Hulk Hogan still struggling with self-confidence after sex tape leak
Wrestling legend Hulk Hogan feels "cowardly" whenever he meets fans in public after the humiliation of his sex tape leak.
The fighter-turned-film and TV star recently won his privacy battle against Gawker Media bosses after editors published a sex tape he appeared in without his permission. The intimate footage featured Hogan, real name Terry Bollea, making love to a friend's wife at their home in Florida back in 2007.
The athlete insisted he had no idea he was being recorded at the time and last week (ends18Mar16), a Florida jury awarded him $115 million (£81.2 million) in damages. He scored another $25 million (£17.7 million) in punitive damages on Monday (21Mar16).
Hogan has since insisted the legal fight was never about the money, but he hopes the huge financial penalty will discourage other media outlets from running similar stories in future.
Despite the court victory, Hogan claims his self-confidence has taken a big hit and he no longer stands tall when he greets fans, because he has no idea what they've seen or read about him online.
"It made me cowardly," the 62-year-old told NBC News of the affects of the sex tape leak. "I still am not standing tall the way I felt before. It's been like this crazy dark cloud...
"Every time I meet somebody, every time I see somebody, even walking into the building here (to do the interview)... I shake their hand, I have this crazy thought, 'What do they think of me? What does their father think of me? Do they think a million times less (of me) than before?' It's just something that never goes away."
However, Hogan admits he blames himself for the controversy, because he should never have slept with his friend's wife in the first place. He goes on to reveal he has never watched the sex tape at the centre of the lawsuit, or listened to an audio tape leaked during the same period, in which he uses a racial slur, because he is too ashamed of his actions.
"I've never seen any of the tapes...," he explained. "I had to look at one for a minute and identify that's me, and I turned my head. I do not wanna watch it. It's the most embarrassing moment of my life."
Hogan is adamant he is no racist, but he is determined to work to win back fans' trust and confidence after a sleepless few weeks.
"Underneath all this emotion and being so tired, I haven't slept for about a month, I feel very victorious," he stated. "I feel that all those people that know me, all the WWE fans, personal friends, everybody that knows me, knows who I am, but those who don't, I'm gonna fight to win them back one day at a time and there's nothing else I can do except be honest."
Hogan, real name Terry Bollea, was fired by bosses at World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) last July (15), when he also had his name scrubbed from their Hall of Fame records, after the audio tape, in which he was heard commenting on his daughter Brooke's love life, surfaced. He subsequently issued an apology for his choice of words.
- Cover Media