published Friday, February 21st, 2014

Hulkamania running wild again in WWE return





Hulk Hogan fires up the crowd between matches during WrestleMania 21 in Los Angeles in this 2005 file photo.
Hulk Hogan fires up the crowd between matches during WrestleMania 21 in Los Angeles in this 2005 file photo.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Hulkamania is running wild again in the WWE.

Hulk Hogan, perhaps the biggest star in the company's 50-year history, is set to bring the red-and-yellow back to the sports entertainment behemoth and will host the April 6 WrestleMania in New Orleans.

Hogan returns to the WWE after a six-year absence and will be on Monday's "Raw" on the USA Network. Hogan will also bring the muscle for the WWE's launch of its own network: He will appear on "WWE Raw Backstage Pass," airing live on WWE Network at 11:05 p.m. on Monday night.

"I definitely want to stay here in the WWE," Hogan told The Associated Press on Friday. "I just can't see myself ever being anywhere else. This is home. It always has been home. In the twilight of my career, what a great way to be part of the final hurrah for Hulk Hogan and all the Hulkamaniacs."

The 60-year-old Hogan's return is perfectly timed for both the 30th WrestleMania and the new network, which debuts Monday as a streaming service for $9.99 per month with a six-month commitment and will include all 12 pay-per-view events.

Hogan last appeared on WWE's flagship show "Raw" in December 2007.

Hogan was the main draw for the first WrestleMania in 1985 and was a fixture for years in WWE's signature event, facing everyone from Andre The Giant and Randy Savage to The Rock and, yes, company chairman Vince McMahon. He's in shape and could be ready to mix it up, if needed, at the Superdome.

But no WrestleMania match is scheduled.

"Right now, it's not in the plans," Hogan said. "But like they say in the WWE, never say never."

Hogan, starting his fourth stint with the WWE, said he would participate in WWE Network programming and make community and media relations appearances for the company.

Hulkamania was born in 1984 when he defeated The Iron Sheik to become WWE champion at Madison Square Garden. He won six WWE championships and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005 by Sylvester Stallone.

"It's time for him to come home," said Paul "Triple H" Levesque, a wrestler and top WWE executive. Hogan and Triple H met at a charity event late last year, which started to lay the groundwork for The Hulkster's return.

Hogan is the latest estranged star to return to the company in the last two years, joining Bruno Sammartino and The Ultimate Warrior.

In his absence, WWE certainly hasn't forgotten about Hogan, putting him on the cover of its recent DVD release "The Best of WWE at Madison Square Garden." He's also a playable character in six classic WrestleMania matches in 2K Sports' "WWE2K14" video game that came out late last year.

"I don't think there's ever been a doubt that Hulk Hogan was, in some way, a WWE commodity," Levesque said.

Hogan has also wrestled for other promotions including the now-defunct World Championship Wrestling and spent the last four years with TNA Wrestling. Like his bad guy Hollywood Hogan personna would have said, he hoped this relationship with WWE was "4 Life."

"It looks like this was always the direction I was going to go in," Hogan said. "It's like I drifted apart from home base for a while. But this time, everything seems to be a perfect fit."

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