The other night I suddenly felt an urge to watch ‘No Holds Barred’, WWE’s first attempt to make it in the movie business. I, like most people reading this, was fully aware that it is not exactly considered a masterpiece; I just had to satisfy my curiosity and see it for myself.
I’ve known about the film pretty much since it was released, I’ve just never been able to, or gotten round to watching it. My knowledge of the film comes from having seen Summerslam 1989 literally dozens of times, and hearing other people rip the pish out of it. I mention Summerslam ’89 because, in an attempt to promote the film, Hulk Hogan was booked in a tag match opposing his nemesis from the film Zeus (Tom ‘Tiny’ Lister) in the main event.
In the film Hogan plays ‘Rip’ the World Wrestling Federation Champion. This is odd because Hogan basically plays himself, but under a different name and with different coloured tights. I say odd because other WWF personalities such as Mean Gene Okerlund and Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura actually play themselves. I guess the rule of thumb for this movie is that while a real world wrestling promotion is used, the wrestlers are fictional. For example, the opening of the film sees Rip take on Jake Bullet, who is played by Bill ‘Demolition Axe’ Eadie. The likes of Stan Hansen and Maurice ‘Mad Dog’ Vachon can also be spotted in the film.
The main story is that the owner of the World Television Network, Brell, wants Hogan, sorry, Rip to jump ship and join his network. In a rather odd scene Brell (Kurt Fuller, you’ll know him from Wayne’s World) goes absolutely mental when Rip declines his contract offer. It’s an unorthodox way of negotiating with a man you are trying to do business with, I’ll give him that. However this does get across the fact that Brell has a few anger issues, which flare up as the film goes on.
Realising that Rip won’t play ball, Brell launches his own wrestling/tough guy promotion: ‘The Battle of the Tough Guys’. Yep, this movie is that shit! A mysterious stranger, Zeus, shows up and easily becomes the champion. From here the movie is all about Brell and Zeus baiting Rip into a match. Rip’s new girlfriend is given a scare but the straw that breaks the camel’s back is when Rip’s younger brother Randy (I honestly thought he was his son) gets his head kicked in by Zeus. Our hero then vows revenge.
Before the big match we of course get a couple of Rocky inspired training montages, only much, much worse. Zeus is shown working out, while Rip helps his brother rehab his injuries. You have to see this to understand, but it is hilarious. Instead of a nurse or physiotherapist this young lad has Hulk Hogan teaching him how to walk again!
To the fight and for some reason Rip’s lady friend gets kidnapped, or rather just detained for the duration of the match. I don’t even think Rip notices her absence from the crowd, and she does nothing of consequence upon escaping anyway, very odd. The fight is essentially the wrestling version of a Rocky boxing match, over the top nonsense. It’s actually quite a long sequence, with Zeus naturally getting the best of it up until the end. The action spills outside of what appears to be a six sided ring and the whole TV studio gets trashed. Ultimately Rip knocks Zeus off a platform and sends him crashing through the ring, a la Mick Foley at No Way Out 2000. While the fight was spiralling out of control Brell started destroying production equipment, for some reason. After Zeus falls to his presumed death (he had blood trickling out of his mouth after landing) Brell and Rip face off, but the psychotic TV executive backs up into a rack of equipment an electrocutes himself, again probably dying because he had blood trickling from his mouth.
So that was No Hold Barred, utter shite. It has that feel of Rocky III and IV, only much worse. The acting is so bad that Hogan and Lister are probably the best things in it. Actually, Stan Hansen is entertaining in the bar scene. That’s a scary thought; the actors in this film were out-shone by the wrestlers, who themselves we terrible. I mean Hogan basically plays his wrestling self, and we even see a softer, comical side to him. Zeus is basically a machine, pretty hard to get that wrong. However everyone else is awful. I mean Rip’s girlfriend is really unlikeable and Brell’s two stooges are really over the top, yet show no signs or irony. They, along with everyone else, act as though they are in a parody, but they’re not, it’s not even supposed to be a comedy. With that said there are some one-liners, surely penned by Vince McMahon himself, involving poo and willies.
This film is as bad, or worse, than what you have heard. However, if you are a WWE fan then I urge you to give-in to temptation and watch it. Sitting through ‘No Holds Barred’ is like a rite of passage; it’s just something you have to do. However, if for some reason you are not a wrestling fan then I urge you to stay as far away from this film as possible, it makes us all look bad.