Catching Up With the Hulk Hogan Sex-Tape Trial: All of Your Questions, Answered

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Hulk Hogan, Terry Bollea
Photo: John Pendygraft/Tampa Bay Times via Getty Images

Hulkamania is running wild, brother. The trial between pro wrestler Terry Bollea — better known as Hulk Hogan — and Gawker, the gossip website that posted excerpts from a tape showing Bollea and the wife of a friend having sex, is currently under way in Florida this week.

Bollea’s argument is that Gawker violated his privacy, publishing in a fit of greed excerpts of a tape recorded without his knowledge. Gawker’s is that the sex-tape excerpts constituted newsworthy reporting on a public figure: As Gawker has pointed out, Bollea publicly discussed his sex life — including the question of whether he’d had sex with the woman in the tape, Heather Clem, wife of radio shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem. 

But the case has larger ramifications. At stake are questions of free speech, newsworthiness, and privacy that resonate across a changing media landscape. To what extent can a public figure have an expectation of privacy? What constitutes the “public interest” in reporting? What is the ontological distinction between Hulk Hogan and Terry Bollea, if any? And has Hulk Hogan ever body-slammed an elephant? Read on to explore those questions — and more!

Let’s set the scene:

Who, precisely, is Hulk Hogan?

Gawker’s main defense, which its lawyers laid out last summer when the lawsuit was originally set to go to trial, is that the sex tape was of public interest because it directly contradicted statements that Bollea/Hogan had made in interviews in which he’d openly discussed his sex life.

Hogan’s team’s defense, on the other hand, appears to be, in part … existential? While Hulk Hogan and Terry Bollea are ostensibly the same person, the distinction between Bollea and his alter ego is a key component of his side’s argument. Hogan testified earlier Tuesday that in his interview appearances, he was in character as Hogan, not Bollea. “I was in character and I embellished a little bit about the number of women,” he testified, later adding, “I was on an entertainment show and I had to be an entertainer, so I just kept going.”

All of this leads to some conflicting indication of who, precisely, is on the stand. The plaintiff seems to be arguing that Terry Bollea is talking about the character he plays, Hulk Hogan — the idea being that while Hulk Hogan may be a public figure who brags about his sex life, Terry Bollea is just a regular Florida guy. Hulk Hogan says the bad things; Terry Bollea has sex with his friend’s wife. This is a fascinating, if a bit muddled, argument that may work here but would work less well in, say, a murder trial. Last summer, the judge in the case ruled that Bollea would be allowed to wear his dress bandana (a quintessential Hulk detail) in court. So a question yet unanswered is, exactly how separate is Hulk Hogan from the man who supposedly plays him?

Bollea speaking directly about Hogan as a theatrical creation is actually an uncommon event in the world of pro wrestling — an act known as breaking kayfabe.

How big is Hulk Hogan’s penis?

Among the aspects of Hulk Hogan that Bollea, um, augmented in public was his penis length. “I do not have a 10 inch penis….Terry Bollea’s penis is not 10 inches,” he admitted.

Has Hulk Hogan ever fought or tamed wild animals?

Hogan admitted to lying about fighting animals, having neither body-slammed an elephant nor surfed a tiger shark.

In what other ways has Hulk Hogan failed?

The previous day, Hogan spoke on a number of topics including his attempt to fix his relationship with now-ex-wife Linda Hogan. He stated unequivocally that their reality show, Hogan Knows Best, was fully scripted.

Perhaps most devastatingly, Hogan did not speak fondly of his brief time at TNA, a WWE competitor. It was, according to him, a “small company.”

Was there anything for the New York–media Twitter crowd to joke and gossip about?

The day ended with the taped depositions of Emma Carmichael (Gawker’s managing editor at the time) and John Cook (then a … senior writer, I think? A long portion of his deposition was closely focused on his specific titles and his overall career path). Parts of the deposition focused on Gawker’s content strategy and how aggressive their tactics were in terms of getting traffic, while other sections included transcripts from the site’s internal chat rooms, including questions such as “Was it common at Gawker to share pictures of penises with colleagues? Did that happen on a regular basis?” Cook’s answer was no.

(Disclosure: Following editor Max Read used to work at Gawker and was the subject of an excruciating moment during Cook’s deposition in which Cook was forced to explain a bad joke Read had made in Gawker internal chats.)