Relax and let Hulk Hogan return you to a simpler – and more ultimate – time of action!
Did you ever convince your parents to buy the ultimate box of cereal featuring all of your favorite wrestlers: WWF Superstars? Like Wheaties, you would find a new “athlete” on the box decked out in all of their spandex and oiled-up glory. My Mom gave in one day and I was pumped to try my first bowl with Saturday morning cartoons. The first spoonful of the hollowed out starry puffs tastes like a cross between Cap’n Crunch and Honeycomb. The second bite didn’t have as much flavor but whatever, GI Joe was on and Cobra was getting their asses kicked. By the time the real American heroes’ PSA came on, you were left with an amorphous, inedible soggy mess.
Just like the cereal, WWF Studios’ first feature film plays on your fandom, draws you in with its glitzy packaging and campy Wrestlemania antics, but ultimately leaves you unsatisfied and wanting something more substantive like steak and eggs with a side of crispy bacon. Speaking of bacon, a similarly hued Hulk Hogan does his very best to carry this movie with his pile-driving prowess and assorted tie-dyed manny panties that no woman can resist.
It’s not a great movie but it’s an entertaining movie and almost everything you could want from a hair-brained plot involving jealousy, revenge, a double-crossing floozy, and a rival redneck wrestling show called “Battle of the Tough Guys.” Here are the top three No Holds Barred action moments that happen chronologically and in order of greatness, just like its wholesome, corn-based breakfast counterpart.
A Hulk-Napping Gone Wrong
Who in their right mind would think it’s a good idea to kidnap Hulk Hogan in a limousine in order to coerce him into severing his lucrative contract to join a rival network? The greedy, evil businessman of course, who is played by noted sleazy character actor, Kurt Fuller.
The scheme quickly unravels.
Right after the limo driver locks him in the backseat, the Hulkster just starts kicking the crap out of the car as a Soul Glo-inspired track hilariously plays over the scene. This prompts the driver to kick it into high gear and rush over to a standard-issue grimy warehouse chock full of awaiting goons. Once the driver barrels on in and throws it into park, Hogan bursts out of the roof and proceeds to head-butt, close-line, high kick, and uppercut his way through all of them.
All that’s left is the hapless limo driver who Hulk grabs out of the decimated vehicle and menacingly stares down. There are several staredowns in the movie and they are all laugh-out-loud ludicrous. Needless to say the driver soils himself, which further enrages an already irritated Hulk. Then it just kind of ends. A brilliant sequence with a poo-stained climax that craps out rather suddenly as well. After a slick one-liner, he could have thrown him into a toilet or grabbed a toilet to smash over his head. Grab a hose and chase him around for a little bit. I don’t know, anything!
A different group of miscellaneous bad guys make an unfortunate error in judgment when they attempt an armed robbery at a diner that the Hulkster is patronizing with his generic love interest. First off, what kind of score are you expecting from a local diner? More importantly, if you bust in there and see a 6’7”, 300lb mustachioed dude wearing knee-high boots along with light-blue spandex and matching do-rag, you best turn tail and hit the McDonalds across the street.
Hogan promptly rips out a stool and chucks it at the would-be robbers. But what really puts the brakes on their plan is an inexplicable line-up of pies on the counter that he rifles at them with rapid-fire speed. More food gets tossed as Hulk does what he does best and picks them up one at a time and throws them around the dining room as his lady friend watches from under a table. Apparently this gets her in the mood later in a very uncomfortable scene at the motel.
After a rousing round of chucklehead chucking, the Hogan gets a round of applause and a hearty thank you from the waitress that sexually harassed him earlier. As entertaining as this scene is, I was expecting more moves and combos. Give me a pile-driver, a flying elbow off of the counter, a double-kick to the face. Oh well, at least there’s the last fight to look forward to, which is bound to break out the special moves and techniques…
Final Fight and The Mushy Remnants at the Bottom
A few of the movie’s story beats are reminiscent of Rocky III but obviously play out differently. Rocky and Hulk’s Rip are over-exposed and top-of-their-game; they are just asking to be knocked down a peg. Mr. T’s Clubber Lang and Tommy “Tiny” Lister’s Zeus are fired up, have something to prove, and are ready to dethrone the king. Both Rocky and Rip have to overcome a loved one’s severe trauma, which encourages them to fight harder than ever.
These narrative elements are necessary to endear you to the characters, raise the stakes, and simply keep things interesting. The final showdown and culminating drama should have a big payoff and deliver a satisfying conclusion for the audience.
Zeus walks his way to a teeny octagonal ring donning some kind of Shredder knock-off outfit as Hulk starts in with his hilarious stare down/huffing routine. The scene is evenly lit and sterile, unlike the dramatic lighting, contrasts, and sweaty haze of the ring in Rocky’s world. Evil businessman’s box seat is literally right next to the ring as he gesticulates and taunts Hogan like a curiously self-assured, caged monkey. It’s goofy.
The action picks up with a lot of punching and even more tossing. The diminutive ring is quickly abandoned as the match spills out into the stands where members of the crowd are no longer safe from the intermittent tossing. If you signed up as an extra for No Holds Barred, you had a better than a 50/50 chance of being thrown at somebody or something.
In between the typical royal rumbling and mild head crushing, the drama plays out as the lady friend gets held hostage and escapes while Rip’s disabled little brother gets knocked down and trampled on. Instead of running out of there and calling the cops, lady friend just wanders back to the auditorium to watch the fight. Little bro’ is ok too, ready to cheer on Rip once again.
The coup-de-gras is decent enough as Zeus ends doing a glorious flying backflop right through the mini-octagon with his legs dangling about. Evil businessman somehow electrocutes himself…he doesn’t even have the decency to be thrown around like everyone else.
It’s an inevitable conclusion devoid of the crazy, off-the-wall stunts and never-before-seen wrestling moves that one would expect from this type of movie. It’s ok but didn’t have near the flavor or consistency of that first tasty bite involving limo jumping and load dropping. The packaging and the promise of a nostalgic, fun time sell you on it though. Yellow shirt-rippers will eat it up to the end but the casual movie streamer who never fully experienced Hulkamania probably won’t get it and switch over to Rocketman or Honey Boy.
Coincidentally, No Holds Barred is streaming on Amazon Prime Video right now! Fill up a bowl of Superstars, and/or a tall glass of bourbon, and remember a simpler time of Saturday morning entertainment filled with consequence-free violence and barebones storytelling.