There’s a lot of head-shaking and guffawing going on these days when anyone brings up the DVD release of the WWE’s first movie, No Holds Barred from 1989.
You can go on Twitter and see plenty of comments recalling how bad the movie was. Even the WWE’s own ads for the DVD are tongue-in-cheek, with current wrestling stars making fun of Hulk Hogan’s acting ability as the lead character in the movie.
Yes, it was a terrible movie with corny acting and a dose of Vince McMahon’s sophomoric humor thrown in (anyone remember Stan Hansen’s “teeny wanger” line?).
It did have some bright moments. I’ve always like Kurt Fuller and Joan Severance as actors, even in bad movies. And according to IMDB.com, No Holds Barred grossed $16.1 million in 1989 dollars (by comparison, WWE film The Marine took in $18.8 million at the box office in 2006 and 2007).
So why do I bring this ancient history lesson up? Because the one thing that No Holds Barred did really well, that no other WWE movie has done since, was to create a bonafide angle off its release.
Shortly after the movie came out, fans started seeing Hogan’s nemesis in the film, Zeus (played by journeyman actor Tiny Lister), show up on the syndicated Superstars of Wrestling show to challenge the Hulkster. Granted, the lines between movie plotline and wrestling plotline got mighty blurry here, but either way, Hogan ended up in a conflict that directly stemmed from the movie.
The feud culminated in the main event of SummerSlam 1989, when Hogan and Brutus Beefcake battled Zeus and Randy Savage. Savage and Hogan had been wrestling at house shows all summer after Hogan beat Savage for the WWF World Title at WrestleMania V months earlier. The babyfaces won the match.
Lister was a big guy but a terrible wrestler, but that’s not the point. The idea was solid to have some type of match come from the movie.
I feel once again that as we listen to the WWE brass make excuse after excuse about bad movie releases, these same execs miss many easy opportunities to create an angle in the ring.
Cena is the top dog and in enough movies that it’s a no brainer to revisit the Zeus idea. It might just spark a little more interest in the WWE film division.
Scott Wallask has followed wrestling for 31 years and writes about growing up watching the WWF in the 1980s on his blog, Boston Garden Balcony.
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