Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Return of the 24-inch pythons

The Hulkster, at age 60, figures he has one more match in him

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Even at 60, Hulk Hogan wants to win one more time in the ring.

For a generation of Hulkamaniacs, his return to wrestling is certainly more appetizing than Hogan's latest foray into pop culture: His parody of Miley Cyrus' Wrecking Ball video, that features the former champ swinging on a ball in his red-and-yellow shirt, bandanna, feathered boa, boots -- and a black thong that puts a pro wrestling twist on cheeky humour.

Hogan laughs, looks at the camera, and simply says, "Brother!"

Let's just say, not even Hogan's personal life was ever this exposed on his former reality show.

Hogan ditched the wrestling tights to promote Hostamania, his latest business venture that aims to break into website hosting, much like GoDaddy. He's turned Hogan's Beach into a Tampa, Fla., hotspot, and he stands out as one of the headline attractions at this weekend's New York Comic Con.

Almost 30 years after it was launched, Hulkamania is still running wild.

Just not in the ring.

Hogan just might be one of the hottest free agents in professional wrestling after his contract expired this week with TNA Wrestling.

He could re-sign with the second-tier TNA promotion -- or return to deliver one more yellow boot to the face in a final match for Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Entertainment.

'What an idiot to say I had the largest arms in the world and jump up and land on my tailbone every night' -- Hulk Hogan

"Let me put it to you this way, brother," Hogan said on Friday. "With the right guy, the right situation, with a big enough event, big enough storyline, you're damn right I have one more left in me."

Slowed by age and injuries, Hogan has made sporadic appearances in the ring the last few years. Hogan last appeared on WWE's flagship show RAW in 2007 and he signed with TNA in 2009. He wrestled a few times with TNA but served mostly as the on-screen general manager.

Watching Hogan in TNA was a bit like watching Michael Jordan dunk with the Washington Wizards or Brett Favre sling passes for the New York Jets.

The uniform just never seemed right.

The Hulkster "quit" TNA as part of a televised angle last week, written out of storylines because his contract expired Thursday.

He hasn't ruled out a return to the promotion, especially with TNA's Bound For Glory pay-per-view set for Oct. 20 in San Diego.

"We couldn't figure things out," Hogan said. "We're talking, but I'm wide open right now."

The other option is a return to WWE, the promotion that shot him to movie roles, cartoons, and a Sports Illustrated cover in the 1980s.

In his absence, WWE certainly hasn't forgotten about Hogan, putting him on the cover of its recent DVD release The Best of WWE at Madison Square Garden. He's also a playable character in six classic WrestleMania matches in 2K Sports' WWE2K14 video game, out Oct. 29.

Hogan felt warmly received at a recent charity event with wrestler Triple H -- McMahon's son-in-law, who also serves as a real life WWE executive.

"He just welcomed me with open arms. He said if ever I decide I get the itch to come back home," the door's open, Hogan said.

Hogan was already the biggest name in wrestling when he bodyslammed Andre the Giant at 1987's WrestleMania III, and he remained as beloved as ever when he faced The Rock at 2002's WrestleMania X8.

Led by John Cena and Randy Orton, a new generation of stars eventually put Hogan on WWE's backburner, and eventually out of the company.

"Maybe my ego was in the way. I felt like, man I can still do this," Hogan said. "Listen to the crowd. Don't you guys hear what I hear? Even though I passed the torch to The Rock, I kept feeling there was more gas in the tank. Maybe I couldn't see what everybody else saw. Maybe I was going out there and embarrassing myself when I wrestled The Rock, I don't know. I just wanted something different for the character."

Of course, as with all forms of sports and entertainment, money came into play and a contract dispute sealed his fate -- something Hogan regrets.

With the milestone 30th WrestleMania set for April 6 in New Orleans, the time seems right for a Hogan comeback.

"My mind has been going crazy the last couple of weeks trying to figure out the best thing to do will be," he said.

For now, it's rest.

To paraphrase his Real American theme song, when it comes crashing down and it hurts inside... it really hurts inside. Decades of using a legdrop as his finisher -- which he landed with a wallop on everyone from Randy Savage to Sting -- wrecked his body. He's had hip and knee replacements and multiple back surgeries, proof even in the show biz world of pro wrestling, the nightly shots are every bit as jarring as the ones in other sports.

"What an idiot to say I had the largest arms in the world," he said, "and jump up and land on my tailbone every night."

The chronic pain was nothing compared to the mess his personal life had become, his turmoil splashed on the pages of TMZ as often as TNA thanks to a nasty divorce.

With his private life settled, the Hulkster has found a new joy with his wife of almost three years, Jennifer.

"Brother," he said, "I'm living the dream."

Up next, he's signing autographs today at the Jacob Javits Center.

"I really feel you owe it to the fans at this point," he said. "What's the right direction right now?

"I owe it to them to make the right choice."

That might start with putting on some trunks.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 13, 2013 B11

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