No Holds Barred | Varied Celluloid

No Holds Barred

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 22 - 2014

No Holds Barred (1989)
Director: Thomas J. Wright
Writers: Dennis Hackin
Starring: Hulk Hogan, Joan Severance, Kurt Fuller, and Tommy “Tiny” Lister.



The Plot: Rip (Hulk Hogan) is the World Wrestling Federation champion, and if there’s one thing you can say about him: he is loyal. So, when Brell (Kurt Fuller), the head of the World Television Network, tries to persuade Rip to jump ship and join his network, he turns him down flat. Brell isn’t used to being turned down though, so a war is immediately declared between the two men. This leads Brell on a quest to find someone equally as magnetic and tough as Rip, which leads him to some local dive bars that are packed with numerous roughnecks who fight in no-holds-barred fighting competitions. Brell decides to make these vulgar events into television history and gives them the name, “Battle of the Tough Guys.” During the first event, Brell finds his man. A monster known as Zeus (Tommy “Tiny” Lister) steps forward and destroys the competition. Soon, Brell is doing everything in his power to set up Zeus vs. Rip, and he will go to any length necessary to make this match happen.


The Review
There was a time where Hulk Hogan ruled the world. During a period where pro-wrestling was still considered, by many, as a legitimate sporting event, Hulk Hogan transcended the world of legitimate sports. Few young people today can probably wrap their head around America’s obsession with Hulkamania during the eighties. He was not the most attractive man in the world. He wasn’t even the largest of all the jacked-up wrestlers from this era. Then, to top it all off, he had a ridiculously noticeable receding hairline that he rarely tried to cover up. So, what is it that made this figure so dominating? It is hard to pin down the magic that made Hulk Hogan an icon, but maybe we all simply enjoyed his flagrant appeals for us to say our prayers, eat our vitamins, and to be a real American. With all of his natural charisma and machismo, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Hulk Hogan would easily transfer onto the bigscreen and become a unmatched presence within the Hollywood community. In many ways, he did hold a large amount of success when it comes to his acting career. While he was no Duane “The Rock” Johnson, he was certainly the only wrestler of his time period to branch out into films and find work as regularly as he did. Still, that doesn’t mean his filmography is stacked with great films…. No Holds Barred is certainly evidence of this.

No Holds Barred is about as perfect a B-Movie as anyone can imagine. Call it what you will, a guilty pleasure or a ironic love, there’s undeniable entertainment to be found in this movie. In the same way that Hulk Hogan’s gimmick (“say your prayers and eat your vitamins”) was a naive cliche, the script that went into No Holds Barred did its best to live up to that gimmick. Featuring a ridiculous plot, two dimensional characters, and a sort of dream-logic that would only make sense in the mind of a young child, the movie is about as goofy as it gets. However, this stupidity is where the movie gets its charm. This is a movie that was obviously targeted towards the younger fanbase that Hogan had drew, and the pandering that it does because of this makes it a very strange time capsule for modern viewers. Despite how inept it is, No Holds Barred has an energy to it that is undeniable. Hogan is completely devoted to the role, and the rest of the cast are just as committed. There’s very few moments where anyone in the cast seems self-aware of the type of film that this is going to be, and in that regard No Holds Barred sometimes resembles the atmosphere of an Ed Wood production.

This is a movie that features a television program named Battle of the Tough Guys. I think this bears repeating. This is a movie that features a television program named BATTLE OF THE TOUGH GUYS. Such a title must easily rank among the laziest pieces of writing known to cinema. The rest of the movie is filled with characters who are equally as cardboard. The character of Brell, who is played by a very over-the-top Kurt Fuller, is such a stock villain that the movie never expects the viewer to contemplate why it is that he would immediately start committing felonies after Rip Thomas passes on working for his company. We all know that wrestling promoters and television executives are pretty shady, but No Holds Barred asks a lot of its viewership. In a movie filled with utterly ridiculous cinematic moments, it is hard to pick out the most illogical twists and turns, but it is safe to assume that most revolve around the character of Brell and his unwavering hatred for Rip Thomas. Oh, but then there’s that whole dookie scene.

Yes, this is a movie that is filled with glorious moments. As mentioned, this is, of course, the birthplace of the viral dookie scene, but also in the mix are the slightly disturbing shots of Hulk Hogan’s rear end and half-naked body that I can’t even begin to understand. Was the Hulkster ever really a sex symbol? I sincerely hope not. There is a brilliant bit where Zeus (Tiny Lister) shows up at one of Rip’s PR stunts (err, or Rip just shows up at the park to play with kids on a daily basis) by coming in via a helicopter and then proceeding to eye-rape Hogan with no real results coming from this action. The scene is an expensive spectacle with very little actual importance, but boy is it entertaining. I also must mention something else, and this may be a potential spoiler so you can go ahead and skip the remainder of this paragraph if you’d like. I just have to mention that Rip Thomas literally gets away with murder in this movie. Granted, he may not “pull the trigger,” but the guy is certainly responsible for a man’s death by the end of this movie – and no one bats an eye. Why? Because: wrestling.

One final tangent relating to No Holds Barred, the real-life situations surrounding the release of the movie were pretty fascinating. Tommy “Tiny” Lister, in order to promote the movie, would show up in the then-WWF and challenge Hulk Hogan. The logic behind some wrestling storylines can be a bit shallow at times, but when it came to No Holds Barred The Movie/The Match, things just entered into the realm of ridiculousness. The movie was eventually shown on pay-per-view, but paired with it was a tag-team match between Hulk Hogan with Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake and Zeus with “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Sensational Sherri. If you want a glance into the insanity of the time, just look at this promo and see if you can’t imagine how much cocaine was floating around in that locker room. Now, you may be asking yourself, how did a “fictional” character from a movie make it into the “real world” of professional wrestling? Well, you see, Zeus was, err, mad that he was given second-billing in the movie, and uhh, he was also mad that Hogan beat him – but explained that it was just a movie, but now, in the “real” world, Zeus would certainly conquer Hogan… honestly, it’s wrestling, when it’s this bad, it goes back to being pretty great.


The Conclusion
This is not a good movie. I can’t even pretend that it is. It is also not something that I personally grew up watching, but that doesn’t change the fact that I love it. I love it for its flaws and embrace the child-like logic that it tries to implement. I love the overacting and I love the various wrestling cameos. Mileage will vary and I don’t recommend this for all, but there is a select audience out there for this cult piece of trash. With all of that said, if I’m being honest with myself, I give this a four out of five. Quality be damned, this is a fun piece of trash.




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