He smashed attendance records and opponents in the world of professional wrestling. He body slammed the box office (and Sylvester Stallone) as he rampaged his way through Hollywood. Now he has set his sights on the video game industry.
He’s the “Immortal” Hulk Hogan.
I had a chance to go toe-to-toe with “The Hulkster” at the 2011 San Diego Comic Con. While there we talked about overcoming the depression caused by his divorce and his son’s accident, C.M. Punk’s sudden rise in the WWE, and his video game alter-ego, Angel de la Muerte.
Gordon Holmes: How are you enjoying Comic Con?
Hulk Hogan: It’s cool. The energy is over the top. Anyone that’s into animation and these kinds of vicarious characterizations, they have this crazy imagination that runs wild. So to go in there and to get that energy and to be around them was really cool. I’ve been here a few times and realize how grateful I am that they still care about Hulk Hogan. A huge shot in the arm. The problem is 95% of the fans are men. The other 5% are good-looking women who don’t bring food.
Holmes: For all the ladies reading this, I understand that Hulk Hogan is a big fan of dark chocolate.
Hogan: You’d like to kill me? Then bring as much chocolate as you can, because I will eat every bit of it.
Holmes: I’ve gotta admit, I’m still not used to you having tattoos.
Hogan: (Reading his tattoos) “I am that I am.” That’s the first time God talked to Moses. God said, “I am that I am.” (Pointing around the room) “I am that, I am that.” It just means that God is everywhere. I’m on this whole religious, crazy, spiritual, scientific trip that just changed my life.
Holmes: I read your book (“Hulk Hogan: My Life Outside the Ring”). It was particularly tough reading about the dark place you ended up emotionally after your divorce and your son’s accident. But seeing all those fans, you’ve gotta know that people care about you.
Hogan: People are good, man.
Holmes: I’m glad you made it through that.
Hogan: Thank you, brother. No, it’s cool. It all happened for a reason. The divorce, the wreck my son was in. My ego was always present, I thought it was the worst thing that’d ever happened. But as soon as my ego became dormant, and I had this God space that I function in that I call “The Sweet Spot,” I realized everything happened for a reason. That’s my Bible thumping for the day, brother!
Holmes: You’re doing a video game, “Saints Row the Third.” I’ve seen a video of it and it looks insane. You play Angel de la Muerte. What can you tell me about him?
Hogan: It’s pretty crazy because they’ve taken the best of the wrestling community and plugged it into some superhero character. We’ve got the standard good guy/bad guy story; his partner Killbane turned on him.
Holmes: Was it tough making the transition to a video game voice actor?
Hogan: When I got into the vocal booth I had a bunch of help from the people who created the game. And once I found that sweet spot where Angel should be, I think I beat it up pretty good. But I laugh because now these guys are going to have to keep using me. But the character is great, and there seems to be a ton of interest. He has the knee brace on the same knee that I hurt originally. These guys are the best of the best at what they do. I think they’re on to something.
Holmes: Your character Angel de la Muerta was turned on by his partner Killbane. That seems like Wrestling Feud 101.
Hogan: The conflict is pretty easy. It’s the storyline driven stuff that makes wrestling work. Some of the new writers and new breed of wrestlers try to make more out of it than what it is. They’ll elaborate on the storylines, but the people don’t remember that. All they remember is the good guys go like this (holds his fists up) and the bad guys go like that (cowers in fear). Good guys go forward, bad guys go backward.
Holmes: I know you have a history of partners turning on you with Paul Orndorff, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, “Macho Man” Randy Savage…
Hogan: I think the ultimate act of betrayal is when a friend or a partner turns on you. Even more so in real life, because I have had someone, who was a good friend, turn on me. Macho Man did. And thank God, right before he passed away we started talking again.
Holmes: How did that reconciliation take place?
Hogan: It was really cool because I was going on my seventh back surgery and I couldn’t pass an EKG because my body was so stressed out from all the anesthesia. The doctor was trying to see what I could do to get this back surgery, I was sitting there with my new wife Jennifer and all the sudden the door bangs open and we hear, (imitating the “Macho Man”) “Hey, what’s up, brother? Oh yeah!” And I thought, “Oh my God, it’s Randy.” And my wife Jennifer didn’t know who he was. But, just the fact that we got back together after all of that conflict and him turning on me…and he turned on me on a personal level. He thought I was responsible for his divorce and his business deals and stuff. He confided in me that he felt bad for all the things I went through with my problems. And he said, “I feel so bad that I was such a jackass.” And he was really cool and we talked.
Holmes: So there’s hope for Angel and Killbane to patch things up?
Hogan: I can’t wait for the day where he begs for forgiveness and repents. This is the artform of life, brother, and it works. And that’s why this game is going to work. And that’s why it’s always worked; good vs. evil.
Holmes: Does Angel de la Muerte bust out any of your classic moves?
Hogan: He uses everything, brother. They have the technology to make him drop legs, suplex Killbane off of the top of the cage like I did to the Big Bossman back in the day. He can do whatever he wants in there, brother, because he doesn’t have any injuries except for that weak knee.
Holmes: Who wins in a fight; Hulk Hogan or Angel de la Muerte?
Hogan: I’ll put him over (wrestling slang for letting someone win).
Holmes: That’s good for the game. Makes Angel look strong.
Hogan: That means we get to go again, right? It was a fluke, brother!
Holmes: You slipped on a banana peel.
Hogan: (Laughs) I slipped on a banana peel. The sun was in my eyes. I just need to know if you were better than me on that day. You’ve gotta put him over. That’s why I don’t understand the (John) Cena thing. The first one was free; two good guys, him and the Rock. You don’t have to turn him heel yet (wrestling slang for becoming a bad guy).
Holmes: Are you paying attention to what’s going on in the WWE?
Hogan: Yeah, man, they’re saying my name every week.
Holmes: What does it mean to you when you tune in and hear them talking about you?
Hogan: It’s a huge compliment for them to say my name. It’s a huge compliment that they’re open-minded. It makes me realize that I’m Terry Bollea and I’m very humble with how nice people are to me, but there’s really something to this Hulk Hogan character. That’s why I had “Immortal” tattooed on my back. The religious thing is that I’m going to live forever because I’ve accepted Christ as my savior, which is the main reason, along with the fact that the Hulk Hogan character is going to be a part of history. The character is going to be immortal. Just like TNA’s alive again, getting ready for the red and the yellow, it makes me realize that no matter what happens in the WWE Universe, I’m part of that history package. So, it’s really cool when they name drop me.
Holmes: There have been moments that have changed the modern era of the wrestling business. One was when you defeated the Iron Sheik for the WWE (then WWF) title.
Hogan: (Imitating the Iron Sheik) I can’t believe you, jabroni!
Holmes: (Laughs) Watch your language if you’re going to do a Sheik impersonation.
Hogan: (Laughs) I know, brother. I’m not going to mention Brian Blair.
Holmes: (Laughs) Other moments are the formation of the nWo and Steve Austin’s “Austin 3:16” speech. Some are saying C.M. Punk’s interview has this potential. Did you have a chance to catch the episode of “Raw” a few weeks ago where Punk vented about the state of the WWE?
Hogan: Yeah, as soon as Vince deregulated wrestling in the ‘80s and told everybody that it’s entertainment and the finishes are predetermined, he decided that it’s a better move not to insult the people’s intelligence. We’re not out there saying “It’s real, brother!” I mean, it’s not fake because of all of the injuries. So, even though Vince has deemed it entertainment, people still want to believe. And when C.M. Punk did his thing, I think people just want to believe. Even on my Twitter account, people are saying, “Hey, are you going to hire C.M. Punk? If John Cena gets fired he says he’s coming to your company!” I think it is so cool that people, even if you tell them that it is predetermined, that the art form, when done correctly, people can still get sucked into it. They still want to live vicariously through the wrestlers. It makes me realize that wrestling will always be around.
Holmes: Do you think Punk has what it takes to be the next big thing?
Hogan: It depends. It’s not Punk’s decision, it’s Vince McMahon. When he was on TV the other night and said he could make ten John Cenas, that’s true. When Vince McMahon says he can make another Hulk Hogan, that’s true. Everybody’s replaceable. It’s the power of the TV, it’s not the power of the wrestlers. Now, if you’re given the football, you’ve got to be able to run with it. Cause a lot of guys were given the ball. The Rock ran with it a certain distance. Stone Cold ran with it a certain distance. Hulk Hogan ran with it a certain distance. We all have our run. But it’s really the power of the TV. TV is the star.
“Impact Wrestling” airs Thursday nights at 9 p.m. ET on Spike TV.
“Saints Row the Third” will be released for the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 on November 15, 2011.