Rip (Hulk Hogan) is the biggest wrestler around, in terms of fame and success, but that makes him much in demand. So what to do when the more disreputable money men come calling, men like Brell (Kurt Fuller), the head of a television network hungry for ratings and with the funds to buy anyone they want - or so they believe? After watching Rip in a televised match where he looks like he is about to lose, then in a miraculous display stages a comeback against a formidable opponent and succeeds mightily, Brell wants to wave a sizeable cheque under the hero's nose, but he doesn't realise Rip does this for the glory, not to make creeps like him rich. When he makes this clear in no uncertain terms, the C.E.O. starts scheming...
In a parallel universe, Hulk Hogan became as big a movie star as Arnold Schwarzenegger, another celebrity who grew famous thanks to a combination of tireless attention to his physical fitness and an equally tireless dedication to self-promotion. But it was not to be, for Ahnold was a very canny chooser of roles that played well against his acting limitations, and Hogan merely went straight for the Kindergarten Cop audience without establishing himself in a less juvenile arena first: kids loved World Wrestling Federation shows, so he had to appeal to the same fanbase as essentially a children's entertainer. When scandal came knocking in the twenty-first century, it was a real surprise to his followers to see he had feet of clay.
Meanwhile, back in 1989, the WWF were attempting to increase their already sizeable profits by branching out into the movies, and legend had it that Hogan and his manager, Vince McMahon, rewrote the script of No Holds Barred to better tailor it to his talents, which on this evidence were limited unless you are entertained by men grunting and groaning. They made sure to make it PG-13, which meant scenes with leading lady Joan Severance that were a lot less savoury than you would even get in a film rated that a mere decade later, with an elaborate masturbation joke and a scene where she was nearly raped so Rip could rescue her, which offers an idea of the wrongheadedness of the enterprise, not to mention Hulk making a man shit himself at one point.
In fact the whole affair was downright weird in its appeals to the macho fantasy brigade as Brell (Fuller admitted his performance was dreadful, and that this film is an embarrassment to him, poor chap) has a big idea of what to do about getting those ratings: basically barroom brawls on TV. You would like to think this entire notion was terrible, and in '89 maybe it was, but these days you can just about envisage it flying on primetime, getting sweaty, brawny men to beat the shit out of one another short of actual murder would be a ratings-grabber on some channels, maybe it wouldn't need to be a specialist one either. Not that wrestling as television knew it was especially authentic, but here it was treated as if these blokes were risking life and limb to make a bundle, there were real punches being thrown as well as real people being thrown.
Severance played a TV exec who was hired to guide Rip into Brell's clutches, but although he seems fond of her, that was nothing compared to his feelings for his brother Randy (Mark Pellegrino playing a good guy for once) which did not verge on the obsessive, but leapt straight into the realms of all sorts of wrong. When the baddie arrives on the scene, a massive madman known only as Zeus (Tommy 'Tiny' Lister), Rip does all he can not to give in to Brell's desire to see them battle on his station, but Zeus beats up Randy and lands him in a wheelchair, a paraplegic (yeah, that's really entertaining), and Rip cannot resist him any longer. This resulted in the grand finale, an extended combat which was so over the top that it ended in two deaths before the end credits rolled, which we are intended to regard as a satisfying conclusion. With TV network board members straight out of Robocop and Hogan's inability to create convincing emotions (the crying was a lowlight) it's little wonder this mishmash didn't set the box office tills ringing, though it has picked up a bad movie following. Music by Jim Johnston.