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Q&A: Hulk Hogan on false friends, TNA and turning down Viagra

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Published:   |   Updated: May 22, 2013 at 04:54 PM

It has been an up-and-down eight months for Hulk Hogan.

There were the lawsuits – one stemming from a private sex tape he was in that went public, the other over back surgeries he says were botched and ended his shot at getting back in the wrestling ring.

But it hasn't all been bad. A Hulk-themed store in Clearwater and Hogan's Beach restaurant in Tampa are thriving, he says, and ratings are growing for his TNA Wrestling franchise.

Now Clearwater's most famous resident, who turns 60 in August, is prepping for his first wrestling-related event in the Tampa Bay area in more than 15 years. TNA Impact Wrestling tapes live at the USF Sun Dome on Thursday at 7 p.m.

We caught up with the Hulkster by phone to talk about it all.

Q: Shouldn't you have moved away from here and gone to Hollywood at some point?

A: I came to Tampa with my parents when I was six months old. I made some low budget movies, but I never segued into it full time, because every time I'd leave to do a movie, somebody tried to steal my spot in wrestling, and in the 80s, the movie money wasn't even close to the wrestling money. The big arenas and the mainstay of wrestling was always on the East Coast too. I lived in Connecticut and Minnesota and Japan, but I love the quality of life here. I mean, dude, I live on the most beautiful beach in the world in Clearwater, the people are really nice here, it's laid back and I can always come home to all this beautiful atmosphere and peace.

Q: It has been a few months since the sex tape and ensuing lawsuits. Are things better now?

A: So much better. Everybody's figured out who everybody is. I can't really talk about it because there's legal drama getting ready to go down, but things are definitely moving in the right direction for me, thank god. It was a tough time. Nobody expects something to come back to haunt them after six years, but once I had a chance to sit down with my wife and my children and be completely truthful with them, whatever the media said and whoever stabbed me in the back didn't matter. At the end of the day, I'd say something great has come out of it – my life, and the new people in my life.

Q: Are you sad your long friendship with Bubba the Love Sponge came to an end after the sex tape ordeal?

A: When you find out who somebody really is, it can be hard to take. People hide behind smoke and mirrors. When you find out somebody was never really your friend and never had your best interests at heart, yeah, it's hard to take. But there is no more of that person in my life at all on any level.

Q: How's your health these days?

A: It's getting better. I had eight back surgeries, both knees and both hips replaced. I had my last knee replacement about 15 weeks ago. Now I'm like the bionic Hogan. I definitely can't get through an airport without getting patted down. It has just been a time in my life for me to regroup, resurrect and reinvent the Hulk Hogan character.

Q: Ever get any weird endorsement offers?

A: Oh yeah. Probably about 20 years ago, I got approached to endorse Viagra. When I was 40, I was like “are you crazy? I'm not doing that.” Well now that I'm 60 I think it might not be a bad idea (laughs.)

Q: Thursday's TNA Impact event is at USF, you went there right?

A: For a couple years, but I didn't graduate. I was playing in rock bands, and every time the band would go out on tour, I'd dip out of school for a while. I played bass guitar for about 10 years.

Q: What's up with TNA and why should people come out for the show?

A: I started here in Tampa, and to be coming back 35 years later with my own company that I'm the general manager of, it's pretty crazy. TNA has the momentum. We've been around for 11 years now. We're focusing on how wrestling should be and not getting caught up in all the soap opera stuff that goes on with other wrestling shows. Between Jeff Hardy, Kurt Angle, Sting and the other top names we've got wrestling for us, we're getting a lot of traction.

Q: How's your restaurant, Hogan's Beach?

A: We're having a hard time keeping up brother. We opened on new years, expecting a couple hundred people to come out and we had a couple thousand.  Last Sunday we had over 4,000. It's kind of a trip to walk in there and see all the memorabilia. Sometimes I forget how many times I was the champion, or I forget about slamming the 700 pound (Andre the) Giant or being on "Walker Texas Ranger" with Chuck Norris. So I'll take that short walk down memory lane, then step outside and see a couple thousand kids partying and I'll go “what am I doing here, I'm almost 60?” But it's like a shot in the arm, it makes me feel like I've got a full head of hair and I'm 18 years old again.

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