On the radio with pal Bubba the Love Sponge Clem on Tuesday morning, Hulk Hogan blamed rival radio personality Todd "MJ" Schnitt for ruining his family by focusing on the April 2007 car accident that 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, a smattering of people in the crowd booed the towering ex-wrestler, once so likable he had his own cartoon show.
Still, in an interview Tuesday to promote the debut of his celebrity wrestling show on Saturday, Hogan remained philosophical about the personal issues that have kept his family in the headlines for the past 18 months or so. We're all familiar with them by now: Nick's eight-month sentence for reckless driving in the accident that critically injured John Graziano, as well as the bitter divorce from his wife, Linda.
"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," Hogan, also known as Terry Bollea, said in a phone interview with the Times. "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 on CMT, in Hulk Hogan's Celebrity Championship Wrestling, an unscripted show with a cast that reads like a who's who of celebrity dysfunction. (Read more about that show in Saturday's etc. coverage.)
And despite the ways the constant public spotlight 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 has had in the wake of 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."
Ask whether the personal controversy has harmed the Hulk Hogan brand, and he turns 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 … 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."