Here’s a tip for scouting out bad movies: if the title or the teaser is directly counter to what happens in the movie, you may have struck gold. If, say, “Fugitive Alien” has no aliens, or if the hills in “The Hills Have Eyes” turn out not to have eyes, turn the volume up and sit a little closer to the TV. Or take the teaser for the Hulk Hogan vehicle “No Holds Barred”: “No Ring. No Ref. No Rules.” There is actually a ring, and there’s definitely a ref – he keeps getting tossed aside by Hogan and his opponents, after all! – and so we press on with anticipation.
GOOD GOD that’s a lot of spittle.
Of course, you don’t have to deconstruct the teaser to figure out that No Holds Barred is a hoot: you can figure that out during the first scene, where Rip (Hulk Hogan), on his way to the ring to defend his world championship against somebody named “Dink Mullet” or something, starts frothing at the mouth. In slow motion. Labradors drool less than Rip does here. And in this universe, buckets of real drool and oodles of choreographed violence are a top draw in TV ratings.
His little drool problem notwithstanding, Rip’s character is modeled exactly on Hogan’s wrestling persona, except his shirt is white instead of yellow and his finishing move (a running double axehandle, yeesh) is even worse than the infamous Leg Drop of Doom. His catchphrase “RIP ‘EM!” is a beacon of hope to incontinents everywhere. He insists on bringing his little brother Randy to the ring for every match, if only so he can stand around and shout “Rip! Riiiiip! Go for it!” in his little wiener voice. Randy is, I think, played by that guy “Jeff” from Mr. T’s “Be Somebody or Be Somebody’s Fool” video, the really skinny guy who thought dressing like a soda jerk was really hip.
“I want that jock ass ON THIS NETWORK!”
Mr. Brell feels the love
Interestingly enough, there’s a character who’s exactly like wrestling’s Svengali, Vince McMahon, in this movie too! (Probably because Vince co-wrote and produced the movie with Hogan.) He’s the diabolical Mr. Brell (Kurt Fuller, who also played Rob Lowe’s TV executive sidekick in “Wayne’s World”). He’s the head of the dead-last World Television Network, and like McMahon in real life, he has an ego that far outstrips his talent, bullies people for no reason, and thinks insults like “take a leak!” are actually stunning and provocative rejoinders, and not the last verbal resort of witless third graders. Brell also keeps referring to Rip as “that jock ass,” not that there’s anything wrong with that.
This scene, in which Hulk Hogan makes an elderly limo driver crap his pants, is still funnier than every Farrelly Brothers movie put together.
Mr. Brell’s vision for rebuilding WTN is simple: every idea is stupid except for luring Rip away from his current network. (On the other hand, this does mean WTN viewers would never be subject to Dharma and Greg). He brings Rip in for a powwow, and offers him a blank check to join the team. But Rip declines! It’s not about the money for him. (Ok, that’s one way he’s different from Hogan.) Brell says Rip can’t leave til he’s signed to WTN. Rip again says no. Brell calls Rip a “jock ass.” Rip sort of breathes funny and probably drools, then grabs the check and shoves it down Mr. Brell’s throat before wandering out of the building. RIP EM!
There’s trouble coming! Rip’s 94 year old limo driver locks the champ in the back seat and drives him to an evil warehouse, where some thugs try to take him down. Rule number one of being a movie thug is: never try to take out the guy who CO-WROTE THE FREAKING MOVIE and so heads are handed back in rather quick fashion, and much hilarity is had when Rip finally gets his hands on the limo driver, who literally craps his pants in terror. “What’s that smell?” Rip mumbles in between grimaces, snorts, and flying spittle. “D-d-dookie!” squeaks the driver. “DOOKIE???” says Rip. “DOOKIE!!!” says the audience.
“Well if it ain’t the teeny wangers! Hahahahahahahahaha!”
Stan Hansen, to Brell’s flunkies
We cannot explain Stan “The Lariat” Hansen’s cameo in the sleazy bar; we can merely acknowledge its existence.
Next we see Rip at a business meeting, where he meets Sam, his new account manager. My bank never sends account managers to meet with me! Wait, Sam is a business agent, and she’s a lady! And Rip digs her! And she digs him, too, but she doesn’t understand him. She thinks Rip is into merchandising deals and fast food, when he’s actually into charity work and French cuisine. She’s managing the Flying Nun with a receding hairline and overactive salivary glands.
But as they tumble into their predictable love-hate relationship subplot, Mr. Brell and his flunkies head to a dive bar in search of talent. They find a no-rules toughman contest, a dude sitting in a cage spitting at people, and Stan Hansen, who also spits. This foul place inspires Brell to create his own toughman TV show, “The Battle of the Tough Guys.” The flunkies, who are appalled at the violence as well as the vast amounts of pee covering every available surface in the hillbilly bar, get their classist comeuppance in the bathroom, where Stan Hansen makes fun of their “teeny wangers.”
almost every character, in almost every scene
A v-shaped unibrow? Now THAT’s a villain
Halfway through the first “Battle of the Tough Guys” we meet our villain, Zeus. Like most of the people in this movie, he’s tall, muscular, and screams all the time. (Seriously, not even the Coen Brothers have this much screaming in their fight scenes.) He beats up everybody on the show, even Stan Hansen, thereby sending a message to Mr. Brell at ringside. The message is “aaaaaaaggggghhhhhaaa- rrrrrgggghhhrrraaaahhhh!!!” Finally Mr. Brell has some jock ass on his network!
Now everyone is watching Zeus and WTN, even Rip. But Zeus is so damn evil that he’s frightening the crucial “very small children” demographic, and he has a shady past: Rip’s trainer/handler/gardener/whatever (Bill Henderson, who played the cop in “Clue”), who trained Zeus years before, tells us that the big guy killed someone in the ring and got sent to jail. Apparently he went to the same jail as Too Sweet Gordon in the Penitentiary movies, cause he knows how to put the hurt on people.
“Guess who this is.”
-Brell, pointing at Randy
“I don’t guess!”
Zeus and Brell decide to turn the heat up. They crash Rip’s appearance at some charity event and challenge him, humiliating him in front of disadvantaged kids.* They try to sabotage Rip’s love life, since Sam the account rep has fallen for the champ after seeing him foil two robbers by hitting them with pies and watching him do pushups in a thong. And – gasp – the villains beat up Randy the wiener brother!
Rip is furious, and he’s finally ready to fight. While Zeus trains by wrecking stuff, Rip… hangs out at Randy’s physical therapy sessions, makes a lot of concerned faces, and gives his brother sponge baths.
I am not kidding about the sponge baths.
“Come on, Rip… .try!”
The fight is on, and it’s brutal. Zeus, who, after all, does no charity work, is unrelenting, and pounds Rip from pillar to post. All 35 of the fans in the arena are mortified, and Randy, at ringside in a wheelchair, admonishes his brother to “try.” Then, when all hope seems lost, Randy moves a finger for the first time since Zeus beat the crap out of him, and Rip sees Sam in a low cut party dress. Suitably inspired, he mounts a ferocious comeback that spills into the crowd and showers the audience in drool (presumably.) Punch after punch after punch after punch god just STOP already, we GET IT. Rip not only defeats Zeus, but kills him by knocking him off a three-story ledge back into the ring. Then it’s payback time for Mr. Brell, who has spent the last minutes of the fight inexplicably destroying his own TV equipment. Brell cleverly fends Rip off by yelling “stay away, you jock ass!” but then backs into a wall from which he’s just pulled electric cables, and his demise by electrocution is ironic and fitting in some way that is unlikely to ever be discerned. Two deaths, yes, but at least Rip gets to hug his goofy little brother.
For what it’s worth, Zeus appeared in the real pro wrestling world after the movie came out, the storyline being that he somehow thought they were filming a real fight and that he was mad he’d lost. So he apparently thought he had been killed in a movie fight and wanted to settle the score in a pro wrestling feud. These matches were completely forgettable, save for the fact that Zeus would scream “Hhhhhhhhhooooooooooooooogggggggaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnn!!!!!!!!” every time he came to the ring, sounding just a bit like Colonel Klink. Still, the real deal is here in No Holds Barred. Mildly recommended, jock ass.
*Actually, if I were a disadvantaged kid, I would feel better having met Rip. I may be poor, I’d say to myself, but at least I can get through a sentence without drooling.