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Hulk Hogan appeared on Bill Apter’s new podcast, “Apter Chat,” last week. He addressed a few hot topics, most noteworthy being back in the WWE Hall of Fame and the locker room speech he gave in the WWE locker room last month that some wrestlers did not embrace, including New Day and Titus O’Neal. The following are extensive highlights as selected and transcribed by PWTorch editor Wade Keller…
CHECK OUT THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE: THE APTER CHAT WITH HULK HOGAN
•On being a role model: “When I got in the business, I just wanted a job because I’ve always loved this business. But when the role model thing came along, I thought, ‘Okay, what’s this about?’ Then you get to the point where you get used to it. Then the character Hulk Hogan starts making Terry Bollea the man a better person. Then you thank God for it. Sometimes I forget how Hulk Hogan has affected so many people and I have to keep myself in check. And we all make these crazy mistakes. But it’s about getting knocked down and getting back up and moving forward. … Sometimes you forget how powerful that character was. You make mistake and have to keep in check. Believe me, I’ve learned from my mistakes to keep my rear end in check. … It’s been a learning curve. … When things happen I got back to religion… God, the whole thing. People can readjust, move forward after making mistakes. The first thing I do when I make a mistake or get mad about something or not treat someone 100 percent … it’s an amazing situation to ask for forgiveness and be forgiven. … I can move forward and reset. I feel so sorry for those individuals that can’t forgive people even when people get back on track and move forward, they still want to hold them to the mistake they made years ago or five minutes ago. It’s such a weird thing that people are so nice but still judge people. I’m at a point now where I don’t judge anybody because I’ve learned you can make mistakes, we’re all human, and to find the good in people and to cheer people to move forward, not to try to beat them down and hold them down with a mistake they made. I learned that. Not only have I made a ton of mistakes, but everybody I know has, and it’s really cool to see people grow, move forward, and learn from mistakes. That’s the chance the Boys Club gave me.”
•On John Cena replacing him as the top Make-a-Wish requested wrestler: “The door that I cracked open, he just kicked it open and he did a million times more work and he raised the bar. It’s part of what I’ve been doing forever.”
•His reaction to being removed from the WWE Hall of Fame: “Wrestling has been my life. I love wrestling. I’m recording Smackdown as we speak. I watch the Network. I check out all the independent stuff going on. I’m the biggest mark there is. If you love the wrestling business, you love something new every day and you’re still a mark. Every single day I learn something new. You can’t say you know the business. … It’s in our blood, so when I got kicked out of the wrestling business, I didn’t think I could recover. I really didn’t. What people don’t realize is that when you get kicked out of the wrestling business for the reason that I did – the racial remarks – there’s a huge ripple effect. Your phone doesn’t ring. People you thought were your friends just disappear. Your phone ringing, it doesn’t happen. The big stuff to me was being kicked out of wrestling, something you love, getting torn out of your chest. It was one of the toughest things that ever happened.”
•On WWE officials beginning to communicate with him again: To fast-forward, radio silence for the first year-and-a-half, then out of nowhere, Triple H reached out to me. ‘Hey man, I hope you’re doing well, at least the best you can.’ It meant he was concerned about me. That was really cool. … I didn’t get to know too many of the young guys back in the DX days, but when I heard from him, it gave me hope. Every once in a while he’d talk to me, we’d say a few words over the phone. It was really cool, but I never talked to Vince. Then Triple H and I started talking a little more this last year about possibilities. … I told him things I’m doing with a charity that gives legs to kids with prosthetic legs. There are so many kids who can’t afford to have legs. I was telling Triple H what I was up to, with my little beach shops that I have going and every once in a while I’d have an autograph signing and everyone was so nice – white, black, indifferent, doesn’t matter what race, color, or creed. They’d get in line and say we love you and we stand behind you. If they did want to talk about the racial slur, they would say, ‘Man, we know who you are and it was a mistake.’ The people were so gracious and it gave me this gracious hope that maybe some day I could get back on my feet with the brothers in the wrestling business.
•On when he began talking to Vince McMahon again: “So fast-forwarding, we started talking and Triple H knew what I was doing with the Boys & Girls Club, and there was a common bond there. So then we started talking about different things like Saudi Arabia and things like that. I said I’d really like to talk to Vince. I’d text Vince on his birthdays and he texted me on New Year’s and stuff like this, but we never had a good conversation. And all of a sudden it’s ‘Hey, monster, how are you doing?’ And so we talked. We had been texting, but it was so good to hear his voice. He hasn’t changed a bit. It was the same old intense Vince, and we talked and it was a great conversation. We talked every couple months or so. And Triple H said, ‘I think it’s time you have a conversation with yourself and do you really want to do anything with wrestling.’ I said, ‘Oh my god, I’d love to.’ One of the things we agreed upon is they wanted to bring me back but we want you to talk to the black athletes. I said, ‘No, I’m not going to do it. If I come back, I want to talk to everybody. What I did hurt not only the business, it hurt white, black, every athlete you have, Japanese, everyone who loves this business. I dropped us all down a notch. So I wanted to come back and talk to everybody. That’s how it happened. I flew into Cleveland a few weeks ago because they had Extreme Rules in Pittsburgh. I thought I could maybe slide in there, do what I needed to, and slide out. I flew into Cleveland and was going to drive to Pittsburgh, but when I landed in Cleveland, the fans were there. They stalk you, they find you. So I kind of like was surprised. I thought we could sneak in. Me and Jimmy Hart were together. So we spent the night there. Pat Patterson shows up. He flied to Cleveland. He said, ‘I heard you were coming back.’ I just love being around Pat, he’s one of my closest friends in the business. We laughed and joked in the car on the way to Pittsburgh. We get to Pittsburgh, but right before I got to the building, my phone was blowing up going ‘Congratulations, you’ve back in the Hall of Fame.’ I had no idea, I thought we were just going to talk. It made me grin from ear to ear. I didn’t start crying because I had two other men with me.
•On his speech to the locker room: “But we get to the building and we go in and everybody’s in a room and I walked in the room and I made it really clear what I wanted to say. There were two trains of thought – there was Plan A and there was Plan B. I know how busy everybody is on TV days. … I figured all the talent was there, so I thanked them for the time. The first thing I want to do is tell you guys 12 years ago I said something that three years ago just came to light and I want to apologize for everything I said. I can give you the woe is me story and tell you all the things, all the reasons why I was in the space I was in, the dark dark space. Everybody’s got an excuse, but the truth is I said these things 12 years ago and I didn’t even know they were said three years ago. I can’t remember what I said last weekend, much less 12 years ago. When I said it, it was in a fit of anger. I did say it. I’m accountable. That’s not who I am, it’s not how I feel, it’s not what I believe. When I said it, I was very very mad, very very mad at a situation. But I did say it, it was inappropriate, it was out of context, it was hurtful, it was unacceptable, and I did it. And I apologized and said if you guys can ever forgive me, I’ll be forever grateful. I wanted to be sure that was my one train of thought, that what I said was out of character and when I was mad and it was the worst thing anybody could ever say and I am so sorry. Those of you who know me, you know I’m not like that, but those who don’t know me who have only been working here a couple years, let me prove myself that you know who I am. I wanted to be sure that was my one train of thought, that I got to apologize and was accountable that I did say it and I am sorry.
•On switching to the second phase of his locker room speech strategy: Then I switched gears to Plan B. And I said now I want to let you guys know this is the biggest spotlight in the world, WWE is the biggest spotlight in the world; if you’re a little star don’t even slip on a banana peel. Try not to make any mistakes like I made. When you’re a big star and you make a big mistake, you’ll be on the front page of every newspaper, every magazine. I made a mistake, and the WWE machine is so big and made me such a big star, everybody knows what’s going one, so please be careful – everyone has cell phones and cameras. Be careful. I had the train of thought A and train of thought B, and I made it as clear as I could possibly make it. I admit I was nervous. I’ve never been that nervous in my life talking to my peers. Those are my two things. A lot of people accepted my apology. A lot of people heard what they wanted to hear. A lot of the narrative that came out of the meeting was off point. A lot of the narrative was really different because I was surprised to hear some people interpreted what I said that I was just sorry I got caught on camera. I never said that. But I guess sometimes the media and people go with the most negative narrative that can come out of there. That’s pretty much what happened.”
•On wishing wrestlers not forgiving him understood the “brotherhood”: “It is what it is. I said those words. It was totally unacceptable. I wanted to get in front of all the talent and apologize and I wanted to move forward. I just hope the brotherhood can get back to the way it was because when you’re in the ring and somebody is piledriving somebody and body slamming somebody, you protect your brother and you make sure physically they’re safe. And outside the ring, you’re supposed to protect your brother. In this case, it’s a situation where 75, 80, 90 percent of the wrestlers are protecting me and they’re giving me another chance, you know, to move forward. There’s just a few wrestlers that kinda like don’t understand the bond and the brotherhood of wrestling and if someone makes a mistake, you need to forgive them and move on and try to let them prove themselves. But I just wish I could have one-on-one conversations with people who don’t know me and try to explain myself better. All in all, it was a great day and a highlight of my life to be back in the Hall of Fame and be able to move forward. It’s been a great time these last couple weeks.”
CHECK OUT THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE: THE APTER CHAT WITH HULK HOGAN