Retro Review: ‘No Holds Barred’
Professional wrestling is unlike any other sport. The winner and loser of each contest is already pre-determined so the job of the competitor is to make it entertaining. It is a lot like Roman gladiators in a way, where the main object is more about winning a reaction from the crowd as well as play politics with those behind the scenes. Which is why the cult classic No Holds Barred is such a strange flick, it treats the sport of wrestling with absolute dedication to kayfabe. Starring arguably the most famous athlete to come from sports entertainment, Hulk Hogan as Rip, who is simply the Hulkster in all but color scheme.
As mentioned before Hulk Hogan plays Rip Thomas, the wrestler who has taken the world by storm. By his side the entire way is his brother Randy, who of course is a weak spot for the bad guys to exploit. His success in the squared circle draws the attention of the reporter Samantha, who naturally becomes his love interest in the movie (because who can withstand the seduction abilities of an oily muscular dude who does push-ups at night in the buff). Not everyone is happy with Rip’s success, at an opposing network, Brell plots on how to steal Rip away to work for him. When his attempts to coerce him via, pants-pooping limo driver and thugs fails; he recruits the evil wrestler Zeus to crush the heroic wrestler in the eyes of the general public.
This was the first film produced by what is now the WWE, a company which has given us such masterful films as…um…..That’s What I Am was pretty good….. While No Holds Barred is no masterpiece of filmmaking it is a very fun movie. It is obvious they saw this movie as the perfect way to further cement their star, Hulk Hogan, into an overall pop culture of the era. In fact in many ways Rip Thomas is the superhero they often tried to bill Hogan as; even when legitimate crime happens he has no problem leaping into action. He is so powerful he single-handedly defeats several thugs and makes one of them poop his pants in fear.In one scene he even stops a gang of armed robbers in a diner with little effort, while jamming out to a Hank Williams Jr. song. If you do not see the awesomeness in that, then you my friend, need to consult a doctor.
Since wrestling mogul Vince McMahon’s strategy for taking over the industry was to dominate the television realm, it makes sense that the villain of the movie is an evil network head, who aims to steal away his prized asset. To that end they cast Kurt Fuller, famous for playing the unscrupulous mayoral aid in Ghostbusters II as the villain with future Oscar nominee David Paymer as his sniveling sidekick. Of course in an action movie a physical threat is needed, enter Zeus, played by famed movie tough guy Tiny Lister. Lister is not given much to do in the way of acting, but he fulfills the need of being a physically imposing threat who could be believable against Hogan.
While not the worst movie ever made, No Holds Barred is pretty bad. For starters it is boring at times, and for a silly over-the-top 80’s action flick, being boring is a big downside. But the action scenes, as well as Kurt Fuller chewing scenery keep things fun for the majority of the movie. As mentioned before, the strangest element of the movie is the treatment of the sport with absolute sincerity. This movie has no bookers or road agents to guide matches or angles, instead No Holds Barred treats what we see in wrestling as reality. The fandom the movie has built is well deserved, both wrestling as well as cartoonish 80’s action movies have dedicated fan bases, so it makes sense that this flick would draw both in. If you love bad action flicks such as I do, this movie is well worth checking out.