Hard Ticket to Home Video Classic: No Holds Barred

We’ll be going on Labor Day hiatus until Tuesday, so for now, enjoy this amazing article from a bygone era! C U Next Tuesday!



Brad: I get the fact that it makes perfect sense to capitalize at the height WWF’s success in the late 1980s, especially the highly regarded champion Hulk Hogan to make a movie featuring him as a wrestler. However, whether it was sheer laziness or stupidity they made him the Hulkster complete with bandana and his trademark ripable workout shirts BUT his name is now Rip? Why? He’s exactly the same character as Hulk Hogan but instead of wearing yellow trunks it’s now white. And he’s the most popular wrestler as well as champion…same as the Hulkster. Did they assume the fans and viewers were going to think this was a documentary?


Hulk Ten?

Brian: It’s really one of the most nonsensical movie decisions ever.  WWF was at the absolute apex of its popularity in 1989, and kids would have gone ape for an action flick featuring the popular WWF superstars. It could have been such a simple story like some gamblers kidnap Hulk Hogan’s brother and want him to throw the match against Andre the Giant at WrestleMania but instead Hogan bands together a group of “good guy” wrestlers to perform a rescue operation.  That would have been awesome, and kids would have eaten that up like it was a sundae shaped like Hulk Hogan.  But for whatever reason, they decided to do this ridiculous Rip thing, even though they still used the WWF brand in the beginning!  So it’s not like there was some reason not to use the WWF in the movie.  Possibly Vince McMahon’s dumbest move, if not ever, at least during that height of popularity.  Before Doink came along.

Brad: It’s almost like they went out of their way to prove that pro wrestling IS merely entertainment and not a real sport with the plot they came up with. The head of a network wants the star of another network for his wrestling show to boost his sagging ratings. Hogan already started his cinematic career as a wrestler already in arguably the most entertaining scene in the highly regarded Rocky series and here he is again playing a wrestler. Fine but like you said it could’ve been a way better story with more wrestlers. Remember Hulk Hogan’s Rock N’ Wrestling? Well I barely do too but the fact that the WWF superstars were not just wrestling in their cartoons made it more appealing to me when I was younger. These wrestlers were more or less super heroes to me probably because they wore costumes and had personas more so than they were athletic and muscular.

My best negotiation tactic is screaming in the talents’ faces when they refuse my offers!!

Brian: See I feel it’s the opposite, they’re presenting wrestling as being SO real that it can have brutal and deadly consequences. What really baffled me most was how the evil promoter is so obsessed with destroying “Rip” because Rip won’t be on his network.  Even after he starts the “Battle of the Tough Guys” (more on that later) and Zeus becomes just as popular as Rip, for some reason all he cares about is teaching Rip a lesson.  He wastes so much time and effort to either humiliate or kill Rip, and for what, exactly?

But getting back to not using WWF properly, I think that’s the reason why I didn’t see this movie in theaters when I was a kid.  I was freebasing wrestling at that point, buying pay-per-views and all that, but “No Holds Barred” really didn’t interest me that much.  And it’s mostly because it wasn’t about the WWF.  I remember thinking, “His name is Rip??  Forget it.”  Since I wasn’t really a big Hogan fan in the first place, I took a pass.  And I don’t think I ever sat through the whole thing until now.

Kids, if this song doesn’t lure you into the theaters, I don’t know what will…

Brad: You do have a great point about the reality of wrestling in this film. I failed to remember the dive bar wrestlers who obviously were battling it out for real for what seemed for no prize in winning other than sheer pride and glory. Hogan, sorry, Rip was in the “Big leagues” I suppose. Guys like Klondike Kramer didn’t need no corporate sponsorship to prove his worth. But I’m not really sure what Zeus’ motives were in the grand scheme of the reality of wrestling. But it does seem odd since the main driving point of No Holds Barred was televised ratings on pro wrestling and getting the more popular wrestler. And when you don’t get the more popular wrestler with money you get an even more popular wrestler to compete with that other guy even going so far as extortion, kidnapping and attempted murder to accomplish greater ratings. What’s hilarious is as you mentioned, he had a better wrestling show making huge ratings and he still wasn’t satisfied. I guess Brell REALLY just wanted Rip. Zeus was too much of a villainous character maybe. Or Brell just doesn’t like black people. Or maybe it was his weird eyebrow and glass eye.

What’s THAT smell? The box office receipts!!

Before we tackle Battle of the Tough Guys I’d like to point out something about the whole wrestling shows and networks. When Rip turns down Brell to join his network, Brell creates Battle of the Tough Guys and makes a champion out of Zeus and then wants Zeus to battle Rip. But wouldn’t Rip, who’s contractually obligated to his other network, be unable to fight in Brell’s network circuit. Like as if Macho Man in the WWF had a real-life conflict with Sting and went on WCW to fight Sting on Pay-per-view without the legal permission from Vince McMahon. Of course if you’re the Road Warriors/Legion of Doom than it’s OK.

And even though me and my brother were huge WWF fans we never saw this flick until it was a rental. I don’t know why exactly we waited but I’m glad we didn’t spend more money on it than we should have. We probably spent our good money on Batman or Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

I do remember Zeus being the “next big thing” and he was gone before we knew it.

Yes. That is Zeus grabbing a cocktail waitress by the FACE and picking her up by the FACE!!!

Brian: So here’s the thing, Brell discovers this underground wrestling thing, and decides to turn it into “Battle of the Tough Guys,” where Zeus is discovered by knocking down a brick wall and coming in and beating up two guys.  Somehow that makes him the winner.  So was “Battle of the Tough Guys” just one match?  They made it seem like it was going to be some kind of tournament, but Zeus didn’t fight anyone else.

Then “Battle of the Tough Guys” continues, but it’s all just Zeus fighting other guys (who are basically video game characters with costumes and weapons fitting their locales, or stages, if you will). So was this the tournament?  Like Zeus fighting the guy in the steel mill was round 2 of the bracket?  And Zeus vs. Rip was the championship finals?  But nobody else did any fighting except Zeus, so it couldn’t have been a tournament.  So basically it was Zeus going around to different places and fighting a guy who best fit that location’s stereotype.  So what does that have to do with wrestling?  It was more like Fight Club than WWF.  So why is Brell still obsessed with Rip, a wrestler, which is fake sporting entertainment, when he now has a show that’s about a guy who just street brawls with people and isn’t actually connected to wrestling in any way?

Yeah, Zeus was being touted on WWF as the next great heel, with the back story that the actor who played Zeus was humiliated that he had to lose to Rip/Hogan in the movie, so he snapped and became the Zeus persona in real life and challenged Hogan.  It’s really one of the more ridiculous premises in WWF history if you think about it.  And they were going to make him a big part of the WWF, but the movie crashed harder than Macho Man’s car (too soon?) and they just swept him aside after like three matches.

Brad: The strangest thing about Brell’s Battle of the Tough Guys was Zeus was a happy accident showing up out of the blue. Brell didn’t discover Zeus, Zeus discovered the BotTG tournament. How he did is still questionable. Was the tournament highlighted in the classifieds? WANTED: Tough Guys for battle. No experience or hygiene required. Inquire at nearest dive bar. Ask for Brell. From the looks of it Brell was just using the thugs and white trash at that dive bar which has an in-house wrestling event every Thursday night with 99¢ Schlitz Draft for his show hoping to attract Rip. At least that’s what it seemed his plan was since all he thought about or wanted was Rip. Rip is wrestling in the WWF with real rings and championship belts and locker rooms and Brell’s big idea was to lure Rip away from that with stale beer, grime and disease. Couldn’t Brell have used his good money that he was going to pay Rip for anyway to have a nice wrestling facility that would rival the WWF? He never would’ve imagined that his crappy looking BotTG show would be a hit. If the bar that had the exact same wrestling as the BotTG wasn’t packed with fans at the very real and brutal wrestling than why would the show be popular. But you’re right it wasn’t wrestling in the first place it was street brawling inside with a wooden fence as the ring. Even when Rip fought Zeus in the MAIN event at the end it had a capacity crowd of maybe 80 watching live and they were all in gowns and tuxedos.

But here’s the kicker, that was basically UFC style fighting complete with an octagonal ring. No Holds Barred was about 10 years ahead of its time when you think about it.

He was actually holding the kids back from running TOWARDS Zeus.

Brian: Right, the BotTG model was seriously flawed.  Mostly because unlike WWF, he wasn’t holding it in arenas where he could charge $50 per ticket and make real money.  The only money he could have made was through advertising, but in the late ’80s, how many companies were going to pay for advertising on a street fighting show?  It’s not like McDonald’s or Coca-Cola were going to attach their brands to a show featuring a guy basically beating other guys to death.

Here’s another thing: Why did Zeus have beef with Rip?  We know Brell hated Rip, for unclear reasons, and Zeus I guess worked for Brell, but why would Zeus want to destroy Rip just because his boss said so?  That’s the big problem with Zeus, he had zero back story.  He just showed up and fought and became the main antagonist, but we know nothing about him.  I get that they wanted him to seem like a mysterious unstoppable force, but even Michael Myers had a back story.  Why did Zeus go to BotTG?  Where did he live?  How much did Brell pay him?  Why was he cool with all the kidnapping?  Was he just an escaped mental patient?  What happened to his eye?  Who’s his barber?

I was also going to say that Brell essentially invented UFC with BotTG.  But UFC never held an event in front of 80 people in formal dress with silver streamers as decoration.

Brad: Maybe Zeus was just fighting for the glory of the sport. He didn’t have a beef with Rip per se just wanted to beat the champion of WWF.  It could’ve been Bad News Brown were he champion. And I think his barber was the fella who had his other eye.

But as ridiculous as the whole Battle of the Tough Guys goes, it doesn’t hold a candle to the retarded subplot of Joan Severance being hired to seduce Rip by Brell. And not only that but Rip and her actually falling in love makes crazy look like a blessing. So let’s quickly re-cap Brell’s plan:

1. Offer Rip a ton of cash to leave the WWF and join your network.
2. When he refuses attempt to kidnap/hurt Rip in a warehouse.
3. Make sure the kinda attractive and qualified executive that you hired to seduce Rip gets hired at the WWF to lure Rip to the Brell network.
4. While #3 possibly happens, have your two nerdy executives to go to dive bars that have underground wrestling/fighting tournaments.
5. Start a new wrestling tournament based on the dive bar’s tournament that is shown on TV.
6. Battle of the Tough Guys is a smashing success thanks to newcomer Zeus, make sure Zeus hates Rip and wants to destroy him.
7. Allow Zeus to hurt Rip’s brother, prompting Rip to want to fight.
8. When #7 and the seductress fail. Kidnap the seductress and force her to watch the bout.
9. Allow Rip to destroy Zeus’ gym and secretly spy on him poorly.
10. Rip finally agrees to fight Zeus on your network.


So essentially Brell is not only very evil but he’s a great planner. He had thugs and a limo driver willing and ready to hurt Rip when he refuses the offer. He had Joan Severance willing to be a very frigid seductress. A man with this much power and influence over people shouldn’t be working in television and trying to have a successful wrestling program but rather should be a politician or something.

Battle of the Tough Guys? Battle of the FAAAAABULOUS Guys!!!!

Brian: Only he wasn’t a great planner because his plan involved so many crimes that the only end game was jail or death.  Let’s look at the crimes committed in this picture:

1. Kidnapping #1 – After Rip turns him down, Brell’s limo driver holds him against his will on their way to an abandoned warehouse.  This is clearly a premeditated act because a) the driver knew what to do in this event, b) other henchmen were available to be at the warehouse and c) the limo is equipped with steel shutters, the only purpose for which would be to hold someone in the car against their will.

2. Attempted murder #1 – Brell’s henchman try to kill Rip in the warehouse.

3. Attempted murder #2 – Brell’s henchman try to kill Rip at a restaurant.

4. Attempted murder #3 – Brell’s henchman try to kill Joan Severance and Rip with motorcycles.

5. Attempted rape – During attempted murder #3, one of the henchman tries to rape Joan Severance.

6. Attempted murder #4 – Zeus beats Rip’s brother into a coma.  Although this was witnessed by many people, no charges are brought against Zeus.  But on the other hand, it’s possible that charges can’t be brought against Zeus for mystical reasons.

7. Kidnapping #2 – Joan Severance is kidnapped.  Possible and probable off-screen rape, but we won’t count it.

8. Extortion – Brell forces Rip to fight Zeus or they will kill Joan Severance.

9. Murder threat – They threaten to kill Joan Severance.

10. Attempted murder #5 – Zeus tries to kill Rip by putting a broken ring post through his face.

Did I miss anything?  I also think Zeus may have murdered some of the people he fought, but they may have signed a waiver.  Plus there were probably many more off-screen rapes, or on-screen rapes that were cut from the film.  So I figure Brell and Zeus were probably facing 25 to life.

Brad: Yeah why didn’t Rip simply call the police after he was attacked in the warehouse? He handled himself with aplomb sure but he’s no superhero he’s just an athlete. And he was attacked more than once as was his girlfriend and brother and he still wanted to handle all this on his own with the help of that elderly black trainer. This movie is surely written by the same guys who write the drama for WWF. I also think Vince McMahon modeled Brell after himself and “what lengths he would go to to get what he wanted” but the damn law is against him. I’m sure Vince thought about kidnapping the wife of some WCW or ECW wrestlers to get them to join the WWF but cooler heads prevailed.

Brian: Two problems: Brell owned the police, and Zeus can’t be brought down by mortal man.

How do we know that Vince didn’t do that, and it just worked out in his favor every time?

You just reminded me that the elderly trainer was even in the movie.  I guess that was the whole of Zeus’s back story.  “I used to train him, but he got too CRAZAY!”

Brad: I’d hate to compare but was Clubber Lang ever given a back story in Rocky III? I’m trying hard to remember but I seem to recall him simply showing up, getting a title fight and winning only to lose it again within the span of 75 minutes.

Another question arises in NHB: Why did Rip have a trainer or actually 2 trainers if his brother had anything to do being at ringside? That was a bit odd even for WWF to have trainers as well as managers. And Hogan never was managed by anyone if I recall correctly. So was the black guy only in the movie to give Zeus that TINY bit of back story and help save Joan Severance? Because they would have Rip actually save her but they just couldn’t squeeze another 10 minutes of running time into this slow movie. It was way more convenient and faster to have some random trainer do it.

Brian: I was just thinking that I bet their first choice for Zeus was Mr. T.  But I suppose since he’s two feet shorter than Hogan it wouldn’t have been very intimidating.  But you’re right, Clubber Lang didn’t really have a back story, but neither did Ivan Drago, or Apollo Creed in the first Rocky.  Rocky II is the only one where they built up a story for the opponent.  Unless you count Rocky V, but I don’t.

I guess wrestlers do train, but it doesn’t make much sense to make it appear that the trainer is always by his side.  Hogan’s trainer around that point was the guy who shot steroids into his ass.

But yeah, this is one of the few movies where the hero doesn’t actually save the damsel in distress.

Brad: In all honesty she wasn’t in much distress. She managed to escape unseen and her pursuers were two rent-a-cops and two nerdy TV executives.

I’m nearing the end of any other reviewing of No Holds Barred. I can’t think of much else to make fun of other than the rainbow-painted helicopter Zeus flew in to intimidate Rip into a match in front of over 100 kids. That scene pretty much sums it all up for me.

It’s hard to be intimidating when you arrive to taunt the champion in a rainbow decorated chopper.

I watched this flick a bunch of times back in the late 80s early 90s especially on cable. Being a huge WWF fan then this movie truly let me down as it was dumb even for me at 11 or 12 years old. Zeus was downright retarded as a villain, literally I thought even back then that he had a mental problem. The only thing I took from this picture up til our recent viewing was the dumb quote “What’s that smell? Doo-doo-Dookie! Dookie?!” which even friends I made even recently a few years back would even quote, so I guess that’s No Holds Barred legacy: Dookie.

It did pave the way for Hogan’s masterpiece: Suburban Commando!

Brian: The one other thing we need to address is the hotel room scene where the audience is treated to a dozen gratuitous shots of Hulk Hogan’s ass, which makes total sense, since the target audience of this movie isn’t pubescent boys but horny women.

Then we have the most unbelievable line of dialogue in the movie, when Joan Severance and Rip have to share one bed (because no other rooms are available to the most popular wrestler on the planet, they don’t have cots there, or there isn’t another crappy motel within a hundred miles) and Rip hangs a sheet down the middle of the bed, then the bed breaks under Rip’s unheard-of 290 pounds, so Joan Severance ends up rolling on top of him, but she rejects his overtures of rape, so he goes into a roid rage, tears down the sheet and says, “You don’t need this, you put up bigger walls than I ever could!”  It’s stunning how ridiculous that line sounds, completely crowbarred in there.  It’s like it was written by a vagina with a learning disability.  Fortunately, it helps pave the way to break down Joan’s walls.


Don’t watch this.

Brad: Well movie buffs alike will surely recognize the Clark Gable homage for the hotel room makeshift wall and sexual tension in this 1934 classic, It Happened One Night:

Did we ever see where Rip went after he stormed out of the room after he yelled at Joan? Did he sleep in the lobby?

Brian: This scene is lacking shots of Clark Gable in testicle-crunching underwear, though.  And Gable could never beat Zeus in the ring.

Brad: Like Hell he can’t!


Kid score: 6
Adult score: 3

2 thoughts on “Hard Ticket to Home Video Classic: No Holds Barred

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