Classic Wrestling Review BONUS: No Holds Barred

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Welcome to a special bonus edition of Classic Wrestling Review. Today, I’m going to be reviewing a cinematic masterpiece! Wait, did I say masterpiece? I meant a piece of crap. I’m reviewing Hulk Hogan’s first starring (I use that term loosely) role. No Holds Barred. I was going to include the cage match, but this review will be long enough, as it is. I decided only to review the movie. So, let’s get this over with.

(All screen captures are the property of World Wrestling Entertainment, WWE Studios, New Line Cinema, and Shane Productions)

This movie was released in June of 1989. It was directed by Thomas J. Wright and written by Dennis Hackin. However, the story goes that Hogan wasn’t pleased with the original script. Hogan and Vince McMahon did their own rewrites in a hotel room over one weekend. I can only imagine what substances were consumed to produce this movie. The rewrites are obvious because Hogan and Vince’s fingerprints are all over this movie. It is clear that they used it to take shots at certain people they didn’t like. I will point them out as I progress through the review.

The movie opens with the sounds of Mean Gene Okerlund and Jesse Ventura doing commentary. Wait a second. Ventura went on a tirade at WrestleMania V about Hogan moving in on his territory, but he appeared in the movie? The WWF is sending mixed signals with their storylines. I digress. Let’s go back to the movie. The opening scene introduces us to WWF Champion, Rip (Hogan). He defends his title against Jake Bullet (Bill “Demolition Ax” Eadie). The match is short and filled with some silly sound effects. Rip wins with a running axehandle, which was Hogan’s finisher in Japan. He called it “The Ax Bomber”. The scene also introduces the audience to Rip’s brother, Randy (Mark Pellegrino), and his trainer, Charlie (Bill Henderson). Some of you might recognize Mark Pellegrino as Rita’s ex-husband from Dexter. Mean Gene explains that Rip has been more than a brother to Randy since their parents died. Thanks for the exposition dump, Gene!

During the match, the movie also introduces the character of Brell (Kurt Fuller). He’s the head executive of WTN, the World Television Network. He is meant to be a parody of Ted Turner. This is what I was talking about when I said that Hogan and Vince took shots at people they didn’t like. Brell watches the match and then complains that his network keeps losing in the ratings because of Rip. He is so annoyed by Rip that he calls him a “jock-ass”. Who says that!? I’m guessing that was one of Vince’s lines because it sounds like something awkward that he would say. Brell calls a board meeting the next day and fires a lady by telling her to take a leak. The dialogue in this movie is incredible. No one can give him any good ideas for programming, so Brell demands that they sign Rip to their network. Someone points out that he’s under contract to their rivals, but Brell says Rip has a price. Is he Ted DiBiase now?

Brell invites Rip to WTN HQ and tries to impress him with his expensive furniture. That doesn’t work, so he then offers him a blank check. Rip declines again and Brell becomes angry with him. He yells and calls him a jock-ass. For a moment, Rip seems to reconsider. He picks up the check and the two men start laughing, but Rip grabs Brell and shoves the check in his mouth. He tells him that he won’t be around when the check clears. Rip then storms out of the room, but not before giving the Shaka Brah hand sign, for no apparent reason. It’s a quirk for his character that pops up often in the movie.

The meeting was a bust, but WTN still gives Rip a ride home in one of their limos. However, it turns out to be a set-up. Rip realizes the driver is going the wrong way and says something, but the driver ignores him and raises the safety barrier. Rip tries to kick his way out of the limo, which somehow causes the driver to swerve. He swerves and crashes his way into an abandoned warehouse, where some goons are waiting. Rip explodes through the roof of the limo like he has a rocket up his butt and fights off all the goons. He throws them through the windows of the limo and then goes after the driver. When he pulls him out of the car, the camera shows that the driver pooped himself. Rip snarls, “What’s that smell!?” The driver cries, “Dookie!” The driver is made up to resemble Richard Belzer, who was suing Hogan at the time. Hogan had accidentally injured him while demonstrating a wrestling hold. This is another example of what I was talking about earlier. Hogan probably laughed himself silly over this scene.

Later, Rip meets with his employers and is introduced to his new account executive, Sam (Joan Severance). Rip shamelessly ogles her during a meeting and she calls him out for not paying attention. He seems bored with all the merchandise talk and asks if they can talk about it later. She agrees but suggests that they talk about over dinner. She takes him to a fancy restaurant that seems to be built in an old church. It becomes clear that she thought he would be out of his element. The waiter speaks down to Rip, but it turns out that Rip is a regular there. The chef berates the waiter for his rudeness and asks Rip if he wants his usual. Rip gives Sam a smug look as he orders his meal in broken French. I kind of get what they were going for in this scene, but it feels like it lacked the substance to get the point across.

Meanwhile, Brell and two of his lackeys, Unger and Ordway, go to a dive bar. It’s filled with roughnecks and there are live fights taking place. Brell and company are in suits, which leads to some not-so-hilarious banter with the waitress. Unger and Ordway try to order fancy drinks, but they have to settle on beers. Brell is fascinated by the fighting, but Unger and Ordway are too distracted by a young Peter Dinklage throwing stuff at their table. That’s not confirmed, but it looks remarkably like him. Until I hear a denial from Peter, I’ll continue pretending it’s him. Brell declares that the bar fighting is exactly what he wants for the network. He even offers a roughneck money to fight. The man who accepts the money is none other than Stan Hansen. He gets into the ring and fights another wrestler cameo, Jos LeDuc. After the fight, Unger and Ordway excuse themselves to the bathroom, which is utterly disgusting. They start talking about how Brell is out of his mind and they also make fun of the bar patrons. However, Stan Hansen is in the stall behind them and hears their insults. He threatens to shove their heads into the urinal trough, but he chooses to make fun of the size of their wieners instead. He decides they’re not worth it and leaves. The two of them breathe a sigh of relief and claim that Brell will never get people like that on TV.

They immediately cut to Brell hosting a press conference where he announces a new show. It will be called Battle of the Tough Guys. It’s a tough man competition that is open to anyone and the winner will receive $100,000, tax-free. They set up cameras at the same dive bar and they show a montage of fights. Brell loves it, but he calls them all scum. Everyone seems to be having fun, but the fun is stopped when the door is kicked open. Everyone goes silent as a large cross-eyed man (Tom “Tiny” Lister) enters the room and throws a waitress. He stares at Brell, who tells him he can fight. The man proceeds to steamroll over all the other fighters. Meanwhile, Rip is watching the fights on TV with some friends. Charlie recognizes the large man and reveals that he used to be his trainer. He calls him uncontrollable and says that the man killed a kid in the ring. Rip looks concerned. Back at the bar, Brell declares the large man the winner and gives him his money, but he doesn’t know his name. The man takes the mic and whispers, “Zeus.”

WTN wins in the ratings for the night, but they also receive complaints from angry parents. Brell doesn’t care and decides to continue the show. Zeus becomes his featured fighter. They have him fight his future WCW tag partner, Jeep Swenson, in a factory. Zeus is victorious and Brell gets an idea. He tells Unger and Ordway that he’s going to lead Zeus. They ask where and he tells them to watch and learn.

Sam arrives at Rip’s house and meets Randy before Sam and Rip take off on a promotional tour. Rip decides to return the favor from earlier and takes Sam out to eat at an old diner. Rip has eaten there before and the waitress, Sadie, knows him. He flirts with her, but Sadie seems to think Rip is dating Sam. Rip doesn’t bother to correct her. While they are eating, some robbers come in and hold up the diner. Rip gets up and fights them by throwing food and anything he can grab. He trashes the place, but Sadie is thankful for his help. The entire diner applauds him and Sam seems impressed.

Sam and Rip check into their motel, but they discover that the reservation is only for one room, with only one bed. Rip decides to hang a curtain to divide the room, while Sam prepares for bed in the bathroom. Rip is stuck getting ready in the bedroom and has to swallow his mouthwash because he doesn’t have access to a sink. Why didn’t he just open the door and spit it outside? Sam and Rip start behaving like teenagers in a rom-com. They press their ears to the door to see what the other is doing and grumble to themselves about the situation. They end up going to bed, but Sam wakes in the middle of the night to the bed shaking and the sound of heavy breathing. She reluctantly peeks behind the curtain and finds Rip doing push-ups with his feet on the edge of the bed. We get way too close of a shot of Rip in tiny Speedos. He jokingly tells her not to wait up for him, so she goes back to sleep in a huff. Rip finishes his workout and hops back into bed, but it breaks and Sam falls on top of him. She becomes angry and tries to slap him, so he tells her to chill because the bed broke. He accuses her of putting up walls around herself and then gets dressed before heading to sleep on the couch in the lobby.

The movie then cuts to Brell in his office and, SURPRISE, they reveal that Sam is working for him! Brell yells at her for not doing what she was told. She replies that Rip is a nice guy, but Brell says he eats nice guys for breakfast. Sam says, “Not with my help,” so Brell slaps her across the face. She runs out of the office and heads to Rip’s house to confess. He forgives her and makes her laugh by joking about the bill for the broken bed. They playfully argue and then share one of the most lifeless kisses in movie history. However, Rip becomes distracted by Zeus on the TV. Zeus is being interviewed and he challenges Rip to a fight.

Later, Rip is at a charity picnic. He’s playing with kids when a helicopter arrives. Zeus and Brell step out and approach Rip. Brell says that Zeus is waiting for an answer to his challenge, but Rip remains silent. The two men stare each other down until Brell declares that Rip’s silence means he has rejected the challenge. Brell declares Zeus the winner and leaves. That night, Charlie and Rip have a conversation. Charlie tells him he did the right thing and he’s proud of him, but Rip thinks that Charlie doesn’t believe he can win.

Sam returns home, but she is jumped in the parking garage by one of Brell’s goons. Thankfully, Rip arrives on his motorcycle and chases the man. He scoops him up on the front of the bike and sends him flying into a tree before returning to check on Sam. He consoles her and tells her that he hates it when she’s hurt and scared. He snuggles her awkwardly in a way that is far more comical than touching.

Meanwhile, Randy and his friend attend one of Zeus’ fights in a factory. Zeus wins handily and starts chasing away the onlookers. Randy accidentally bumps into Brell and Randy’s friend spills the beans that Randy is Rip’s brother. Brell brings Randy to Zeus and Randy foolishly picks a fight with him. Zeus then beats him into unconsciousness.

Rip arrives at Zeus’ personal gym to confront him. He finds pictures of himself taped to the punching bags and a video playing on loop that is supposed to motivate Zeus to hate Rip. However, he doesn’t find Zeus or anyone else. Rip starts tearing the place apart and he hears Brell talking to him over the speakers. He enters a room where he thinks he finds Zeus, but it turns out to be a hologram. Rip yells that he wants Zeus, but Brell replies that it will be on his terms. Rip then breaks a neon sign and eventually the security camera.

Rip heads to the hospital to visit an unconscious Randy. He tells him he’s proud of him for standing up to Zeus. Randy wakes up and the two of them start crying. Hogan is trying his best to be a dramatic actor, but it’s laughably bad. Then, they show a montage of Brell setting up the fight, Randy doing physical therapy, and Zeus training. Zeus punches cinder blocks and works out on a rowing machine. Brell discusses details with the executives and one of them asks what happens if Rip wins. Brell assures him that won’t happen. The night of the fight arrives and Rip paces in his dressing room. Sam, Randy, and Randy’s friend enter the building and take an elevator. However, when they exit, Sam is accosted by some security guards and taken to Brell’s office. Brell then calls Rip and tells him to make it look good for ten minutes and then take a dive or Sam and Randy will have matching wheelchairs.

Rip makes his way into an eight-sided ring and is soon joined by Zeus, who knocks out the ring announcer. Rip sees Brell standing in the control booth and Brell motions towards the clock with a laugh. The two men start fighting and the movie cuts to Brell’s office. Sam realizes that Unger, Ordway, and the guards are too distracted by the fight, so she sneaks out the door. They hear the door close and realize what happened, so they chase her to the elevators. Charlie helps Sam escape and she enters the arena, where Zeus is in control of the fight.

Zeus begins dismantling the ring and tries to hit Rip with the ring post, but he misses. Sam and Randy attempt to rally Rip and Brell notices that Sam is ringside. He tries to call the office, but no one answers. Zeus does a neck snap to Rip and tries to finish him, but Charlie distracts him. Rip begins hulking-up and Brell starts panicking. The two men fight to the floor and Zeus heads into the crowd. Randy tries to stop him and falls out of his wheelchair. Rip follows Zeus and they fight in front of the control booth. Zeus manages to knock Rip down the steps, but he turns to celebrate. Brell tries to warn him that Rip has recovered, but it’s too late. Brell begins throwing a fit and trashes the control booth. He breaks the equipment, which takes the fight off the air. Rip then hits a running axehandle that sends Zeus all the way down into the ring. The ring breaks and Zeus is down for the count.

Then, Rip turns his attention to Brell and smashes the window. Brell tells him to stay away and calls him a jock-ass again, but Brell backs into the sparking control panel. He is electrocuted and apparently dies, but Rip doesn’t seem that fazed by this turn of events. He simply returns to ringside and celebrates his win. He gives the crowd one last Shaka Brah sign and the movie fades to the credits.

Final thoughts:

This movie was a disjointed mess. I am curious as to how it would have been without the rewrites, but I doubt it would have made much of an improvement. The dialogue was awkward and weird and the acting was ridiculous. However, I was amused by the movie. It falls into that so bad it’s good category. I get the feeling that they knew exactly what this movie was and played it accordingly. It was essentially an ego project for Hogan and to a lesser extent, Vince. Their pot shots at people they didn’t like were childish, but that is pretty typical for Vince. After all, this is the same Vince McMahon that made those Billionaire Ted skits. I don’t know if I would recommend this movie, but if you enjoy amusingly bad movies, you might like it.

Thank you for reading. As always, be sure to follow and like the Facebook page for this blog by clicking here. You can also follow the Twitter account for this blog here. I would love to hear your feedback.

That’s enough stalling. It’s time to move into the 90s. My next review will be Royal Rumble ‘90. Look for it this Saturday.


Written by Paul Matthews

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