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No Holds Barred is a 1989 film produced by Michael Rachmil, directed by Thomas J. Wright, written by Dennis Hackin, and starring professional wrestler Hulk Hogan (who is billed as executive producer alongside Vince McMahon). The film is produced by World Wrestling Federation (under a "Shane Distribution Company" copyright) and was released by New Line Cinema on June 2, 1989. It is rated PG-13 and was launched as an attempt to boost Hulk Hogan's acting career several years after his appearance in Rocky III.
Hulk Hogan plays Rip, a very popular professional wrestler. Although Rip looks and acts like a brute, he is actually a golden-hearted guy. He has a younger brother, Randy, whose presence in the audience motivates him enough to win his matches.
Rip appears on a television channel which screens all his matches. Thanks to Rip, the channel is highly popular. However, the evil, money-hungry and ruthless chairman of a rival channel, Brell (Kurt Fuller, portraying a Vince McMahon-like character in the movie, several years before McMahon's development of the evil Mr. McMahon character), wants to convince Rip to join their network. Rip respectfully declines, though Brell has his gang of thugs attempt to beat Rip into submission during the limo ride home from the meeting.
After visiting the No Count Bar, a rowdy establishment featuring a wrestling ring in the center and patronized by drunken, vicious fighters, Brell is inspired to create a new kind of wrestling program, focusing more on violence and sensationalism than Rip's more moralistic version of the sport. Brell's new program, Battle of the Tough Guys, is successful after the introduction of Zeus (Tom "Tiny" Lister Jr), a violent, seemingly unfazable ex-con who sports a "Z"-shaped patch of hair on his skull. Zeus killed an opponent in the ring after the fight was over, and has been in prison until recently.
Samantha, a beautiful corporate spy (Joan Severance), is sent by Brell to seduce Rip. However, Rip's good nature and dedication to charity wins her over, and she confesses the truth to the wrestler and turns to his side. After this fails, Brell attempts to have Samantha raped; as usual, Rip foils the plot and dispatches the would-be rapist into a tree trunk. Meanwhile, Brell and Zeus crash an outdoor charity event Rip is appearing at, demanding that Rip prove his honor by fighting Zeus live on Brell's new show. Once again, Rip avoids violent conflict and attempts to reason with Brell, who leaves in anger.
Randy and a friend decide to check out Zeus for themselves, attending an illegal fight being held in a warehouse. After watching Zeus defeat the monstrous Lugwrench Perkins (Jeep Swenson), Randy foolishly identifies himself as Rip's brother to Brell and his associates. Randy attempts to defend himself, but Zeus brutally beats him, sending him to the hospital. Finally, after this ultimate insult, a tearful Rip decides to accept Zeus' challenge.
Before the match, Brell abducts Rip's friends and threatens to kill them if Rip doesn't lose deliberately. With the odds against him, Rip wins the match after Zeus falls from a perch into the wrestling ring, collapsing it. Rip turns his attentions to Brell, who accidentally falls into an electrical panel to his demise. With his friends rescued and his brother recovering in the hospital, Rip celebrates his victory.
No Holds Barred: The Movie/The Match
No Holds Barred was part of a pay-per-view program available to customers on December 27, 1989. The program consisted of previously released legit interviews with Hogan's co-stars (with the exception of Lister, whose in-character interview as Zeus was used to play up his storyline "jealousy" of Hogan), reviews from various WWF co-stars, then the film in its entirety and then a pre-recorded steel cage match pitting Hogan and Zeus on opposing tag teams. Hogan teamed with longtime friend Brutus "the Barber" Beefcake, while Zeus was paired with fellow heel Randy "Macho Man" Savage.
During the summer of 1989, the four were involved in an intertwined feud. Lister had made several appearances at WWF events as Zeus and cut promos claiming that he, and not Hogan, should have received top billing in No Holds Barred; several times, Zeus appeared at live events to confront Hogan and demand a match. At the same time, Hogan and Savage were feuding over the WWF World Championship (which Hogan had reclaimed at WrestleMania V), and Beefcake began feuding with Savage. At the 1989 SummerSlam, Hogan and Beefcake teamed to defeat Savage and Zeus, after which the tag team feud was placed on hold as Zeus began appearing with "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase (another longtime Hogan adversary) in the lead-up to the 1989 Survivor Series.
The Hogan-Beefcake vs. Savage-Zeus tag team rivalry resumed after the Survivor Series, in the lead-up to "No Holds Barred: The Movie/The Match."
The match was pre-recorded at a WWF Wrestling Challenge taping December 12, 1989, in Nashville, Tennessee. In that match, Hogan and Beefcake defeated Savage and Zeus in 9:32. In a match that could be won either by pinning the opponent (a rarity for the WWF at the time) or having both wrestlers on a given team escape the cage, Beefcake first escaped the cage, followed closely by Savage. As Beefcake finished off a dazed Savage outside the ring, Hogan began battering the previously unfazable Zeus inside the cage before finishing him off with three legdrops and recording the pin.
Shortly after the match was recorded, Lister departed the WWF. Hogan continued to battle Savage for another two months, while Beefcake began feuding with Curt Hennig.
Most critics considered the movie as a B-movie at best and camp at worst, criticizing the simplistic storyline and clichéd characters. Hulk Hogan received much of the criticism for his limited acting ability, but the film's frequent immaturity, designed to appeal to preteen boys, was also chastised. In one scene, Rip literally scares a limo driver to the point that the driver soils himself, complete with closeups of the unfortunate man's stained pants and his shameful admission that he smells like "dookie".
The movie debuted at #2, behind Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, with $4,957,052 in ticket sales. Hogan writes in his autobiography the budget was about eight million dollars. Vince McMahon, who financed the movie, more or less broke even because of distribution fees. The final tally was $16,093,651 in ticket sales.
During the October 13, 1997 episode of Monday Night Raw Vince McMahon joked, "Hogan promised me that if the movie lost money he was gonna return his salary. I guess the check is still in the mail." This was at the beginning stages of the Monday Night Wars and was part of a number of digs at Hogan's then-new movie project Assault on Devil's Island. Raw commentator Jim Ross also joked during the late 1990s; "No Holds Barred? More like No Profit Allowed."