Whatcha Gonna do, Brother?! 20 Facts About Hulk Hogan’s Storied Career
Do you think you know Hulk Hogan? Well let me tell you something, brother, you don’t know jack!
From tearing down the house in front of millions of Hulkamaniacs in the ring to taking down Gawker, Hulk Hogan — real name, Terry Bollea — is a controversial figure. But whether you love him or hate him, the 65-year-old Hulkster is a pop culture icon who has forged a fascinating career both in and out of the ring.
So strap in, brother, and learn all about how Hulk Hogan became the legend he is today — and also all about his missteps.
Hogan’s first contact with baby oil likely came sometime after he was born on Aug. 11, 1953 in Augusta, Georgia.
His father was a construction foreman making $180 to $200 a week, and his mother was a dance instructor.
He grew up with his older brother, Allan, and the family didn’t stay in Georgia for long — they headed down to Tampa, Florida when Hogan was one-and-a-half years old.
The Baseball Career That Wasn't
According to his autobiography, “My Life Outside the Ring,” Hogan writes that he was a big, fat kid (six feet tall and 196 pounds by age 12) and that kids used to call him “Fat Head” because of his impressive cranium.
In high school, Hogan played bass guitar and found a love for baseball. He claims that he was so good as a pitcher, his 90 mph fastball attracted scouts from the Cincinnati Reds and New York Yankees, but a broken arm caused the dream to come crashing down.
It’s worth noting that Hogan is pretty infamous for stretching the truth.
Dropping out of College
After high school, Hogan attended Hillsborough Community College, a two-year school, then enrolled in University of South Florida. But he didn’t last long — Hogan was having way too much fun playing bass for and traveling with various bands.
After switching majors several times and dropping in and out of South Florida, one day he just never went back, deciding instead to focus on music full time.
But he needed something to pay the bills — playing random clubs wasn’t going to cut it.
Early Gigs and Finding Wrestling
In 1976, when Hogan was 23, he was in a band called Ruckus (“Word spread everywhere that Ruckus was the ‘next big thing,’” he claims).
Wrestlers would occasionally come to the club, and he’d marvel at their physiques — and particularly the body of wrestler Superstar Billy Graham, whom Hogan blatantly asked if he had ever taken steroids. Graham told him he didn’t (that was a lie).
Having already been a fan of wrestling since his teens, Hogan had yet a new dream — to become a professional wrestler. He hung around wrestling gyms, begging for a shot, until one day it came.
A Brutal Hazing
Back then, professional wrestling was a secretive and brutal boys-only club. A lot of people wanted to be wrestlers — but getting in was nearly impossible if you didn’t have the connections.
To be a wrestler, another wrestler had to train you. But before they actually trained you, they tried to break you — in addition to punishing exercises and bullying, real wrestling was involved, with painful stretch holds and stiff strikes thrown in.
Hogan’s first day of training did not go well. He was paired with Hiro Matsuda, a tough guy wrestler from Japan. After exercising Hogan to the point of him passing out, Matsuda ordered him to get in the ring, where he promptly snapped his leg.
“I was so out of it by then they practically rolled me into the ring. Suddenly Matsuda comes out of nowhere and jumps on top of me. I hit the canvas. He drops down, puts an elbow down in the middle of my left leg, grabs my foot, and wrenches it as hard as he can — in the opposite direction than your leg is built to go. Crack! He broke my leg in half, right in the middle of my shin,” writes Hogan in “My Life Outside the Ring.”
After 10 weeks, when his leg had healed, he headed back to Matsuda for more training.
It would have been a slightly heartwarming story had Matsuda and the rest of the wrestlers welcomed Hogan back with open arms, impressed by his guts. That didn’t happen.
The brutal trainings continued, and Matsuda continued to try and break Hogan (but not more of his bones) for a year before Hogan finally received an actual wrestling match.
Quitting Wrestling and Juicing Up
Despite his tenacity, Hogan only wrestled for a year, maybe less, before hanging up his boots. The wresting promoters and the wrestlers didn’t like Hogan. They made him ferry them around the state while giving him only two matches a week. They effectively froze him out, and Hogan left for Cocoa Beach, Florida, where he helped a friend run the Anchor Club and also opened up a gym.
He was still obsessed with getting that Greek god body, but there was only one way to do it.
It was 1978 and like most other wrestlers and bodybuilders of the era, Hogan had a new expense: steroids. But they were legal (steroids wouldn’t be federally banned until 1990) and some doctors were handing out scripts like muscle head candy.
Hulk hit the juice and the gym until his body changed and he had those famous 24-inch pythons, brother.
It was time to give wrestling another try.
The Origin of Hulk Hogan
Hogan went back on the road making $25 to $35 a night, working as Terry Boulder, until he received an offer to wrestle in Memphis, Tennessee. Not only was the money better — an $800 a week guarantee — the promoters were willing to put Hogan on television to promote their upcoming shows.
One of those TV spots was for a local talk show where Hogan appeared alongside Lou Ferrigno, the actor who played the green-skinned musclebound Hulk in “The Incredible Hulk” TV series.
During the show one of the wrestling promoters noticed that Hogan was bigger than the man who played the Hulk on TV — and so the nickname was born.
Later, in the WWF, Vince McMahon Sr., added the ‘Hogan’ part of his name.
But He Still Didn’t Own His Own Name
Hulkamania started running wild in 1984, shortly after Hogan claimed the WWF heavyweight championship. There were a lot of screaming Hulkamaniacs, and they weren’t clamoring for Lou Ferrigno.
Marvel took notice, and, eventually they worked out a deal. Hogan could use the "Hulk" moniker, but he was forbidden to refer to himself as “incredible” or wear purple or green. Plus, the comic book giant would get a cut of the profits for 20 years. This included 0.9 percent of gross merchandising revenue, 10 percent of earnings from other projects (like a cartoon show) and $100 for every match that Hogan wrestled.
It wasn’t until 2005 that Hulk Hogan purchased the trademark to his name.
Take Your Vitamins and Cocaine
“Train, say your prayers and eat your vitamins!” was Hogan’s signature all-American life advice to young Hulkamaniacs throughout the '80s.
It was also in complete opposition to how Hogan was living his life. He was on steroids, “drinkin’ a lot of beer,” smoking pot and snorting cocaine.
Hogan says he never developed an addiction and quit cocaine in 1986, although that never turned into one of his catchphrases.
The Steroid Scandal
Hogan was making money hand over torn-shirt and went on to headline seven out of the first eight WrestleManias from 1985 to 1992. There was a steroid scandal brewing in the early '90s, with rumors that Vince McMahon Jr. — now owner of the WWF — had been distributing steroids to his wrestlers, and Hogan was at the center of scrutiny.
Hogan went on Arsenio Hall in 1991 and lied about not taking steroids.
But Hogan had to tell the truth in 1994, when he was made to testify in court during a federal case. He admitted to taking the enhancement drugs along with “my paycheck, fan mail or whatever” at WWF headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut.
Hogan had been on the outs with the WWF since 1993. In 1994 he signed with a new rival wrestling company, the Ted Turner-owned WCW.
He Opened an All-Pasta Restaurant
In 1995, Hogan decided to venture into the world of not-so-fine dining with Pastamania, an all-pasta restaurant that opened in the Mall of America, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The menu of this carb-loaded establishment offered all kinds of pasta dishes, including, but not limited to: angel hair, shells, nuggets, fettuccini, penne, Swedish meatballs, beef stroganoff, pasta Mexicana and Hulk’s Power Pasta (pasta with chicken and veggies).
For the “little pastamaniacs” there was Hulkaroni & Cheese and Hulkios, which were Hulk-shaped pasta.
Pastamania closed down within a year.
He Released a Pop/Rap/Rock Album
1995 was a creative year for the Hulkster. Hot on the heels of Pastamania, Hogan and the short-lived Wrestling Boot Band released a studio album called “Hulk Rules.” It featured 10 tracks, all of which talk about Hogan, and feature lyrics such as:
“I used to tear my shirt /But now you’ve torn my heart.”
“Woop, there it is, check it up, check it in / You'll be six feet deep if you touch my girlfriend / You know this home boy could lose control / You just don't mess with the beach patrol.”
It did not set the music world on fire, and Hogan never rapped again. At least, not in public.
He Passed on the George Foreman Grill
Instead of the lean, mean, fat-reducing machine presented by George Foreman, we might have had the python-pumping, vitamin-infusing, bodyfat-slamming grill by Hulk Hogan (or something like that).
Hogan claims to have missed out on the partnership deal (and $200 million in profits) because he either missed a call from his agent — he was out picking up his kids — or because he told his agent to go with a meatball-making device instead (there’s no evidence this actually existed).
The Hulkster can’t seem to decide which story to go with, but he does want everyone to know he could have been even richer.
Hungry? Use Hogan’s Ultimate Grill! Wait, Maybe Not
Not to be outdone by the George Foreman Grill, in 2007 Hogan set out to make his own bigger — much bigger— and better countertop grill. This was Hulk Hogan’s Ultimate Grill, an unwieldy $100 electrical appliance with interchangeable grill plates that could make anything from an entire pizza to four waffles at once! Well, as long as it didn’t catch fire first.
About a year after it retailed on QVC and late night TV commercials, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled Hulk Hogan’s Ultimate Grill because the product could light cooking oil on fire.
The grills are no longer available to buy retail, but you might be able to find one on eBay.
Need a Smoothie? Use Hogan’s Thunder Mixer! Wait, Maybe Not
Hogan still plastered his image on at least a few food products. One of which is Hulk Hogan’s Thunder Mixer, a battery-powered drink mixer.
“The secret is in the ‘cyclone’ action,” reads the pitch on the back of the box. “The Hulk Hogan Thunder Mixer rotates an incredible 12,000 rpms, creating a powerful cyclone effect that actually aerates the liquid and dissolves ingredients instantly!”
In reality, the thing could barely blend one scoop of ice cream. You can get one for about $20 on eBay.
He Choked Out Richard Belzer
In 1984, Hogan went on future “Law and Order” star Richard Belzer’s short-lived “The Richard Belzer Show.”
Belzer asked Hogan to show him a wrestling move, and Hogan, for whatever reason, put him in a front face lock and knocked Belzer unconscious.
Belzer crumpled to the floor and cracked his head open. Belzer sued Hogan for $5 million; the two parties settled out of court. The incident is on YouTube.
His WCW Contract Was Insane
In 1998, Hogan re-signed with WCW to a monster contract (which has since been leaked online). It included:
- A $2 million sign-on bonus
- A $675,000 pay-per view guarantee, or 15 percent of domestic PPV sales, whichever is greater
- $1.35 million per year salary
- 25 percent of gross ticket sales from the televised shows “WCW Thunder” and “WCW Nitro” with a $25,000 guarantee whenever Hogan wrestled on those shows.
- 25 percent of gross ticket sales for non-televised house shows when he wrestled there
- $175 per diem while traveling for WCW, plus first class air travel and hotel accommodation
- $20,000 a month just for wearing an “NWO” branded T-shirt
- 50 percent of all Hogan-related merchandise and actual license fees
The contract also included creative control, meaning Hogan had the final say in whether he won or lost. Hogan won the majority of his matches.
The Gawker Scandal
In October 2012, Gawker published a two-minute video of Hogan that would, ultimately, be the end of the publication.
The video mainly consisted of post-coitus pillow talk between Hogan and Heather Clem, where Hogan said some really racist stuff, ranting about how he didn’t want his daughter to be dating a black person with gratuitous use of the N-word. The tape was from 2006.
With lawyers being financed by billionaire Peter Theil (whom Gawker had outed as gay in 2007), Hogan dropped the leg and successfully sued Gawker for $140 million in 2016. Gawker shut down soon after.
Fallout and Redemption
After the damning tape, WWE fired Hogan in 2015 and wiped all mention of him from their website and removed him from their hall of fame. A restaurant in Tampa called Hogan’s Beach, which had a working relationship with Hogan, severed ties with him.
Hogan said he contemplated suicide following the video leak.
But the wrestling industry almost always forgives (and never leaves money on the table). Hogan made his WWE comeback during a 2018 Saudi Arabia pay-per-view, where he hosted the event and was reinstated into the WWE Hall of Fame.
A Hulk Hogan Movie Bio Is On the Horizon
Whatcha gonna do, brother, when Hulkamania runs wild on the silver screen?!
Following Hogan’s redemption arc, a Netflix film starring Chris Hemsworth as the Hulkster is reportedly in the works. There’s certainly have enough material to work with.