All right, it is “Sports Month” here at the JOE-DOWN, where we will review sports movies. Why? Because it is summer, and I associate summertime with sports. And for the first installment of this theme for the month, I picked “No Holds Barred.”
The Movie: “No Holds Barred”
Starring: Hulk Hogan, Joan Severance, Kurt Fuller
Director: Thomas J.Wright
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) Rip is the World Wrestling Federation champion who is faithful to his fans and the network he wrestles for. Brell, the new head of the World Television Network, wants Rip to wrestle for his network.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 11 percent
Froemming: Well, it is Sports Month here at the JOE-DOWN, a month where we review nothing but sports films with our trademark snark. To kick it off, I decided to continue Brown’s good work of writing about wrestling content (his recaps of “GLOW” last week were great) by making him sit through what can only be described as Hulk Hogan and a screenwriter high on cocaine and writing a movie with “No Holds Barred.”
So Brown, what are your thoughts on this slice of ’80s wrestling cinema?
Brown: You know, this week of professional wrestling has really drained me emotionally.
First, yes, I had a great time reviewing “GLOW” here on Off the Record, and it had me feeling nostalgic about my life’s guilty pleasure.
Then, I watched “Monday Night Raw” and saw noted mainstream idiot LaVar Ball make wrestling a laughingstock.
Just this morning, I got on another up by watching some of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s G1 tournament opener, which is the best in-ring wrestling you’ll watch anywhere on this planet.
And now, I get to end the week by talking about this piece of (REDACTED).
While you say screenwriter high on cocaine, you need to remember one GIGANTIC fact about this movie: The executive producers are Hulk Hogan AND WWF (now WWE) owner Vince McMahon. Can you imagine how many old keyboards those two threw against the wall when there was a typo?
Froemming: Given the fact I don’t believe either of those two could ever spot a typo, let alone read something, I am sure they smashed keyboards because of steroids and whatnot.
Let’s jump into this film. Right away we hear “Mean” Gene Okerlund and one-time Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura announcing a WWF match, so right away I am baffled when these two play themselves, but Hulk Hogan plays a Hulk Hogan-like character with Rip Thomas. Why the (REDACTED) did he just not play himself?
We see Rip is basically the Hulkster, the big difference being he replaced his ketchup and mustard colors on his outfit with blue and white. And we get a classic ’80s wrestling match right away, which is being watched by a rival network, which I can only imagine was supposed to be Ted Turner or something.
The head of the World Television Network (yes, it is really called that in this film) Brell (he has no last name, or maybe that is his last name, we are never told) wants Rip to jump ship at the WWF and wrestle for his network. What about his contract? As Brell says, contracts “are just a bunch of words.” Legally binding words, but sure.
Brown: OK, we got a lot to unpack here.
First, the moment Rip comes to the ring, he’s shaking his head and slobbering all over the damn place like he’s the dog from “The Sandlot.” Then, Rip is accompanied to the ring by his trainer Charlie and his brother Randy. “Mean” Gene makes a comment about how there’s always been a special bond between Rip and Randy. Yeah, no (REDACTED), they’re brothers!
A quick thing that bugs me: Rip’s signature hand gesture is the worst “Shaka” ever.
Now, as Mr. Brell (they refer to him as Mr. Brell most of the time, so I assume last name) and his cronies are watching the match, he’s talking about how Rip’s opponent may beat Rip and do his network a favor by taking the WWF title. And then he throws a hissy fit when Rip comes from behind to win.
Now, here’s my question: Is professional wrestling 100 percent real in this world? If it’s wrestling as we know it, how can Brell get that upset? It’s like Krusty the Clown getting upset at the Washington Generals for losing to the Harlem Globetrotters! It’s what is supposed to happen! Also, for my sake, quit referring to Rip as a “jock-ass,” Mr. Brell.
Froemming: That is the reason I was a little reluctant to review this for sports month, what with the matches in pro wrestling being predetermined and all, but the athleticism of pro wrestling made me change my thoughts on that. These dudes put their bodies through hell for the sport.
Brown: You’re preaching to the choir about the athleticism of wrestling. But let’s not ignore that it is a predetermined sport. To Mr. Brell, it’s still real to him, damnit!
Froemming: Brell is like me when I was 5 years old: I would get upset when I was told wrestling was fake. I am sure nobody on the board of directors dared to let this bit of information slip toward him, what with his love of hiring goons to beat people up rather than, you know, negotiate contracts.
Brown: Well, Brell is too busy telling his a female member of the board to “Take a leak.”
That was an actual line in this movie.
I will say this about “No Holds Barred”: Kurt Fuller goes ALL IN as Mr. Brell.
Froemming: I’ll be honest, Fuller does a fine job playing a real (REDACTED) in this. Well, he is good at playing that kind of character in general. Also, he is the only good actor in this steaming pile of (REDACTED) that dares to call itself a “movie.”
Brell sets up a meeting with Rip, and Rip shows up in his spandex and bandana, the stuff he wears in the ring. Please tell me wrestlers don’t do this in real life. That is just so weird.
Well, Brell offers Rip a blank check to basically name his price to leave the WWF and join his wrestling program, which I am not sure he even has at this point. But Rip is loyal, loves America and takes his vitamins, so he politely tells Brell “no.” Brell throws what can only be described as a Donald Trump-sized tantrum at this shocking news.
Brown: Then Rip shoves the check in Brell’s mouth and says “I won’t be here when that check clears.” You know, poop joke.
Hulk Hogan is a terrible actor. I can’t even be witty about it. He is not good in this. Not like this script gave him anything to work with.
Well, with the negotiation tactics failing, Rip wants to go home. However, the limo driver kidnaps Rip. Knowing something is amiss, Rip wants out! And he kicks the limo in the inside so hard, the car SWERVES. Dude, he is going to kick the door off its hinges before he makes the entire limo move.
Because realism, the driver gets Rip to a car garage where hired goons are there to subdue this hulk of a man. However, Rip is a superhero, apparently, and SUPER JUMPS out of the limo and beats the (REDACTED) out of any and everything in front of him. And this leads to another one of the movie’s “signature” lines.
I don’t think this movie understands how poop works, Froemming. How would “dookie” reach the back of his jacket?!
Froemming: Diarrhea? It was gross. Also, that was a classic roid rage if I ever saw one. Rip smashes all these goons through a different window of the limo.
Look, I know the media empire business is a tough one, but for some reason I don’t see the head of a media empire hiring goons to beat up a star wrestler to get him to join their network. The logic there is baffling…
Brown: Executive producers were Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon. Logic need not apply.
Froemming: Well, after this Brell and some lackeys visit the No Count Bar to watch drunks wrestle on another.
Brown: Not quite. First, we get introduced to the character of Samantha, who has been hired by Rip’s network to revamp his image. Umm… why?
Froemming: Money! They want to make more money off his image. Rip is more concerned about his charity work, that we don’t learn anymore of, which is odd since it seems to be really important to him.
Brown: He’s the most popular wrestler (see: person) in the world! Why revamp what works?
Sam still wants to talk shop, so she invites him to dinner at a fancy French restaurant… or, because this movie wasn’t about to rent out a restaurant, a church restaurant? I mean, I don’t know of any restaurant that has stained-glass windows of Jesus all over the place.
Froemming: Well, “GLOW” did show us how wrestling in the 80s was about cutting corners to save money. I imagine Vince McMahon’s mom cut off the pipeline of money for this film. Thus, renting a church and making it a fancy French restaurant.
Brown: And because Hulk and McMahon have the brainpower of pre-teens, they have a snooty French waiter that gets his comeuppance because A. Rip is a regular, and B. The chefs in the back LOVE Rip.
Now, onto the No Count Bar!
Froemming: I liked this bar. I want to go to this bar. I am a sucker for dive bars, and this one is the Holy Grail of them. We have the drunks beating the living (REDACTED) out of one another in a dangerous ring. The waitresses mock Brell and his yuppie scum pals. I fell in love with the No Count Bar.
Brell sees the raw talent here (cheap wrestlers who will probably fight for beer or a sandwich) and comes up with, and I (REDACTED) you not he calls it “Battle of the Tough Guys!” A new wrestling program that is basically televised Fight Club.
Brown: It’s like old-school outlaw UFC, right down to the octagon.
A moment that I appreciated is that the main lunatic of the No Count Bar is played by famed wrestler Stan Hansen, who was a legend in Japan. He wasn’t as big in America, but he did win the AWA title for all you Minnesotans out there. He also ran over the AWA world title with his truck when Verne Gagne wanted it back. So, his craziness in this movie isn’t that far-fetched.
Also, we have “The Battle of the Tough Guys,” brought to you by the World Television Network, which I assume is owned by the Literal Name Organization.
Quick note about the No Count Bar before we move onto “The Battle of the Tough Guys:” The bathroom is called the VD room. And, there’s a guard dog in said bathroom. This isn’t a dive. It’s literal Christian hell.
Froemming: It looks amazing!
Anyway, at “The Battle of the Tough Guys,” sponsored by the Corporation of Making Money, we meet
Deebo Zeus, an ex-convict mountain of muscle who once killed a guy in the ring. He becomes the new star for Brell after winning the $100,000 purse in “The Battle of the Tough Guys.” And he is frightening, even though I wish he rode around on a bicycle like in “Friday,” but whatever. Rip’s trainer, Charlie, was once this maniac’s trainer and lets everyone know the man is off his rocker.
Brown: When Zeus came on screen, I instinctively hid my chain under my shirt. Then I remembered that I don’t wear a chain.
My biggest takeaway from Zeus: He speaks only in grunts and yelling. He’s like the screaming sun from “Rick and Morty.” And that isn’t even the most frightening part of Zeus. That would go to his eyebrow. Yes, singular.
So, we see Zeus run roughshod over any person who challenges him, which typically is a bunch of steel workers. I feel like if this movie had depth (which it doesn’t), Zeus is symbolic for the bourgeoisie, destroying and suppressing the common man.
Froemming: We really needed Springsteen to come in and smash Zeus with his guitar, like the Honky Tonk Man.
Brown: I don’t think Zeus would crash to the ground like Jake “The Snake” Roberts after a guitar shot.
Froemming: With a real guitar, like the one Roberts got hit with, he may have.
Brown: After watching Zeus literally kill a man in a steel mill with no consequence, we go back to shoehorned romance!
Sam picks up Rip and the two share lunch at a favorite diner of Rip’s. All seems to be going well as the waitress keeps telling Sam that she needs to hook up with Rip. I know standards were different in the ‘80s, but Hulk Hogan is not an attractive man between the fine doll’s hair that makes up the top of his head and his leather skin.
But flirting has to wait because a pair of gentlemen decide to try and rob the diner.
Rip ain’t going to have that!
In one of the most bonkers parts of the movie, Rip subdues gun-wielding robbers with body slams and pies.
Froemming: I liked how we watched this at the same time and you asked me: “Imagine if that was how Jules stopped the armed robbery in ‘Pulp Fiction.’”
Brown: All of this happens while a song that sounds like the “Monday Night Football” theme where the opening line says “I got ketchup on my blue jeans.”
After dinner, the two go to their hotel room. Notice how it’s room and not rooms? Someone made a mistake in the office! So, cue the awkwardness.
Froemming: Well, because of zany mistakes by the hotel, Sam and Rip get to share a room together. As Sam is getting into her bra and panties, Rip (much like an 8-year-old forced to share a room with their 5-year-old sibling) takes tape and string and a sheet and divides the bed in two!
Also, with these two sharing a room I was on the lookout for Bubba the Love Sponge with his video camera. We know what the Hulkster is about these days.
Brown: Since you bring it up, I’ll say this quick: This movie is not well-served thanks to hindsight. Hulk does beat up a black person in this movie’s climax.
Now, back to the movie. It grossed me out in the hotel when Rip is brushing his teeth and swishing mouthwash, then has to SWALLOW all this because he has no sink to spit into.
Now, that was gross. Want to know what’s even more disgusting? Staring up Rip’s butt when he does pushups on the bed while soaked in baby oil to (I assume) work out his sexual frustration? The joke is he sounds like he’s masturbating.
This movie was written by an 8-year-old boy. Or Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon, who think like 8-year-old boys.
Now, the movie is teasing chemistry between Rip and Sam, and there is none. Absolutely no chemistry. At all.
Froemming: There was more chemistry between Anakin and Padme in the infamous sand speech from “Attack of the Clones” than there was between Rip and Sam in this film.
Brown: After this, we find out that Sam was supposed to be a honeypot, hired on by Brell to seduce Rip. However, she starts to like the guy and can’t go through with it. She gets SMACKED by Brell for her troubles. And this is the start of a troubling sequence where this movie just casually incorporates abuse, kidnapping and rape.
Now, keep in mind, this is a movie about pro wrestling.
There is also a brief showdown between Rip and Zeus, where Rip refuses to throw down. All the while, Rip is volunteering at his charity. Keeping true to this movie’s naming conventions, the charity is called “Sports For Kids.”
These people aren’t even (REDACTED) trying.
Froemming: Yeah…Brell hires a goon to rape Sam. I mean, holy (REDACTED) that’s just disgusting and wrong on all fronts. Brell is more Ted Bundy than Ted Turner in this film. Rip foils it via tree trunk and all, but damn that is (REDACTED) awful.
Brown: Yeah, Rip somehow knows the parking garage where Sam is about to get sexually assaulted. Then, he chases the culprit down on his motorcycle and casually attempts vehicular manslaughter. Then after eliminating the threat, he comforts Sam, saying “I hate it when you’re hurt. Or scared. You know?”
I mean, I’ve watched Hulk Hogan since I was a kid. I really liked Hogan (I was more into “Macho Man” Randy Savage, but that’s beside the point). The man is incredibly charismatic in a wrestling ring. But with a script and whatnot, ALL of that evaporates.
Froemming: Well, Randy (remember him?) and Craig venture out to see Zeus in the squared circle at another beatdown of steel workers at what Patton Oswalt once described as a “Sparks Factory.” Craig, who is not that bright, informs Brell that Randy is Rip’s brother and that leads to Zeus putting the Smack Down on the boy, putting him in the hospital where Rip finally decides enough is enough, brother! He will wrestle Zeus because his little brother got beat up by him.
Again, this movie was written by an 8-year-old.
Brown: Normally, yes. However, Zeus cripples Randy. Randy is in traction, folks. While Zeus assaults Randy, he makes just the weirdest sounds ever to come out of a person’s mouth.
Rip will accept the challenge, but only after breaking into Zeus’ gym and having what I can only imagine is a bad acid trip. The whole sequence where Rip trashes the gym is a straight-up nightmare. I haven’t slept well since I watched this movie.
Froemming: Again, the plot of the film was Brell trying to get Rip to join his network, and it has gone far off the rails to include attempted rape, crippling a kid, attempted murder and other crimes which should have landed Brell in prison. But hey, the wild and wooly world of running a media empire must play by a different set of rules back then.
Brown: I feel like Brell’s behavior would be par for the course at Fox News.
Froemming: Well, we now head into the night of the main event, and Brell needs another felony on record, so he kidnaps Sam before the fight! If I were on the board of directors at the World Television Network, I would have asked for a vote of no confidence toward Brell. This man will clearly cost us Bill O’Reilly amounts of hush-hush money toward his victims.
Now, Brell is rigging the match in Zeus’ favor. He lets Rip know that he has Sam, and forces him to lose the match in order to save her.
Again, Brell is obviously not the kind of guy you want running your company. The man is not well in the head.
Brown: OK, hasn’t Brell won at this point? The whole point was to get Rip onto his network. It took putting Randy in traction, but he accomplished it! Rip vs. Zeus is happening. And, he says he wants a bloodbath.
But now, he wants Rip to take a dive? Now you’re just being greedy, sir.
Besides, we saw the training montage for this fight. Zeus is destroying cinder blocks with his fists while Rip is busy helping his brother in physical rehab. Rip isn’t taking the fight seriously. This should be an epic ass-kicking like the first Rocky/Clubber Lang fight.
Froemming: But lo and behold, we get a pretty mediocre match between the two. Good thing Charlie, somehow, happens to be in the right place at the right time as Sam is escaping Brell and his stooges. How did she escape? She just kinda slunked off when everyone was watching the match. But they give chase to her. The chase is no match for Charlie and his trusty fire extinguisher! With Sam in safety, the Hulkster does what he does best: Generic ’80s wrestling!
Brown: Now that Sam is safe, Rip can finally start kicking ass! So, I can’t call it Hulking up… is he Rippin’ ‘Em Up? I guess, whatever. Basically, Rip goes full Lennie from “Of Mice and Men” and pulls strength from out of nowhere and beats the hell out of Zeus. And while all this goes on, Brell is freaking out in the control room, to the point where he kills the feed because his anger is that powerful.
And now Rip goes for the final blow: He knocks Zeus off a ledge, and the ring collapses right in the center where Zeus lands. Now, is Zeus dead? He should be, since there was one point where a ring post was thrust through the canvas as Zeus tried to impale Rip. That post should still be there.
Froemming: Well, what follows was one of the most insane things I have seen in a long time. Rip has won the match, and is now gunning for Brell. And, I (REDACTED) you not, in a panic Brell touches some of the exposed wiring from his tirade earlier and electrocutes himself! What the (REDACTED) did I watch?
Brown: He pulled a Frank Grimes! Normally, everyone steals from “The Simpsons.” This time, they stole from someone else. So two men are dead (apparently) and the crowd… cheers uproariously. And, Rip gives the shaka!
Froemming: I think the audience, unlike Brell, thinks pro wrestling is a staged sport. Nobody goes to a WWE event expecting a wrestler to die in the ring. They probably assumed it was part of the script.
Brown: And really, Zeus didn’t die. Because the then-WWF went on to do a REAL REMATCH as Zeus teamed up with “Macho King” Randy Savage to face Hulk Hogan and Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake in a steel cage match. It also had one of the most insane cocaine-riddled wrestling promos in history!
Froemming: Is it a rematch really? I mean, he lost to Rip Thomas, not Hulk Hogan…
Brown: Froemming, it’s literally called “No Holds Barred: The Match/The Movie.”
Froemming: Again, Zeus lost (was murdered?) by Rip Thomas, NOT Hulk Hogan!
Anyway, Rip wins and is reunited with his friends and family and the movie just ends.
Let’s smash our limos over to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: Nope. This movie was painfully bad, and not in a “so bad it’s good” way. It is just bad.
Brown: This movie sucks, but I will recommend it just because of how absolutely insane it is. You have to enjoy bad movies to get something out of this one. In that respect, this is a lot of fun. I sure as hell had fun reviewing it.