Hulk Hogan brings Hulkamania to any endeavor. He’s joined Total Nonstop Action wrestling so now Hulkamania lives there. Hulkamania even lives in a press conference he gave to the Television Critics Association. The man can just work a room.
Q: I was wondering about the numbers for Hulkamania. How wide is Hulkamania spreading these days?
Hulk Hogan: Well, it keeps growing. I’ve got the old Hulkamaniacs that were 40 and 50 years old when I started. And I’ve been around for about 30 years in the business. Now, they are 70 and 80 years old. I just got done with the Hogan Knows Best series for about six or seven years. So there’s a huge female demo that understands that I’m more than a wrestler. I’m a father. I guess I’m an ex-husband now. You know, I’ve got the problems with the kids and the finances. And then, since I’m back in the wrestling business and still messing with my daughter’s show, there’s a bunch of real young kids, you know. So there’s a very young demo all the way across the huge female demo and the old Hulkamaniac. So it keeps growing more and more.
Q: So billions?
Hulk Hogan: Of course, billions. Are you kidding?
Q: Is it hard to do a start-up like this? I know you have a great following and a long history, but Vince McMahon thinks he has this whole country all sewn up. Is it tough going up against a powerhouse like that?
Hulk Hogan: Well, it’s not really a start-up, you know, because TNA Total Nonstop Action is so well established, and they’ve been on Spike, and they’ve been so dominant in that marketplace in the time slot that it’s really not a start-up. It’s just adding a little spice to the recipe and taking these really, really talented young guys and these wrestlers and not making it like wrestling used to be with Hulk and Andre the Giant and Junkyard Dog. But it’s really raising the bar and given these young, talented wrestlers more of an edge, breathing more life in them, and making wrestling not like it used to be, but making wrestling more exciting, more fun, and raising that energy level. So it’s not really a start-up. It’s like a gift that has kind of been handed to me. I just really need to move around third base and reach the promise land, and it’s going to happen in a
real short amount of time.
Q: How have you found the difference with TNA?
Hulk Hogan: Well, on the business side of it, the universe is so much bigger now than the ’70s and ’80s when I first blew that Hulkamania thing out of the water. There’s so many choices with cable and satellite. People are all over the place. So everything moves at a much faster pace, so story lines instead of me fighting you, like Andre the Giant. We can start a few today, and it would end a year from now. It might start at the top of the hour and end two or three weeks later. So everything moves faster. Even the wrestling in the ring moves quicker. But what I’m trying to do is to not make it like it used to be, like I said, but make these young, talented, aggressive guys that have to move very quickly create the drama, the confrontation, that energy, the excitement. The first night I came in the ring with TNA, it’s already there because I’ve been to all of the big shows. I’ve been to the dance. This is really happening. This is going to be not really competing with the WWE. We are going to put out a better product than he has.
Q: How much of what we see on camera is what your role really is behind the scenes?
Hulk Hogan: Well, I’m plugged in full-time, brother. I’m there all the way across the board. Before I used to wrestle, I mean before I used to lace the yellow boots up, steal the main-event payday and run home, now, I’m in the dressing room with the guys, talking to them about finishes and story lines and stuff like that, but then I’m also partners with Dixie, you know. We’ve got a great partner in Spike, and we are doing all kinds of business stuff and moving forward from the licensing, the merchandising, you know. There’s four legs on the table: the live events, the Pay-Per-View, the merchandising, like I said, the advertising money. And so we need to move forward on all fronts to win, you know. And so I’m involved all the way across the board. And it’s so crazy. Instead of showing up and having fun and wrestling, now I’m there with the production meetings with these guys. I’m involved in the wrestling, the creative, and then it just never stops. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving, but you have to be plugged in full-time, you know, creatively with the guys, and you have to have a camaraderie with them, but also, being partners with Dixie, I have to have my main concern moving this thing foward on a business level. So I’m in the mix, brother.
Q: What’s your relationship these days, if you have one, with Jesse Ventura?
Hulk Hogan: I never knew that Jesse didn’t like me, you know, because the whole time that he was working with me and for me, we had a great rapport. Just out of nowhere, Jesse started coming at me and attacking me on a personal level. You know, I just don’t understand. I don’t have a lot of respect for just a one-sided story. So I really don’t know the real Jesse Ventura. I thought I did. So I really don’t know what he thinks.
Q: Any chance for reconciliation?
Hulk Hogan: Oh, I would love to. I would love to. I’m dying to find out what made him snap, you know, because I was around when we were doing the wrestling. Jesse came to Japan one day, you know, and he worked one or two main events the whole time I was around. And I would love to find out what really makes him tick just for curiosity reasons.
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Q: You talked a lot about the young, aggressive, fast talent that you’ve got, but there are lots of veterans in TNA. How important is it to have some of the older, more established players in the mix in order to push TNA forward?
Hulk Hogan: Well, you know, for me, I don’t have to worry about that because I don’t have to get in the ring. I don’t have a deal where I’m the talent and I actually have to wrestle on that level. I’m on-camera talent, but it’s a shoot. It’s for real. I’m really Dixie’s partner, and I’m concerned about the creative in the ring but also the business like we talked about before. But when you talk about the older guys, you know, my philosophy is different than the WWE model where Vince McMahon will ride someone until they drop. He will shoot him and eat him. I think, basically, there was a time when I worked for Ted Turner that he realized how wrong that philosophy was. What I believe is if you can bring someone older to the table that has wisdom, that’s established, that the young guys can get the rub off, there’s no reason just to shoot them and eat them. Keep them around. Make them work. Make the transition. It’s got to be a graceful transition. Nothing has to be edgy and personal and pull the carpet out from under people. There’s a way to make all of this work, but the focus has to be on the future, and that’s one of the things that has to happen. And that’s the biggest mistake that Vince McMahon made. My time should be over. I should be done and gone. There should have been two generations already that should have replaced me. But because things were executed correctly, I’m alive and well, and I can sell out any ring in the country right now. But what I’ve learned is to make sure there’s a huge rub. These older guys have a lot of wisdom. They can teach the young guys how not to get hurt. They’ve been around forever. And, creatively, if you get that, like, red and yellow rub off Hulk Hogan or if you get the rub off, like The Nasty Boys, it really enhances how quickly these young guys can move along.
Q: You have taken on Vince in the WWE before. What lessons do you take from that past experience and how that company ended that will help you this time around?
Hulk Hogan: Well, a lot of things happened I had no control of, such as the American Online merger, which basically took my boss, Ted Turner, and put him on the back burner. There’s a lot of things that I did have control of that things got going so well, you know, in a short amount of time, in about a six-month period. We had three times the audience. We had three times the ratings of the WWE. Some of the things that I learned was don’t take my eye off the ball. Some people get too full of themselves. Some of these arrogant characters have this attitude, “Oh, we’d rather talk than wrestle.” That doesn’t work. You’ve got to stay plugged in. Like I said, it’s a 24-hour-a-day job, and those are the mistakes that I won’t make again.
Q: You and your ex-wife had filed some legal papers over a dispute involving a toilet seat. We know all about this from Hogan Knows Best too. Do you ever regret doing the reality show?
Hulk Hogan: Well, there were too many positive things that came out of it. If you want to go personal, I’ll go there for a minute. But before I did the reality show, my marriage was already unraveled, and my ex really was kind of like in the #2 position. She kept saying, “What about me, my career, my life?” And she really wanted to be in the spotlight. So I figured, if she was part of the equation of being in the mix, you know, with the celebrity reality type, reality stuff, it might bond our marriage together, but it really didn’t work. She wasn’t happy. She had a different agenda. She wanted to move on. So the reality show brought so many positive things to me and my kids. And like I said, the female demo that I have now, I didn’t have before. I would not second-guess it. But when you are talking about the toilet seat, when they say that they took everything but the kitchen sink, she took the kitchen sink, too, believe me, but it’s cool. I had to get that in.
Q: Did you get the toilet seat back?
Hulk Hogan: I’m getting it back. I’m getting it back. The judge said she’s got to bring back the toilet seats, all of the chandeliers, and all of the fixtures she stole. I’m getting it back.
Q: I have a hypothetical for you. What would happen if old-school Hulk Hogan got in the ring with the new TNA guys?
Hulk Hogan: I would probably have to pull every trick out of the book to survive. I know a lot of shortcuts, brother. So all of this crazy stuff, you know, that’s going on with the striking and the shoot fighting, I was doing that back in the early ’70s over in Japan. So I know a lot of shortcuts.
Q: Like MMA stuff?
Hulk Hogan: Well, yeah, I was surviving over there. Japan in the early ’70s was a lot different than the wrestling you watch on TV today. So you had to grab a hold. You were over there shooting and fighting for a position. So, you know, I’d probably sucker these guys in to breaking clean and catching them in the temple with an elbow, you know, even the score, but I don’t plan on getting in there. But if someone does step across the line, I’ll definitely react.
Q: What do you think of Linda McMahon’s run for senate in Connecticut?
Hulk Hogan: I think she’s going to win. She’s brilliant. She’s a very gracious, very smart lady, and her intent and her agenda has always been to help the community and be plugged in and be involved. Inside or outside that wrestling world that the McMahons have created, Linda McMahon is a great person.
Q: In a wrestler’s mind, what makes the TNA better, or why would they consider coming over to TNA?
Hulk Hogan: Well, it’s just a whole new life. It’s life after death. It’s not the contrived, one-dimensional programming that the audience has had stuffed down their throats. The energy, like I said, I’ve been to the big dance. I’ve been in all of the locker rooms. I’ve been in all of the big wrestling situations with primetime TV with Ebersol and Brandon Tartikoff. I’ve been around the block a couple times. And this is so attractive because it’s a very young company. You know, they are not a public company. So Dixie can move on a dime whenever we need to make a quick knee-jerk reaction in a positive way. And as far as the energy, the opportunity, and being involved in this, it gives not only the fans a choice, it gives the talent a choice. But it really is the place to be. There’s so much energy here and so much excitement. Nobody is locked in. Nobody has had their butts planted in their chair so long they are comfortable. At any given time, organically, things can change, and people can be reassigned, be tested. And so this is for the aggressive, young lions, the very talented people to come over and work with us because if you have got what it takes, you are going to get the push. If you’ve got what it takes, you are going to grow with the company. It’s really a no-brainer. I had the choice to go back. I was talking with the WWE and Vince up to three and four months ago about hosting Raw and coming back full-time and signing the 25- or 30-year deal until I’m 80 or 90 years old for the licensing and all of the marks that I own. I know the end of that story. This is the place to be. This is the future of sports entertainment and the wrestling business.