Check out Part I here!
Check out Part II here!
Check out Part III here!
Check out Part IV here!
No Holds Barred: The Film: Act II
We see a large stained glass window of Christ and a woman playing a harp below it in evening wear. Erm, okay. She sits behind a balustrade a floor above an open hall filled with tables full of people eating indoors, and none are six feet apart. To quote one of the Four Yorkshiremen: “Luxury!” Everyone is attired in good ’80s evening wear, with men in solid black suits and ladies in more evening gowns ranging from blue to light brown, when in comes Sam and Rip. Sam wears a black gown, her hair perfectly coiffed by late ’80s standards, and ole’ Rip rocking a white sports jacket with matching pants, vest, and a shirt, unbuttoned to just about his navel and no tie. He also sports no doo rag, allowing his fine silky blonde hair (or what little of it remains) frame his face and head. People stare. The snooty waiter lovingly places the menu into the hands of Sam, shoot a “Sacre bleu” look to Rip and tosses the menu in his direction. Imagine Mr. Bean playing a snooty French waiter, after receiving a massive head injury and medicating himself with bottom shelf vodka, and you will picture the waiter.
Sam says she hopes Rip will find something on the menu he will like, as the waiter regales her with the choices. The young fella who pours ice water spots Rip, smiles broadly and goes towards him as the waiter waxes poetic about the special of the day. Seeing the smiling young fella standing there with a bucket of ice water, the waiter makes a disgusted face and makes hissing sounds and waves his hand at him to disappear, the young man departs, smiling all the while at Rip, who is not pleased by this display. And we now know that Rip must hand this waiter his comeuppance. Then, because we are all stupid and need to really sell the waiter is an ass, he keeps talking to Sam in French as Rip shakes his head. The waiter stops and condescendingly explains what quiche is to Rip and then Sam starts to guess what Rip would like, since he is not the quiche type to her. Okay, now I want Sam to get her comeuppance. Rip keeps shaking his head. I suppose this is a good time as any to talk about Hulk Hogan’s acting – it’s bad.
Pro-wrestling is foremost live theater, but here, divorced from the instant feedback of a live crowd, before the unforgiving harsh glare of overhead lights and an even less forgiving camera, with no audience save a director and the people clustering behind the camera to wait for the scene to be done, Hogan is exposed. He is not a classically trained thespian. He is not someone who has had a lot of film acting experience. He is at the mercy of the script, the director and his co-star. The script is, as we have seen, garbage. The director is a novice. And his co-stars are rookies. It’s a bit of a mess.
The Snooty French Waiter tells Rip that he will not find a hamburger on the menu, which is a reversal of the script, where the Waiter said perhaps Ripper would prefer it. Rip stares down the Waiter, while in the back we see the Ice Water Boy bring out an excited French Chef, who has the kitchen staff with him. The Chef tells Antoinne (the Waiter) that he should have told him that Monsieur Rip was here, and then apologizes to Rip for Antoinne, saying he is new. Antoinne does a terrible attempt at a slow burn, snaps back the ends of his bow-tie (what?), pulls a face and departs. Huh? The Chef, his hat off, for one does not wear a hat in the presence of a king, addresses Rip and asks him if he wants the usual, to which Rip responds in two sentences, in French. Notable, the first and a half sentences are stated off camera with only the Chef’s face in the frame. I wonder how many takes they took with Hogan, before they just told him he could dub it later and asked him to hit the one part he could hit in the prior takes. The Chef snaps his fingers and departs, and Rip shoots Sam a look. End scene.
The Hell was that? The scene of Rip being a French chef has been cut and I won’t miss it, but what we have is not an improvement, except the crazy was dialed down. Someone made the call that only Rip should not be an antique furniture expert, but also not a French chef. Given Hogan’s ego, I wonder who told him to dial it down a notch. Also, the French waiter is still French in the film, as opposed to be being exposed as a fake Frenchman in the script. And his comeuppance is him being told off by the Chef and him rolling his eyes and walking off? Come on. In the script, the snooty waiter is utterly embarrassed and then has to follow Rip as Rip wheels in the four meal course. Here he makes a face and goes off.
Smash cut to two men headbutting each other in the ring in Spike’s Bar. Ah, okay, so that’s why the script called them Headbangers. Now it makes sense. We pan back to take in the bar, and it is a dive bar, as understood by middle class suburbanites in ’88: everyone is white, has tattoos, wears denim and country western music plays in the jukebox, as beer is handed out. The ring itself is in the middle of the bar and is roped off, with barn posts covered in tires acting as turnbuckles. Brell takes Ordway and Unger down a staircase to the bar, which is now a basement dive and it appears Ordway is nauseous, while Brell says, “My sources tell me this could be the start of something big. And I like big ideas.” They pass two men in denim vests and no shirts, who mock bid them a good evening and tell them they are lost. The trio take in the bar, Unger and Ordway in disgust and Brell looking about in the way Il Duce must have taken in a meeting of blackshirts before the March on Rome and Unger asks a passing waitress (dressed like Skid Row Madonna) to be seated. Skid Row Madonna snorts in like she prepared to hock a loogie, then asks if they are cops. When all assure her they are not, she tells that the gay bar is across the street. Them’s the jokes, folks.
Brell meanwhile is still entranced, seeing the future. As Skid Row Madonna once again snorts (is she just disgusting or has taken a hit of some really bad cocaine?), Brell looks down at her as if only now aware of her existence, Skid Row Madonna tells them to come and tells them she will get them ringside to “let the headbangers fix your ass.” Ordway’s flabber is utterly gasted by the whole experience. The two Headbangers bite, claw and wail on each other, as a signs in the back assures us that “Genesee is on Tap.” Genesee, now there is a name I have not heard in a while. It is a Rochester based beer-company, and was and is big on the East Coast. But I am a West Coast lad, so I only became aware of it through brief excursions to the other coast. Also, notably, in the script there was a Raunchy Waitress who told them off and then another waitress sat them. In the film, the two roles are combined and that make sense from production perspective. Usually, in a film, someone sits down with the script and goes over speaking parts and makes notes about which lines perhaps can be given to another, because the pay scale is different for speaking vs. non-speaking roles.
The waitress asks them what they would like, and Ordway asks for a Scotch on the rocks and Unger a dry martini. The waitress rejoins: “I’d like to get laid, relayed and parlayed, but that ain’t gonna happen here. So what’s it gonna be…?” To which Brell replies, “Just three beers, okay?” The waitress snorts and stalks off. “Laid, relayed and parlayed” is an ancient slang line and it means what you think it does, but how did it find its way into this movie, which is not brimming with memorable dialogue? Well, in the Spring of ’87, when the Jessica Hahn scandal broke wide open in the biggest papers in the nation, Washington Post interviewed Hahn’s New York lawyer Stanley Siegel about the sordid situation, and he said of Jessica Hahn, “She was laid, relayed and parlayed.” Knowing a good line when they see it, the hacks in papers across the United States repeated it when aping the Washington Post story. And because folks on the West Coast did not have access to East Coast papers (or beer) without really trying in ’87 or ’88, the story and the line took about a year to travel across the United States, each time the Hahn scandal got a fresh injection of news worthiness and the local hack had to come up with something to spice up the morning paper read of Mr. and Mrs. America. Thus, the hacks who wrote this script, be it McMahon, Hogan or the man who got the WGA credit, the line was fresh in their minds and they snuck in… into a film made for little kids who comprised the core fanbase of Hulk Hogan. Ta-da!
In the ring, the bald headed and bearded man wins. He is portrayed by Jos LeDuc. LeDuc actually got a gig in the WWF right before the filming of the movie, doing a couple of matches with his gimmick being “Headbanger” in a weird bit of synergy. But it did not work out. Given the tangled tales of finances of this film, I wonder if LeDuc was given some matches as payoff for doing the picture. Naturally the violence in the makeshift ring sickens Unger and Ordway, while Brell is all-in. Ordway looks about in confusion at the mayhem and spots a chaw chewing Neanderthal from the script, and asks him about the refs, and the lines from as in the script follow. The Neanderthal, as noted earlier, is portrayed by Stan “The Man” Hansen, who is also called “Bubba” by the script and his Skid Row Madonna sister.
When Brell finds out about the lack of rules in the fight, he enthuses “Those are my kind of rules.” Meanwhile the fight awkwardly spills out outside. All right, it seems the director really enjoyed working with Brell and his minions and there is a lot of little moments thrown and freedom of action to do things not written in the script. But the director doesn’t really know how to shoot a fight scene, which is a bit of a problem in a movie where the whole point are the “no holds barred” fights. Shooting action scenes is very much a specialized skill and shooting fight scenes a subset of it. Even great directors or those with great reputations have at times found it hard to do a simple brawl and I have seen plenty of European war films where the film falls apart precisely as the fighting is filmed, because the director knows not how to shoot it. So now we have a star who cannot act, a co-star who is in her second movie, a bad script and a rookie director who doesn’t know how to frame fight sequences in a fight film. Bumpy ride.
Brell pays the waitress 100 bucks and tell her Neanderthal/Bubba can keep the change if he beats the man who just won the hard fought bout against the headbanger. Bubba charges in and the scene is ineptly and awkwardly shot. As in the script, Brell watches on in delight as Ordway and Unger are sickened. Meanwhile Bubba celebrates by calling for a keg. It is thrown, he catches it and then uses his thumb to poke a hole in it and sloshes it over his face and open gullet in celebration, while a little person in a cage above the ringside seats throws peanut shells into the beer glass of Unger, as Brell sells his vision of taking this to the cable TV to his horrified minions. The two minions stagger off to find a bathroom to pee. Unger, the bolder of the two, decides he will ask the locals where the bathroom is in their lingo and approaches a fat man in overalls (and no shirt) and asks him “where to bleed the old lizard,” to which the fat fella replies, “In your pants, wimp.” Mortified, Ordway drags off Unger and upbraids him for his choice of language. It is clear the director liked working with actual actors and was trying to give them more lines and do more scenes with them. Unger and Ordway stagger to the end of the bar, driven by instinct and find a disgusting bathroom with a side door that is labeled “V.D. Room.” The things one sees in a Hulk Hogan kids movie, eh? The bathroom contains a chained dog (why?) and overflowing urinal troughs that appear to have generated brown algae and pools of vomit. I am smiling, because while not as bad, this reminded me of the old bathrooms with horrific troughs in the Dodgers’ Stadium in Los Angeles. Also, the budget cannot be that small, because I have seen too many scenes featuring too many extras in the shot at all times, and while some sets are simple redress of an existing location, others are clearly created solely for the movie and decorated with much time and effort spent on them. Take this bathroom set, with the chained dog, custom graffiti, the toilets and etc. And there are tell-tale signs of fake walls and partitions that are lavishly decorated as well. Care and money was put into this film, just not a whole lot of thought.
Coming up, a scene not in the script, but which was written by the same person(s) who wrote the March draft. As Unger and Ordway discuss the horrific bar, disgusting waitresses and idiots galore at the urinals, they hear a disgusting sound of defecation behind them. A flush sounds, and the door of the stall is ripped open with Bubba emerging, offended at being called an idiot. He grabs Ordway and contemplates dunking him in the urinal, but stops upon seeing the man’s exposed penis (thankfully off camera) and notes, “What have we got here? A teeny wanger!” He then turns to Unger and is delighted to find another there as well, and chuckling to himself stalks off. By now, you may have realized the film is delighted with defecation and bodily fluids. Both of these things are obsessions of Vince McMahon. As to how do I know this scene as filmed was written by the same man who wrote the March draft? In the March draft, there is a reference to Unger and Ordway talking things over while holding their “wangers.” So the same hand penned both the March draft and the shooting script as filmed.
As in the March draft, Ordway does not see the show ever getting in the air, and Brell announces it in front of his HQ, as various tough guys listen and watch on TV and the radio. But the name of the show has been tweaked: “The Battle of the Tough Guys,” which is way less of a mouthful. Also, Spike’s Bar has had a name change as well, now called “No Count Bar,” but it is still downtown, and humorously, not all character names have been updated, for as per IMDB, some are still called Spike’s Bar something or other. And, there is no intro scene of Zeus in prison or the warden giving him his parole papers. We have cut some of the more effective build up scenes of Zeus, and I don’t think of it as a plus. When Brell and his minions arrive, the bar is still decorated and has a marquee and spotlights. Inside, a tweak, we now meet the would-be fighters and actually hear them be named. In the script, only the men who would fight Zeus after he had won would have the honor of having their names be mentioned. Thus, we actually do meet Brock Chisler, who is a biker with an eye-patch; Bulldog McPherson, who is a crazy man as understood by wrestling parlance of the day – he mutters to himself and smacks his head, while smiling; Klondike Kramer, who uses deodorant; and our Bubba, who greets them as “teeny wangers” and laughs, along with Skid Row Madonna who has brown teeth and counts the cash from all the new patrons. Also, in the script it is not clear how many fighters joined, but in the film it so far looks like we only have four: Bubba, Brock, Klondike and Bulldog. Huh? I mean, $100,000 is on the line, in 1988. Surely there should have been a pair of mall dojo princes who would have gladly donned their gi and set out to prove to the world their ability to break boards would totally get them to victory, along with some bar fighters that at this time knocked out people for $100 as the prize for winning the whole tourney, never mind $100k. I have read memoirs of MMA pioneers and they talked of going town to town and fighting in bars far worse than the one shown in the film to earn $500, and doing fights out in the gravel surrounded by bikers. And these are the legitimate tales, by the way. Lots of wannabe-tough-guys talked of have bare knuckle brawls all over Europe and America in underground clubs that only existed in terrible ’80s movies. My point here – for that large a stake, we surely could have gotten more people than the All Valley Karate Tourney, just saying.
A bad montage of bad fighting continues and drags, badly, and we follow the script. Then Zeus arrives. In the script he showed up through the door, backlit by the lights from the outside. In the film, he storms through a wall he knocks down (I think). The lighting is not sourced, and we have no idea why is so dramatically backlit, other than it’s a movie so it must be dramatic. Zeus moves slowly, because the actor is wearing ridiculous lifts that make walking hard, but make him appear taller.
A female P.A. approaches Zeus as in the script, but he grabs her face in a claw like vise and jerks her up thanks to the wires holding her up off camera and then drops her straight down into an empty barrel (what?). People ooh and aah this, but they have just watched four men gouge, bite, claw and punch each other in the groin for half an hour. I suppose the man-on-woman violence is much different, but the reaction here is a bit strange, given the locale, the customers and the atmosphere. Also, I cannot overstate how awkward Zeus moves due to wearing lifts. We immediately cut to Zeus’s face and even though the actor was born blind in one eye and had a striking look already with a shaved head, someone made the decision for him to have a unibrow as well. We then cut to Brell’s eyes and all of this is meant to show a fellow predator recognizing another of his kind. Then the camera pans to Zeus again and pans back to show his entire sweaty face. He is wearing the remains of his prisoner uniform with the sleeves torn off. And it is annoying how the slow build up to the reveal of Zeus in the script is just curtailed to one big shot of him entering the bar. In the script there was tension and you wanted to see more of this monster. In the film, the time between him entering and us seeing his face is thirty seconds if that. In the script, the monster reveal was slow and methodical and done by someone who understood how monster movies work. In the film, it is rushed and just thrown out there, and it does nobody any favors.
Zeus walks slowly to the ring, due to those lifts, and the Ref glances at Brell, who is one of the few men still standing, as the rest sat upon Zeus approaching, cowed by his physical presence. Brell stares at Zeus and intones, “Let him fight,” as in the script. Zeus gets in the ring and slowly lumbers forward, trying to steady himself on his lifts. Zeus does not so much fights as lets other fight him, not reacting as they beat on him with their fists and clubbing forearms as he yells and tosses them about. Due to the lifts, Zeus cannot fight and move at the same time, and thus the only time he can actually clobber his opponents is in shots where he is standing still.
Cut to Rip’s house, where we see a TV tuned into the fight and on an entertainment center filled with the trophies Rip or Randy or both won. Intermixed with the trophies are photographs of Randy and Hulk Hogan, and I do mean Hulk Hogan, not Rip or Ripper, because they are all of Hulk Hogan in his yellow trunks winning matches, getting belts and ripping his shirt off. The man watching TV is Craig, and seated on the couch are Craig, Randy and a nameless leggy young woman of indeterminate age. Charlie and Rip watch on. “Who is he, Craig?” asks Randy. “I don’t know, man,” answer Craig, “This is that Battle of the Tough Guys competition they’ve been talking about.” Okay, so it seems we are down to one high school sweetheart, not a full on harem, but the presence of at least one girl on that couch now leads me believe there was a scene shot of Randy wrestling at the meet and being distracted by the gal. It’s perhaps not as blatantly sexual as in the script, but a variation of it surely existed, only to be cut for time or content before the film was released. As Randy and Craig debate whether Rip could take on unnamed Zeus or not, Rip just watches on and Charlie wordlessly sits down in an ugly armchair. Charlie is supposed to be acting like he has PTSD, but thus far shown mild annoyance.
In the bar, Zeus continues his terrible fighting routine, knocking out competition. Even by ’80s standards, this is some bad action and although Zeus is ripped to the gills and has the guns, he is too muscled locked to do anything and is too unskilled to actually fight. Bubba goes into the ring to fight Zeus, and we note his hair is in a bit of a disarray. Spoiler alert, later on in the scene Zeus rips his hair out, but once again, since this took multiple takes, they didn’t bother to arrange the hair right every take, thus sloppiness passed off as Bubba just being in disarray, even though sloppy and messy hair is actually Klondike’s character trait, not Bubba’s. In a small neat moment, Ordway, who has been disgusted by violence all night actually beams and leans in with delight when he sees Bubba charge Zeus in anticipation of the wrecking machine destroying the man who besmirched the size of his genitalia, repeatedly, and terrorized him. Way to go, Ordway. You get your revenge by proxy, fella.
Back to Rip’s house, Craig, who is dressed like he is auditioning for Miami Vice but bought his clothes two sizes too large, looks on disbelief, as Randy looks out into, uh, nothingness, and his High School Gal watches with blank confusion. Upon further review she is not in any way shape or form 18, and has not been 18 for some time when the film was made. Rip says, “Isn’t that…?” And Charlie chimes, “I never thought they’d let him out.” Craig is stunned to learn they know this man, as am I. Someone decided Rip could not be kept in the dark and had to have known whom Charlie trained before him, which is an odd choice, because it is actually much more effective to have Rip know nothing about this brutal man and to learn of him as he destroys people. In the script, Rip is a bit taken aback by the violence on the display and we realize these two men must collide as Rip still thinks. Here, in the film, Rip casually says, “Isn’t that…?” as if he just saw a fella he knew in school who once puked at his birthday party. There is no horror or shock, or even wariness. Just casualness.
Charlie is just terrible here, and delivers his line like he has a free pizza waiting for him if he finishes his lines early. I have seen industrial training videos with better acting. Craig is almost as equally bad, and Randy’s Girlfriend just stares vacantly. In fact, the best acting here is done by Randy, who is sickened by the violence and tries to figure it all out. For his part, Rip turns to look in, uh, something at Charlie when Charlie admits to once being Zeus’s trainer. It surely could not have been surprise, for Rip already knows who Zeus is, and must have known his history as well. So what is that look? I couldn’t tell you. It is clear the director is in over his head with novice actors. Brell and Ordway scenes he can do, because both are veteran character actors, who may not be good, but at least know their craft. Throw a bunch of rookies and one terrible old(er) actor, and the director just falls apart. Could no one yell, “Cut” and explained to the man halfheartedly portraying Charlie that when he discusses Zeus he is talking about a ruthless killer over whom he lost control – a mad, bad, dangerous man he actually helped train to become even more dangerous. A tinge of regret. Horror. Something! Instead, good old Charlie just talks about Zeus with all the emotion of a robot. Thus far, 37 minutes into the film, the worst acting prize goes to Charlie. Take a bow, Bill Henderson. I do not mean to speak ill of the dead, but it takes special skill to stand next to Hogan, and still come off as worse in comparison.
In the ring, Zeus beats on Bubba with shitty Mongolian Chops. Hmm, I wonder if Bill Eadie showed him how to do those on the set, or if someone else did. As Zeus beats on Bubba, he makes sure to drag his body over to right before Brell. Unger is agog in shock, and even Ordway is back to being disgusted, while Brell looks on dead-eyed at Zeus as Zeus then reaches down and rips out Bubba’s hair and holds it out like tribute to Brell, screaming incoherently all the while. Brell smirks, and Zeus stands and holds up the tuft of hair to each side of the eight sided ring, still screaming. Kurt Fuller, the man who portrayed Brell, admits to not being a good actor when doing this film, but thus far he is a good second to the man portraying Ordway. And speaking of my favorite “No Holds Barred” character, as soon as terrifying Zeus turns his back to the table where Brell, Ordway and Unger sit and shows off the hair to others, Ordway steals a glance at the prone body of Bubba and shoots a small grin. Zeus may terrify Ordway, but when he doesn’t have to look at him, he can still enjoy the defeat of Bubba. Little things like that separate good actors from bad. Somewhere there exists an alternate universe where Charles Levin, the man who portrayed Ordway, is the no-nonsense trainer of Rip and he has an amazing scene with Rip about how he could never forgive himself for training Zeus.
Brell enters the ring, to the shock and horror of Ordway and Unger, who are worried for the safety of their meal ticket, but Brell is unafraid and steps up next to Zeus, grabs the mic and announces the winner of the challenge, then realizes he knows not the name of the fella and covering the mic with his cupped hand goes, “What is your name?” Zeus yanks the mic out of Brell’s hand, which does not make Brell afraid or displease him, and hisses “Zeus.” Brell’s face breaks into barely restrained utter joy, and he manages to eke out, “Love it.” Man, Kurt Fuller is really having fun here. Meanwhile, the guy playing Charlie just wanted to get off the set and collect his paycheck. I know I keep harping, but I have read the script, so I know what it says on the page and now I can evaluate what the actors do with it. Brell has good lines, but builds on it. Ordway has little to no lines, but does more with it. Charlie has decent lines and fails to show up and do even the bare minimum.
As we end on Rip staring into the TV, cut to executives holding up identical newspapers of the fictional Midwest Gazette, in the Sports section of which is a pic under a headline of: “Ex-Con Zeus: Thriller or Killer.” The writer of the article is one Tom Hoffarth, and he actually happens to be a real life person and sports writer in the greater Los Angeles area, who wrote for the “Los Angeles Times” and the “Los Angeles Daily News.” We pan across the papers read by the execs, and Brell walks in and announces the overnights are in and they won their timeslot, but the line about the actual ratings and the share are now excised. I smell the hand of Vince McMahon, who would not want Brell to get better ratings than anything his Saturday Night network and cable TV specials obtained. Unlike in the script, where two different men confronted him in the board room. In the film, only one man merely points out that there is a P.R. problem brewing over the bad telegrams they got about the violence they have shown. Brell dismisses it with a “they watched, didn’t they?” Thus there is no grand standing here by any executives, not even One Jr. Exec, who had his lines cut in the rewrite. And that makes sense. Recall, the film already told us Brell has purged the exec staff since taking over, and only loyalists remain and even those he terrorizes. No one is going to stand up to him or tell him he is wrong. And even the person who brings up the telegrams does not oppose, so much as warns of an impending issue with publicity. Brell is too triumphant to even belittle the man who brings him this bit of bad news. “All it does is keep us in the headlines,” he counters.
Next up, we are live on location, in a factory that produces sparks and features grimy people. Whoa there, we lost the icehouse. In the March draft, there was an icehouse fight where Zeus beat upon some fella in filthy longjohns, if you recall, and then he beat up some fella in a factory that produces sparks. Hmm. If we feature two different fights at two factories that produce sparks, then we got a bit of a problem, because in film, variety is the spice of life, and re-using sets is a bit of a novice move. Let’s be on the lookout for what the film does with the sets. In the film, the announcer tells us that we are seeing Battle of the Tough Guys Week Two, and that Lugwrench Perkins is ready to fight Zeus. Perkins is grimier and tougher and whiter than the rest, and sports a beard and muscles. Zeus appears in a chain mail sleeveless T-shirt, jeans and a pair of Wonder Woman gauntlets on his wrists. He also can barely walk, due to the lifts. However, when Perkins and Zeus fight, I notice Zeus can move a lot better than at the bar, so he is not wearing lifts this time around as Perkins is shorter than him. Zeus destroys Perkins with his Mongolian chops, and yells some more to the camera, clanking his gauntlets together.
In a limo parked outside Rip manor, Sam talks on the car phone with a mystery caller about how she will take care of things since she will have time now that they are doing an “overnight.” Hmm, we seem to have lost the IT scene, lads. So Rip is no longer a computer expert, I am guessing. Also, the director of photography should have been punished for what he is doing to Joan Severance here. I have seen commercials and terrible other films where she looks much more attractive than she does here. The lighting and the awkward framing are really doing her a disservice. It’s one thing to screw up filming a fight, because it is a skill, but when you can make a supermodel look meh, pal, you need to look into another line of work. This is what happens when you go outside the studio system in the late ’80s and try to put on a show on your own and don’t know what you’re doing. Speaking of incompetence, here comes Hulk Hogan, who is dressed in in Rip’s signature blue outfit, a variant of the red and black spandex he wore to the meetings and fight. Rip is here to say hello to Sam and to introduce his brother Randy and somehow Hulk makes that line awkward. Wait, how is that possible? He literally just introduces someone to someone. He does this every day of his life! Acting really seems to be hard, folks.
We cut to a small private plane roll down the runway. I almost made a faux-pas and called it a Cessna, until I saw the proud lettering of its great Wichita, Kansas crosstown rival Beechcraft on the tail. Sam’s voice over explains the itinerary: “Our schedule is gonna be pretty tight. My office is taking care of all the details. Transportation, tomorrow’s fan club meeting and autograph sessions, hotel rooms…” Rip interjects hoping she didn’t make dinner reservations for he knows just the spot. Hang on, are we skipping the IT scene and the Ripper is great with babies scene? Well, that’s interesting. You are making Rip seem even more boring than in the March draft, and that by the way is a real problem that was experienced when the movie laid an egg at the box office. Theater managers reported that the film did its best in the inner cities, where the little kids cheered for Zeus over Rip when the two locked up. While I would take that with a grain of salt, I can see how neutral observers might want to get on the Zeus bandwagon, as he kicks ass, while Rip beat up one fella with mascara and feathered hair and four doofs, while Zeus is out there every week taking out the toughest fighters. Also, my Spidey sense is tingling, due to the dubbing by Sam and Rip about all this. Did the test audience and distributors really hate the entire IT and Rip with the baby scenes that much as to demand them being cut? Or did someone think it would improve the pacing? I must be the only person alive who wants a director’s extended cut of “No Holds Barred.” I wonder if the footage does exist or if it was soaked in gasoline and set on fire.
Cut to Sadie’s diner, where Sadie regales Sam of how she and Rip go way back. Sadie as portrayed in the film is a lot less raunchy than in the script, despite the dialogue being the same. Either the director told her to be more wholesome, or the actress decided she was in a kid’s movie and toned it down. Also, Joan Severance has one fun moment in the film when as Sadie PG-hits on Rip, Sam looks at her fork in discomfort and when Rip and Sadie yak, she glances up, sees they are not looking in her direction and grabs a napkin and cleans her fork, the look of discomfort growing into distaste as she does it. It’s the little things that I take away from this movie when it is done right. Also, while the place is not great looking, it is far from a dive and appears to be more rural than “bad part of town,” so that decision was nixed as well in the film. Sadly what is not nixed is Hogan’s acting. He somehow seems to get worse by the scene. The scene is a woman hitting on him. One would think that is something to which Hogan, a man who had rats, could pull off. He is not being asked to dig into a well pain of here. Just a simple scene where a big gal flirts and you flirt back while being friendly. Boy, acting is really hard.
An action scene soon breaks out as a pair of armed robbers get inside and menace folks. Unlike in the script, nobody hits Sadie – on camera. As once again, we get a cutaway and something may or may not have happened off camera, for we cut to Rip telling Sam that once he starts moving to hit the floor. He grabs a bar stool screwed into the floorboards, rips it out and tosses it with ease into the head of one of the robbers clonking him. Then… well, then it gets dumber, for Rip grabs a pie off a nearby counter and throws it into the face of the second armed robber and goes down the rest of the counter, picking up the pies and flinging them at the robber. None of this was in the March draft. The second robber shakes off the a pie assault, but Rip charges him, disarms him and flings him down the entire length of another counter as if we are in a Western. Someone clearly decided to goofy up the action sequence, for the kids. Then, the first robber shakes off being clonked in the head with a metal bar stool flung at him (how?) and charges Rip from behind. Sam cries out a warning and Rip clotheslines him down. Sam is naturally much impressed by Rip’s acts, mouth agog and looking up over the countertop of the table and then under it, as Rip turns to her and snaps his fingers with his left hand to congratulate himself, with a big grin. What, no “Rip ‘Em” sign? For shame. Sadie comments she’s okay, and then she congratulates Rip for his acts and everyone in the diner applauds him. I can honestly say I would have preferred the visual of Ripper fixing a printer and then getting applause. I would remiss if I did not mention that as Sam emerges from under the table, she is framed by two applauding extras. On her right is an African-American man in a plaid shirt and a jheri curl who is into it and is earning his pay doing his job. On Sam’s left is an old man who looks about as enthusiastic as a “WWE2K” video game tester.
Next, more dubbing voodoo, as we lose the entire sequence of the hotel room clerk and dispute and instead voice-overs from Sam and Rip let us know that there is only one room. Man, someone really, really hated the first edit of this thing and told them to quickly redub to do a post-prod clean-up of this mess. The film has less running time as a result, so I won’t complain, but the choice of cuts is curious. The scene goes as in the script, only we get weird shots of Sam mocking Rip’s statements to herself as she brushes her teeth before the mirror, then she laughs at something Rip said after she says it in a mocking voice, so ya know the big galoot is growing on her. For his part, Rip is brushing his teeth after having divided the room and they do the sitcom thing where each pauses their brushing to go up to the wall to hear what the other is doing to show they have interest, as soft music blooms in the background. Rip and Sam get into the divided bed, we get the scene of Sam thinking Rip is masturbating violently when he in fact is doing push-ups and then the bed breaks, after the two have a discussion on Sam not dating due to being too busy. When Sam “comically” falls on Rip due to the bed break, Rip walks after she insults him and utters an idiotic line of “You don’t need this. You build bigger walls than I ever could.” And we know this wounds Joan and makes her rethink things. Only I am utterly baffled by why the line should be effective. Rip is saying Sam should feel bad for, uh… what exactly? Not wanting to sleep with him? For not allowing herself to become attracted to someone? I am not sure what the point here is, or why the statement is so armor piercing. It makes zero sense. At all. And yet the film reacts as if Rip is dead-on right.
Sam turns on the light by the phone by the bed, but we get no pantomime of will she or won’t she place the call as in the script. Instead, we just smash cut to Brell berating Sam in his board room. It was in fact Brell who cancelled one of the rooms, forcing Sam to share the room with Rip. Brell gives a rambling speech, listing Sam’s inability to seduce Rip due to her getting the hots for him, mocking her all the while and chewing the scenery with gusto, as Unger watches on. Sam says Rip is a nice guy, to which Brell replies he eats nice guys for breakfast. Sam, in full on Dynasty style rig, stands and says, “Not with my help you won’t.” Brell’s rejoinder is to backhand Sam back down to the couch. Okay, so that leaves Zeus and Brell as the only two people to engage in the male on female violence. In the script, Brell tried to hit Sam, but didn’t make contact and she got out. In the film, Brell makes contact. As Sam bounces off the couch and onto the floor, Unger and Ordway (there he is!) look away in disgust, which Brell notes. This distraction allows Sam to skitter out and Brell yells for her to return, for she owes him.
Let’s stop here for a moment, because the film has lost any semblance at a consistent tone. On the one hand, we have horrific violence perpetrated by Zeus, portrayed in a semi-realistic fashion, and on the other, we have Rip throwing pies at armed robbers as a terrible unoriginal song plays over the soundtrack for laughs. Granted, tonally the diner scene could be claimed by its makers to set up the high-larious shared hotel room scene to further expand the “hijinks” portion of the film, but it doesn’t. The Sam and Rip bed scene takes a lighthearted romantic-comedy as-old-as-the-sand-in-the-beard-of-Moses concept of two strangers having to share close quarters and tries to make it funnier. The key is that the premise is already funny, and the execution is meant to make it funnier. Now, the finished product is in fact not funny, but at least the premise is inherently comedic. There is nothing inherently funny about an armed robbery of a diner. What makes the scene “funny” is the comedic violence done by Rip to resolve the situation. And that’s where the problem lies. Is the violence in the film meant to be cartoony, or is it meant to be serious? That is a question the film has a hard time answering. What it instead tries to do is whenever things gets a little too serious, is to try to lighten the mood by changing things up a bit, which is the cinematic equivalent of having someone play the slide whistle and juggle while an eight year old is suffocated by his drunken stepfather in the background. It doesn’t work.
Back at Rip manor, Sam confesses to Rip, who this time around did not cotton on that Sam was a mole until she told him (and the edit and dubbing makes me think this was a post-production change as well), and we get awkward fooling around. At one point, Rip is trying to find Sam’s bra strap to unsnap and fumbles and it kinda works as a nice and simple scene, with Sam laying atop him and gently mocking him. It appears that Hulk Hogan may not act in a lot of scenarios, but in a scene of fooling around on the couch trying to get a gal’s bra off – he’s a natural. The TV is on and Rip struggles to find a remote to turn off and still mess about with Sam as romantic music plays, only for us to hear on the TV the interview with Zeus, who is calling him out. What hurts this scene is that in the script, it is Sam who invites Rip to try to make the whole situation right and turns on TV just to settle her nerves. Here, Sam walked in on Rip (we presume, the scene is joined in progress due to edits) as TV plays on in the background that we do not hear, but hear as the interview with Zeus is setup. It’s a little thing, yes, but it’s handled badly.
Cut to Rip setting up his charity thing at some outdoor place full of kids. Parked among the kiddies is the 1986 Lamborghini SUV. It is the first Lambo that was off-road and I am not sure if it was Hulk’s or someone else’s. As Rip teaches children the importance of sportsmanship, a helicopter lands with Brell and his champ and minions. Zeus approaches, slowly, due to being on lifts, and wears a sporty upscale denim (I know what I just typed), dungarees, gauntlets, chain with a skull where a bolo should be, and a giant rectangular Z for a belt buckle. Goofy outfit aside, I think it is neat that we are seeing Zeus assemble his outfit in parts, as he is learning and earning to be the champion of Brell. Thus, first, he came in broke as a convict and had wristbands, then upgraded to Wonder Woman gauntlets and got the Zeus pants, with the lettering down the side. Now he is getting the buckle. Each appearance gives a new accessory. Zeus leads the flying V formation of Brell and his two minions towards all the little kids, who cower behind Rip, who juts out a large arm to protect them. Craig is on hand, with his face painted and being a goof and even he tries to shield the kids, or maybe the kids are quicker to hide behind him than he is at spotting danger. Among the assembled is Sam and sad Randy as well. Zeus staggers up to the scene, barely moving due to the lifts, gets in the face of Rip and breathes heavy. Rip breathes heavy as well. Now this is where the film screws up, badly, and its makers realized it, after the fact.
In the script, it is clear Rip could have and would have fought Zeus if not for the kids as he cast his eye about. We also know from a diner scene, as scripted, not as it was filmed, that Rip regards Zeus as unfit for the honored confines of the wrestling ring. The combination of not wishing to lower himself to the standard of Zeus and not wishing to endanger the children are spelled out, clearly. Here, nothing. Rip eyeballs Zeus, nostrils flaring, but there was not one cutaway to the kids and Rip realizing this is not the place. Thus, Zeus showed up, Brell grandstand challenge, and nothing happened, without us hearing of Rip thinking Zeus is not a worthy foe and without us seeing Rip not wishing to endanger the little kids. And only after Rip has done it – or rather not done it by not accepting Zeus’s challenge, the film has to clean up the scene and tell us why Rip did what he did. That is inherently weaker. Instead of letting us identify with Rip and show us what he is thinking, the film will tell us what he thought afterwards. This is piss-poor film storytelling, and worse, the script got it right, but the film didn’t. That was a choice, and a choice to present a weaker story. Let us see how the film tries to clean it up.
As Zeus leads off the flying V formation, the last goose of it is Unger and he actually mad-dog stares at Rip as he struts back with Zeus and Brell. Man, when Unger is dumping on you, you have problems. The kids are all acting like they do not understand why Rip did not fight, and Rip stares off as the helicopter lifts up and goes off. As Rip stares at the copter, we hear voice over with Charlie assuring Rip he did the right thing by not stooping to Zeus’s level. We cut to Rip and Charlie in some quiet spot, rocking white satin jackets, with Rip rocking a teal doo-rag as well. Rip opines Charlie does not think Rip can take Zeus and further says that everyone thinks he backed down (maybe because he did?). Charlie once more assures him he did the right thing and he was proud of him and repeats it. End scene. All right, so the intent is to teach all the little kids that because someone calls you out, then you don’t have to fight. A great lesson in morality, to be sure. And if you watch how the fights progress, the Ripster does not initiate any of them. He dishes out disproportionate violence, but he is always attacked physically first before he responds. But nobody points that out. So what are we to make of it? Besides the fact that is it is bad film storytelling? Well, I think this is the case of rewrite-itis. When someone rewrites the same script over and over and over and over again, they learn the story and the characters inside out, and the motivations gleaned from scenes present in earlier drafts stick with the writer even when said scenes and dialogue is cut. So I think it made perfect sense to the writer or writers who have done edits to this disaster over the course of months that naturally everyone will get why Rip will not fight Zeus. You don’t do cut away shots of little kids to show us what Rip is thinking, because naturally everyone will know it already, right? Well, no, the audience won’t. And they only knew they screwed up after all was said and done. Thus we get a sloppy insert of Rip and Charlie talking about how Rip totally did an amazing thing out there, filmed later, with Rip showing the same satin jacket as Charlie, who wore said outfit to the Rip-Bullet match in the opening scene, which I know was filmed later due to the shooting schedule being somewhat reported at the time and one other trick which I will share with you a bit later. So after editing the script and the crowd scene in such a fashion that they lost the reason for Rip’s actions in it, the film had to do a make-up call of having a scene afterwards of Charlie and Rip talking about how great Rip’s actions were done. Bad filming leads to more post-edits.
Now let’s get some more male on female violence and introduce sexual assault into the world of Hulk Hogan, ya know, for the kids. Sam gets out of her car, a nice red convertible parked next to a mommy wagon. She carries her laundry, a poster tube with rubber bands, a coat and a pebbled flat business purse. A thug grabs her shoulder as she tries to open the door to the staircase going to her apartment (?) and says (post-prod dubbing): “Mr. Brell says it’s party time.” Whoa there, we went from implied sexual assault in the March draft as a result of an errant goon tearing the shoulder strap of Sam to full on implicit rape threat and assault in the film. In a kids movie. Aimed at Hulk Hogan fans. Produced by WWF. The Hell, movie?
The goon slams Sam face front on the hood of a car and we cut to Rip riding up on a Harley. Note, we do not hear the awesome sound of a motorcycle as Sam is at her lowest and the goon as it his closest. Nope. Just a nice cut away from slamming a woman face first on the hood after threatening her with “party time” to a static shot, obscured by a tree, of Rip riding his motorcycle down a winding paved road. What? Then, it gets worse, we see Sam on her back on the pavement of the garage, legs up in the air, with the thug on top of her, on his knees, between her legs, as she fights off his hands, screaming “No! No! No!” In a kids movie!
And then Ripper rounds the very short corner of the garage itself and we still do not hear his Harley. He just rides into camera after a sharp turn and there is the thug atop Sam, and the thug spotting Ripper scrambles. Seeing a sobbing woman on the pavement of the garage, who just had a man atop her and between her legs, Rip casually asks, “Are you okay?” And when a sobbing Sam ekes out a nod, Rip says, “I’ll be back” and rides off after the Rapist. Rip chases down the Rapist, who plays hide and seek between cement columns of the underground garage, as piss-poor quality post-prod dubbing gives out such lines as Rip telling Rapist he better run and the Rapist saying Rip is crazy, while Sam gathers herself up to her knees and then scoots up against the bumper of a car, still sobbing. Oh, and the soundtrack is jaunty, because as stated previously, the tonally the movie is deaf.
Rip eventually catches the Rapist, as in the script, scooping him up with his bike’s handlebars but instead of dunking him into a manhole cover, he just kinda pitches him into a tree, after telling him: “Harley and me and you and the tree” and shoots the Rapist a “Rip ‘Em ” sign… right handed. Rip returns to Sam after disposing of the Rapist and tells her he hates to see her be hurt. Rip, you just threw a man into a tree for rape. You did more damage to a cardigan thug who tried to swing an ineffective pipe at you. That dude went head first through the glass window of a limo, after you beat on him for minutes. Just saying. Your sense of retribution is flawed, Ripper. Joan Severance for her part cries and sells the Hell out of a scene.
Cut to sparks and shadows, as Randy and Craig go to check out Zeus’s workout. Post-prod dubbing lets us know that Craig does not think it is a good idea, but Randy wants to see Zeus in action. Wait, wait, wait, we are back to Randy being a hot-head, via a post-prod dub? Erm, okay, but we have not seen Randy be a hot head, at all, during this entire film. In fact, he has no characteristics, at all, outside of being Rip’s brother. Recall, the film cut his wrestling scenes, and that entire hothead arc. We are an hour into the film and now we learn Randy is a hothead, just before he makes a hothead decision. Also, remember how I said earlier to watch out for what happens with the sets? Well, we’re back at the factory of sparks. We just saw Zeus fight a mook named Lugwrench in one of them, and now we get to fight Zeus fight Rebar Lawless in another. Anyway, Zeus beats on Rebar as Craig is excited to see Zeus, but now Randy appears to be disgusted. Wait, wait, wait, we just had dubbed in audio of the opposite. Why did Randy want to come see Zeus if he was a wet-blanket about the whole thing? And by the way, this is the first time we see Zeus in his ensemble outfit that he would then rock in the WWF: Zeus pants, Z buckle and shirtless, with the gauntlets. Zeus beats down Lawless, then goes into the crowd or just kinda steps towards them which causes a stampede, just as Brell steps out of the remote truck with his minions. As Ordway tells Brell he knew a winner when he saw one, Craig and Randy run by and bowl over Ordway and Unger and fling Brell against the truck. Security guards quickly arrive and Ordway naturally saw the whole thing and knows these kids were trying to attack Mr. Brell. Brell waves everyone off, as he is fine. Brell spots Randy and Craig and tells the guards to step off. Brell is actually happy to see Randy, because he spots young Randolph’s “Rip” T-shirt under his shirt and thinks he (Brell) is well on his way to converting Rip fans into Zeus fans. Randy, with all the emotion of a constipated Wesley Crusher during the first season of “The Next Generation” goes, “We are not Zeus fans!” And Craig lets it slip that Rip is Randy’s brother. Ordway has no idea what to make of this. Unger gives a placid smile. But Brell is delighted by this development. Brell tells Craig and Randy they are VIPs and that Zeus loves VIPs, and orders the guards to “bring them” to the factory of evil sparks aplenty.
Brell brings up Randy and shows off his T-shirt to a suddenly annoyed Zeus, who now has a posse. Hmm, the script went out of its way to tell us Zeus is all alone, why give him a posse? Seems an odd storytelling choice, considering it will have zero pay off. Brell asks Randy’s name, but Randy says nothing, so Brell backhands him (wow, Brell is much more hands on in the filmed version of the story) and Craig gives Randy’s name to prevent further beatings. Brell goads constipated Randy by telling him that he must be a good fighter himself, what with him being Rip’s little brother and all. Zeus tells him that Rip is yellow, and Craig jumps in and tries to stop Randy from doing… something. Brell backhands Craig into an overturned barrel, because Kurt Fuller wanted more action scenes, I guess. And Randy wails on Zeus, who feels no pain. Zeus grabs Randy by the throat and emits a banshee quail that is high pitched and nothing like what we have heard before. Unger is scared. Ordway is horrified (I think I typed that twenty times during this review). Brell is grinning, lips jerked back to show teeth.
Young Randolph beats on Zeus’s hands, escapes, does a half-roll and eats a Zeus backhand that looks like it hit the air twenty inches in front of Randy’s face, but Randy falls back as the foley artist earns his or her pay making thwack sounds. Zeus kicks Randy down to the feet of Brell, punting him in the ribs, repeatedly. Brell looks down at Randy’s unmoving bodyand shows us his O-face, as Zeus screams out. End scene. Hang on, no neck crank? And while I am glad we did not show the lifeless body of Randy being thrown out of the back of the moving car before Rip’s gym, I have a funny feeling that was filmed but then cut. But we have also cut out what is it that made Randy get injured. We saw one attempted choke, one backhand and two kicks. And while the front double-handed choke looked like it was sunk it, we saw Randy escape it and still fight and evade afterwards. Then, we only saw three points of contact. Yes, I know Zeus is a monster, and Randy is the little brother, but it’s very low impact. A lot was left on the cutting room floor and instead we got reaction shots of Ordway, Unger and Brell, but as the camera cut to them we only heard of blows landing, not that of a hideous mangling. And if the makers of this fine spectacle were concerned with what the kids think – then why include rape? So, the film decreased the Zeus on Randy violence, and Rip used pies instead of much more conventional violence against the robbers, but the film then radically upped the Rapist on Sam violence and made it crystal clear given the positioning of the bodies what would have transpired had Rip been late getting there. Also, at this time, the trend was the opposite in American cinema, with sex being taboo, but male on male violence, so long as it was not gory, being totes fine. So the film is bucking the trend, for no good reason. Once again, you have to marvel at anyone who is more comfortable depicting an attempted rape than a neck crank.
Cut to Rip tearing open a door and getting to Zeus’s gym. As he enters, music starts to blare. Rip covers his ears and rips the speaker off the wall by the entrance and stalks further, screaming “Zeus.” We see that Zeus trains in a traditional square ring, which makes no sense since Brell repeatedly talked of octagonal ring as the battleground of Zeus, but to be fair, we have yet to see Zeus fight in that since the first conflict. All other fights were on location with ill-defined boundaries of combat area. Rip goes about the gym, overturning equipment, until he comes to a room where he spots Zeus, and attacks him, but it is only a hologram and instead Rip crashes through the mirror wall behind it, and faces the projector. Fun fact, Hulk Hogan shoot-cut himself when he smashed the mirror. Rip stalks the gym until he finds the camera from which a chuckling Brell watches the proceedings, with Ordway and Unger, naturally, and then, as in the script, spears it with a weight bar. Ordway and Unger flinch from the projectile, Brell meanwhile is… opaque, or as opaque as Kurt Fuller can be at this stage of his career. I am not sure if he is celebrating that he finally got to Rip, or if he is now wondering what he unleashed or if he is simply scheming. You may also have noticed we have reversed the scenes, because this should have come after the hospital scene, not before it, per the March draft.
And only now, after the gym tear apart do we cut to Rip in funereal black attire, with black fingerless gloves with white ties on them, so you know things are serious, and a black doo-rag with white threads, because it is very serious business, kneeling by the bed of young unconscious Randolph, as useless Charlie sleeps in one armchair of the hospital room and Sam reposes in the other and reads a book “Men Who Can’t Love,” which is just tremendous. As in the script, Rip talks to Randy, and says how it is now his turn to stand up to Zeus as well, and Randy opens his eyes at this (because hope is magic). Randy smiles beatifically at Rip, but then cries, and Ripper breaks down in tears as well.
The Hulkster is baring his soul, and it is glorious and awful.
In the script, Rip walks off, with Sam trying to go after him, but Charlie stopping her for Rip had to find his own way. In the film, he speaks softly, and then Charlie wakes up and Sam stops reading her book, and we simply cut to Brell standing in the octagon, flanked by our boys Unger and Ordway and announces how the most important sports event of all time will take place in two weeks in this very ring. We get a junior varsity Robert Altman slow circle shot of the tiny studio arena with people laying cable and cleaning the platform upon which Brell’s control room will sit and then cut to Zeus’s refurbished gym, where Zeus smashes cinderblocks suspended by chains from the ceiling with his bare hands as some kind of shiny metal diadem encircles his head. Meanwhile, Rip watches as Randy is immersed into a pool while strapped to a board. This is like the “Rocky IV” pre-big-fight montage where Drago trains in a gym while Rocky wades through snow in Siberia while living in a hut, as interpreted by people with no talent and no understanding of how montages work. As in the script, Brell tells all of his execs that Rip won’t win, but afterwards takes Ordway and Unger aside and asks about the elevator.
We see a dressy crowd arriving outside WTN HQ, including Sam in a nice gown, Craig in a suit that fits (good for you, young man), pushing the wheelchair, and the nameless mute girlfriend of Randy. Okay, so she was not in the March draft, unless this is the Leggy Blonde and her role was expanded in the film and then was cut during post-prod edit. Recall, in the script, it is just Craig who accompanies Randy. Hmm, if the Brell plan is to still kidnap Sam, and someone has to push Randy’s chair to ringside (in the script it was Craig), then it would mean Craig could assist Charlie in the search for Sam, because the actor portraying Charlie could do nothing physical, in addition to being unable to act. Let’s watch where this goes. The usher spots the group and tells them to go right this way, but unlike in the script we do not linger to show this is part of the evil plan. In his dressing room, Rip and utterly useless Charlie talk. Rip sits before the mirror and has his belt on the counter before him. And the belt is not the white leather backed Winged Eagle we saw in Act I. This is a much rarer bird – the so-called Andre ’87 belt, which was commissioned, per kayfabe, by Bobby Heenan for the winner of WrestleMania III match between Andre and Hogan. Going into the match, Monsoon assured us the winner would wear the new belt, regardless of whether it was Hogan or Andre, but then Vince changed his mind and when Hogan won, he kept wearing his old belt. Thus, the Andre ’87 is a rare championship belt which was not worn by any champion. Rarer still, in the film, it is shown on white leather, not black. But hey, don’t take my word for it, look up the information on it, and you will see this is precisely the belt Vince McMahon donated to “Planet Hollywood” (remember those?). So what are we to make of the Winged Eagle becoming the Andre ’87 mid-film? It actually gives us insight into the order in which the scenes were filmed. Recall, in ’88, the Winged Eagle had just debuted in February as the championship belt to be defended in the Andre-Hulk match which featured the twin Hebners as a way to setup WrestleMania IV. So the Eagle is brand new. The Andre ’87 was, well, made in ’87, so when the film began the Andre ’87 was available. Then, as production was wrapping, Vince must have made the call that if he was going to make a Hulk Hogan film in which a character played by Hulk Hogan was a WWF champion, then he would want the champ to walk around with the newest belt, so the Winged Eagle was made available for the production. And a perusal of the Wrestling Observers around this time indicates in August of ’88, as filming was winding down, Bill Eadie did his scene as Jake Bullet. So that is when the switch could have been made. So that is why we have the Winged Eagle in Act I and the Andre ’87 in Act II. Don’t worry, it’ll get even messier once you see the belt Rip is rocking when he goes to face Zeus.
Back to the scene, words really do fail me to describe how terrible the acting from ole’ Charlie is here, as he reassures worried Rip that Randy will be here, for Randy’s presence is necessary to be part of the Rip, Randy and Charlie ritual… that we never saw in the first place in Act I. Rewrite-itis strikes again. Also, having shot the film out of sequence, this scene was done prior to Act I, so Rip is referencing a ritual that Hulk Hogan will film later, but which in fact was not filmed (or cut), making Rip’s insistence of Randy being here seem slightly awkward. Speaking of awkward, Craig, Randy, Mute Girlfriend and Sam exit an elevator, where a pair of Security Guards salute them and wave them through… until the Guards wall in Sam as she tries to leave the elevator and then close the elevator doors. On paper, this read dumb. In the film, it is somehow worse, with Craig trying to open the elevator as it is closed and Randy screaming what is going on, for he is in a neckbrace (why? we never saw Zeus do the neck crank from the script) and cannot turn his head. The two Guards bring in Sam into the executive lounge, where Ordway, dripping with slime, offers Sam to watch Zeus “mutilate your boyfriend” from within the confines of the lounge. Unger is there as well, naturally. Sam is escorted into a leather chair and she sits. Unger places the call to Brell to let him know the plan is in effect, as in the script. And Brell makes the call to Rip, just as Randy, Craig and the Mute Girlfriend appear. Brell gives his ultimatum for Rip to take a dive after ten minutes. Hulk Hogan tries to look concerned, and orders Craig and Charlie to find Sam, and that leaves Mute Girlfriend something to do – push the wheelchair of Randy down to the ringside. It also, as stated previously, leaves Craig to do something in the film other than get backhanded. Go, Craig, go!
I am of two minds about what we have seen thus far. On the one hand, we have dialed down some of the crazy, but on the other, the film still makes not a lick of sense, has terrible acting, confusion over who is its core audiences and wildly inconsistent messaging. Outside of Brell and Ordway, the characterizations are all over the place and their motivations are at the mercy of the script requirements. While the edits fine tuned some of the nonsense, what they left behind somehow became messier. The hero is also… Well, stuff happens to him, and he reacts. He does not drive the story. Brell does, as does Zeus. There is no hero’s journey. Merely a challenge deferred until the hero finally decides he wants to fight. That’s just silly. This sloppy excuse for nonsense has assembled elements of traditional storytelling here, but jigsawed them out of place and is now trying to hammer the pieces together whether they fit or not. “Love interest? Put it there, fellas. Come on. Younger Brother, oh come on, I think we know what do with that. Do we have a mentor? No, well, can we get something which pass for one? No. Well, just get that guy over there. Yeah. Okay. Do we have fights? Great. Do we know how to shoot them? Well, we can try, can’t we? Oh. Okay. Well, still, put them in.”
The conclusion is rightchere!