Whilst WWE has often gone with the safe and easy option in more recent years when it comes to business and creative decisions, that wasn’t always the case. Vince McMahon often took risks when it came to making the WWE stand out, trying something new in order to find some added success and prominence. The company has tried its hand at making movies with WWE Studios, but their first foray into the world of filmmaking came all the way back in 1989 upon the release of No Holds Barred, but everything surrounding the release and promotion of this movie was incredibly odd, and it is an experiment which has never been tried again by the company.
WWE Studios Have Produced Many Movies Over The Years
In 2002, WWE launched their very own film-making entity – WWE Studios, kicking things off with the poorly received Scorpion King movie, starring The Rock. From there, WWE has released over 50 movies, many of which containing members of their roster, notably in the Marine series, which starred the likes of John Cena and The Miz, See No Evil starring Kane, and not-so-successful flops like The Chaperone which had Triple H as the lead.
However, several years before WWE Studios began, WWE produced the No Holds Barred movie under the precursor company to WWE Studios; the Shane Distribution Company. The film starred Hulk Hogan, their biggest star at the time and one of the most major draws in professional wrestling history. It was a bold move from the WWE to try and raise their stock by entering the film market, even with someone as famous as Hogan at the helm, however, it would ultimately be a flop, producing a strange PPV event along with it.
No Holds Barred Was A Poorly Written Movie With Terrible Acting
The movie itself was as basic as it could get. Hogan played a professional wrestler, Rip Thomas, who was reigning as the WWE Champion. Due to his popularity, he was taking away viewers from other television networks, such as the fictional WTN, with the leader of that company attempting to enact revenge on Thomas, enlisting the services of Zeus, who would become the lead star of the Battle of the Tough Guys wrestling show on WTN.
Whilst the main plot and simpleness of the characters seemed very much aimed towards children, the content throughout the film was uncomfortably adult, with kidnappings, attempted sexual and physical assault, electrocutions, and even attempted murder, as Zeus tried to impale Thomas towards the end of their big blow-off match to close out the movie. Naturally, Hogan’s character stood tall, throwing Zeus through the ring in a dramatic conclusion.
Critics gave mostly negative reviews to the movie, with Hogan’s acting not setting the world alight. There were some fine moments, but overall, it was a poor film, and it allegedly failed to make the WWE any sort of profit, which is likely why it took the company over a decade to try its hands at making another movie. Their hesitance was certainly understandable, as this had clichéd writing, bad acting, and a complete lack of success.
WWE decided to take a unique approach in trying to make the release of this movie into a spectacle by producing the No Holds Barred: The Match/The Movie PPV event. The entire movie played out on PPV, and following its conclusion, an actual match took place, which had been taped prior. It saw Hulk Hogan team up with Brutus Beefcake to take on the tandem of Randy Savage and Zeus. This was very confusing, as Zeus seemed to play the character that was showcased in the movie, despite Hogan clearly not being the lead character of Rip Thomas in reality.
The feud leading into this match saw Zeus furious at the fact that he wasn’t promoted as the lead actor, even though he was clearly the antagonist and would’ve fully well known that going into the filming of the movie that if he had issues, he and Hogan wouldn’t have worked together and acted with one another to help make the movie happen. This completely lacked any sort of logic, and Zeus didn’t receive any sort of momentum in the aftermath due to this being a completely nonsensical storyline for all involved. Hogan and Beefcake won this match, contested inside a Steel Cage, with Hogan pinning Zeus, decisively beating his movie rival. It was a surreal experience for sure, and it is up there with the weirdest PPVs in WWE history, with just one match taking place, with the feud being built from the movie which aired prior to it. Either way, it was certainly an experience, albeit not a great one.