Hulk Hogan Scandals That Nearly Ruined His Career

Hulk Hogan is one of the most famous wrestlers of all time — he is a household name and a legend of the wrestling industry. His wrestling career spanned over four decades and at one time he was considered one of the most revered and most loved icons in the wrestling business. Until he wasn't.

In 2015, Hulk Hogan was soured in most fans eyes as a result of racist comments he made in a leaked sex tape. The racism scandal ruined Hulk Hogan's reputation in ways that he has still never recovered. Whenever Hulk Hogan makes an appearance in wrestling these days, he often gets heavily booed by the fans that once loved him. When once he would have gotten the utmost respect, now he simply gets distain from his former Hulkamaniacs and even gets distain from some of his peers. The racism controversy was probably the most high profile scandal of Hogan's career, but it certainly wasn't the only one. Hulk Hogan has been part of a number of indignities over his decades in the wrestling business — which makes one wonder, how did he survive for so long?

Hulk Hogan and the steroid trial

In 1994, Vince McMahon was on trial and the United States government had brought three charges against him, two counts of distributing steroids and one count of conspiracy to distribute steroids. This was a huge deal for Vince McMahon and he was facing up to eight years in prison.

Before the steroid trial, Hulk Hogan had always categorically denied ever taking steroids, although he changed his tune when he was facing real consequences. During Vince McMahon's trial, as recounted by the New York Times, Hogan admitted he had in fact used steroids. Hogan had always maintained a squeaking clean image in public before this, so to admit he had been taking steroids was a big declaration that could have ruined his image, if not his career. While testifying under immunity from prosecution, Hogan said steroid usage was "fairly common" among wrestlers working for WWF in the '80s and even said that he would call Vince's secretary to "ask her to place an order for me with Dr. Zahorian" — who was previously convicted of distributing steroids to wrestlers.

Hogan was a hero to children, a beacon of light, so to admit this in public was a huge risk. The steroid trial, however, barely affected him, and this was just one of a long line of scandals that Hogan would endure.

Hulk Hogan blocked a wrestling union

During the 1980s, professional wrestling was the Wild West — the business was cut throat and wrestlers were barely treated with any respect. Jesse "The Body" Ventura noticed this and saw that it was the executives who were getting all the benefits while the wrestlers had nothing to show for it. In response, Ventura made plans to unionize wrestling. He spoke to union reps in the NFL and had a meeting with the boys about setting up a union in WWF, which would have set the ball rolling for unions to become instituted across all of wrestling. This would have helped thousands of lower paid wrestlers across the entire wrestling world.

The next day, Vince McMahon found out about this meeting and punished Ventura for it. Ventura left WWE shortly afterwards and any talk of a wrestler's union fizzled out.

In 1991, Ventura learned that Hulk Hogan had snitched on the union meeting to Vince McMahon, who did everything he could to derail those plans. Ventura said to Title Match Wrestling that it was like a "punch in the mouth," as he considered Hogan a close friend at the time. Hogan was well taken care of without any union and was perfectly happy with his position — he wasn't going a let the formation of a union change a power balance that he was benefiting from. Hogan buried countless wrestlers just on the off chance his spot could be in danger.

Hulk Hogan chokes out Richard Belzer on live TV

In the build up to the first ever Wrestlemania, just five days before the event, Hulk Hogan and Mr. T made an appearance on a talk show hosted by Richard Belzer called "Hot Properties." Belzer, a comedian by nature, was insistent that Hulk Hogan and Mr. T show him a wrestling move. Belzer's attitude was that wrestling was all fake, which was a definite no-no back in those kayfabe heavy days. Hogan and Mr. T resisted at first, but Belzer didn't let it go and finally Hogan acquiesced. This was just days before the biggest wrestling event of all time and Hogan was trying to sell the pay-per-view — he couldn't just expose the business on live TV, could he?

Hogan, at great encouragement from Belzer and the live audience, put Belzer in a front chinlock. Hogan legitimately choked out Belzer and then dropped his limp body on the floor.  Belzer sued Hogan for $5 million in damages for personal injury. The lawsuit was settled out of court and the story has gone on to become legend in the wrestling industry. 

If such an incident happened today it would be scandalous. Just look at Will Smith's slap to Chris Rock at the Oscars — that was only a slap, Hogan legitimately choked out Belzer to unconsciousness. However, the Belzer scandal didn't affect Hogan one bit, with Belzer getting more backlash, and Hulkamania would continue to run wild.

Hulk Hogan's embarrassing presidential run

In 1998, Hulk Hogan would make an infamous appearance on the Thanksgiving episode of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." On WCW TV, Hogan was coming off a horrible feud with the Ultimate Warrior and nobody could have expected what Hogan was going to say to Leno: Hogan announced his retirement from pro wrestling. Hogan said he had accomplished everything there was to accomplish and he was stepping away from wrestling as he had much bigger plans in mind — Hogan announced he was running for President of the United States. He told Leno, "I had a great career and the fans have been great. I thank them for sticking with me and this helps me segue into being the next President of the United States."

Hogan seemed to get the idea from Jesse Ventura, who had successfully become the Governor of Minnesota. Hogan was a much bigger star than Ventura, so if Ventura could become governor, Hogan could become president. Hogan's announcement got mainstream coverage and even Jay Leno looked taken aback by the announcement. Hogan did the rounds on talk shows speaking about his run and it really showed how out of his depth he was. Instead of offering insights as to how he would help America, he was more interested in calling out Bill Clinton. His vague non-answers and hyperbolic comments showed everybody that this was just a publicity stunt and made him a laughing stock in the political realm. 

Hulk Hogan admits to holding down other wrestlers

During the '80s and '90s, Hulk Hogan dominated wrestling. He was the face of the industry, the top guy, and the one everybody paid to see. There weren't many other guys on his level, which led to many stories that Hulk Hogan was holding down other wrestlers from achieving the top spot so he could keep it for himself.

In 2018, during an appearance promoting Crown Jewel, Hulk Hogan was asked by the Orlando Sentinel about these rumors of holding down other wrestlers during his time on top. Hogan, in a surprising piece of honesty, answered yes, of course he did. "Once I got in the spot, to keep the spot, that's where the politics came in. Everybody goes, 'Well, Hulk Hogan was a politician.' Well, thank God I was. That's why I made more money than anybody, that's why I kept the belt longer, that's why instead of a five or six or ten year run like The Rock or Stone Cold or different wrestlers, I had a 35 year run on top."

At least he was honest, but that truly is a terrible thing to admit. It's astounding to think how different wrestling would be today if others could have reached the heights that Hogan did, and how many careers could Hogan's politics have altered for the worse.

Hulk Hogan's messy divorce from Linda

In 2007, Hulk Hogan went through a bitter break up with his wife of 24 years, Linda Hogan. The couple gave off the image of a healthy, loving relationship during their reality show "Hogan Knows Best," but it's apparent that there were darker secrets lurking under the surface. Linda filed for divorce and her publicist told "E! News" (via BuddyTV) that there is only one reason she is filing for divorce: "HULK'S CHEATING!" Linda believed that Hogan was cheating on her with Christine Plante, the best friend of his daughter Brooke.

Brooke's friend Christine Plante gave an interview with the National Enquirer (via admitting to a relationship with Hogan. Plante said, "My relationship with Terry began at a time when Terry and Linda privately knew their marriage was ending. She had left him already, although no official papers had been filed ... It seemed right then, but I knew it was wrong. Having felt the guilt and pain build up, I gave a note to Brooke apologizing for my actions. I will never be able to fully forgive myself for this. I have lost an amazing friend."

Brooke posted (then quickly deleted) a heartbroken message on her MySpace page (via Today) saying it was one of the hardest things she has ever been through. Hulk Hogan however denied everything in his autobiography "My Life Outside The Ring."

Nick Hogan's car crash causing John Graziano permanent brain damage

John Graziano is a former United States Marine and a friend of Hulk Hogan's son Nick Hogan. Nick Hogan is a racing enthusiast, competing in professional and amateur races to some controversy, as Nick had picked up a number of speeding tickets in the process.

On August 26th 2007, Nick was driving Hulk Hogan's Toyota Supra with John in the passenger seat and they were racing down the streets on the way to a local steakhouse. Nick, just 17 years of age at the time, lost control of the car and crashed, completely destroying the car.

John Graziano, 22 years of age, was not wearing a seatbelt and the crash caused him major brain injuries. John suffered permanent brain damage as a result of the crash and now needs full time care for the rest of his life. Nick Hogan was charged with several violations for the crash and served eight months in Pinellas County Jail. In the media frenzy, comments Hulk Hogan made got out in which he appears to blame John Graziano for what happened, "I don't know what type of person John was or what he did to get himself in the situation," CNN documents Hogan saying. "I know he was pretty aggressive and used to yell at people and used to do stuff." Hogan later apologized for the remarks, claiming he was trying to keep Nick calm.

Hulk Hogan's awkward photos with daughter Brooke

There has been a few awkward rumors (as noted by The Sportster and others) about Hulk Hogan and his fixation with daughter Brooke. These starting coming up when Brooke Hogan did a nude photoshoot for PETA, with Hulk attending the gallery opening and even taking pictures with portraits of his naked daughter.

Other incidents with Brooke and Hulk have also came up, one with Hogan weirdly rubbing sun tan lotion into Brooke's behind, and another with Hogan creepily tweeting his admiration for his daughter's legs. There was also a strange video in 2011 when Hulk Hogan and Brooke appeared in a homage video to The Notorious B.I.G in Def Jam Rapsta, when Hogan bizarrely flashes his genitals at the camera while standing next to Brooke.

Adding more fuel to the rumors, after his divorce from Linda Hogan, Hulk remarried Jennifer McDaniel, a tall blond women who has a striking resemblance to Brooke. In theory, any one of these things could be laughed off as innocent, but putting them all together makes for some strange viewing. Brooke Hogan has even addressed the rumors on Twitter, tweeting "So sick of people saying me and my dad are in some perverted relationship! Go home and do your own thing! Stop picking on me!"

Hulk Hogan's sex tape and the racist rant

In 2015, a sex tape between Hulk Hogan and Heather Clam, wife of Hogan's friend Bubba The Love Sponge, leaked online. As if that wasn't bad enough, in the video Hulk Hogan goes on a racist tirade, angered at his daughter Brooke's love life. The rant is legitimately disgusting and Hogan even admits in the rant that he is racist. He uses the N-word multiple times throughout the rant and truly shows himself to be exactly what he said he was: Racist.

Hogan was signed with WWE at the time, and was immediately fired and stripped from the WWE Hall Of Fame. Hogan's reputation was in the toilet. Hogan apologized for the outburst, saying he was embarrassed and blamed the rough neighborhood he grew up in for using that word so freely. Of all the scandals he has been through, this is the one that has stained Hogan's legacy the most, and many fans have not looked at him in the same way since the incident.

Hulk Hogan's homophobic slur

The sex tape and racist rant ruined Hogan's reputation. Hogan's actions were completely abhorrent, but the horrible nature of the racism did distract from some other things Hogan said in the sex tape. As more transcripts leaked, Hogan was also caught saying a homophobic slur when discussing a storyline VH1 wanted him to do for his reality show "Hogan Knows Best." 

VH1 wanted him to go back to his childhood home and Hogan was less than complimentary to the person who now lived in his old house. On the tapes, Hogan uses a slur to describe the person who was now living in his old house. If it wasn't lost among other controversies, Hogan would have been even more greatly under fire for this homophobic statement.

Hulk Hogan's terrible apology for his racism

Ever since the racism scandal, Hogan made many public apologies but perhaps the most high profile of these happened when he apologized to the WWE locker room upon being reinstated by WWE. Hogan recounted that apology on the "Apter Chat" podcast (via The Wrap), saying he told the locker room, "I did say it. It was inappropriate, it was out of context, it was hurtful, it was unacceptable and I did it. I apologize, if you guys could ever forgive me I would be forever grateful."

If that was all he said maybe it would have had a better reception, but Hogan continued, "When you're a big star here and you make a mistake, the whole world is gonna know. You'll be on the front page of every newspaper, of every magazine — just like it happened to me ... So please be careful because people have cell phones and cameras — so just be careful."

The "don't get caught" implications of Hogan's speech made many doubt the sincerity of his apology. Prominent Black WWE Superstars like Titus O'Neil and all three members of The New Day publicly denounced Hogan's apology, with them thinking Hogan was sorrier he got caught rather than sorry he said what he said. Titus O'Neil said to "Busted Open Radio" that Hogan showed a "lack of true contrition, remorse and a desire to change."

Hulk Hogan pushes COVID-19 vaccine conspiracy theories

Since Hogan had been caught saying terrible things in the past, one would think he would be more careful with what he was saying in public. Yet Hogan was once again caught out on Facebook in January 2022 while talking about COVID-19 vaccines. Hogan responded to a Facebook user who implied that Bob Saget had died as a result of the COVID-19 vaccines, with Hogan commenting, "100%, Betty [White] and Sidney [Poitier] were also jabbed. They're dropping like flies, but they'll never say that." Hogan later deleted the comment but his intentions were clear for all to see. A public figure like Hogan pushing vaccine conspiracy theories is highly dangerous for everybody going through a global pandemic.

Hogan's comments drew derision from almost everybody, even Jimmy Fallon made fun of Hogan for the comments on "The Tonight Show." Booker T also publicly condemned Hogan's comments on his "Hall Of Fame" podcast, saying, "I don't have a whole lot of respect for someone saying something like that ... Especially when they have no idea what happened with this person or not. It's just where we are in the world today."

If Hogan is still trying to rehabilitate his image, condemning lifesaving vaccines is certainly not the way to do it.