Before he was a TV reality star, Hulk Hogan was an actor. Before he was an actor on hits such as the TV show “Thunder in Paradise” and movies like “3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain” and “Santa with Muscles“, he was a successful wrestler. Now, you may not believe this, but Hulk Hogan’s first big starring role was in a movie called No Holds Barred which was a movie about wrestling! I’m sure it’s a tough transition from successful wrestler to successful movie star, and No Holds Barred helped bridge that gap – and based on his performance here, it showed us what kind of star Hogan was to become in the future.
No Holds Barred is the story of Rip (Hogan), a champion wrestler who just can’t be beat, and who brings in the TV ratings everytime one of his matches are aired. Brell (Kurt Fuller) is a TV exec for the World Television Network – which happens to be a competing network to Rip’s wrestling. Brell figures if he can get Rip on his network, he should be able to kill in the ratings, and he tries to buy Rip out of his contract. When Rip proves that he can’t be bought, Brell makes it his personal mission to make Rip’s life a living hell. One way that he does this is starts his own fightsport with the awesomely original name of “The Battle of the Tough Guys.” It really takes a genius to make stuff like this up, folks. He also tries to pay off a beautiful “Account Executive” of Rip’s – Samantha Moore (Joan Severance!?!?) – but when she actually falls for Rip, Brell slaps her around, angering Rip in the process.
Brell then wrangles up all the toughest guys he can find by putting on a press conference and announcing that the winner of his tournament will win $100,000 tax free dollars. This brings the cream of the crop out of the woodwork, including toothless hillbillies with armpit hair that flows in the breeze, and stereotypical bikers and insane lumberjacks. At the end of the first episode, a new challenger enters the arena. A humongous ex-con with a crazy cross eye and a Z shaved into the sides of his head. That man is Zeus (Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister), and he seems to be unstoppable, insane and invincible.
Zeus is a one man wrecking crew, as he destroys all comers. After one fight, Rip’s brother Randy is watching from the sidelines. When Brell finds out that he’s Rip’s brother, he has Zeus beat him into paralysis. When Rip gets the news, he goes on the warpath to find Zeus and Brell, setting up a clash of the titans on Brell’s World Television Network – exactly how he planned it all along.
To set this straight, at one time this may have been an attempt at a serious movie. If you view it as a serious movie, you’re going to hate it. It is one of the most ridiculous, unrealistic movies I’ve watched to date. While Hulk Hogan had been in a few movies as a supporting role before, this is the first film where he’s expected to play a major role. He over exaggerates every line, every movement, and if he took it any further he’d be hyperventilating instead of breathing. Even during the wrestling segments, Hogan has a hard time not doing his whole HULKAMANIA routine. I was expecting him to drop an atomic leg drop a few times, but he was able to control himself. Tiny Lister on the other hand, just screams and grunts his way through most of the movie. You can probably count the actual words he says on one hand, and he has just as much screen time as Hogan does. Kurt Fuller is the one actor that actually acts, and he does a pretty good job. By the end of the movie, I felt like he got what he had coming to him.
The fighting overall is pretty weak, the one liners probably get more groans than laughs, and the shots of Randy with tears running down his face during the finale are pathetically hilarious… But you know what? I’m sure it was made exactly how Hogan and WWE’s Vince McMahon wanted it. I don’t think they meant this to be serious, and it’s a masterpiece of cheese. If they did mean for this to be a serious movie, it’s a failure on an epic scale, but I think McMahon knows what he’s doing. The scene I’ve included has to be my favorite of the movie, but the whole film is a perfect work of schlock. No Holds Barred is worth 5 jockasses out of 5.