Hulk Hogan

Hulk Hogan

By Mike Mooneyham

Aug. 18, 2002

The last image WWE fans may have of Hulk Hogan – at least for the immediate future – is one of a battered, bloodied and aged Hulkster struggling to make it to his feet and leave the ring.

Whether Hogan is really down for the count, however, most likely hinges on his future business dealings with WWE owner Vince McMahon. Reports that began to surface last week indicate that Hogan and McMahon are once again at an impasse, with money and an exhausting schedule at the core of the dispute.

Hogan’s last-minute removal from the recent Australian tour placed an unfortunate blemish on the company’s otherwise wildly successful event, with a number of excuses given for his absence. Hogan had been heavily advertised for the tour, but was scratched from the event when it was announced, for storyline purposes, that Hogan had been injured by Brock Lesnar in a Smackdown match that was taped on Aug. 4 in Richmond, Va. Official sources said they were concerned that the 16-hour plane ride to Australia would be too stressful on Hogan’s legitimately ailing back, while others hinted that Hogan wanted to spend his 49th birthday with his family. More recent reports, however, claim Hogan confronted McMahon over payment for the tour, with Hogan arguing that making the trip Down Under was beyond any regular appearance and that he should be paid accordingly. McMahon then made the decision to pull Hogan from the tour.

[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]Hogan also reportedly was angered by statements made by the WWE crew while in Australia.

WWE executive vice president Roger Marment, who apologized for Hogan not appearing at the Australian event during a press conference, claimed it was Hogan’s desire to attend, but added that he was 49 years old that weekend and didn’t know how much longer he would be wrestling. The Rock then added that he thought Hogan was “52 years old,” a remark that reportedly drew Hogan’s ire.

Hogan has not been booked for any future dates with the company, including next Sunday’s Summer Slam pay-per-view.

Hogan’s return to the WWE earlier this year after an absence of nearly a decade generated mixed reviews. A widely panned reformation of The NWO was followed by a highly successful reception for Hogan’s Wrestlemania match with The Rock, but a lackluster title victory over Triple H and a weak run as champ marked what likely will go down as Hogan’s final hurrah as the company’s top player.

His track record the past couple of months, however, has been exemplary, with Hogan receiving credit for helping elevate younger talent and cleanly putting over stars such as Kurt Angle and the 25-year-old Lesnar, who left Hogan in a bloody heap at the Smackdown in Richmond.

- The WWE’s Global Warning Tour broke the attendance record at Colonial Stadium in Melbourne on Aug. 10. More than 56,700 attended the show, with the event grossing approximately $5.7 million Australian dollars (U.S. $3 million). More than 8,000 fans attended the two-day WWE Fan Frenzy leading up to the live event.

- Steve Williams, the former “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, turned himself in to authorities last week as a result of charges stemming from a June 15 incident in which police were called to Williams’ house after an alleged altercation with wife Debra that left the former beauty queen with a welt on her face and bruises on her back.

Williams came to the courthouse with lawyers and was charged with an assault that caused bodily injury. Williams, 37, who was booked and fingerprinted, posted a $5,000 bond and was later released on his own recognizance.

Debra Williams, 42, had claimed that her husband hit her in the face and back after an argument at their upscale San Antonio home. Steve Williams left the scene before police arrived, but later talked to the responding officer by cell phone, declining to return to the house despite the officer’s urging.

A judge signed off on the arrest warrant Monday after reviewing a police incident report and the domestic violence complaint filed by Debra. The district attorney’s office pursued the case on its own and presented it to the judge. Williams could get up to a year in jail if convicted and pay a $4,000 fine.

The marriage is Steve Williams’ third. Debra Williams was previously married to former Chicago Bears football star-turned-wrestler Steve “Mongo” McMichael.

“Steve Williams is currently not a member of the active roster. WWE wishes Steve and his wife Debra the best during this difficult time,” the WWE acknowledged on its Web site.

- Boys will be boys.

The cameras were turned off for what was described as one of the funniest 30 minutes of sports entertainment ever seen following the live broadcast of Raw on Monday night.

What started out as a routine curtain call ended in a hilarious rib pulled on The Undertaker. As had been planned, Taker initially challenged Booker T to do his “Spinarooni” before leaving the ring following an eight-man tag-team match that highlighted the show. What wasn’t planned was Booker daring Taker to do what he dubbed the “Takerooni,” an impromptu challenge that Taker refused to break character and accept. Before it was over, however, the gag would include The Rock, Triple H and even Vince McMahon, with all three doing their respective versions of the “Rockarooni,” the “Triplerooni” and the “Macarooni.”

Taker took the good-natured ribbing in stride and was later seen laughing heartily backstage.

- The packed houses for Raw and Smackdown two consecutive nights in Seattle may have been enough to convince WWE officials to grant that city rights for next year’s Wrestlemania. A local celebrity, however, may have jumped the gun when he announced at one of the shows that the event was coming to Seattle next year. A WWE announcer promptly qualified the statement by emphasizing that the city was one of several being considered.

- Good news on the ratings front for the WWE: Raw posted a 3.95, up from the previous week’s 3.7, while the rapidly improving Smackdown registered a 3.5, a considerable jump from a 2.7 the week before.

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- Ric Flair is scheduled to make a decision soon on whether or not he’ll throw his hat into the political ring in the 2004 gubernatorial race.

The Charlotte resident, who considered running two years ago as an independent, has been approached by a number of top Republican figures in North Carolina who have urged him to run for the state’s top seat. Weighing heavily in Flair’s decision will be his availability to follow his two youngest children’s high school careers. Both Reid and Ashley are highly ranked prep athletes, and Flair regularly attends events they are involved in.

The Nature Boy will lead the Florida Gators on the field when they play their in-state rival Miami Hurricanes in September in Gainesville. Flair has been on hand for eight Gators’ bowl games, including three national championship contests, one of which they won. Flair’s wife, Beth, attended the Florida school.

- Triple H, who worked his first match since his elbow injury on the recent Australian tour, was the winning bidder for a Hulk Hogan life-size painting at a charity auction. Triple H later said that he has no intention of keeping the item, but the money went to a good cause. “I believe I’ll give it to the WWE,” he told the WWE Web site. “No offense to Hogan, but what am I going to do? Put it over my bed?”

- Kevin Nash continues to rehab in Birmingham following surgery to repair his torn quadriceps. Nash recently said that he plans to return to the ring despite the fact that it was his 14th knee operation.

- A freak accident has sidelined Val “Big Valbowski” Venis (Sean Morely). Venis was injured while exercising on a rowing machine when a frame supporting more than 300 pounds of weights tipped over and landed on his head. Venis, who suffered a severely swollen neck and a mild concussion, was rushed to a hospital where he required 17 stitches.

Venis was still able to make the 16-hour plane ride to Australia for the Global Warning tour, where he worked as a special referee for a match between Stacy Keibler and Torrie Wilson. The flight reportedly caused the right side of his face to swell dramatically.

- Maven (Maven Huffman) will be sidelined for at least two more months as a result of his broken leg, ankle and newly discovered torn ligaments in the ankle. The torn ligaments went unnoticed by doctors until this week.

- NWA-TNA issued an official apology Friday for a terrible lapse of judgment during its weekly pay-per-view Wednesday night when Don Harris wore a T-shirt to the ring featuring a Nazi “SS” symbol.

“On the August 14 episode of NWA-TNA: Total Nonstop Action one of our performers wore a shirt to the ring that had an offensive symbol that prompted many of our fans to e-mail us,” the release stated. “We were not aware of the incident until we received the response from our fans, and we agree with those who say the shirt was offensive. We do not in any way condone such things and have taken steps to make sure something like that doesn’t happen again. We apologize to those who were rightfully offended.”

- Minnesota’s controversial governor, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, traded lighthearted barbs with golfer John Daley last week during a PGA Championship practice round. According to a report in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Daly used the cigar-chomping Ventura as a straight man as he turned a PGA afternoon clinic into a comedy routine.

“Set up the tee, Big Boy,” Daly told Ventura as thousands of golf fans listened over loudspeakers. “Do I need to call you ‘governor’ or can I call you anything I want?”

Ventura, feigning a scowl, said: “John, you’re big, but not that big.” Ventura informed the blond golfer that he was heading to San Diego that weekend for a Navy SEAL reunion. “When you’re governor, you get free trips everywhere,” Daly said.

Ventura said the trip wasn’t free and invited Daly to come along and parachute. Daly, who is listed at 220 pounds, declined, saying the parachutes wouldn’t hold him. Ventura suggested a “cargo chute” might work. “I’ve always liked him,” Daly said following the friendly exchange.

- Seattle native Jeff Patterson played the role of Mini-Dust last week on Raw. The 33-year-old Patterson, who now resides in Tucson, Ariz., works on the independent circuit as Pitbull Patterson and claims to be the strongest midget in the world. The 4-6, 132-pound Patterson claims to have once bench-pressed 300 pounds and competed on the U.S. Disabled Team at the 1992 World Championships in Aussen, Holland.

“I’m like the Hulk Hogan of midget wrestling,” he told the WWE Web site. “When I started out, I had long golden blond hair. They referred to me as mini-Lex Luger.”

Mike Mooneyham can be reached by phone at (843) 937-5517 or by e-mail at [email protected] He is the co-author of “Sex, Lies & Headlocks: The Real Story of Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation,” currently No. 26 on The New York Times Extended Bestseller List.