Hulk Hogan is a reminder that true star power never wanes. Even 36 years after his WWE debut, The Hulkster is still creating buzz.
When he says he intends on competing at WrestleMania 32, or tips his hat to a talent from NXT, fans listen. When he serves as a spokesman, he pulls in added eyes. And when WWE needed to nab big names for the Tough Enough cast, it turned to him.
Hogan is in that rare category of athlete where it doesn't matter if you're a fan, you still know who he is. WWE fanatics and those dubious about all the sweat and spandex of the wrestling world all know Hogan.
That's partly why the Susan G. Komen foundation asked the WWE Hall of Famer to be the Grand Marshal at the Race for the Cure in Washington, D.C., on May 9. He's a draw.
Judy Salerno, Komen President and CEO is confident of that. She said via a press release, "We are sure Hulk Hogan will inspire the legions of 'Hulkamaniacs' to be fearless in the fight against breast cancer."
This continues what might seem like a strange marriage of wresting's circus-like atmosphere and the world's largest breast cancer organization. WWE and Susan G. Komen have been working together since 2012, and the partnership has raised over $1.5 million.
As Hogan says, "the whole WWE universe has done amazing things" in the name of eradicating breast cancer.
WWE raises money through selling pink wrestling gear. It has stars like Hogan and John Cena calling attention to the cause.
It's a cause that Hogan clearly feels passionate about. "Brother, it means the world to me and everybody at the WWE," Hogan said of working with the Komen group.
When I had the chance to speak with the former champion, he brought up how prevalent breast cancer was in D.C. and talked about the staggering statistics related to the disease. On the subject of battling it, he sounded like he was ready to go toe-to-toe with it in a steel cage.
"This is something that needs to be addressed, attacked and basically put to bed," he said.
He later added, "We here to raise awareness, raise money and fund more research. This can be cured if we put time and resources into it."
In addition to serving as Grand Marshal, he and former WWE Divas champion Layla will lead Team WWE at the event in D.C. Afterwards, his plate is full.
As WWE announced, Hogan will join Daniel Bryan, Paige and Chris Jericho on the resurrected Tough Enough reality series. Beyond that, Hogan has his eyes on a return to the ring. He's aiming to make a comeback at WrestleMania 32.
Bleacher Report: Word just came out that you will be a part of the new season of Tough Enough. What can we expect from you in your role on that show?
Hulk Hogan: Pretty much honesty. The Hulk Hogan character is one thing. But behind the scenes, I'm very passionate about the art form and keeping the dream alive.
And how much this business has meant to me, from the first day I was trying to get in, when they broke my leg trying to get rid of me to being in it 35 years later and have the fans stick with me. This has been my life.
Me being honest about someone's possibilities of making it are going to come to the forefront when you see this show with me.
B/R: You had some great things to say about Kevin Owens after his NXT Championship win. Do you see him or anyone else on the NXT roster as the next transcendent star?
Hogan: There's a lot of potential there at NXT.
It's a situation where they have made this thing so real for the people that get involved. You go to some of these WWE shows and people are chanting "NXT!" It's really taken off. To have the opportunity to train, to have such guidance in the ring with the right type of coaches, you give these guys every opportunity there is to prove they have the "it" factor.
Those few that make it, there will be even fewer who have the "it" factor. Then you get the opportunity to see if you have the next Stone Cold, The Rock or Andre the Giant.
Kevin Owens stuck out to me simply because there were no holes in his boat. When he started performing, I was expecting something different than what I saw. The guy made a believer out of me.
It's real hard to take me and put me on that side of the fence with all I've seen, all I've done and all I've been around. Kevin has something really special going. I just wanted to acknowledge that he has the potential to be that next "it" guy if he keeps pushing.
B/R: You're not alone in thinking that, but yours is a big stamp of approval.
I read this week that you were set on having a match at WrestleMania 32. That would be a huge deal for a huge show, but the question is how are you doing physically right now? Do you think you can handle being in a one-on-one match at this point?
Hogan: I don't. I think anything I would be involved in would have to be something that is highly calculated and highly entertaining. For nostalgia reasons, maybe it's my ego or maybe all of the above, it might make sense, but it would have to be something that would be thought through really well.
I don't think you can just throw me out there and get The Rock-Hogan performance out of me. There's a little gas left in the tank. I would sure love to be a part of it.
B/R: Anyone specifically you want to work with?
Hogan: God, there's so many guys. I hate to point to specifics. I would welcome the chance to get in there with any of the young guys.
B/R: What's your take on the differences between working for Vince and the late Verne Gagne?
Hogan: Verne was more old-school like Vince McMahon Sr. There are a lot of similarities between (McMahon) Sr. and Verne as far as keeping the business close to the hip and making sure the rabbit doesn't jump out of the hat.
They had the old mentality, the integrity of the brotherhood.
B/R: I also wanted to ask you about your match with Shawn Michaels at SummerSlam in 2005. The outside perspective is that Michaels wasn't taking it seriously, that he was overselling and goofing off.
Can you talk a little about your relationship with him at the time and how you thought that match came out?
Hogan: My relationship with him at that time...we were definitely not friends. Since then, we've had some really great conversations, and Shawn and I are on the same page, I think. With growing older and growing mature, I think wisdom with old age comes into play.
I think sometimes you're embarrassed for some of the things that happened back in the day. I know I sure am about certain situations.
The match could have been a whole different animal if Shawn Michaels had the mindset that he has now.
B/R: In that way, it was a missed opportunity. It could have been more of a dream match, something special.
Hogan: Those times are behind us. It's just would of, could of, should of. We did what we did at the time, and that's what's left.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.