‘No Holds Barred’ turns 25: 6 odd facts that may change your opinion about the movie
No Holds Barred hold a special place in the hearts of older wrestling fans.
It resides in a spot marked “this means something to me, even though it was awful.”
No Holds Barred was an attempt to capitalize on the huge commercial success of Hulk Hogan in the late 1980s. Hogan’s face was as recognizable as the president or any other legit athlete of his time. Hogan moved a ton of WWF merchandise and brought the WWF, and professional wrestling, into the American mainstream. It’s natural to believe he could be the lead in a major motion picture, especially one about professional wrestling.
No Holds Barred wasn’t about professional wrestling. It didn’t involve any other popular stars of the time. It didn’t even resemble the professional wrestling product of the time. No Holds Barred did only one thing — create the greatest movie line about pants pooping of all time.
Still, the film is beloved by wrestling fans, even though it was awful and unleashed Tiny Lister on the WWF audience for almost an entire year. Lister’s professional wrestling was a bad as his movie wrestling.
The movie turns 25 years old this week. After re-watching it a couple months ago, and reading some info about it online, I now have a different opinion of the flick. Oh, it’s still awful. Probably worse than you remember. But, many different things about the 1989 movie make so much more sense.
Here are six odd facts about No Holds Barred you probably didn’t know. They’ll do nothing to make the movie better but they’ll probably change the way feel about the movie.
Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan wrote it
When the first draft of the script was turned in, Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon hated it so much, the two men checked into a hotel in Florida and stayed up for 72 hours rewriting the script together.
The No Holds Barred people saw wasn’t the original but was, according to Vince and Hulk’s standards, better than the original. Good Christ, would I love to see that original script.
The action was real, brother!
During the filming, there were more than a few accidents on the set. Hulk Hogan accidentally broke Zeus’s nose. Hogan himself cut his hand open on the glass shards from the broken mirrors. So, as fake as the action (and acting) seemed, people were really trying to make it look legit.
It’s not Hulk Hogan, it’s ‘Rip Thomas’
The movie makers, and maybe even Vince and Hogan since they both wrote the flick, did everything to change Hulk Hogan into Rip Thomas. This meant changing Hogan’s catchphrases, look, and even his finisher.
Every wrestling fan knows Hulk Hogan’s catchprases (“Whatcha gonna do…”), look (the red and yellow) and his finisher (the atomic leg drop from which no one, NO ONE, comes back from) but Rip Thomas had to be different. “Rip ‘em” is much shorter and not as catchy as the classic Hogan mutterings. His finisher, a running double sledgehammer, was actually Hogan’s finisher during his run in Japan where it was known as the Axe Bomber.
It might have been in the best interest of the movie to have Hogan play a character at least close to his WWF persona. Of course, it also might have helped to have a square ring instead of an octagon and not wrestle in a TV studio but I’m no screenwriter. Actually, neither are Vince and Hulk.
Zeus could movie wrestle or professional wrestle
To promote the movie, Tommy “Tiny” Lister was brought in to the WWF as Zeus. Zeus’ storyline was that he was angry about losing in the movie (which was scripted) and he claimed he could beat Hogan in the real world of professional wrestling (also scripted). There are long standing rumors that had No Holds Barred been a box office success, the main event for Wrestlemania VI would have been Hulk Hogan vs. Zeus for the World Heavyweight title. Shudder.
Here’s the thing though — Lister was never fully trained as a wrestler which became ridiculously obvious the moment he stepped into a WWF ring. Just how bad was Zeus in the ring? After his initial run in the WWF, he signed a contract with WCW. So it’s obvious he was awful.
Thankfully, Zeus only wrestled three matches. The first, a tag match with Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan & Brutus Beefcake at Summerslam, then an eight-man tag where he was eliminated by DQ. Finally, since Vince knew the movie was a bust (numbers don’t lie) and he came up with another idea to recoup his losses.
The movie and match had their own pay-per-view
No Holds Barred: The Match/The Movie, which is how the event was billed, was shown on pay-per-view on December 27, 1989. The program consisted of the film in its entirety (which was still in theaters) followed by a pre-recorded match at a Wrestling Challenge taping in Nashville, Tennessee held earlier in the month.
On the card earlier in the night, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes defeated Big Boss Man, WWF Intercontinental Champion The Ultimate Warrior beat Dino Bravo, The Colossal Connection (André the Giant and Haku) beat the WWF Tag Team Champions Demolition (via countout) and “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig beat Ron Garvin. The main event of the night, Hogan and Beefcake defeated Randy Savage and Zeus in a steel cage match. This pay-per-view is currently one of the few WWE events not yet available on the WWE Network.
It was a flop and Hogan still — sort of — owes Vince McMahon money
No Holds Barred debuted at #2 at the box office behind Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The film grossed a total of $4,957,052 in ticket sales in it’s opening weekend. Hulk Hogan wrote in his autobiography that the budget for the film was about $8 million dollars. Vince McMahon, who financed the movie, essentially broke even because of distribution fees. The final gross for the film was $16,093,651.
During an episode of Raw in 1997, Vince McMahon was doing commentary and made a joke about the film. Vince stated that “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 in the thick of the Monday Night Wars and was a dig at Hogan’s then-movie project Assault on Devil’s Island. Raw commentator Jim Ross also once joked on Raw about the movie “No Holds Barred? More like ‘No Profit Allowed’.”