Terry Bollea—or, as you know him, Hulk Hogan—is arguably the biggest name in the history of professional wrestling. Not only is he a twelve-time world champion, a six-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion and a six-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion, but he’s also the most recognized name and face in wrestling in the world.
Hogan, however, isn’t just an interesting character inside the ring; he’s also an interesting character outside of it. Born in Georgia to Pietro Bollea, a construction foreman, and Ruth Moody, a dance teacher, and raised in Port Tampa, Florida, Hogan has led quite the life. Before hitting the wrestling stratosphere, he was an oversized kid who excelled at sports and loved rock and roll. He discovered his passion for wrestling when he was 16, idolizing guys like Dusty Rhodes and Superstar Billy Graham.
His celebrity has transcended the world of wrestling to the point that even non-wrestling fans know who he is. As a result of his popularity, he ventured into acting, starring in movies, television shows, and commercials. He even co-hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live in 1985. His name and likeness have also been used for a number of products, including a blender, a grill, nutritional products, and burgers (“Hulkster Burgers”). In 2005, he starred in his own reality show, Hogan Knows Best, which followed the daily lives of him and his family.
With all these life experiences, you know there’s going to be some incredible stories. Here’s the list of the top 13 insane real-life Hulk Hogan stories.
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13 He Choked Out Richard Belzer on TV
Hogan found himself on the other side of a lawsuit back in 1985. While on a talk show, Hot Properties, host comedian Richard Belzer insisted that Hogan demonstrate a wrestling move. He refused at first, but Belzer insisted, so Hogan put him in a guillotine. Belzer became unconscious and flopped to the floor when Hogan released him from the grip, causing Belzer to smack his head violently against the ground. Belzer sued Hogan for $5 million and the issue was settled out of court. Belzer later said on The Howard Stern Show that he only received about $400,000 from Hulk.
12 The George Foreman Grill was Almost The Hulk Hogan Grill
Can you imagine grilling up some burgers or steaks on a Hulk Hogan Grill? Well, according to the legendary wrestler, that was almost a reality. On two separate occasions, as a guest on late night talk shows, Hulk claimed that the George Foreman grill, named, of course, after the Heavyweight Champion boxer, was originally supposed to be named after him. But he took too long getting back to the makers of the product and he eventually lost out on the opportunity. He did eventually endorse food products, such as a blender and a different grill, but none of them were nearly as popular as the George Foreman Grill. Image how different life would have been if Hogan had responded earlier to the makers of the grill—Michael Scott would have burnt his foot on his Hogan Grill instead of his Foreman Grill.
11 The Origin Story Behind his Nickname
There seems to be a bit of mystery surrounding the origin story of Hulk Hogan’s famous ring name. According to legend, it came about when he was a young wrestler in the Continental Wrestling Association. At the time, he appeared on a radio show with Lou Ferrigno, who played the Incredible Hulk on TV. After it was discovered that Hogan was actually three inches taller than Ferrigno, who’s roughly 6’4”, he decided to adopt the name for himself. The last name Hogan came about because of Vince McMahon.
But before he was Hulk Hogan, he was known as “The Super Destroyer.” You don’t get to be the most recognizable person in wrestling with an uncreative name like that.
10 Legal Issues with Marvel Over Use of his Name
There has been a long running dispute between Hogan, WWE, and Marvel with respect to who exactly owns the rights to the name “Hulk Hogan.” For a while, Marvel Comics, which owns the rights to The Incredible Hulk, owned the name “Hulk Hogan.” Marvel claimed that the WWE’s use of the pseudonym “Hulk” infringed on “The Incredible Hulk.” In response, in 1985 the WWE licensed the name. But it doesn’t end there. In 2004, Marvel argued that the WWE’s rights to the name had expired. Perhaps in order to avoid all the confusion over who owns the rights to the name, Bollea should go back to one of his earlier ring names: Sterling Golden.
9 He Claims that he was Asked to Play Bass for Metallica
The Hulkster considers himself to be a pretty good musician, and he even claims that he was asked by Lars Ulrich, drummer for Metallica, to play bass in his band. Ulrich, however, later denied Hogan’s claims and even said that he didn’t personally know the wrestler (Hogan had also claimed that they were good friends). Perhaps due to embarrassment, Hogan later revised his statement and said that he had merely reached out to Metallica to see if they would be interested in having him, but they never responded.
8 He Sued Laser Spine Institute for $50 million
Because of his size and the toll that wrestling takes on the body, Hogan has had a long history of back problems. In fact, he’s had so many surgeries to repair his bad back that he’s lost about three inches of height, leaving him a slightly less hulking 6’4”.
In 2013, Hogan sued Laser Spine Institute for $50 million after they performed six surgeries on him in a matter of roughly a year and half with minimal results. He was also upset with the fact that the Laser Spine Institute used his name for their advertisements despite not having his permission.
7 He was Huge at the Age of 12
Hogan, who was roughly 6’8” and over 300 lbs. (thus the nickname) at the peak of his career, was by no means a late bloomer. Before he had even turned 13, he was bigger than the average full grown adult, at six feet tall and nearly 200 lbs., making him the most feared kid at his school. He even tried to use his size to make friends in school by eating as much food as possible, which we’re guessing was quite a bit.
6 He Broke his Leg in His First Wrestling Match
Although he would go on to have one of the most prolific careers in professional wrestling, Hulk Hogan didn’t get off to a great start. The first time that he ever trained, with legendary wrestler Hiro Matsuda, he wound up with a broken leg. Matsuda and the other wrestling veterans at the training session wanted to see if Hogan was real about his desire to become a pro wrestler, so they put him through the ringer and made him work until he was exhausted. And as if that wasn’t enough, they took it upon themselves to injure him. The Hulkster, who was simply Terry Bollea at the time, returned to the gym as soon as he recovered from the broken leg and Matsuda decided to take him under his wing. The rest, as you know, is history.
5 He was Asked to Play Mr. Freeze in Batman and Robin
Remember that really terrible Batman movie, Batman & Robin, starring George Clooney, which nearly derailed the Batman movie franchise before Christopher Nolan saved it? Well, according to Hogan, he was asked to play the villain in the movie, Mr. Freeze, a role that eventually went to Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s hard to imagine Hogan playing the part, since his earlier attempts at acting were such a failure. He played a small role in Rocky III and starred in a number of flops, including Suburban Commando and Mr. Nanny (he wore a pink ballerina’s tutu throughout much of the latter classic).
4 He was a Good Baseball Player and was Scouted by MLB Teams
Wrestling’s not the only sport that Hogan excelled at. As a teenager, he was a baseball standout. According to him (and who knows how credible a source he is), he was the best amateur pitcher in all of Florida. He was so good, in fact, that he was being scouted by the Cincinnati Reds and the New York Yankees. But before he could make it to the professional level, he sustained a career ending injury, at which point he shifted his focus onto wrestling.
3 He Contemplated Suicide After his Divorce
As a result of his brutal divorce, with longtime wife Linda Claridge, which led to him losing a great deal of his assets, Hogan was brought to the brink of suicide. And it was an unlikely person who talked him out of it. Hogan credits Laila Ali, daughter of famed boxer Muhammad Ali, for saving his life. At the time, Hogan and Ali were working together on the TV show American Gladiators.
Hogan has since moved on from his divorce and remarried. He and Jennifer McDaniel, who have been married since 2010, began dating in 2008, the year after his divorce.
2 He’s the Most Recognizable Wrestler of All Time
This one’s pretty much common knowledge, but it’s still worth pointing out. Since World Wrestling Entertainment was founded in 1980, no one has done more for the sport than Hulk Hogan. He’s won just about every title there is to win, leading to him being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005. But more than that, he helped bring professional wrestling to the next level through his entertaining performances and larger than life character. According to IGN.com’s list of the greatest wrestlers of all time, Hogan is the most recognized wrestler in the world.
1 He’s the Only Wrestler to Ever Appear on the Cover of Sports Illustrated
Think of all the wrestling greats over the years—John Cena, CM Punk, The Rock, Ric Flair, Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, Sting, and so many others. None of them ever appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Only Hulk Hogan can lay claim to that honor. In 1985, wearing his “Hulkster” headband and looking meaner than ever, he graced the front page of the biggest sports magazine in America, helping to bring pro wrestling to the mainstream.
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