(Event: No Holds Barred-The Match/The Movie – Promotion: World Wrestling Federation – Venue: Nashville Municipal Auditorium – Location: Nashville, TN – Date: December 12, 1989 – Airdate: December 27, 1989)
I was thirteen in June 1989. I discovered wrestling a few years prior and my fandom was at a fever pitch. When promos on World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE) programming, as well as television commercials, began touting a new Hulk Hogan film (his first since his role in Rocky III seven years prior) I was STOKED. My old man and I didn’t go to the movies together very often, but he knew that I badly wanted to see this and took me as an early birthday present. As I look at No Holds Barred as an adult, it is pretty meh at best, but as a kid…man, I loved it. Hulk pretty much played Hulk (“Rip”), a champion wrestler who was fighting off the lucrative offers of an evil television executive, “Tom Brell” (Kurt Fuller), who was trying to lure him to work for his network. When Rip resisted, Brell found an even bigger monster, “Zeus” (Tiny Lister) to take down the champ.
Of course, Rip/Hulk triumphed in the end.
This was cool stuff.
As a kid, it never occurred to me that Vince McMahon would look for a way to extend the payday of No Holds Barred and have Zeus step off the screen and into the “real” world of professional wrestling.
Later that summer, a tag team match was set up for the yearly installment of SummerSlam: Hogan & Brutus Beefcake v. Randy Savage & Zeus. While he looked like a terrifying menace, Zeus was not a wrestler. His in-ring work left much to be desired. Savage was added to the act to help carry the match.
Of course, Hulk and Beefcake triumphed.
Fast-forward to December. The film was to be released on pay-per-view (PPV). (For younger fans, this would be an early equivalent of being available on a streaming service in 2023.) McMahon had a conundrum. How do you get people to pay to see the film a second time? Vince being Vince came up with an easy solution. He decided to include a match to the PPV broadcast. And what do fans love more than a match? A rematch. This time Hogan & Beefcake would face Savage & Zeus inside the confines of a 15-ft. high steel cage. That, my friend, was music to any wrestling fan’s ears and had them gladly shelling out for the opportunity to watch.
The match was filmed on December 12, 1989 in Nashville at a taping of Wrestling Challenge. It aired on PPV starting December 27. The bout was later released on home video as part of the WWF Supertape compilation.
Enough talk. Time for the match…
Steelcage Tag Team Match
Hulk Hogan & Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake vs. “Macho King” Randy Savage & Zeus (w/ “Sensational Sherri)
Mean Gene Okerlund opens the show.
The camera cuts to Tony Schiavone at ringside as a crew is shown at the arena constructing the cage. Schiavone explains the rules of the match, escape the cage or pinfall. (The pinfall was an unusual rule variant for the WWF at the time.)
At this point in the PPV, the movie is shown.
At the conclusion of the film, a commercial airs hyping the Royal Rumble which was to be held in Orlando on January 21st.
Sean Mooney is at ringside and steps into the ring. He puts over the danger of the structure. He says that the participants are going to be caged animals. He points out that when flesh strikes steel, steel wins. Yikes!
A video airs of Zeus and Hogan’s first encounter with one another the previous May on an episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event and another from SummerSlam. Furthermore, footage of Zeus incapacitating the Hulkster in October as well as doing more damage at the Survivor Series is shown.
Another commercial for the Royal Rumble. Okerlund informs viewers that some cable companies would not be carrying the Rumble or WrestleMania and that they should call their local provider to ensure that they do.
There is a backstage promo with the heel squad. Both baddies are seriously geeked up. Zeus is ranting about “killing” Hogan, but I find myself only able to pay attention to his prominent unibrow. Sherri says that Hulk will bow at the feet of the “Macho King.” Savage removes his sunglasses to properly threaten Brutus Beefcake. I don’t know what this dude was on but it must’ve been primo stuff.
Time for ring entrances. The heels slowly make their way to ringside.
Backstage: Hogan is torqued the eff up. He says that he has lured his opponents into his trap: the cage. Beefcake states that he and Hulk have to end the reign of terror of Zeus.
The roof blows off the joint when “Real American” hits. Current guys just don’t get pops like that. I witnessed it live many times. It was an amazing thing.
A shot of the cage. Ahh, “Big Blue.” I know a lot of purists hated that cage but it hits so nostalgically for me.
Beefcake enters the structure first. Sherri craftily slams the door shut and locks it so the Beefer is trapped in a two-on-one disadvantage. However, Hogan quickly scales the cage to enter the fray. (The most athletic thing he is to do the entire evening.)
Hulk begins doling out punishment to Macho. Beefcake Irish Whips Zeus into Hogan’s waiting boot. Beefcake atomic drops Savage. The babyfaces are getting the shine.
Zeus clotheslines Hogan.
Sherri climbs the cage. Once inside, “The Barber” cracks her head into Savage’s.
Beefcake eats a double-clothesline from the heels. Now Hogan is being fed the cage by his opponents.
Savage instructs Zeus to climb out of the cage but Hogan stops him.
All four men are now laid out.
Sherri is losing her shit at cageside. She climbs the cage and hands a chain to the Macho King. He leaps off the top with it wrapped around his fist but Beefcake counters him.
Beefcake escapes the cage, leaving Hulk by himself. This is always a weird break in logic for tag team cage matches. By escaping, you leave your partner at a disadvantage. (Well, anyone except Hulk Hogan.)
Savage dashes out through the door as he and The Barber continue battling.
Beefcake attempts to reenter the cage but Hogan stops him. He wants Zeus all to himself.
Hogan runs the “Human Wrecking Machine” from one side of the cage to the other.
The camera cuts to the audience before the referee finishes the count. Was there a gaff by the production crew or did Zeus goof something up?
“Real American” blares as Hogan and Beefcake pose. As obnoxious as it was, it was actually a lot of fun to be in the crowd while Hogan posed after a match.
The victors leave the cage.
A collage of bite-size promos by participants of the upcoming Rumble airs. Seen speaking were the Ultimate Warrior, Dino Bravo, Earthquake, “Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Savage & Sherri, “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, the Heenan Family (Andre the Giant, Haku, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan), the Hart Foundation (Bret “Hitman” Hart, Jim “the Anvil” Neidhart) Mr. Perfect, Demolition, Bad News Brown, Hercules, Rick Martel, The Rockers (Shawn Michaels, Marty Jannetty), the Powers of Pain (Warlord, Barbarian, Mr. Fuji), “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka, “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase with Virgil, Tito Santana, Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Koko B. Ware.
Mean Gene is with Hogan who cuts a post-match promo. Gene confirms that this is a great Christmas present for Hulk.
This was Zeus’ final appearance in the World Wrestling Federation. Years later, he turned up in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) as “Z-Gangsta.” However, that’s a story for perhaps another day.
At a mere 10:27, it was what it was. For the era and what it was designed to be (a glorified “extra” for those who bought the PPV) this match and blowoff to the feud was fine. With Hogan never being a workhorse in the ring (at least in North America) and Beefcake and Zeus being pretty shitty, this was as good as could be expected. Both Savage and Sherri (a true unsung talent) hustled their asses off to make the match better.
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