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Video: Hulk Hogan: Why I almost killed myself

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    >> is "today" on nbc.

    >>> back now at 8:35 with terry bollea , better known as legendary wrestler hulk hogan . he rose to the top with a unique blend of showmanship and athleticism in hulkomania, but recently, the frenzy is around hulk's personal life , all documented in his new book "my life outside the ring." hulk hogan , good morning to you.

    >> good morning.

    >> as i said earlier, you don't pull any punches in this book. you lay it all out there, your troubles in your marriage, with your kids, the extramarital affair you had, use of steroids. why did you want to expose yourself like this? why write this book?

    >> well, you know, it's been a tough couple years, and you know, the way things are and the things people are going through, you know, i just felt if i could survive and get through this and change my thinking and switch gears, i just wanted people to know that life is good, you know? you don't have to, you know, run around with your head down, you know? stay positive, stay happy. and for me to pull the nose up on this thing, you know, change my thinking and be happier than i've ever been, i just wanted people to know my story.

    >> especially the way the book starts. it begins in december of 2007 .

    >> yeah.

    >> you are alone in your house in florida. you're nursing a combination of xanax and rum.

    >> right, rum.

    >> and you're holding a gun, and you write "i remember thinking three pounds of pressure is all it takes to pull this thing."

    >> yeah.

    >> "it would be just so easy."

    >> yeah.

    >> how did you get to that place, hulk?

    >> just a bunch of things, you know? my son had this horrible accident, you know, with his best friend --

    >> and that was in august of 2007 .

    >> right. my wife and i had a marriage that had been unraveling for a long time. it was a bad situation, you know? and it was just a combination of everything. it was the house my kids grew up in. my wife built the home. and you know, when i came back, it was just, i had been on the set of " american gladiators ," and my kids didn't come to visit me and linda wouldn't come to the set, so i just got into this downward spiral and kept thinking real negatively. and when i went to the house, every room was empty. all my dogs and all of the animals were gone. there were pictures of my family all over the house, and every closet i went in, all the clothes were gone. and it just came over me. it just happened. i just sat there in this chair that i had to sit in because my back was so bad i couldn't even brush my teeth without sitting down. or if i didn't have the chair, i'd shave half my face and have to lay on the floor and get up and shave the other half. and i just started sitting there and i was overwhelmed with depression. and i just got to this point that i never understood before. and the more i looked in the mirror and the more i realized it was over and my life as i knew it was done, i just went down this path, and i started to hypnotize myself. and it can happen.

    >> yeah, but it was a phone call from your friend, laila ali , actually, that pulled you out of it. she called, certainly didn't know what you were about to do.

    >> mm-hmm. yeah, it was a tough one, because people had been checking on me. my very good friend steve chapman had called me and another friend had called me and my partner. they were all worried about me. i didn't know they were calling each other behind my back, almost trying to figure out what to do with me. and i kept kind of faking it on the phone. i couldn't fake my voice, but i kept saying, "i'm okay, i'm okay," and they knew something was wrong. to that point, i had sat there a couple days and it was almost like i was in a trance and i really didn't think about the gun or where i was at, but the more i looked in the mirror and i started playing with this thing, i got hypnotized, and all of a sudden, the phone rang, and it was laila and she's like, what's going on? you're on the set, you're on the press, are you okay?

    >> you were doing " american gladiators " together, right?

    >> yeah, and she called with no agenda. she called just to say hi and check on me.

    >> do you think if she hadn't, you would have pulled that trigger?

    >> um, i don't know. you know, in a way, it snapped me out of it, just to hear her voice. and at that moment, i switched gears. i got sick and tired of being sick and tired . and you know, she kind of -- her voice saved my life. it really did.

    >> you know, as you mentioned before, 2007 was a very hard year for you. as you said, your son nick and that accident that left his friend, john, with severe brain injuries. john's family is suing you and your family for more money than you say you've ever made.

    >> right, right.

    >> in your career. and you spend a lot of the book defending your son. he was accused at the time of having been under the influence of alcohol. you claim to this day he wasn't. you go after john's father, actually, and john's father's behavior, the passenger in the car.

    >> yeah.

    >> the wound obviously still very raw for you.

    >> well, you know, we're right in the middle of this civil suit right now, but john was a family member to us, you know. he was living with us. he was part of our family. he was there every morning yelling at me, "hogan, come downstairs, let's work out!" it was just so strange to be so close with someone, you know, and trying to help him, trying to get by his personal situation with his family. then all of a sudden, you know, this tragic accident happened. and it was an accident. and going to the hospital every single day being with john and being with his mother and praying with him and touching him, rubbing him and talking to him. then all of a sudden, not even talking to john's mom, i know there's going to be a lawsuit, but don't worry about it. john needs help and we're going to do everything we can do to help him. and the day they filed the lawsuit, i wasn't able to see john anymore. so the whole thing added to what was going on, and it was tough.

    >> so, you think you are financially responsible for john?

    >> no, i don't think that at all, but i'll do anything to help him, you know, anything in my power to help him. i love john and i know he'll be with us. he'll be back on what i call team hogan. and when he was released from the hospital about a month ago, it was one of the greatest days of my life to see john going home and getting better every single day. so you know, we know john's going to be back with us 100%.

    >> you know, you talk about your wife linda , ex-wife -- i guess the divorce settlement has come through.

    >> right, right.

    >> i know you can't talk about the particulars, but you're tough on her as well. you talk about the way she sort of brutalized you and the kids verbally and her use of alcohol. how would you describe the relationship that the two of you had?

    >> well, it was tough. it was constant chaos . you know, and i had no idea how beautiful life was and how nice people are, and you know, that the wind is beautiful and the sun's beautiful. i was not in that mindset, you know? i was madly in love with linda , you know, old-school, married to her for life no matter what happened, for better or for worse, doing everything i could to keep the family together. i used to brag that i was the only world's champion that never was divorced. and i just figured no matter how bad it got, we'd get through. it but it got to the point where everything was so negative. you know, we couldn't be friends with the neighbors, i couldn't have people over. it got to the point where i'd just get sick and tired of being sick and tired . and a few years before the divorce, i just started praying to be happy, you know? and it just got to the point where it couldn't go on anymore.

    >> but did you wonder, in writing the book, should i spell it out so specifically, my feelings about linda , particularly things like the alcoholism and the abusive language? because ultimately, this is the mother of my children as well --

    >> right. right. it just, it got to the point where you have to tell the truth. you know, you have to let people know, you know, what has happened in your life and how -- the reason i wrote the book was to let people know, if i got through the last two years, anybody can, you know? and what went down, you know, in my personal life , a lot of our friends knew. you know, a lot of our friends didn't want to come over. a lot of people that did come over, they would calculate their exit. they knew kind of like the right timing when to leave. so it was tough. it was really tough.

    >> we're running out of time . i know you'll be back at 10:00 to answer more questions. obviously, those of us who watched the reality show " hogan knows best ," we had no idea that your family was in the middle of unraveling at that point. i know you have moved on now. you have a girlfriend jennifer who's helped you dramatically. i'm sure you're going to talk about all that as well.

    >> yes.

    >> hulk, thank you for joining us.

    >> thank you.

    >> the book is called "my life outside the ring," and you can read an excerpt at our website.

By
TODAY contributor
updated 10/27/2009 10:36:06 AM ET 2009-10-27T14:36:06

Hulk Hogan, as big a star as professional wrestling had ever spawned, had reached the end. For days he sat in his empty mansion, mixing rum and Xanax, shattered by an impending divorce and a family tragedy, holding a gun to his head and thinking about how little force it would take to pull the trigger and end it all.

Hogan’s friends and fellow stars of a revival of “American Gladiators” knew he was depressed and called him to see if he was all right. He lied and said he was, even as he moved closer to a final exit. That’s when his “Gladiators” co-star, Laila Ali, came to the rescue.

“All of a sudden the phone rang, and it was Laila, and she said, ‘Hey, what’s going on? You’re on the set. You’re all depressed. We’re worried about you. You going to be OK?’ ”

Downward spiral
Hogan recounted the moment he began to climb out of his depression Tuesday for TODAY’s Meredith Vieira in New York. The moment also forms the first chapter of his just-published book, “My Life Outside the Ring.”

“She called with no agenda, just to say hi and check on me,” Hogan said. “It snapped me out of it. At that moment I switched gears. I got sick and tired of being sick and tired. Her voice saved my life, it really did.”

That life-altering moment occurred in August 2007. Hogan and his family had just been through a tragic auto accident involving his teenage son, Nick Bollea. The accident did not seriously injure Nick, but caused brain damage and other serious injuries to his passenger and best friend, John Graziano, who had not been wearing a seat belt.

Nick was charged with reckless driving involving serious bodily injury, use of a motor vehicle in commission of a felony, a person under the age of 21 operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of 0.02 or higher and illegal window tint. Two hours after the wreck, Nick's blood alcohol content was 0.055.

On top of that, Hogan’s wife of 23 years, Linda, had filed for divorce. The marriage, which had produced two children, had been disintegrating for years, Hogan said, but he kept trying to save it in what he called an “old-school” belief that marriage is for life.

“I used to brag I was the only world’s champion that was never divorced,” said Hogan, who also admits in his book to an extramarital affair.

Empty house
He writes about his wife’s drinking and increasingly controlling behavior. He said it got to the point where he couldn’t have people over to his sprawling Florida mansion anymore.

Hulk Hogan’s son, Nick Bollea, was the driver in a tragic 2007 accident that seriously injured his passenger.
At the moment he almost took his own life, Hogan had come back to that home after spending time away to do a South American version of “American Gladiators.” No one from his family had come to visit him during his time away, he said, and when he came home, the house was empty.

“My son had this horrible accident with his best friend. My wife and I had a marriage that had been unraveling for a long time. It was a bad situation,” Hogan told Vieira. “All of a sudden I got into this downward spiral and stated thinking real negatively.

TODAY
Hogan credits a timely phone call from his “American Gladiators” co-star, Laila Ali, with saving him when he was on the brink of suicide.
“When I went to the house, every room was empty,” he continued. “All my dogs and all the animals were gone. There were pictures of my family all over the house. Every closet I went in, all the clothes were gone. And it just came over me, it just happened. I just started sitting there and I was overwhelmed with depression.”

Hogan said that things had been deteriorating for years. “It got to the point where everything was so negative,” Hogan told Vieira. “A few years before the divorce, I started praying to be happy. It got to the point it couldn’t go on anymore.”

Although he is now being sued by Graziano’s family for what Hogan says is more money than he earned in his long career, the wrestling icon said he’s never been happier. He said he wrote his book to let his fans know that they can survive their troubles, too.

Image: Hogan family
Stephen Chernin  /  AP
The Hogan family — Hulk, Linda, Nick and Brooke — in happier times.
“It’s been a tough couple of years,” he said of the world in general. “The way things are and the things people are going through, I just felt if I could survive through this and change my thinking and switch gears — I just wanted people to know that life is good. You don’t have to run around with your head down. Stay positive. Stay happy.

“For me to change my thinking and be happier than I’ve ever been — I  just wanted people to know my story,” he added.

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