In the eighties, Hulk Hogan was a titan who stood tall in influence and adoration alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger. In the age of the cold car, Hogan is the hero America wanted. He was blond, large, charismatic, heroic, and garnered a handlebar mustache that made him look like a buff trucker fighting for the country. “No Holds Barred” perfectly demonstrates why Hogan was such a force in the sports world, with a charismatic performance in an otherwise goofy movie.
“No Holds Barred” stars Hogan as The Ripper, an iconic wrestling star completely identical to Hulk Hogan. Whether or not the studio could afford the rights to Hulk Hogan we’ll never know, but Hogan plays the variation entitled The Ripper. With his loyal trainer and little brother Randy (A very young Mark Pellegrino) he’s a heroic celebrity that the evil television executive Brell wants to hire to give his station ratings. After aggressively trying to sign him in to a contract, Ripper evades his violent cronies and proceeds to form a relationship with his new executive assistant Sam (gorgeous Joan Severance). Brell seeks a new form of wrestling in a no holds barred fighting club that he begins televising, and stumbles upon the gargantuan psychotic wrestler Zeus (Tiny Lister), who begins taking television by storm. After refusing to wrestle him, Zeus and Brell go after Ripper’s family, eventually beating up his little brother Randy.
Ripper has enough and agrees to battle him in a fight to the finish match on television. “No Holds Barred” is very much a derivative take on “Rocky,” except with the focus placed squarely on wrestling. There’s no real proof Hogan is any kind of actor, but he really manages to hold his own as an interesting character that plays up his good guy image for his fans, while having some campy fun. Ripper can do literally anything that the story warrants, from blasting out of a limo, to stopping two armed robbers with pies and restaurant stools. Hogan as The Ripper is a force of nature here, and he makes “No Holds Barred” in to a fun action cartoon, in spite of the inherent flaws. Hogan also has great chemistry with the very sexy Joan Severance, who we learn is a double agent for Brell mid-way. But even the femme fatale finds a reason to like Ripper, and begins falling for him.
There are some really fun moments between the pair, including the cute “hearing by the door” sequence, and The Ripper dropping in to bed and breaking it in two. There’s also Ripper running a guy over with his motorcycle after another attempt on Samantha’s life in a parking lot. In the eighties everything could be solved with a motorcycle. Along with its charms, “No Holds Barred” is admittedly silly as all hell with some truly laugh out loud moments. There’s the training montage ripped right out of “Rocky,” as well as the final showdown where Ripper is inspired to fight back when he sees his crippled brother Randy move his fingers in excitement (Wag with all your might, little brother!). It’s a childhood favorite, and without the nostalgia, “No Holds Barred” is still a fun, and exciting action film with Hulk Hogan really having a good time as the hero, fighting for the little guy.
The Blu-Ray contains a photo gallery, as well as two big matches. There’s the tag team match from 1989 with Hulk Hogan and Brutus “the Barber” Beefcake taking on Macho Man and Zeus. There’s also the “No Holds Barred” cage match from “Summer Slam” including Hulk, Macho Man, Zeus, and Brutus “the Barber” Beefcake. I fondly remember watching both events as a child.