Hulk Hogan talks God, says ex-wife Linda may be toughest wrestling opponent
On the radio with pal Bubba the Love Sponge Clem this morning, Hulk Hogan blamed rival radio personality Todd "MJ" Schnitt for ruining his family by focusing on the August 2007 car accident which disabled a friend of the family and landed his son Nick in jail.
Last week, when Hogan's face was shown while taking in a Rays baseball game, the crowd booed the towering ex-wrestler, once so likeable he had his own cartoon show.
Still, in an interview just conducted to promote the debut of his celebrity wrestling show on Saturday, Hogan remained philosophical about the personal issues which have kept his family in the headlines for the past years or so, from Nick's eight-month sentence for reckless driving to the bitter divorce from wife Linda and constant media coverage. See a collection of Times coverage here.
"If I go visit my son at Pinellas County jail and I sit there and visit him for an hour on the video screen and I happen to run and take in a Rays game and take his calls whenever he can get to the phone between innings -- if that doesn't set well with a lot of people in the Tampa Bay area -- maybe they're Boston fans," said Hogan, also known as Terry Bollea. "I really can't appease or throw any energy toward any negative people or the haters or anybody who wants to write or say negative things about me. It's just not in the cards anymore."
Hogan returns to TV at 8 p.m. Saturday, starring in Hulk Hogan's Celebrity Championship Wrestling, an unscripted competition show featuring a cast that reads like a who's who of celebrity dysfunction:
Tattooed and bejeweled NBA freakazoid Dennis Rodman; ex-Saved by the Bell and sex tape star Dustin Diamond, Diff'rent Strokes actor and ex-addict Todd Bridges; Partridge Family star and police magnet Danny Bonaduce; faded '80s pop star Tiffany; celebrity brother Frank Stallone; Playboy playmate Nikki Ziering; Bewitched actor Erin Murphy; heavyweight boxer ButterBean; and perpetual reality TV participant Trishelle Cannatella. See the trailer here.
Hogan got pal Clem to serve as play by play announcer, a dream they'd had since NBC passed on using Clem for their American Gladiators reboot this year. "Many years ago, there was an independent wrestling situation where a buddy of mine, Brian Blair, who is a county commissioner in Hillsborough County now was the straight guy, and out of nowhere there was Bubba the Love Sponge sitting there being the color one-liner guy. they were the most brilliant team I had ever heard on the mike, bar none...When there was a opportunity to have that good solid man's voice on our Championship Wrestling I went right back to Bubba."
And despite the ways constant press attention has made his personal troubles worse, Hogan said he wouldn't rule out doing another unscripted show based on his personal life -- he's already appearing on daughter Brooke Hogan's VH1 show -- though he would insist it focus on the personal revelations he's had in the wake of all his troubles.
"What I understand now, and what I’m all about...I’m here for a reason other than being a wrestler," said Hogan, who talked a lot about God during his half-hour interview. "I would love to someday let people know what really makes me tick, and what’s going on in my life. How houses cars and all that crazy materialistic stuff that everybody worries about really isn’t a focus at all. My whole life is being positive and moving forward...being present and in spirit of Christ in this moment."
A look at a review copy of the first episode reveals a typical celebrity-studded "reality" show. Hogan oversees two trainers who split up the celebrities and train them in the drop kicks, ring rope bounces, overhead smashes and other moves needed to "sell" an audience on a match. Along the way, this collection of professional misfits bounces off each other in predictable ways, with Rodman talking trash, Bonaduce getting mad and Ziering way too focused on her makeup.
Hogan cited Bonaduce, Butterbean, Bridges (!?) and Rodman as the top competitors. "The original idea was to start a American Idol for wrestling. Then we said you know what? We need larger than life characters. And the only larger than life characters out there are celebrities."
Right now, Hogan says he has no new projects planned as Championship Wrestling rolls out and NBC decides whether it wants to do another edition of Gladiators. Ask whether the personal controversy has harmed the Hulk Hogan brand, however, and the ex-wrestler gets philosophical:
"I’ve always been pushing and pushing. I was always pushing so hard I didn’t realize I had everything I needed," he said. "Between the divorce and the accident, I mean, once everything’s stripped away from you – it’s almost like someone on their deathbed. There’s so much going on in my life, now I understand what’s really important. I finally woke up."
And if he were to wrestle one last time before total retirement, who would be his ultimate opponent?
"Right now, I think the most formidable opponent I could possibly have a steel cage, lights out, all rules out the window match would be with Linda Hogan," he said, laughing.
And who would win? "Probably her. I don't know."