NEW YORK – For nearly three decades, Hulk Hogan has been an icon of sports entertainment. With his two-tone facial hair, rapid-fire rap, signature bandanna and 6-foot-7-inch, 250-pound frame, it's easy to see why.
Now, the 49-year-old professional wrestler and actor is out to prove he's still the man who once body-slammed Andre the Giant and tossed Sylvester Stallone around like a rag doll in Rocky III.
"Look brother, let's get real about this," Hogan said. "You can't beat Father Time. But the main guy in the wrestling business is the guy who generates the most revenue, and right now I still hold that title."
Fans can read all about the man who's one of the world's most recognizable faces in his autobiography, Hollywood Hulk Hogan, which hit book stores and cyberspace this month.
"It's not a tell-all book," explained Hogan. "It's not about who out-drank who, or who partied more than John Belushi."
The book, published by Simon and Schuster, is about Hogan's rise to stardom in the world of professional wrestling and movies, his relationships with Andre the Giant and Mr. T, his fall from grace after revelations of steroid use, and his comeback in the ring with The Scorpion King star The Rock.
Hogan, who grew up as Terry Bollea in Tampa, Fla., describes himself as a "fat kid with a huge head." In his teens he played guitar in local rock 'n' roll clubs, worked as a longshoreman and once co-owned a gym for bodybuilders. But it was in the world of professional wrestling where he found his calling.
"When I first got into wrestling it was pretty barbaric," Hogan said. "If a fan told a wrestler 'nice show,' the wrestler would hit him. So none of it really felt right to me back then."
Until he met Vince McMahon, Jr., now the chairman of the WWE (formerly the WWF, founded by Vince McMahon, Sr.). Under the leadership of the man who coined the phrase "sports entertainment," Hulk Hogan became a household name around the world, earning millions of dollars with merchandise, live appearances and sold-out wrestling events. To quote a slogan millions of wrestling fans grew up with, "Hulkamania was running wild."
"Vince was aggressive," said Hogan. "He wanted to go into uncharted territory and make wrestling larger than life. I was all for it. The next thing I knew, the whole thing went out of control, and the rest is history."
But as quickly as Hogan's star rose, it came crashing down. The wrestler -- who preached training, studying and taking vitamins to his young fans -- suffered a major setback when his steroid use was revealed. The issue came to a head during while he appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show.
"I should have taken the high road but instead I took the sneaky road," Hogan said, admitting he had an agenda when he denied using steroids on national television. That agenda, he said, was trying to save the Hulk Hogan image for the sake of his young fans.
"This Hulk Hogan character was impeccable at the time and it brought Terry Bollea almost up to that level," he said. "I had parents saying to me, 'My kid was supposed to die but he's holding on to meet you,' and I was saying, 'Holy smokes.' It blew me away. But I'm not perfect. I'm no saint. The bottom line is, I hurt a lot of people."
Those days, as well as his use of steroids, are behind Hogan. He now goes by the name "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan, a product of the bad-guy wrestling character he portrays today. But for how much longer, the Hulkster says he's not sure.
"I hope I get the chance to wind down gracefully with the WWE," he said. "I would love to be remembered as the Babe Ruth of wrestling."