Ready to feel old for a minute?
Hulk Hogan turned 61 this week.
Yes, the same Hulk Hogan with the 24-inch pythons who made saying your prayers and taking vitamins cool during the '80s and '90s is back with World Wrestling Entertainment and showing no signs of slowing down.
Hogan isn’t currently competing in the squared circle (though keep reading for the opponent he has in mind for one last match) but instead playing the role of an ambassador for the company that made him an international icon and the face of professional wrestling.
Prior to his SummerSlam Confidential panel on Friday night in Los Angeles, Hogan chatted with Yahoo Sports about his emotional birthday tribute on Monday Night Raw, whether he’s a bigger legend than Steve Austin and how he managed to get the hookup on Air Jordans.
YS: How close were you to coming to tears during Monday’s birthday tribute video during Monday Night Raw?
HH: That was brutal, dude. They do things at WWE sometimes because I’m what they call a “veteran.” Vince [McMahon] trusts me and he doesn’t let me in on all the secrets like at WrestleMania XXX when I’m out in the ring and here comes The Rock and Stone Cold [Steve Austin]. It could have been an explosive situation. I didn’t know what these two were up to, but Vince thought that was really, really funny. It’s kind of like when I went out on Monday for my birthday and they gave me a little sheet that said you’re going to go to the ring and “Mean” Gene [Okerlund] is going to play a package.
I didn’t think about what they were going to do but the package was so compelling. It just really rocked me because it showed all these WrestleMania moments. These high points in my career like my son, Nick, and my daughter, Brooke, when I was getting inducted in the Hall of Fame. Thank goodness I had my yellow sunglasses on, bro, because they had me really off balance with that deal. I wasn’t expecting that package to be so compelling.
YS: Despite all the clashes with Vince McMahon in the past, you always find yourself back with the WWE. Is this final run the proper closure you need to end your career?
HH: Yeah, this is the period at the end of the sentence. This is where I need to be. Vince McMahon and I have always been good friends. On a personal level he would do anything for me, for you, for anyone he loves. He would give you the shirt off his back. On a business level? He’s a different animal. Cut and dry. Black and white. Sometimes I would wobble between the lines and mix up business and personal. If anyone kind of defected over the years, it was me. So for me to be back with him — I did start with his dad in the late '70s, Vince McMahon Sr. — and for me to come full circle and Vince and everybody to be gracious enough to let me end my career where I started my home in the WWE is really a great way to wind things up and just put a period at the end of the sentence. I’m really glad to be back.
YS: You mentioned your back is now pain-free and you’ve been training to wrestle again in a WWE ring. Who’s the one active wrestler you would like to step in the ring with?
HH: Well, things have straightened out really well for me after nine back surgeries. Doctor would say in four months you will feel OK or six months you will feel OK … well that’s not true. After these back surgeries, it takes your body awhile to regroup, especially when you’re 60 years young. It’s not like you’re 21. So, the back is cool. If I had to wrestle anyone right now on the current roster, it would be John Cena. That would be a dream match for me.
YS: John Cena, who was sporting the red and yellow t-shirt on Monday Night RAW. Did you sign off on that?
HH: Don’t get me started.
YS: In a recent interview, Steve Austin said he’s a bigger legend than Hulk Hogan. What are your thoughts about that?
HH: I think that’s in his own mind. My career was twice as long as his. I’ve been a main eventer since 1978 when we sold out Shea Stadium. I just totally disagree with him. I know he had a good run when he was in the Attitude Era. I don’t know how long the Attitude Era was — four years, eight years — I don’t know how long it was. That’s where we totally disagree. Maybe he and I should lock up and figure this thing out. That would be a nice match.
YS: Do you think we will see Sting in a WWE ring?
HH: Sting and I last talked when he made his appearance at Comic-Con and they announced he was part of the WWE Universe and that his dolls were coming out. We had a long talk on the plane and I said, "Brother, you have got to wrestle. I mean, I don’t care what kind of deal you signed, I said you can still go. You’ve never made a mark in the WWE.
I was begging you to come here in the '80s and the '90s and now you just show up out of nowhere. You’ve got to wrestle." So, I hope it happens really soon. And I think by the time I beat on him for the three hours from Los Angeles to Dallas that I think we were on the same page and he knows that he needs to get in that ring and leave his mark in the WWE and make a huge statement. I hope it happens sooner than later.
YS: You are the only wrestler without a podcast these days. Have you considered starting a show in the future?
HH: I haven’t considered it. I’ve had all kinds of people ask to do a podcast, but I haven’t thought it through. I was on the plane the other night with Kevin Nash and Chris Jericho coming back from Portland, and Jericho was asking me about doing his podcast. He’s explaining to me how long it takes, what’s involved and how it’s just two guys sitting down talking. I got more information out of Jericho on how it really works than I have out of anybody else. So, no, I really haven’t sat down and got serious about it yet, but a lot of people have asked.
YS: Favorite SummerSlam match you were involved in?
Oh my gosh. Probably me and Brutus [Beefcake] versus Macho Man and Zeus.
YS: How did your fasciation with Air Jordans start and what’s your favorite pair?
HH: I’ve been wearing the VIII’s. I love the VIII’s. But my son, he knew I was having a hard time getting shoes to fit me. At the end of the day, the shoes were too small. I was walking around in a size 14 and my knees hurt and my ankles hurt. My shoes were too short. My son Nick is a sneaker freak and we’ve got a rapper — a guy named Fat Joe — who hooked me up. They (Nike) have been supplying me with Jordans ever since. My son basically bought me a pair — the right size — and they were actually a 16 he bought me and they fit perfectly. Fat Joe saw us wearing Jordans and he said we can hook you up, so I get them for free, thank God.
YS: What can fans expect Friday night from your Q&A with Jerry Lawler?
HH: The truth. The fans are going to ask me anything they want about my career or what’s going on. It’s going to be interesting. I’ve sat down with fans in aggressive (and) laid-back crowds, but I’ve never sat down for the WWE Universe to bare my soul, so this should be very interesting.