I’m 58 years old my wife instantly corrects me and says ‘you’re 58 years young!’ Jennifer is my biggest supporter. She hates it when I say my back hurts or my knee hurts or whatever. I’m trying to be cool about it but I have a hard time accepting a compliment. If someone says, ‘You look great for being 58’, Jennifer tells me I’m supposed to say thank you, but it’s hard to say that. My usual answer is, ‘Oh no, come on, no I don’t’, but now I’m saying thank you and trying to be cool about it.”

Will there come a day when you decide ‘that’s it’ or will you keep going as long as you can?
“WWE offered me a 25-year contract. I’m 58 years old, so until I’m 83 years old, but it wasn’t to wrestle. It was for my name and the likeness and rights. There’s a large demand for merchandise because I was such a big part of that company in the beginning. I started wrestling for Vince McMahon‘s father in 1978 and then in 1984 the Hulkamania thing took off, I beat the Iron Sheik for the belt, and it’s been red hot ever since.
“The truth is, it’s pretty much over, the physical part. I can go to Nottingham tonight and let’s say for instance – because I don’t know what is going to happen and I’m not advertised in a match, all we did was tell everybody I was coming – that when I get there I’ll go in the dressing room and figure out who is there. I know Sting is wrestling so whoever Sting is wrestling, maybe one more bad guy will come out and say, ‘Hey Sting if you’re so tough why don’t you take on the both of us?’ Sting will look at the crowd and they’ll say, ‘Yes, do it’. So when he gets in trouble I’ll come wandering out there and wait for the tag.
“The thing is, physically I shouldn’t be doing it, but it’s so much fun, it’s so insane and you’ll see that at the live shows and understand why I’m addicted to it. As soon as I come out there and hear the crazy, insane crowd, I can take the tag and start punching people and throwing them around, and as long as I don’t get beat up too bad I’m cool! It really is over, the physical stuff should be completely, completely over, but the crowd is so cool and nice to me that it’s fun to do it.
“Even when it does completely end, I still want to be involved because I love this business so much. I want to be around creatively trying to help, so I’ll probably be in this business until the day I die. Not wrestling but hanging out and doing something to help.”
Hulk Hogan
arriving at talksport radio studios
London    © WENN
With your career achievements and life story how come we haven’t seen a Hulk Hogan movie yet?
“You know what, as crazy as that sounds, I’m just now having a couple of people from Paramount Studios approach me about it. I was approached three times to do the movie The Wrestler, that Mickey Rourke part, and I kept telling them if I did it the film would suck. I did a movie called No Holds Barred about a wrestler, my first movie with New Line Cinema. It did incredibly well, made for $3 million and did about $50 million, which for a low budget movie is unheard of. So I did two other films with New Line Cinema – Suburban Commando and Mr Nanny, low budget films that made a lot of money.
“When the script for The Wrestler kept coming to me I said, ‘This movie is so good if you put me in the film as a wrestler people are going to say, “No credibility, Hulk Hogan isn’t a good actor”, whatever Hollywood thinks of me’. As soon as they put Mickey Rourke in there I knew it had a chance, and he did such a great, great job it relit his career.
“Since that movie came out I think it’s one of the reasons I’ve been getting approached about doing my life story. Being a real fat kid growing up in high school, going through school and never having a girlfriend or going to a dance or the prom, being afraid to take my shirt off on the beach, and then all of a sudden getting in really good shape. Then I was a studio musician for ten years and played music with all kinds of crazy musicians and people – all the guys I was in the band with are now in Tim McGraw‘s band – then I got in a fight with a wrestler one night in a bar and did real well and all of a sudden I get in the wrestling business. There is a movie there and they are talking about doing it. It could be crazy!”

So who would play Hulk Hogan in your dream movie?
“That’s a good question… I have no idea. I tell you who would have been great, Heath Ledger. He was crazy good, adapted to any role. I don’t know, that’s a great question.”

How come you never stayed on the movie path with all those successes?
“I kind of checked out of the movie business. I did 17 or 18 little low budget movies that did well, several cameos, a ton of stuff, but I had to make a decision. When there was no Stone Cold Steve Austin and no Rock, I was the only guy, and this probably sounds horrible to say, but I was making so much money wrestling that for me to quit wrestling for one or two or three months to go and do a movie, would be financial suicide. Plus I was afraid they’d find someone to replace me.
“I quit doing the movies because the wrestling was going so good and was so on fire during the ’80s and ’90s, but I was getting all these movie scripts. Right before Pamela Anderson met Tommy Lee I got this crazy script to do this incredible movie with her where I play this cop with a young partner like Brad Pitt who is in love with Pamela Anderson and he gets killed in the line of duty and she falls in love with me and it gets really crazy. I turned that down. I turned down the lead part in The Highlander, I turned down Little John in Mel Brooks’s Robin Hood: Men In Tights. I turned down a bunch of stuff and made some really bad career choices just to stay with wrestling.” It’s all worked out well through…
“Things are cool. I opened the door and The Rock power-walked through it. He did what I should have done, or I couldn’t do, and he became a huge movie star and balances it out with wrestling every once in a while.”

Hulk Hogan can be seen at the TNA Impact Wrestling shows tonight in Nottingham (January 26), tomorrow in Manchester (January 27) and Saturday, January 28 at Wembley Arena in London. Tickets are still available