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Интервю с Hulk Hogan


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Pro Wrestling Extra: A conversation with Hulk Hogan

The Southland has been a buzz ever since Hulk Hogan Fan Appreciation Day at Toyota Park was announced. Hopefully you read my pro wrestling column in last Thursday's (7/02) Fifty-Two Weekends since there was some information on this Friday (7/10) event set for Bridgeview. And this week's pro wrestling column in this Thursday's (7/09) Fifty-Two Weekends will feature some of my conversation with Hogan. He will discuss why he is making a rare autograph signing appearance, what will be in his upcoming book, and more.

For now, though, grab yourself a drink and soak up some of what the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Famer had to say about several subjects. Hogan discusses what his dream matches would be if he were to get in the ring one more time, what he has to say to those who might think the pricing for Hulk Hogan Fan Appreciation Day is steep, and much more.

Dream matches

Many fans want to know if Hogan will ever get back in the ring.

"I'm trying to figure that out. I've had two back surgeries in the last five months. Just the middle of my waistline up and halfway down my back, it's so stiff that I just can't seem to get flexible. I'm trying to work through it. I'm 55 years old. With the knee replacements and hip replacements, I'm trying to not joke or fool myself. I'm trying to get a logical assessment," he said.

"I'm dying to do it. I'm dying to get in there. To me, it's fun to get in there. There has to be a talented wrestler willing to slow dance with me. I could go out there and pretty much do almost everything I could do before. I couldn't do the leg drop anymore because of my lower back. I could go out and have fun. It's going to take more time to see if I can get steady enough to even attempt something like that."

And just who would Hogan want to square off against if he had the chance?

"The match that everybody would love to see would be Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair," said Hogan, who picked that as his top dream match. "Everyone would love to see me kick Vince McMahon again. Hulk Hogan-"Stone Cold" Steve Austin (is another match). Stone Cold's bragger's claim to fame is: 'I never wrestled Hulk Hogan.' I think he thinks he's God's gift to wrestling. It would be a tremendous match for the fans. If he can get on the same page with me and put ego out of the way, who cares who wins? It would be a match people would love to see."

Even though Hogan isn't in the ring anymore, that doesn't mean he doesn't still have the love for pro wrestling in his blood. And that is part of the reason why he is doing Hulk Hogan Fan Appreciation Day.

"I've only done two or three autograph signings in my whole career really. I'm trying to get back out. There's no question of seeing the fans. There's genuine excitement that I just love. I was telling my girlfriend (Jennifer McDaniel) that I used to walk by the ring and touch it and get goose bumps," he said.

WWE and TNA

Hogan watches both WWE and Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling, which are considered the top two American pro wrestling companies.

"I watch both products. (TNA's) like the little engine that could. Everybody thought they wouldn't be around for long, and they've been chugging along for seven years. They gain momentum every week. They seem to be real fresh. When a lot of guys go over to that side of the fence, they seem to get a spring in their step," he said.

"I also watch Vince's product (WWE). Vince is the constant. He's the standard of excellence. I just love watching his show because you never know what he is going to do. Plus, the production -- you can't even touch his production. It's so dialed-in. It's amazing just to see how they put the pieces together."

Since Hogan was involved in a previous war between WWE and then-rival World Championship Wrestling, he does have an informed perspective of the war for fans between WWE and TNA.

"If you look at history, everyone says, 'History repeats itself.' With all of the choices in the universe of entertainment, I look at the big package and look at the big picture from 40,000 feet. I see history repeating itself. I see TNA getting strong. I see Vince McMahon being impeccable except for a few little holes in the boat," he said.

"TNA is lacking that one momentum-shifting move, that one big name that would even the playing field, the brand (that is) just as powerful as the WWE brand. (TNA's) lacking the big piece of the puzzle. It wouldn't matter who did what in the past. It will be a totally even playing field. You never know."

'Celebrity Championship Wrestling'

Hogan did have a wrestling show of his own in "Hulk Hogan's Celebrity Championship Wrestling" on Country Music Television, and he hopes there will be a second season featuring a different take on training.

"We got too full of ourselves. We fell into that celebrity elimination formula. We should have followed our gut before. We should have went (with) the 'American Idol' type of peole that would leave their homes and families and sleep in cars to become wrestlers. We've been in constant talks (with CMT). We're trying to get the budget way down. The budget was huge. I think there was a real shot at maybe revamping that thing and making it bigger and better. Just how the crowd reacted, I had no idea that teaching a bunch of celebrities three moves in the first week (would go over so well)," he said.

"It was kind of like a drug. Once you get in that ring, there's this crazy positive energy once you realize that it's not that easy, that it can cripple you. Once the celebrities got in the ring, their whole personas droped off and their true competitive nature (kicked in). It was so weird to watch the arrogance and built-in egos that protect personas, fall away. They all wanted to do as best as they could. After a few days, I thought, 'We got something here.' ... It was just amazing how passionate people were and how bad they wanted to win."

Advice for aspiring wrestlers

As for young wrestlers who have dreams of attaining as much success as Hogan has, he said the love for wrestling has to be there first and foremost.

"It has to be your passion," he said. "If you want to do this, you have to really assess your situation. You have a family or kids that depend on you, and you really have to roll the dice. My job, my family, my quality of life -- you have to be willing to let all that go. The training is very intense. A lot of people don't understand it's lonely. It's hard. You're gone all the time. ... You have to give up everything to do this. Really take a good look at yourself. Decide if you want to roll the dice. Most people don't realize what they're getting into when they give this a shot. Be careful what you wish for. It could get crazy."

Family first

Although Hogan has had a number of legendary wrestling matches, it is his family, daughter Brooke and son Nick, who make him most proud. He chuckled when relaying that the recent Independence Day was filled with lots of family fun.

"This was the first Fourth of July that I didn't see the fireworks. My girlfriend was doing their hair. We were taking pictures and laughing our butts off," he said.

"Other than watching my daughter have her first song come on the radio and watching my son get his pro license for precision driving, watching my kids be born is the most important event of my life. The personal stuff goes before Andre the Giant at 'WrestleMania III', and 'WrestleMania X8' against the Rock. Everyone thought I was washed-up. It was because the fans were so loyal (that I came back). Those were milestones for me."

Fan Appreciation Day

Fans who attend this weekend's Hulk Hogan Fan Appreciation Day will likely be mentioning their favorite moments from the Hulkster. Given the $99 fee for one photo with the attendee's camera and an autograph from Hogan (along with one autograph each with "Mouth of the South" Jimmy Hart, Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake, Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags), a number of local fans have been critical of the event's price tag.

"It's all relative. I guess you could pay huge amounts to watch an Ultimate Fighting Championship fight, and it can end in 30 seconds. I'm just going to try and get back to the fans, and this was up to Chris Sader (a longtime friend of Hogan) and Toyota Park to set the prices. If it's too inconvenient for fans, I'm sure there's going to be another time in the near future to see them. I really hope to see many people, and afterwards enjoy the matches," he said.

After the meet-and-greet with Hogan from 2 to 6 p.m., Toyota Park and Windy City Pro Wrestling will host "Legends Under the Stars," an 7:30 p.m. show that will feature several legends in action including Tito Santana and Al Snow. Hogan will not be wrestling at the evening event, but he said he might be in the audience.

"I think it will just be a good day to have fun. ... I just look forward to being up there and seeing all the kids come out. It should be a great day," he said. "After my autograph signing, there's a wrestling show that I'm not involved in at all. But I'm going to be sneaking around to watch. Some of my buddies are wrestling that night."

Keeping a positive outlook

Even with the turmoil that Hogan has been through recently, especially with his personal life splashed all over media outlets, he remains decidedly upbeat.

"I'm positive, if you're a good person and you treat people well, it's like a karma thing. If you're negative and hateful, you'll attract more of the same. I think people needed to realize, through all the craziness and stuff happening, how can I smile and take the high road? My whole life is turning around because I decided not to become a story. My life outside the ring and the turning point that happened to me a year-and-a-half-ago, it was probably one of the lowest points of my life. My wife and kids and all my dogs were gone. I just didn't really want to live anymore, but I picked myself up. ...

"I've been misused, spitefully misused by a lot of people. You have to bless those people and pray for those people. ... I got caught up in that. But all those journalists and all that negative writing and all that TMZ ends up on the bottom of a birdcage the next day. The only thing that matters is if you're a good person. I don't even watch the news because it's just all negative. That karma, I'm functioning on a much higher level. Once you rise above and function on that level, it's like breathing clean air. It used to affect me, but now it doesn't."

A longtime fascination

Like many who love wrestling, the fascination started at a young age for Hogan.

"I was watching it ever since I was a kid, 7 or 8 years old. I started with weights in high school. Tampa was a hot bed for wrestling. There was such a mystique. I just wanted to see how far I can go and got involved in it, and then it became my passion," he said.

When it comes to passion, Hogan said two of WWE's top talents fit that bill.

"There's two guys that I really love to watch -- John Cena and Randy Orton. I just love watching those guys because they understand the art form. They understand what this business is all about. There's more than just going out there and going through the motions," he said.

Even with all his injuries, Hogan has no regrets.

"It's been a huge part of my life," he said of wrestling. "I wouldn't change anything. It's been a great business, a great experience. If you're lucky to be one of those guys to have the instinct to really get in there and really live and breathe this business, it can be a lot of fun. And it can be a great lifestyle. You can't force it."

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