No Holds Barred (1989)

I’ve never understood No Holds Barred. It had the entire WWE machine behind it —  watching an hour of their program in 1989 was akin to watching an hour commercial for this movie — and this was the movie they put so much effort behind? A movie that makes wrestling and its top star both look like morons? I get that the rest of the world sees pro wrestling like this, but when I realized that this was how the company itself saw it, it was pretty sad.

But yeah, I still went to the drive-in and watched it. They sold me.

Imagine if Vince McMahon decided to make an entire movie about Ted Turner.

Well, stop dreaming and start watching, because Brell (Kurt Fuller) is Ted, owning an entire network that is being toppled by pro wrestler Rip Thomas (who is Hulk Hogan other than the fact that he wears blue instead of the yellow and red, brother). That’s right — all his network needs to start failing is to go up against Rip, until they start making their own wrestling program called Nitro…I mean Battle of the Tough Guys. 

On this show, Zeus (Tiny Lister, Friday), an ex-con and former student of the same man who taught Rip takes over the world of wrestling from the No Count Bar. Brell is the kind of guy who replies to people making fun of his penis size by sending killers after Rip and rapists after Rip’s PR person Sam (Joan Severance).

There’s also a scene beats up a henchman so badly that the guy craps his pants. I mean, wouldn’t you after a gigantic human being basically flies out of a limo?

Beyond getting to see Gene Okerlund, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, Howard Finkel and Joey Marella on the big screen, this movie also features Jeep Swensen (he’d go on to play Bane in Batman and Robin), Bill Eadie (Axe from Demolition and the Mask Superstar) and one of my favorite wrestlers of all time, Stan “The Lariat” Hansen. In fact, when the movie came out, there was a big rumor that Hansen — who achieved most of his fame in Japan — was about to leave Giant Baba’s All Japan Pro Wrestling to come to challenge Hogan. It never happened. They did fight a year later in a match between AJPW and WWE in Japan just days after Hogan lost the belt to the Ultimate Warrior.

There’s another Japanese influence to the movie, as Hogan doesn’t use his American legdrop finisher here as Rip, but instead the clothesline-like Axe Bomber that he used to win so many matches in New Japan Pro Wrestling.

Zeus, however, did come to WWE and claimed that he deserved to be the star of the film. After a Summerslam 1989 match between Hogan and Brutus Beefcake against Zeus and Randy Savage, the feud culminated in a PPV called No Holds Barred: The Match/The Movie, an event that played the movie and then a blowoff tag team match.

No Holds Barred was produced by star Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon, only to be distributed by New Line Cinema after completion. When the first draft of the script was turned in, Hogan and McMahon disliked it so much, they checked into a Florida hotel and stayed up for 72 hours straight — cocaine — rewriting the script together.

Thomas J. Wright, who directed this, was also the artist who painted the artwork featured on Night Gallery. He was also the second unit director for Howard the Duck and Staying Alive.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

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