It's the lord of the ring, the return of the `Hulkster'

He's 51, and he's back, hip replacement and all

April 29, 2005|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,SUN STAFF

Every time Hulk Hogan tries to get out, wrestling fans pull him back in.

As the iconic professional wrestler was inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame four weeks ago, the crowd at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles erupted into a chant of "One more match!" during an impassioned, 20-minute standing ovation.

Always the crowd pleaser, Hogan answered the fans' call and will return to the ring Sunday in Manchester, N.H., at WWE's "Backlash" pay-per-view show. Hogan, 51, will team with WWE fan favorite Shawn Michaels in a tag-team match against anti-American villains Muhammad Hassan and Daivari.

For Hogan, who has made several comebacks over the years, it will be his first match in a year and a half and his first in WWE since June 2003.

"I just couldn't believe how loyal and how receptive the fans were and how much love they showed me," Hogan says of the crowd reaction at the Hall of Fame ceremony, where he was inducted by Sylvester Stallone. "The carrot was dangled by the fans and I'm going to give it a try.

"The retro era is in, and the past is kind of like our future now. The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and Hulk Hogan are cool again."

Among wrestling fans, at least, "The Hulkster" definitely is hip. And, speaking of hip, this will be Hogan's first match since undergoing hip replacement surgery last year. His team's opponents are both in their 20s, and Daivari wasn't even born the first time Hogan won the WWE title in January 1984.

"These young guys are kind of intimidated by me because they grew up watching me," Hogan says, "so I'll take advantage of that and make them take it easy on me."

Hogan stops short of calling this his last match but says he isn't considering a full-time role in the ring. He has been devoting much of his time to helping his 16-year-old daughter Brooke, an aspiring pop singer, in her career. Hogan and his family also have been filming a reality series titled Hogan Knows Best, which debuts in July on VH-1.

Before he hangs up his red and yellow tights, however, Hogan says he would like to have a match with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, who was at the forefront of the wrestling boom in the 1990s as Hogan was in the '80s. Austin, 40, hasn't wrestled in more than two years due to chronic neck and spinal problems.

"It could be the Geritol match of all time," Hogan says.

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