The untold truth of Hulk Hogan

There was a time when calling Hulk Hogan a wrestling legend elevated the meaning of the word "legend." Portrayed as the world's greatest world-beater in the 1980s and early '90s, Hogan boasted a herculean physique, unstoppable optimism, and a faithful following of Hulkamaniacs who believed in his four "demandments" to train, pray, take vitamins, and believe in themselves. Most of all, they believed in him.

No obstacle was too big for the Hulkster, not even Andre the Giant. Hogan mopped the floor with the dirtiest player in the game, Ric Flair, and made "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase pay the price for moral bankruptcy. But as Harvey Dent said in The Dark Knight, you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain. After years of practically being a comic book superhero in WWE, Hogan came to be seen as a two-faced megalomaniac.

In WCW, Hogan did the unthinkable and turned heel, and at TNA he turned heel again. But when his real-life villainy came to light, Hogan turned into a pariah. As details of his private life became public, it became clear that wrestling's one-time superhero was super flawed. But that's partly what makes Hulk Hogan super interesting.

He used to be terrified of pro wrestlers

In his hip-hop diss track "Be a Man," "Macho Man" Randy Savage basically accuses Hulk Hogan of shaking in his yellow boots at the thought of even being in the same room as Savage. We can't verify that claim, but we can say that as a youngster the Hulkster would have been petrified of Macho Man.

Speaking with Vice, Hogan revealed that "growing up, even in high school," he "was scared to death" of pro wrestlers. Back then wrestling wasn't viewed like a sports-themed action movie but like a no-holds-barred environment where the performers were ruthless bruisers who could break your finger for calling the sport fake. According to Hogan, wrestlers really got away with those things because there weren't cell phones everywhere to capture it. He had no interest in being one of those guys. In fact, he didn't like sports in general.

Hogan was interested in music and weightlifting. After dropping out of college he played bass guitar for multiple rock bands. Through music he discovered that he loved entertaining people, and at one of his music shows, sports entertainment discovered him. Per the Chicago Tribune, wrestling's famous Brisco brothers noticed the 6-foot-8 Hogan strumming "what looked like a toothpick in his hands." They convinced him to give wrestling a try, and Hogan's instructor broke his leg on the first day of training. So maybe his childhood fear was justified.

He put three stuntmen in the hospital while filming 'Rocky III'

A childhood friend of Hogan once called him "a great big loaf of bread" with "a heart of gold." But to Sylvester Stallone, Hogan was a big, beefy dude who belonged on the silver screen. After seeing the wrestler on television, Stallone cast him in Rocky III, which co-starred Hogan's future tag team partner, Mr. T .

Much like Mr. T, Hogan played a villain in the movie (and both would be heroes at the first ever WrestleMania). Hogan played "Thunderlips," an arrogant barbarian of a wrestler who wildy attacks Rocky and security guards like a hulking maniac during a charity match. The sequence was a fun addition to the movie but not so fun to film for Stallone and the stuntmen who had to take beatings from Hogan. Stallone wrote, "I remember a violent move where he threw me into the corner, charged across the ring like an ENRAGED bull and leaped so amazingly high above me, that his shinbone actually came down [like a] giant tree on my collarbone , and I tumbled to the floor."

Hogan was "a great guy" but "didn't know his own strength," according to Stallone, who said he "never felt such a mind numbing pain from a massive hit before or since" Hogan crashed into him. The Hulkster also hurt three stuntmen so badly that they needed hospital treatment.

Bash at the breach

Hogan's hero persona was practically Captain America — or in Hogan's case, "Mr. America" — combined with the Incredible Hulk. A flag-waving patriot known for ripping his shirt, "Hulking up," and smashing bad guys, he was so much like the Incredible Hulk that Marvel ended up receiving royalties. In WCW, however, he became Hollywood Hogan, an air-guitaring narcissist who pulled strings to stay on top. Ironically, he would prove how similar he was to his Hollywood character in real-life when he sued WCW.

At the 2000 Bash at the Beach pay-per-view, Hogan faced Jeff Jarrett for the world heavyweight championship. According to court records, the plan was for Jarrett to let himself be pinned. Hogan's bogus victory was supposed to lead to a tournament that would end with Hogan as champion anyway. But after the match, creative director Vince Russo ripped Hogan a new one in front of everyone. As cameras rolled, Russo accused him of abusing the creative control clause in his contract at other wrestlers' expense. He then held a new championship match between Jarrett and WCW workhorse Booker T.

Hogan really did have creative control and really was using it to become champion. But he really didn't like that being exposed, nor did he enjoy the storyline change. So he sued for breach of contract, defamation, and false light invasion of privacy. Hollywood Hogan may have ruled WCW, but the court ruled against him.

He acknowledged holding back other wrestlers' careers and is thankful he did

Hulk Hogan famously called his massive arms "24-inch pythons." The legendary Jake "the Snake" Roberts had a 12-foot python called Damien. The clash of those python icons should have been epic. And maybe it would have been if their feud hadn't been nixed. As Roberts recalled, the fans were chanting for him instead of Hogan, and Vince McMahon couldn't have that. Roberts chalked it up to marketing concerns, but others might blame it on Hogan being a snake.

For years people have accused Hogan of maintaining his dominant spot in the wrestling business through backstage politicking. When someone threatened to topple his popularity, Hogan seemed to kick that person down the ladder. A excellent example of that was Bret "the Hitman" Hart. To call Hart the excellence of execution doesn't do justice to how good he truly was. But Hogan refused to lose to him. In fact at WrestleMania IX Hart was forced to lose the world championship in an exciting match against the sumo-sized Yokozuna. Almost immediately after Hart's loss, Hogan defeated Yokozuna for the title "in less than 30 seconds."

In a 2018 interview Hogan acknowledged being a backstage politician who held other wrestlers back for his own benefit. "Well, thank God I was!" he added. "That's why I made more money than anybody, that's why I kept the belt longer, that's why … I had a 35-year run on top."

Say your lies and fake your vitamins

In the 1980s Hogan religiously told kids to say their prayers and take their vitamins. But in the early '90s he had to pray people believed he was just taking vitamins when the infamous steroid scandal rocked the wrestling world. It started with the 1990 indictment of Dr. George Zahorian, who had been busted for illegally distributing steroids to wrestlers. Per ESPN, the story went largely unnoticed until 1991, when a comment by Zahorian's attorney prompted the headline "Hulk: Bulk from a Bottle?" With that, the genie was released.

Hogan had been implicated in something ugly along with the rest of the WWE. Wrestlers testified in court and admitted to taking anabolic steroids. The government was gunning for Vince McMahon. Hulk Hogan, the public's muscular darling and McMahon's perennial champion, was determined to keep his squeaky-clean image. He appeared on Arsenio Hall's show to make an impassioned plea for the public's trust, claiming he had only taken a synthetic hormone three times and only to heal from a shoulder injury. In other words, he lied his extremely buff butt off.

Other wrestlers called out Hogan for lying so blatantly on TV. But he stuck to his story until 1994. After receiving legal immunity, Hogan confessed in court that for 13 years he used steroids to "get big." He also vouched for Vince McMahon, claiming the WWE owner never asked him to take steroids.

He claimed he didn't remember making racist remarks

Hogan's theme music portrays him as a real American who fights for the rights of every man. But behind closed doors he's been caught singing a very different tune. The lyrics to that tune included the line, "I am a racist, to a point, f*cking n*ggers."

Hogan didn't stick his foot in his mouth. He had been sticking a different part of his body in the wife of his "best friend." In their secretly recorded tryst, Hogan complained about his daughter, Brooke, sleeping with a black man. But he wasn't totally opposed to Brooke sleeping with black guys: "I'd rather if she was going to f*ck some n*gger, I'd rather have her marry an 8-foot-tall n*gger worth a hundred million dollars! Like a basketball player!" So if his former tag team partner, Dennis Rodman, was almost impossibly tall and super rich, then his race wouldn't be a problem for dating the Hulkster's daughter. Yay?

Amid the scandal WWE gave Hogan the big boot. The Hulkster pleaded for forgiveness, insisting, "There's not a racist bone in my body." (In fairness, it was his brain that was racist.) The WWE eventually welcomed him back, and he addressed the wrestlers in the locker room. Weirdly, part of his apology was to claim he didn't even remember what he said. Despite saying he wouldn't make excuses, the Hulkster noted that he was "very, very mad at a situation."

The Hulkster's son drives wild

Being the child of a wealthy celebrity seems like a mixed blessing at best. Your parent can probably afford to make your diapers out of stitched-together $100 bills, but you inherit a spotlight that shines brightest in your darkest hour. For Hulk Hogan's son, Nick, the spotlight must have been blinding in 2007.

You may remember Nick from the reality show Hogan Knows Best. Unfortunately, he wasn't the Hogan who knew best. ABC described him as a "sort-of real-life Dennis the Menace." But he was more of a speed demon who didn't know when to hit the brakes. Unsatisfied with simply burning rubber as a racecar driver — which Nick also did — he would frequently speed on the street, sometimes breaking 100 mph. Tickets didn't deter him, and sadly, his best friend, John Graziano, paid the price.

In August 2007 then-17-year-old Nick got drunk and decided to get behind the wheel of a Toyota Supra with Graziano in the passenger's seat. Law enforcement later accused Nick of street racing, though he denied it. Regardless, he plowed into a tree, leaving Graziano, an Iraq War veteran, with severe brain damage. Graziano's father was understably livid, remarking, "What al Qaeda couldn't do to my son, [Nick] did in a matter of minutes." Nick received an eight-month jail sentence. The Graziano family received an out-of-court settlement, much of which Hulk Hogan paid out-of-pocket.

Hogan considered suicide more than once

For the stars of Hogan Knows Best 2007 was the worst of times. Hulk Hogan's son, Nick, caused a tragic car wreck, the show got canceled, and the Hulkster's then-wife, Linda, canceled their marriage after he supposedly slept with their daughter Brooke's best friend. Unfortunately, none of this was scripted, and Hogan wasn't the unstoppable force he once played in the ring. "Everything got dark, everything happened at once," Hogan later recalled. Hogan tried to drink away the pain, but booze couldn't numb it. Eventually desperation set in.

In his biography My Life Outside the Ring, the Hulkster recounted the moment it all got to be too much. Blaming his despair on Linda's decision to divorce him, Hogan visited a strip club and basked in the adulation of strangers before returning to an empty home. There he washed down Xanax with alcohol and placed a gun in his mouth. "Obviously I didn't kill myself, but I came damn close," he wrote. But a phone call from Laila Ali, his American Gladiators co-host, changed his mind.

In 2015 life came crashing down again after racist remarks Hogan made in private became extremely public, prompting the WWE to pretend Hogan didn't exist. Utterly distraught, he had more suicidal thoughts. Thankfully, he overcame them.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Hogan vs. the surgeons

Historically, WWE wrestlers tend to die early and often compared to athletes in other pro sports. One major reason is that for a long time steroid and recreational drug use ran wild, and a big reason wrestlers use those substances is that injuries also run rampant, and wrestlers run all over the place because of their hectic travel schedules. Hogan was no stranger to those dangers and suffered a bevy of injuries throughout his career, including "a torn knee cap, spinal cord injury, an injured back and a hip injury."

Since you can't leg-drop a back injury, Hogan decided to seek help from the Laser Spine Institute. Between February 2009 and August 2010 he underwent a series of laser surgeries, per AZ Central, and according to Hogan, the procedures ultimately left him "twisting like The Exorcist." His inability to work, he said, cost him a profitable contract with WWE so he decided it should cost the Laser Spine Institute $50 million to compensate him. Furthermore, he claimed the institute "used an endorsement from Hogan without permission or payment." The parties settled out of court.

He's been robbed multiple times

Regardless of what security system Hogan uses, it's easy to image him as the biggest deterrent to would-be thieves. Though he's getting to an age where he might randomly cup his ears like he would in the ring — except now because maybe he really can't hear crowds cheer — Hogan's still a huge dude. Seeing him rip his shirt with geriatric rage may make you take off. Luckily for the woman who robbed Hogan's Florida beach store in 2014 he wasn't around when she stole a $5,500 wrestling shoe. Per CBS, Hogan autographed the shoe, which presumably explains its insane price tag. It might also explain why the thief had a change of heart and returned the shoe. That, or no one was willing to buy a stolen $5,500 shoe.

Not everyone who robbed Hogan was so remorseful. In 2007 TMZ reported that $100,000 worth of jewelry had been stolen from the Hulkster's home. Hogan's family was in the middle of moving out of the house when someone (or more than one) managed to snag a diamond-encrusted watch, a couple gold chains, and other items. In 2016 a trio of thieves snatched a package off the porch of Hogan's mansion, showing not even celebs are safe from package thieves.

His never-ending feud with his ex-wife

Hogan has many nemeses over the years — the Iron Sheik, King Kong Bundy, Sergeant Slaughter, and a slew of others. All these rivalries had their own special flavor of malice, but none were as nasty as Hogan's real-life feud with ex-wife Linda Bollea. In 2011 Linda alleged that Hogan grabbed her throat during arguments, ripped her clothes, and threw lamps. She also made the salacious claim that the Hulkster had been wrestling in the bedroom with his friend Ed Leslie — known to wrestling fans as Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake and, hilariously, "the Booty Man."

Hogan denounced Linda as "delusional" and sued for defamation. It was one in a series of ugly lawsuits and disputes involving the ex-spouses. Before splitting up in 2007 Hogan allegedly cheated on Linda with their daughter's best friend. After their son, Nick, caused a tragic car accident that severely injured a passenger, Hogan paid a hefty chunk of the ensuing legal settlement and then sued Linda — who was also his manager at the time of the accident — for allegedly not getting adequate passenger insurance. Their feud continued in 2018, when Linda accused Hogan of withholding money he owed her in accordance with their divorce settlement, which awarded her 40 percent of Hogan's income.

The public private parts of Hulk Hogan

By now you know the story or have blocked it from memory because it's so weird and creepy. Hogan decided to let his Hulkamania run wild between the sheets with the wife of his buddy, Bubba "the Love Sponge." According to the Associated Press, Bubba gave "his blessing" to the extramarital romp "and even handed Hogan a condom." What he didn't give Hogan was any indication that he would be filming their sexy time. Now-defunct website Gawker got hold of the footage and presumably gawked at it before leaking parts of it. Furious and humiliated, Hogan sued the site for $100 million.

Gawker claimed Hogan's sex life was fair game to share with the public because he was a public figure who had publicly bragged about having a 10-inch ding-dong. Using his legal name, Terry Bollea, in court, Hogan declared, "Terry Bollea's penis is not 10 inches." Gawker's lawyer tried to clarify the distinction: "So you were discussing Hulk Hogan's penis?" Yup, the Hulkster and his real self apparently have two different appendages with different lengths. Let that sink in. The jury bought it, anyway, and awarded him $140 million. Hulk Hogan settled for $31 million, though Terry Bollea probably received a smaller amount.