He’s faced down Andre the Giant and the Iron Sheik, but Hulk Hogan says the stare he got from Gawker publisher Nick Denton in court is what really terrified him.
“He scared the hell out of me,’’ Hogan told The Post in his first interview since a Florida jury awarded him $140 million in his lawsuit against Gawker, Denton and ex-editor A.J. Daulerio.
“Denton and I had a stare-down. He scared me staring at me, man. He just sat there staring. It was right after his cross-examination. He stood up and stared. It was like he was going to call me out at ‘Wrestlemania,’ Yikes!”
A jovial Hogan, real name Terry Bollea, greeted The Post Tuesday morning at the ocean-front Sandpearl Resort near his Clearwater home, opening up about the case for the first time and later posing for celebratory photos on the beach.
He called Denton a “puppet master.’’
“He’s very proud of his buccaneering young stud, AJ,’’ Hogan said.
“They think that just because you have Facebook or Twitter, you crossed the line between normal person to celebrity status. So that means anyone who has anything to do with social media is fair game.
He said that as he heard their testimony during the trial, “I started having, like Oprah has, these ‘aha’ moments. … Everybody’s a celebrity,’ I thought. ‘Oh, my God, they’re gunning for everybody. Everybody is fair game. And then 4-year-olds, too?’” Hogan said, referring to Daulerio’s testimony that he’d post a celebrity sex tape with a child.
“Apparently, [Denton’s] pretty darn talented, I’d love to see these guys do a 180 and just do good stuff and just get legit,’’ Hogan said.
“I don’t know if [Daulerio, who posted the video as Gawker’s editor in chief] really understands how wrong he is. I think some type of experience, if this trial didn’t humble him, then maybe picking up trash on the side of the road might.’’
A soft-spoken Hogan also said he was offered “a large amount of money’’ to settle but decided to stand and fight because, “if I put my tail between my legs, if I take the money but don’t tell the truth or I don’t face [the situation], I’m not going to be able to live with myself. I knew how unhappy I would be. I told my wife, I said, ‘Jennifer, I just got to follow my heart,’ ” Hogan said.
“It’s embarrassing, though, believe me,” the wrestler said of the ensuing publicity.
“After Gawker had posted the video, it was almost like when I lived in Minnesota and the sun went away and it was like seven months of being real cloudy when I lived in the Twin Cities,’’ Hogan said.
“I would run into kids who would say, ‘I’d downloaded the Hulk Hogan Wrestlemania video, and Hulk Hogan sex tape came up.’
“I dealt with so many horrible things, people in public asking me about the tape. I felt like I had, all of a sudden I had a heat lamp on me at all times.’’