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Hulk Hogan: Why I almost killed myself

In his new book, “My Life Outside the Ring,” the wrestling star writes about the events — his son’s car accident, his wife’s filing for divorce and more — that led him to put a gun to his head and almost pull the trigger.
/ Source: TODAY books

Hulk Hogan burst onto the professional wrestling scene in the late ’70s and has gone on to become one of the best known names in entertainment and a world wrestling champion many times over. From the outside, his story was one of a charmed life — he was at the top of his career, had a wonderful and loving family with a wife and two children. Of course he had his ups and downs — including hints of steroid abuse and a falling-out with WWE and Vince McMahon — but it’s been the last two years that have tested Hogan more than any others in his lifetime. In this excerpt from his book, “My Life Outside the Ring,” the wrestling star writes about the events — his son's car accident, his wife’s filing for divorce and more — that led him to put a gun to his head and almost pull the trigger.

Three pounds. I remember thinking, Three pounds of pressure is all it takes to pull this thing. Do you know how easy that would’ve been? I’d been staring at myself in the bathroom mirror for two days straight. Two days. A gun was in my hand and my finger was on the trigger and I was thinking, It would just be so easy. I felt like a snake charmer. I was headed down this dark road convincing myself it was a road I wanted to take. The weird thing was, I didn’t even remember bringing that gun into the bathroom. When did I pick this up? Was it in the safe? Did I have it in the car with me the other night? I bought that gun years ago to protect my family. A last resort. Was I really gonna use it for this?

I popped half a Xanax and took another swig from the big bottle of Captain Morgan’s I’d set on the counter.

The house was empty. Too quiet. I don’t do well alone. My kids were gone. My wife was gone. She had left before, but this was different. She didn’t want to fix things. She’d filed for divorce — actually went to a lawyer and filed papers after twenty-three years. My mind kept running through it all, over and over. My daughter thinks I’m the reason Linda left. There’s so much I want her to understand, but she won’t talk to me. She won’t hear my side of the story.

My thoughts drifted to my son, Nick. Nearly four months had passed since he got into that terrible car accident. And every day since, the details of that August night played over and over in my mind.

It’s not often that a man can pinpoint the moment when life as he knew it began to unravel. For me, it was just after seven thirty on the night of August 26, 2007.

After a long day out on the boat, I’d grabbed a quick shower and hopped in my black Mercedes to head to dinner. Nick and his three buddies had gone just ahead of me to grab a table at Arigato, this Japanese steak house a few miles away. I assumed they’d all gone together in my yellow pickup.

I was wrong.

The fast-moving thunderheads that passed through that afternoon left the roads soaking wet. I remember my tires splashing through puddles as I left the big house on Willadel Drive. Just as I left, Nick’s friend Danny drove up in my silver Viper with his pal Barry in the passenger seat. Their windows were down, and they looked a little panicky as they pulled up beside me.

“Nick got in an accident!” they said.

Great, I thought. This is all I need, thinking that it was just a fender bender.

“Where?” I asked.

They told me on Court Street near Missouri Boulevard — not much more than a mile from where we were.

For some reason it didn’t occur to me that it might be a life-threatening situation. With all the stoplights on that road, I thought they meant that Nick had rear-ended someone, or maybe someone rear-ended Nick. I was a little confused as to why Danny was driving my Viper, but I still thought Nick was in my yellow truck.

So off we went. I turned east and headed down Court Street with the sun getting ready to set behind me. All the lights were green, so I was cruising along when all of a sudden I saw flashing red-and-blues up ahead.

What the hell?

I couldn’t have left the house more than three or four minutes after Nick. But as I looked toward the intersection of Court and Missouri there were police cars in the middle of the road blocking traffic in both directions.

That’s when I saw it: a yellow vehicle smashed up into a palm tree in the center divider.

Oh my God. Nick!

I panicked. I needed to get closer. Traffic was stopped, so I turned into the oncoming lanes and raced down Court Street the wrong way.

As I hit Missouri I just stared at this mangled yellow wreck on the tree, thinking, Holy sh--. It didn’t look like my truck at all. I was confused for a moment. I had this weird little flash of relief. Danny and Barry got it wrong. That’s not my truck. Phew! Nick’s okay.

Then all of a sudden it hit me. Oh my God. That’s my yellow Supra!

My stomach clenched up in a knot. I pulled the Mercedes up on the curb, got out, and started running toward the car. “Nick? Nick!?” A cop tried to hold me back, but there was no way. “That’s my son!” I yelled as I pushed past him.

The yellow Supra was the car Nick loved most. I had no doubt he was behind the wheel. But I couldn’t see him.

I could see his best friend, John Graziano, slumped over in the passenger seat. Nick was nowhere to be found. I thought he’d been thrown from the car, so I’m looking up in the tree, on the ground, across the street. By this time another police car is pulling up, and I hear sirens from the fire trucks coming up the road.

The car had spun around somehow and hit the tree backward. As I reached the front of it a policeman pulled John back. I saw his head. His skull was cracked open at the top of his forehead. It was awful. I almost fainted. It buckled me. John was like a member of my family. And the bleeding was bad — like it wasn’t gonna stop.

I was right there leaning on the side of the car with my hands when I finally saw Nick — my only son — folded up like an accordion with his head down by the gas pedal. “Nick!” I yelled. I could see he was alive. He turned his head, stuck his hand out, and gave me a thumbs-up. For a second I was relieved. Then the chaos set in. The sound of engines. Sirens. A saw. Paramedics pulling John from the passenger seat. So much blood.

I can’t even describe to you how panicked I was. The police and firefighters seemed panicked, too. The Supra’s removable targa top was off, and you could see that the cockpit of the vehicle was pretty intact, but the rest of the car was just mangled. The fiberglass shell on this thing had crumpled like a toy.

All of a sudden the firefighters started cutting the side of the car to try to get Nick out, and I was standing right there when I heard my boy screaming, “No, no, no, stop! Stop! You’re gonna cut my legs off. Dad! Just unbuckle the seat belt. I can get out!” So I reached in and pushed the button on his seat belt, and Nick just crawled right out. His wrist was broken. His ribs were cracked. None of that mattered. He was gonna be okay.

But not John. John wasn’t moving.

I pressed the gun to my cheek. I tried not to look in the mirror.

In between flashbacks I kept obsessing about Linda. How could she leave in the middle of all this? How could she?

I even turned the pity party on myself. I’m a mess. I’m in so much pain. My hip. My knees. I don’t even know if I can wrestle anymore. What the hell am I gonna do? My back hurts so bad I have to sit just to brush my teeth. In this damned chair. Right here.

I can’t get out of this thing.

My God. Look at me....

As the paramedics tended to Nick, I called Linda. She was out in L.A., where she had been living for months. No one knew we were separated then. No one knew how bad things were between us. But she was my wife, and she was still my first call.

“Linda, you’re not gonna believe this, but Nick wrecked the Supra,” I said, expecting her to ask if he was okay. Instead, she lost it.

“What the ----!? What the hell was he doing?”

I tried to get her to listen, but she just kept screaming. When the cops came up to try to ask me questions and she wouldn’t let me get a word in, I had no choice but to hang up on her.

I called Brooke instead, who was off in Seattle working on her music. Nick’s her baby brother. They’ve always been close, and she broke down crying just listening to the sound of my voice. She was happy to hear that he was okay, of course, but when I told her that John was in real bad shape, she started bawling. She hated being so far away. I told her to get on a plane, and she said she would be there as soon as she could.

I was pacing like crazy at this point, just freaking out about the whole situation. For all I knew Linda still didn’t understand how serious this accident was, so I called her back, and she started screaming at me again for hanging up on her the first time.

By now a couple of medevac helicopters were landing on the scene. I couldn’t hear a thing. So I hung up again and turned my attention to Nick. He really seemed fine, and he kept telling the EMS people that he was okay, but they wouldn’t budge: They insisted he get into one of the helicopters — and told me I couldn’t ride with him.

I lost it. I was woozy. The whole thing played out in this weird way, like slow motion and all sped up at the same time. I looked over and saw John laid out flat, strapped to a gurney as they lifted him into a chopper. I turned and saw firefighters pulling that mangled, cut-up car away from the tree. The press was there. There were video cameras and flashbulbs going off. It was all just crazy.

As the helicopters took off I called Linda back, and she finally calmed down enough to ask if Nick was okay. I told her, “He’s walking around. He’s talking to me. They’re flying him to Bayfront Medical Center to check him out, but I think he’s fine.”

Then I told her about John. She couldn’t take it. I could hear her break down right over the phone.

“Linda,” I said, “just get on a plane and get back here. Nick needs you.”

At this point I was running back to my car, but a cop stopped me before I could get in. I guess he saw me all wobbly and pacing and didn’t think it was safe for me to drive. He offered to take me to the hospital instead. I was glad. I’m not sure I would’ve made it in that condition.

I climbed into the back of that police car, and he just took off. We were flying down all these back roads with the lights going and the siren blaring, running red lights, blasting through stop signs. The world was a blur. And as I sat in the backseat of that cop car, alone, the whole thing started to hit me.

What if Nick has internal injuries? What if he’s in shock? Is he hurt more than he’s letting on? How had this happened? And what about John? I’ve never seen someone’s head busted open like that.

I felt sick to my stomach. John had to pull through. I prayed to God that he’d be okay. And I prayed to God for my son.

Here I was, nearly four months later, consumed with thoughts of John Graziano, who was still barely clinging to life in a hospital bed.

What if he never recovers?

I took another swig from that bottle of rum. I got angry at the cops and the media and everyone who blamed my son for hurting John. It was an accident. A horrible accident. Nick didn’t set out to hurt anybody. He feels so guilty. I wish I could help him.

Slowly that anger gave way to pain and this feeling of helplessness.

Why can’t I make this all stop?

I could feel the life draining out of me. I could feel myself bleeding. That’s what it felt like: bleeding. Not from a cut on my body, but a wound somewhere deeper. It had me curling my index finger on the trigger of a loaded handgun and putting it in my mouth.

For all my strength, my will, my ability to excel and be the best, I couldn’t control that feeling. That depression. Whatever you want to call it. I couldn’t control it any more than I could control the craziness that seemed to be crushing my family.

I hit bottom, bro. And I stayed there for two straight days. I even slept with my head on that counter. If I got up to go to the bathroom once or twice, I sat right down again and stared at myself like some fool looking for answers that weren’t coming.

And that voice in my head would not stop.

Maybe I should just do it. Only cowards commit suicide. My family would be better off without me. What about the kids? I’m gonna do this. Just pull the trigger. Why not end it? Just do it, Hogan. Do it.

That could have been the end of me right there — that night in early December 2007, in the bathroom at the big house in Clearwater that everybody’d seen on Hogan Knows Best.

I could picture the crime scene. The news stories. The whole thing.

Obviously I didn’t kill myself — but I came damn close. And if it weren’t for a completely unexpected phone call that snapped me out of that stupor, I might have followed that dark road all the way to its end, and I might not be here writing this book today.

In the days after I sat there with that gun in my hand, I realized something: I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. If I was gonna keep living and breathing, I had to change things. I didn’t know how I would do it. Maybe I’d have to change everything. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I wish I didn’t have to sink that low to get to that point, but that’s what it took.

Slowly but surely in the weeks and months that followed, I opened my eyes to a whole new world. And it worked. I’m choosing to live life differently in the second half of the game.

That doesn’t mean everything’s perfect. Far from it. As I’m sitting down to write this, my soon-to-be ex-wife is dragging the divorce into a second year. Hell, she’s spending time with a nineteen-year-old boyfriend — in the house that I pay for. Not to mention I’m facing a civil suit from the Graziano family that seeks more money than I’ve made in my whole career. So no, not everything is perfect. The difference now is how I handle this stuff; how I look past those things to see the bigger picture; how I’m actually grateful that these things are happening because I know that something greater is right around the corner. If that doesn’t make a lot of sense to you right now, I’m hoping it will by the end of this book.

The main thing I want you to take away from this is simple: If I can get through everything I’ve been through in the last couple of years and be happier and stronger than ever, then you can get through whatever terrible things might happen in your life, too.

Despite what some people might think, I’m not writing this book to make excuses for anything I’ve done or to try to change anyone’s opinion of me or my family. All I want to do is tell the truth and clear the air so you’ll be able to understand where I’m coming from, and where I’m headed. ’Cause believe me, once you breathe clean air, you never want to go back to breathing anything else. That’s how I’m living now, and that’s why I want to use the lessons I’ve learned to help other people. I hope that doesn’t scare you off. In fact, I hope that you’ll be one of the people I help — even if it’s just in some small, unexpected way.

If not? Well, that’s okay, too. I’m ready to open up about everything in my life. And there’s plenty to tell! So I promise to be as open and honest in these pages as I possibly can —occasionally about some heavy stuff that I’m sure you never expected to hear from the Hulkster. I don’t know, maybe you’ll laugh at me. Or maybe you’ll see a little bit of yourself in me. Either way, if you want to read this book for the sheer entertainment value of it, that’s fine by me, too. Let’s face it, brother: My life’s been one hell of a trip, and I’m more than happy to take you along for the ride.

Excerpted from “My Life Outside the Ring,” by Hulk Hogan. Copyright (c) by Eric Bischoff Group, LLC. Reprinted with permission from St. Martin's Press.