No Holds Barred (1989)

No Holds Barred (1989)

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Hulkamania is running wild! Except, it isn't.
Hulkamania is running wild! Except, it isn’t.

Twitter Plot Summary: Rip is a very popular pro wrestler, and a smarmy network executive wants to tempt him over to a rival network. FOR RATINGS!

Five Point Summary:

1. Isn’t that Ax from Demolition?
2. Battle of the Tough Guys. Stupid name.
3. That sleeping arrangement is never going to work.
4. Fighting in a forge? Seriously?
5. That’s a bit of an extreme ending…

There’s a thin line between fiction and reality, and it’s one that professional wrestling depends on in order to pull in an audience. That line is blurred further in No Holds Barred with Hulk Hogan playing WWF Champion Rip, a man popular with the fans and a huge draw towards that network. And thus, it is only correct that other networks want a piece of the Rip pie, and subsequently try and lure him away and break his contract with WWF by offering a ridiculously well paid deal.

Kurt Fuller borders on annoying as Brell, the stereotypical suited villain. He’s a television executive determined to bring super-popular wrestler Rip to his network, however his less than scrupulous methods are met with derision from Rip. From here it’s obvious what will happen next – Brell goes in search of a challenger who has the power to defeat Rip and further increase their ratings. It’s all very much the same as any standard professional wrestling rivalry, so there are no surprises there.

Hogan’s acting ability did improve slightly over time, but you could never say he had range. He’s at his worst in No Holds Barred, which is ironic given that he’s essentially playing himself. Meanwhile Tom “Tiny” Lister is Zeus, a mountain of a man who is seemingly invincible and a potent threat to Rip. It doesn’t help that he walks everywhere as if he’s soiled himself, or that his arms and legs have been welded into place. Thankfully his subsequent pro wrestling career was short-lived, although he’s still a better actor than Hogan. Mark Pellegrino was clearly paying his dues in the industry at this time, being the little brother of Rip and looking stupidly young. Judging his performance here, he clearly got much better.

Zeus didn't want to say it, but he suffered from terrible constipation.
Zeus didn’t want to say it, but he suffered from terrible constipation.

The script was reportedly re-written by Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan, and it shows. Rip spends much of his time gurning and smashing everywhere up. It’s amazing he’s allowed to go anywhere given how much wanton destruction he inflicts. Brell’s television network should be crushed in the ratings solely for calling his show “Battle of the Tough Guys”. The first 75 minutes are just a build up to a final climactic showdown between Rip and Zeus, and does nothing much of interest beyond offering a few moments of amusement. If No Holds Barred could be likened to a particular brand of cheese, it would most likely be a Roquefort.

The music at least isn’t too bad, being provided by WWF/WWE stalwart musician Jim Johnston, the man who gave us just about all of the notable wrestler intro themes from the 80s to date. It fits with the style of the film and frequently exceeds the production’s quality. In that respect the direction isn’t half bad either, but it’s one of those cases where you desperately look for positives amongst the many negative qualities presented to you. It’s a work of its time, that’s certainly true, however it will likely have almost no appeal to anyone with no interest, past or present, in professional wrestling.

Score: 2.5/5

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