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Film / No Holds Barred

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In 1988, Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan were eager to take a step into Hollywood. Hogan was at the height of his popularity in the WWE (then WWF), and in fact, he did have some acting experience, most notably in Rocky III as Thunderlips. Having Hogan star in his own major motion picture seemed like a natural progression, so Hogan took some time off from wrestling while Randy Savage was champion. McMahon and Hogan collaborated as executive producers, and unleashed No Holds Barred upon the public in 1989.

Hogan stars as "Rip", the most-popular professional wrestler in the entire world (no, really!). One day, he is approached by Brell (Kurt Fuller), the hamtacular evil head of the World Television Network, who wishes to lure Rip to his network so that he can Take Over the World of television ratings. The honorable, loyal and handsome Rip thwarts Brell's blank checks, sexy Femme Fatales and Mook ambushes, so Brell starts his own wrastlin' program called "Battle Of The Tough Guys": a glorified bar-brawl that crowns the seemingly-invulnerable Zeus (Tom "Tiny" Lister) as champion. Yet Brell will not be satisfied until the rock-hard abs of Rip are under his control, and a heinous attack on Rip's little brother might just be the ignition for Rip to accept a final showdown against Brell's champion.

Hulk's movie career didn't quite take off as hoped as a result of No Holds Barred, as while it just about broke even, it was critically savaged upon release for its acting and dialogue. It seemed like an Old Shame for those involved until 2012, when the movie finally saw a DVD release.

Compare with the WCW film Ready to Rumble.

No Holds Barred provides examples of:

  • The Ace: "RRRRRRRRRRIP!!!"
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing... after Rip knocks Zeus off a tall balcony, causing him to fall at least three stories (25-35 feet) to his (presumed) death.
  • Anger Montage:
    • Rip goes to Zeus' gym for one of these after Zeus sends Rip's little brother to the hospital.
    • Brell gets one of his own during the climactic fight.
  • Attempted Rape: One of Brell's mooks to Samantha.
  • The Backwards Я: An extremely rare non-Russian example, used as a form of Xtreme Kool Letterz in the original promotional material (NO HOLDS BARЯED).
  • Bad Guy Bar: Where Brell gets his idea for Battle of the Tough Guys. Includes disgusting rednecks, a crude wrestling ring, and a random monkey-like man in a cage throwing peanut shells in your beer.
  • Big Ol' Unibrow: That thing on Zeus is something to behold to the point that the How Did This Get Made? live episode discussing the film takes a minute or two just to discuss it, calling it "legitimately a check mark" and wondering what the makeup artist's thinking was.
  • Black Dude Dies First: It is strongly implied that Zeus is killed from the impact of his tumble over the balcony after the climactic fight, having landed so hard on the canvas that the ring imploded. The man he's working for, Brell, is accidentally electrocuted shortly thereafter.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: The limo driver near the beginning after Rip defeats all his buddies. "WHAT'S THAT SMELL?"
    Driver: "Duh-duh...DOOO-KIIIIE!"
    Rip: ..."Dookie?"
  • Brought To You By The Letter "Z": Guess who.
  • The Brute: Zeus, again.
  • The Cameo: Since the movie has a fictionalized version of the WWF, it's no surprise to see Howard Finkel, "Mean" Gene Okerlund and Jesse "The Body" Ventura show up. More surprising is a cameo by Stan Hansen, who wasn't in the WWE at the time.
  • Catchphrase: "RIP 'EM!"
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Brell will stop at nothing to rule the world of television ratings. Forget about just kidnapping; as Thomas Lennon puts it on How Did This Get Made?, "To get the number one wrestling show, they're willing to perpetrate rapes and murders."
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Brell already has the highest-rated show on television; he doesn't need to resort to felonies to force Rip into his Battle of the Tough Guys!
  • Disgusting Public Toilet: One in the Bad Guy Bar, which features an overflowing urinal trough and a guard dog, for some reason.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Just before Samantha falls asleep, she hears weird, repetitive grunting noises coming from Rip's side of the hotel room. But it's cool: Rip's just doing pushups.
  • Evil Laugh: Brell and his men do this as Rip vandalizes Zeus's gym in retaliation for hospitalizing Randy. They only shut up after Rip destroys the security camera.
  • Finishing Move: Interestingly, Rip's finishing move is a double axe-handle, as opposed to the Leg drop, Hulk Hogan's finisher in America, or the Axe bomber, his finisher in Japan.
  • Food Fight: Rip's counterattack towards an armed robbery at a local diner is a flurry of pies. Yeah.
  • High-Voltage Death: Brell gets this in the climactic sequence. After defeating Zeus, Rip sees Brell and goes after him. Brell tries to flee but backs into an electrical panel, causing him a large-voltage shock that (presumably) kills him instantly.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Seriously, the only differences between Rip and Hulk Hogan are their names and color of their gear (Rip is blue and white, Hogan is red and yellow). But Hogan himself mixed up his color scheme in his earlier WWF matches, including blue and white, so it's more like Rip is a Composite Character version of Hulk Hogan himself (his then-current personality, his less-iconic earlier outfits, and his Japanese finisher).
  • It's Personal with the Dragon: Once Zeus lays that beating on Randy, Rip cares far more about paying him back than anything to do with Brell.
  • Kick the Dog: This movie goes out of its way to make the antagonists as despicable as humanly possible. Zeus beats up Rip's brother Randy to a point where he can't walk and to add insult to injury, he punches him out of his wheelchair and kicks him while he's on the ground. Brell goes from a Smug Corrupt Corporate Executive to abusive by trying to have his old employee Samantha raped by his mooks for actually caring about Rip, hiring goons to attack Rip just because he has the audacity to say no to Brell, letting Zeus cripple Rip's brother, and blackmailing Rip to throw a match by threatening to have Samantha killed!
  • Large Ham:
    • To say Tiny Lister handles the role with No Indoor Voice would be an understatement. Even his whispering is hammy.
    • Brell is amazingly over the top himself.
  • Manly Tears: Rip sheds these as he sits beside Randy in the hospital following the latter's beatdown.
  • Mood Whiplash: Rip's deals with one goon by giving him an involuntary ride with his motorcycle and ejecting him into a tree, with the consequences played in a comically slapstick manner that's somewhat at odds with how the guy was just trying to rape his love interest.
  • Moral Guardians: In-Universe example — some groups and families complain about Brell's "Battle of the Tough Guys". Brell's response? "They ''watched'' it, didn't ''they''?!"
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The prize for winning the Battle of the Tough Guys is $100,000... TAX-FREE.
  • No-Sell: Zeus no-sells hits against opponents up until the final battle. Rip also does so when he enters states of ersatz Hulkamania.
  • Obviously Evil: Brell just rubs his evilness right in your face.
  • Only One Name: Barely any of the main characters seem to have last names, or in Brell's case, a first name.
  • The Paralyzer: Zeus' forearm shots.
  • Pro Wrestling Is Real: Established in Rip's first scene, where we see from his perspective his vision blurring as the result of a sleeper hold.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Zeus. He was only recently released from prison after killing someone after the bell in a match.
  • Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: As is Hulk Hogan's trademark in the ring.
    • Zeus is pretty much made of this till the final moments of the movie, at which point Hogan proceeds to beat the crap out of him.
  • Red Right Hand: Zeus's Big Ol' Unibrow. Liston's natural lazy eye is also exaggerated — Zeus is never seen without it crossed.
  • Scary Black Man: Zeus, the only black man of note in the film, as it happens (not counting the staff at the soul food diner).
  • Serious Business: Wrestling. It's single-handedly responsible for the success of World Television Network, and Brell is willing to pay any price to have its biggest star. It's as if the station airs nothing else but a single show.
  • Show Within a Show: Brell's Battle Of The Tough Guys.
  • Shirtless Scene: It's a wrestling movie!
  • Teeny Weenie: Stan Hansen's character mocks two of Brell's mooks for their minuscule manhoods in the bar's restroom.
  • There Is Only One Bed: The motel scene with Rip and Samantha.
  • Throwing the Fight: Brell orders Rip to go ten minutes with Zeus then throw the fight lest Samantha be placed in a wheelchair by force.
  • Vanilla Edition: The 2012 DVD release, which doesn't contain a trailer, any behind the scenes features, or even an acknowledgement of Tom "Tiny" Lister's WWE career. The Blu-ray release rectified this a little, as it includes two matches Lister participated in as Zeus (a match from Summerslam 89 and the No Holds Barred Match Revisted from December 1989).
  • Villainous Breakdown: Brell starts trashing his own station equipment as Zeus gets beaten around by Rip at the end, which ends up leading to his demise via electrocution.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Brell and Zeus both manhandle women at some point:
    • For Zeus, the first moment comes at the seedy bar wherein he is introduced. A waitress tries to greet him at the door, but before she can get two words out, he grabs her by the face, twists it with a vise-like clawhold and then drops her over a stair railing to the floor below, causing presumably serious injuries and drawing blood. Later, during the climactic fight scene, Zeus sees Rip's brother, Randy in the crowd and decides to knock him out of his wheelchair and kick him around; when this happens, Randy's girlfriend, Stephanie, tries to cover him to get Zeus to stop, but he kicks her aside (hard). Shortly thereafter, Rip comes after Zeus, who throws several people, including women and children, into the stairwell into Rip's path. (The noble Rip helps each person up before he gets to Zeus.)
    • Brell has been implied to have hit Samantha Moore, his former secretary and tool of seducing Rip, in the past. When Samantha defects to Rip's side and helps him gather ammunition to beat Brell, he sends his goons after her, hoping to kidnap and send Samantha to a horrifyingly brutal fate... until Rip, out riding his motorcycle, happens to come right around the corner.
  • Wrestling Monster: Zeus is a seemingly unstoppable force.