Hulk Hogan is one of the single biggest superstars in the history of professional wrestling. During the early 80s-early 90s 'Golden Era' of the WWE (then WWF), the red and yellow-adorned heavyweight was undoubtedly the face of the company, headlining its hallmark Wrestlemania event on no fewer than eight out of its first nine incarnations.
It made Hogan a household name like no other wrestler before him: he was all over late night talk shows, making cameos in major Hollywood movies (who doesn't love that Gremlins 2 skit?), turning up in beloved TV franchises (hello, The A-Team!) and even given his own cartoon series with Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling.
It all makes for particularly impressive reading when you note that, had fate swung in another direction, Hogan may not have ended up making his name in professional wresting at all. As it happens, during his early twenties spent hanging out in Tampa Bay, Florida, when Hogan wasn't watching wrestling or lifting weights, he'd spend time playing bass in a series of local bands, one of which, Ruckus, gained a sniff of popularity in the local rock scene.
Ruckus' story would ultimately end there, but it seems Hogan's own rock star ambitions were resurrected decades later. According to one bizarre claim the wrestling icon made in an interview with The Chicago Tribune in 2009, the 13-time world champion attempted to put himself forward for the vacant bassist position that opened up in Metallica following the exit of Jason Newsted in 2001. Yep, really.
“When Metallica was looking for a bass player, I called and never heard a word back from them," he said while promoting his 2009 memoire, My Life Outside the Ring. "I would have quit wrestling in a heartbeat to be a bass player for Metallica."
That particular claim went largely unnoticed by the media, but it was three years later when, in an interview with The Sun, Hogan offered a completely different take on the whole thing, suggesting he almost joined Metallica back in the 80s by request of the band's own drummer, Lars Ulrich.
"I used to be a session musician before I was a wrestler," the Hulkster noted. "I played bass guitar. I was big pals with Lars Ulrich and he asked me if I wanted to play bass with Metallica in their early days but it didn't work out."
This time, both the wrestling and music media took notice, so much so that when Ulrich himself appeared on The Howard Stern show a few weeks later, Stern asked him to give his side of the story.
"You know what?! I'm blessed or cursed, depending on how you look at it, with having more or less a photographic memory for pretty much anything that I've been a part of," Lars replied. "That one, when that showed up two or three months ago, I was scratching my head over that one. Unless he went by… like...his Christian name or something, and I don't know if anybody knows what his Christian name was — Dave Smith or something [Hogan's real name is Terry Bollea] — if there was a whole thing that we had with him under a different name, but I certainly have no recollection of doing anything with 'Hulk Hogan'."
The next time Hogan was asked about Metallica, it seemed he had changed his story back to its original incarnation, telling Vice in an interview in 2014:
"I heard that Metallica needed a bass player, and brother, I was writing letters, made a tape of myself playing and sent it to their management company. Kept making calls trying to get through. I tried for two weeks and never heard a word back from them."
Incredibly, in the very same interview, Hogan also claimed he once asked Mick Jagger's ex Jerry Hall if she could facilitate a rehearsal with The Rolling Stones ("I was like, 'Look, I used to play bass. I know all the Rolling Stones songs. Tell Mick if you guys need a bass player for the Rolling Stones, I swear to god I could show up'").
God knows what the real story behind the Stones thing is, but regardless, it seems that Metallica truly have no recollection of Hogan meeting them, speaking with them or sending them anything in regards to joining the band at any point. In 2017, frontman James Hetfield was shown a photoshopped image of Metallica with Hogan during a video interview with German outlet Bild. After chuckling at the photo, Hetfield looked positively bemused when the interviewer informed him that Hogan had apparently "tried to be in the band", simply replying with a blunt: "Really? Huh...definitely not."
Never a man to be perturbed, Hogan has since maintained that he at least made an effort to join Metallica, telling the Full Send Podcast earlier this year: "Metallica needs a bass player, right? I go, 'Holy smokes, Metallica! I could be in Metallica?!' I did an audition tape, put a tape together, sent it to the band, never heard a word from them."
Perhaps the tape got lost in the mail? Either way, the idea of Hulk Hogan playing bass in Metallica remains one of heavy metal's great, funny 'what-ifs' to muse upon - even if, in reality, it never really came very close to fruition. Like, at all.