Hulk Hogan: A Surprising Spokesman for Inner Peace
A Really Good Read
I like to read about people's life stories. I believe that from anyone, I can learn something. So when I went to a book sale and saw Hulk Hogan's memoir, , I picked it up. But I have to admit, I hesitated. I knew who Hulk Hogan was, but wasn't really a fan. Plus, the most recent news about him wasn't favorable at all--his son had been in a car accident that left his passenger permanently brain-damaged---and Hulk's jailhouse talks with his son regarding the accident, and their injured friend, seemed less than sympathetic. My Life Outside the Ring
But something made me buy the book anyway. And after reading it, I have to say, I'm really glad I did. My Life Outside the Ring, written in Hogan's down-to-earth style, reminds readers that even the strongest among us have insecurities and hard times, and even the richest really have nothing unless they possess two truly priceless things--happiness and inner peace.
Personal Struggles Revealed
Born Terry Bollea, Hulk Hogan had humble beginnings, living in a very small home with his parents and troubled older brother- - -a much different scene from the many mansions and lavish lifestyle featured on his future reality show. My Life Outside the Ring is full of several other surprising insights about Hulk, beginning with his opening statement that he, the world's most successful wrestler, actually "hates confrontation." Throughout the book, Hogan admits many unexpected struggles he had throughout his childhood as well as his adult life. One would never guess, for example, that this "Hulk" hated gym class because he wasn't really good at it. Or that he quit the football team and never even wrestled in high school (although he was a state champion in bowling). One probably wouldn't think that as a youngster, Hulk was bullied. Or that in high school, he felt left out more than accepted. In fact, he was hated by the whole football team and the wrestling team, was called a hippy or "Fat Head", never had any cool clothes, or even enough clothes. "I remember wearing the same pair of pants to school over and over," Hulk says. He also had to deal with a much older and very troubled brother who drank, did drugs, fought, and was even shot at. On top of it all, Hulk's parents didn't show affection, give hugs or say "I l love you", and Hulk always felt his brother was their favorite son.
How did Hulk escape these circumstances? With music. And with faith.
Hulk learned how to play guitar and soon joined a band, making fairly good money throughout high school. Although church or religion wasn't discussed in Hulk's home, he did visit a Christian Youth Ranch with his friends where he'd play guitar and attend weekly meetings. Hulk reveals that he "always believed there was something more to us than just flesh" and "had a feeling there was a God." He credits the Christian Youth Ranch as laying the "foundation of strength and resolve" that he would need throughout his life.
The Wrestling Experience
Growing up, Hulk and his friend would watch Florida Championship Wrestling on TV, and see it live as often as they could. (Hulk describes the first time he sat in an arena for live wrestling as the closest thing he's ever had to a religious experience.) In his junior year of high school, Hulk began lifting at a local gym, and heard words of encouragement for the first time. "Brother, that's all I needed," Hulk says.
After graduating high school, Hulk enrolled at Hillsborough Community College, becoming the first in his family to be educated beyond high school. He continued in the band, and also found work on the docks, but was lost for a specific direction in life. His band begins to have some minor success, drawing in some local celebrities, including professional wrestlers. Hulk starts to befriend them and eventually has a revelation; when he learns that professional wrestling is "fake", his "whole world changed" because he realizes that meant that he could do it, too. At that realization, he quits the band and begins pursuing wrestling as a career.
Although Hulk fears his first wrestling match, he soon learns the real fight is just getting into the ring. The other wrestlers decide they don't really want him around and set him up for pain more than anything else. During his first workout with another pro wrestler, Hulk's leg is broken, on purpose. It is then that Hulk adopts a mindset "to never give up". He heals, and he returns. When he is offered his first match, fellow wrestlers "haze" him by making him believe that he is going to be raped in the locker room. Even now, the memory still haunts Hulk.
Hulk goes on to reveal his stint with steroids, including a trial in the 80's when he faced charges regarding the usage of them. (Although he no longer does steroids, and feels his body looked even better after quitting them, he says he has no "second thoughts" about doing them at the time.) Eventually Hulk and his friend Brutus get what they think is a big break in the wrestling business, moving to Memphis territory. It is at this time that he gets the nickname "Hulk" after dwarfing Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk) while sitting next to him on a TV show. Hulk's dreams of big money fail to pan out, though, and he decides to quit wrestling.
Height of Fame, Depth of Tragedy
In 1979, Vince McMahon Sr. finds Hulk, and offers him a new opportunity: Madison Square Garden. Then, Hulk is asked by Sly Stallone to play wrestler "Thunderlips" in Rocky III. Soon after, Hulk meets Linda in a Los Angeles nightclub, and is attracted to her positive attitude and independent spirit. They marry about a year and a half later. In the 1980s, wrestling takes off, with WrestleMania getting over a million viewers on closed-circuit TV. Although Hulk says he missed out on the whole "sex, drugs, rock and roll vibe" during his early years, he soon makes up for it, admitting to marijuana and cocaine use. In 1986, though, Hulk's older brother Alan is found dead in a hotel room, from an overdose on drugs he bought with money he borrowed from Hulk. Hulk decides then and there to quit cocaine.
Hulk's wrestling takes him around the world, and he and Linda enjoy their new-found wealth. Although Linda begins revealing some anger issues that alarm Hulk, they go on to have two children, a daughter Brooke, and a son Nick. Linda and Hulk continue to have problems in their marriage, with Hulk being away and Linda being unhappy, no matter how many houses they buy or build. As time passes and the children grow, wrestling begins to take a toll on Hulk's body. He is in constant pain. Linda begins drinking and and lashing out at her husband. Then, in the mid-90's, Hulk is hit with a sexual assault lawsuit, and hides it from his wife, he says, out of fear. Linda accuses Hulk of cheating on her all along, and it seems from there that their marriage becomes a battleground.
Meanwhile, Nick starts getting into cars and racing, and Brooke starts chasing a singing career. Eventually the Hogans get a reality show on VH1; Hogan Knows Best becomes the highest debuting show in all of VH1 history. The Hogan family is seemingly everywhere, looking to the public like a family who "has it all". But according to Hulk, their personal lives at that time are a mess. Linda is unhappy and rageful, threatening divorce at every turn. It is at this point that Hulk admits to having an affair.
On August 26, 2007, the lives of the Hogan family, and of their friend John Graziano, change forever. On that day, seventeen-year-old Nick (according to the police) is speeding and drinking and (according to witnesses) racing his car. He hits a tree, leaving his passenger permanently brain-damaged. Nick is sentenced to 8 months in jail and spends 28 of those days in solitary confinement. Hulk explains that his jail conversations with Nick about John being a "negative person" or about getting Nick a reality show, are only to keep his son sane during his solitary confinement. Although Hulk admits to buying a lot of alcohol that day, he adamantly denies that Nick was with him or that he bought the alcohol for Nick. He also questions the blood alcohol test results.
The Darkest Days and The Light
In the midst of his impending divorce, his son's sentencing, a strained relationship with his daughter and the public outrage over the jailhouse tapes, Hulk finds himself in utter despair. He turns to alcohol and sedatives and finds himself with a gun in his hand. It is a phone call from Laila Ali, Muhammad Ali's daughter and Hulk's co-host on American Gladiators, which Hulk says, saves his life. Laila invites Hulk to the Agape Church, and although he declines, Hulk is forever grateful that Laila thought of him and cared enough to call. Soon after, Hulk is on a plane to Texas and opens up to a stranger about the troubles in his life. A woman behind him hands him a book that she thinks might help him. That book is , and it would change Hulk's life. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
After reading and re-reading The Secret, and watching the film, Hulk begins to subscribe to the philosophies of the Law of Attraction. He reads other books like The Power of Now, A New Earth and Stillness Speaks and soon meets James Arthur Ray and Dr. Michael Beckwith (leader of the Agape Church), both contributors to The Secret. Hulk begins to reflect on his work-aholic life and seeks to have a new attitude of gratitude, plus a goal for a more peaceful and happy life. After his divorce attorney helps him realize he's been verbally abused by his wife, he then questions whether his wife ever loved him at all. Hulk gives examples of Linda's romantic relationship with a nineteen-year-old, and her inability to make regular visits to Nick in jail, even though she lives just fifteen minutes away. But even so, he insists he loves Linda unconditionally and continues to wish her well. Hulk soon finds new love with Jennifer, a woman he met in a health food store. He calls her his "light".
A New Hulk
Since My Life Outside the Ring, Hulk once again finds himself in the headlines. Allegedly betrayed by his best friend, dj Bubba "The Love Sponge", Hulk seeks to prevent a sex tape from going public ( Hulk is in the tape with Bubba's wife.) In recent press clips, Hulk appears humbled and serious about this latest battle. (Linda has now broken up with her much younger boyfriend, Nick is out of jail and seems humbled as well. Brooke continues to pursure her music and TV career. )
My Life Outside the Ring reveals Hulk as a changed man, or maybe, as a man who is more in touch with the person he once was-- one who believed "if I'm a good person, then I'll get into Heaven." Hulk closes his book with gratitude for a solid relationship with his kids, and with a promise to "live life differently in the second half". He reveals his vision to fill a stadium again, not as a wrestler, but in order to help others and to change their lives. He's not quite sure what that will involve, but he is sure that "the best is yet to come, brother. The best is yet to come."
And after reading My Life Outside the Ring, I tend to believe him.