HULK HOGAN: Real American Hero

Does former World Wresting Federation giant Hulk Hogan need saving? We think so…

Words: Kazeem Famuyide
Images: David Gabber/PR Photos and Koi Sojer/PR Photos

No matter how rich, poor, popular or infamous you are, the one thing that all people can use is very good advice. Eighties babies like me received most of our best advice via our television screens, and the man who gave us some of the best was Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea. The man we endearingly called, “The Hulkster.” He was a man of principle—damn near invincible in all of his red and yellow glory. A real-life superhero dragged straight from the pages of comic book lure.

He was a giant amongst men in a “sport” that, although pre-determined, drew from many real-life values that we all could learn from. Not only was he relatable, the church of Hulk only preached four very simple “demandments” for his legion of young followers: train, say your prayers, eat your vitamins and believe in yourself. In a life that was so celebrated and so fabled, most thought rock bottom was far from the life of Hulk Hogan back then.  But nowadays his storyline seems a bit sketchy and the “The Immortal One” could actually use a little bit of his own sage advice.

In his prime, Hulk Hogan was a big heaping slice of good ole’ Americana, and he rode those “demandments” along with the fans who believed in him, straight to superstardom. At his peak, Hogan’s popularity rivaled that of Magic Johnson, and Hogan wasn’t even a traditional athlete. But after gracing the covers of People and Sports Illustrated, along with a cameo in Rocky III, Hulk Hogan solidified himself as pro wrestling’s first mainstream superstar, the Babe Ruth of the squared circle.

He carried pro wrestling well into the late ‘90s, when it wasn’t necessarily cool to be a good guy. And as Hulkamaniacs grew up, Hulk grew up with them. Hulk went Hollywood and went through a career revival never before seen in his field. Switching from Red and Yellow to all-black everything, he created the nWo (a WWF storyline based on Hulk’s gang of wrestlers including Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, under the New World Order banner, in their attempt to take over World Championship Wrestling) and made wrestling cool. Again.

In the twilight of Hogan’s in-ring career, the Hulkster invited the world into his home. His VH-1 reality show, Hogan Knows Best, documented the lives of his children, Nick and Brooke, along with then-wife Linda, in an attempt to humanize the immortal Hulk Hogan persona. On television, everything looked exactly how it was “supposed” to look—the crack staff at VH-1 would have you believe that the Hogans were the blonde and muscular version of the Huxtables. Brooke was daddy’s little girl; the talented and pretty singer aiming for a big break. Nick was the mischievous little brother, and Linda was the loving wife and mom. Everything seemed to be going smoothly off and on screen, but as soon as the show ended its run, ironically, both Hogan’s personal and professional lives went downhill.

Shortly after Hogan was inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame, his son Nick (17 years-old at the time) was indicted as an adult on November 7, 2007 on four criminal charges. The charges stemmed from an August car accident, which seriously injured John Graziano, the passenger in Nick’s car. Nick served eight months in jail for the offense after pleading no-contest. Later that month, Linda Hogan filed for divorce upon learning of Hulk’s extramarital affair, which allegedly took place during some tapings of Hogan Knows Best.

Hulk has gone from American dream to American tragedy. He didn’t just Tiger Woods’ his career away with his infidelities, but he did have to live with similar embarrassing repercussions. Forty-eight-year-old Linda would go on to divorce Hulk, and to later be seen canoodling with 19-year-old Charlie Hill, a younger man she met at their children’s high school. Hogan was reportedly fighting depression simultaneously, and was quoted as having empathy for what OJ Simpson (allegedly) went through, as he became more aware of the various rendezvous between his estranged wife and Mr. Hill—in the homes and automobiles that Hulk’s backbreaking career paid for, might I add.

As high as Hogan rose at the height of his popularity, he sunk just as low into the abyss. As we speak, Hulk Hogan is still out there Brett Favre-ing, trying to see if he’s still got it for TNA Wrestling, the CFL to World Wrestling Entertainment’s NFL. At 57 years old, Hogan still wants to be the center of attention, still dropping those unforgettable catchphrases and still begrudgingly getting into the ring from time to time. He isn’t even 1/8 of the athlete that he was in his prime. Only a few years away from legally claiming senior citizen status, it doesn’t seem that the Hulkster is going to be leaving the spotlight anytime soon, even though he probably should. Pitching products for Rent-A-Center aside, Hulk needs to finally take his ball and go home.

His personal life needs as much repair as his mangled and surgically repaired neck. Watching him limp into the ring in 2011 isn’t nostalgic; it isn’t entertaining. It is sad and scary. A man his age should not take the bumps that he seems to be willing to still take. Imagine a Brett Favre a la concussion, still limping around in the NFL past this season, but add about 12 years to that. This is Hogan.

Has he tarnished his legacy? Perhaps. Is he still a pop culture icon? Of course. But for the sake of himself and everyone who said our prayers, took our vitamins and ate our vegetables on the daily, I ask Hulk one last question. What’cha going to do, brother? What’cha going to do when the spotlight isn’t on you?

Images by David Gabber / PR Photos (Get Rich or Die Tryin’ Premiere) and Koi Sojer / PR Photos (My Life Outside Book Signing).

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