Shaun vs. No Holds Barred (1989)

World Heavyweight Champion and all around good guy Hulk Hogan Rip Thomas is put to the ultimate test by an irate network executive with a competing wrestling program with a challenger in Zeus who wants to make the fight all too real.  Because it wasn’t before?  Wrestling’s fake??

Judging a Book by its Cover




Well I bet that tagline is pretty misleading.  I bet I’ll see a ring and a ref enforcing rules at some point.  This better be no Rocky V.

I’m getting some biblical allusions here.  Hulk is the Jesus.  Zeus is the devil and then there’s…other people.






No Ring.  No Ref.  No Rules.

Directed by Thomas J. Wright

Starring Hulk Hogan, Tommy “Tiny” Lister and Kurt Fuller

The film begins with the main event of the world’s most popular television program — WWF wrestling — as the champion Rip Thomas (or just Rip) defends against the challenger and promptly beats him in about two minutes.  We’re literally minutes into the film and I’ve seen Hulk Hogan, Gene Okerlund and Jesse Ventura.  The challenger is played by Bill Eadie (Demolition Axe.)  The only thing that’s different from a typical WWF show is that Hogan isn’t named Hogan and he’s changed up his color scheme.


My fingers are broken. Rip em!

This is a world where professional wrestling is treated with the same regard as say, boxing, where the fights are real.  The ratings are through the roof and a pissed off network executive named Brell (Fuller) has had enough of Rip kicking his network’s butt.  Brell even goes so far as to try to buy Rip out of his contract but Rip cannot and will not do business with him, infuriating the exec even further.  Brell and his lackies (one of which was played by David Paymer) visit the world’s worst watering hole and notice a crude ring in the middle of the bar where a couple of disgusting brutes beat the holy hell out of each other which gives Brell an idea.


And a bad jacket.

Brell decides to air these bar fights in a show called the “Battle of the Tough Guys.”  It’s immediately popular and draws several meatheads to possible fortune and fame, one of which shows up calling himself Zeus (Lister.)  Zeus destroys everyone in his path — seriously it looks like he kills them — and has made Rip his ultimate target.  Rip is unwilling to fight on Brell’s terms as there is nothing honorable in a street fight with someone as insane as Zeus.  After Zeus makes things personal by attacking Rip’s brother and Brell going after his girlfriend, Rip decides to put an end to this nonsense once and for all in a fight for the title.


Not a scene from Hogans sex tape.


Where do I begin with No Holds Barred?  When I was a young wrestling fan, I was all too ready for this film as it seemed aimed at families but after watching it as an adult, I really question if it was intended for children at all.  The street fights may not be incredibly bloody, but they are still quite violent and Zeus comes off like he’s killing people on television.  He’s scary!  There’s a brief scene that sure looks like there’s implied rape on Hogan’s girlfriend, not that kids will pick up on that, but still…   However, to counter all that nasty Zeus stuff, Hogan’s scenes are much lighter in comparison, for example, he takes out a small group of robbers with a food fight.  The movie goes back and forth and doesn’t know who it wants to please.


Once again, Rip em!

The film is overall bad — it’s very stupid — however, it’s so bad that it never fails to entertain at every scene and there are many quotable lines and scenes.  Hogan’s constant use of the “Rip ’em” hand sign is hilarious, the “teeny weiners” scene with wrestling legend Stan Hansen is uncomfortably funny, the “dookie” scene followed by an indescribable fight scene is amazing, Brell’s multiple utterings of “Jockass” is legendary.  I could go on and on.  The story is ridiculous, the script is bad yet the acting is over-the-top beautiful, especially from Fuller as the evil Brell.  It’s a perfect storm of bad that comes together to entertain in the most wrong ways possible.  I love No Holds Barred.


Story: 8 – A network executive who believes wrestling is real challenges champion Hulk Hogan to a street fight with his man, a guy who must have escaped a mental institution named Zeus.

Blood: 3 – You don’t see a lot of blood for a reason, kids are supposed to be watching it, but the violence shown can be pretty scary for the young ones.

Nudity: 1 – No real nudity but Joan Severance in lingerie was not a bad thing.

Overall: 8 – It’s not for anyone everyone but those who start watching will be delightfully entertained for all the wrong reasons.


-No Holds Barred was put into motion after Hulk Hogan had a positive reaction to his cameo in the film Rocky III and Hogan wanted to get out of wrestling to do movies.

-Hulk Hogan and WWF/E owner Vince McMahon disapproved of the script and rewrote it days before production.

-Meryl Streep was originally cast in the lead female role but was fired after having disputes with Hogan.

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