- Movie: No Holds Barred
- Directors: Thomas J. Wright
- Starring: Hulk Hogan, Kurt Fuller, Joan Severance, Tiny Lister
- Rotten Tomatoes rating: 11%
A Little Context
First and foremost, I like professional wrestling. So there is no “I hate wrestling” attitude threaded throughout this review. I want to say that up front. I watched WWF/WWE, WCW, and ECW as often as a could through high school and the first couple years of college. And if you’re wondering, Dean Malenko is the greatest wrestler of all time. While I don’t watch it so much anymore, I will not hesitate to defend it. I’m saying all this because if you’re interested in watching No Holds Barred, you’re either a bad movie fan, a wrestling fan, or, like me, both.
In 1989 Hulk Hogan was riding high in the WWF. He has just beaten Randy Savage to win the championship at Wrestlemania V, but it had been a few years since his appearance in Rocky III. The time was right for a Hulk Hogan to be back on the big screen. Enter No Holds Barred.
Take a look at this sweaty-man-filled trailer:
Hulk Hogan is Rip Thomas, World Heavyweight Champion of the World Wrestling Federation. It’s never really explained but in the world of this film pro wrestling, specifically the WWF, is the most popular thing on TV. And Rip is the biggest star. Not wanting his network to be second place in the ratings, Brell (played by Kurt Fuller), the head of rival channel World Television Network, wants Rip to jump ship. After his first attempt fails–literally a blank check–it’s time to play dirty. Brell’s plan B is a rival wrestling program–literally called “Battle of the Tough Guys”–that attracts the attention of the seemingly unstoppable Zeus. What follows is a series of attacks on Rip or those he cares about, in order to persuade him to meet Zeus in the ring.
The main issue that keeps this movie from being entertaining is basically the same issue I have with any pro wrestling show–too much talking. For a movie starring a wrestler, and about a wrestler, there isn’t nearly enough wrestling. I know they want to inject a little meaning into the final battle, but come on. The Rocky movies had an excellent mix of story and boxing. Here you get two matches, one at the very beginning and one at the very end. You don’t even get any cool training montages of Rip leg drops. What we get instead is A LOT of Zeus doing things. Mainly punching and growling. You also get plenty of Brell talking. Exciting stuff. It’s a Hulk Hogan wrestling movie that doesn’t have enough Hulk Hogan and wrestling. I don’t understand how that happened.
When we finally do get a match, it’s mostly punching and face grabbing. The bout between Rocky and Hulk contained more wrestling moves than this, and was way more exciting, and that was a movie about a boxer. There is no excuse for why the last match is so boring. Yes, wrestling is planned out, but it’s exciting because it’s largely improvised in the moment. If you were filming a wrestling movie and you had days to shoot one match, you’d think it would come out a little better. Ready to Rumble, another bad movie about wrestling, at least knew to get the wrestling right. Simply caring about Rip’s brother isn’t enough to make it exciting.
Moving on from the wrestling, No Holds Barred is just a weird movie full of characters that don’t make any sense. It’s already strange seeing Rip being taken seriously by anyone considering he’s in wrestling attire throughout most of the movie, but compared to the villains Rip seems like the normal one. Brell and Zeus are like caricatures of the mean, business man villain and the tough, crazy villain. Brell is such a colossal dick that it’s a wonder he was ever even hired, let alone made it to the top. But now that he’s in charge, he is apparently so set on having the number one network that he’s literally willing to kill in order to do it. Zeus is SO tough that his arms cannot drop below a 45 degree angle. He never really talks and apparently does not possess the ability to move at regular speed.
Joan Severance is fine, though it’s hard to believe that she is attracted to Rip at all. There is zero chemistry at the beginning and them growing closer throughout the movie is never believable. It’s that “there is more to you than I thought therefore I will fall in love with you” cliche. Their coupling just kind of happens, and we’re expected to believe it would happen. Who wouldn’t fall for Hulk Hogan I guess?
But Can I Drink To It?
A big yes. This is a fun bad movie, thanks to how over-the-top and absurd it is.
Rules (to get you started)
1. Zeus walks slowly – DRINK for 3 seconds!
2. “jock ass” – DRINK for 5 seconds!
3. Rip makes someone literally shit their pants – finish your DRINK!
4. Someone’s face is being held onto as an offensive move – DRINK for as long as it happens!
I watched No Holds Barred on Netflix for free. However, there is a blu ray on Amazon for $10. I’d by lying if I said I’m not seriously considering buying it.
Post by: Tyler P.
Tyler Phillippi is a former improviser and musician. Now, he mainly focuses on getting through his Netflix queue. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org