Hulk Hogan is ready to put a period at the end of a long sentence.
After writing an involved history that included marital woes and health problems, he’s back with the World Wrestling family, looking for a happy ending – one that won’t include unnecessary clauses.
“I crashed and burned,” the 61-year-old professional wrestling legend admits. After leaving Vince McMahon’s wrestling empire to strike out on his own, he starred in a reality series, divorced his wife and went through so many surgeries it’s amazing he’s still standing.
“I decided to take a leap of faith and come back to where it all started,” he says. “The WWE universe is a monster. With social media, it’s bigger than the NFL, the NBA and baseball, all together. Everything is moving at a faster pace and you’ve got to stay ahead of the curve.”
Appearing on WWE Raw, Hogan has stepped into the ring but, because of those surgeries, been advised not to suit up. Good luck.
“My ego explodes when I get around the wrestling ring,” he says. “I get goosebumps. It’s like a hot car. I get the jones … and I want to be back.”
Hogan threw a couple of punches at one event and the crowd went wild. He did, too.
“Triple H told me I’ve got nothing to prove but the last time I wrestled was not with this company and I want my legacy to end with the WWE.”
To that end, Hogan – who was born Terry Gene Bollea – has been working out like he’s going for another championship belt. “I weigh 295. I’m in really good shape and I’m training like I’m going to get in the ring. I’m like a convict given a life sentence.”
A final match? “It could happen,” Hogan says proudly. “Vince (McMahon, the WWE founder) said, ‘Never say never.’ And that’s what I want – one last match, one last run, one last title win, one last title retirement.”
Apparently, colleagues want to see that, too. At an event in Columbus, Ga., fellow WWE athletes thanked him for punching them. “You’ve made our careers now,” they told him. “I didn’t realize a lot of these kids weren’t even in the business when I slapped Andre the Giant.”
And yet, professional wrestlers don’t get any bigger than Hogan. A 12-time world champion, he dominated the sport in the 1980s and ‘90s, enjoying life at the top longer than most competitors’ careers.
In 2003, he left the WWE and became aligned with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. A war of words ensued between Hogan and his former employer; health problems limited his ability to wrestle.
In short, Hogan was in a turnbuckle of his own making.
Even worse, a reality show – “Hogan Knows Best” – wasn’t helping things at home.
“I did it to save my marriage,” he says, bluntly. “By the time we started it (in 2005), my marriage had unraveled. My children didn’t need me anymore and I thought the reality show would get everybody busy and bring us back together.”
Hogan didn’t know best. Wife Linda left him; son Nick “got into a little bit of a problem” and daughter Brooke realized writing was her passion, not singing.
“I crashed and burned,” he says. “I had two knee replacements, two hip replacements and nine back surgeries. I got sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Negative thinking did something few wrestlers could. It nearly defeated him.
Until he met Jennifer McDaniel, the woman who, in 2010, became his second wife, Hogan didn’t get up off the mat and start realizing how great life really was.
“She said if I hung around people with negative energy, I’d be negative, too.” Now, the Hogans keep tabloid news out of their home, concentrate on positives and look ahead, not behind.
Brooke is doing well, writing for others, “Nick has landed on his feet, doing the deejay thing” and Linda, he hopes, is prospering, too.
“I haven’t talked to her for a long time but I pray for her. I pray for greatness and goodness.”
Although Hogan’s past includes so many ventures it would make a financial adviser’s head spin (he tried restaurants, movies, music and video games), he realized it was impossible to shake the Hulk persona.
“I shaved off the mustache for ‘Assault on Devil’s Island’ and looked totally different but wherever I’d go, people still recognized me. I couldn’t escape it. Maybe it was the way I lumber around.”
Now, with social media as his best campaign manager, Hogan is back on the trail, hoping to rekindle the Hulkamania that once rallied wrestling fans.
“Thanks to social media, I’m hotter than I was in the ‘80s and ‘90s,” he says. “When I go through airports now, young kids – 4 and 5 years old – will come up to me and say, ‘You’re my favorite wrestler’ and I don’t even wrestle anymore. But they see (the matches) on the Internet and they know what I can do.
“If this all works out,” Hogan says of his return to the WWE, “Hulk will really become immortal. It’s where my home is. It’s where I belong.”