The inane ramblings presented here by Scott Foy (aka The Foywonder) are strictly his own opinions
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MY NAME IS SCOTT FOY AND I PAID TO SEE READY TO RUMBLE
When the then World Wrestling Federation exploded in the nation's pop culture in the mid-80s with Hulk Hogan and Wrestlemania - completely changing the landscape of the American pro wrestling business in the process - Hollywood was a bit slow to catch on. Or, perhaps, Hollywood just didn't know how. Think about it for a moment; the only films in the post-Wrestlemania era based around the subject of professional wrestling (not counting documentaries like BEYOND THE MAT) to get a wide theatrical release have been GRUNT: THE WRESTLING MOVIE, NO HOLDS BARRED, and READY TO RUMBLE. That's rather depressing. Just take a good hard look at the line-up of movies (and one ill-fated syndicated sitcom) based around pro wrestling from the WWF boom period of 1984-1989.
THE WRESTLING MOVIE (1985)
I will now very briefly review each in the order I just listed them.
It's scary that NO HOLDS BARRED actually takes top honors if only because it's just so damn bad it's funny. No need to review this again. Just go back in time (or click on the ARCHIVES button at the bottom of the page) and check out my WILFORD BRIMLEY ON STEROIDS article for more on that film and the rest of Hulk Hogan's cinematic works.
But there is another 80s wrestling film; a lost 80s wrestling. I say lost because you will not find it on video store shelves or on DVD. I know it got released in Europe, where it is now long out of print. As best as I know, the only place this film has ever seen the line of day in the United States was on HBO and Cinemax back in the late 80s. That's how I know of it; I remember seeing it listed in the TV Guide and wanting to see it so bad because it was a wrestling movie I knew nothing about. Not having pay cable, I was forced to wait patiently for it to be released on video. That day never came, not even during the second big wrestling boom period of the late 90s. Look it up on IMDB and there's virtually no information. Even Googling the film's title brought up very little information. Not even the many, many bootleggers that populate the World Wide Web had a copy. The name of this film was always lurking in the back of my mind for the past 15 years. I'd pretty much on ever seeing this film until one night when I was doing so web surfing and - like the culmination of a magical fairy tale - I inadvertently stumbled upon someone with a copy of the film. I dropped to my knees and thanked God for finally answering my prayer. The greatest thing of all was that the movie I had so longed to see lived up to my expectations. Is it a good movie? Hard to say. Is it a bad movie? Not really. Is it a schlocky movie? Oh, most definitely. Is it entertaining? Absolutely! Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, I present to you our main event of the evening
The man behind this lost wrestling movie from 1985 I'd spent years searching heaven and earth searching for (at least online) is one Ted Vernon. Doing a little online research I came to learn that Mr. Vernon's career is itself quite impressive. Following this film he would go on to produce and star in the cult horror flick SCARECROWS (another film that is long due the DVD release it deserves) and was an executive producer of John Carpenter's remake of VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED. He has also appeared in such low budget b-movie fare as SOUTH BEACH with Peter Fonda and Gary Busey, SILENT HUNTER with Fred Williamson and Miles O'Keefe, THE UNHOLY with Ben Cross, and DEADLY RIVALS with the living legend Andrew Stevens. He's also appeared on stage as The King in THE KING & I, Oliver Warbucks in ANNIE, and C.J. Scruggs in THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS. Vernon has even appeared in music videos for Aaron Tippin and Don Johnson, and has his own '50s music band, Ted Vernon and the Bulldogs. He was profiled on Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous back in 1992. He's even been a professional boxer, a professional wrestler, and a stock car, stunt, and demolition derby driver. Despite all these credits, Vernon's real bread and butter has been his classic car business in Miami, where the man is apparently still well known as being quite a character, even having his own weekend radio show where he talks about everything from cars to whatever else is on his mind at the time. He can be found online at his website devoted primarily to his classic car biz. Yep, Ted Vernon is a real jack of all trades and in HAMMERHEAD JONES he managed to combine several of those trades.
There is no WWF in the alternate universe in which this movie takes place. No Hulkamania, no Wrestlemania, no Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection, No Vince McMahon, No WWF In the alternate universe in which this movie is set, the #1 wrestling promotion in the entire world is the American Council of Professional Wrestling. Now despite assurances from the ring announcers that ACPW is a worldwide phenomenon and as big a pop culture craze as WWF had been in our universe during this time period, everything about ACPW from the wrestlers to the production values to the arenas in which they hold their shows looks and screams small time regional promotion circa 1982. ACPW looks more like the kind of old school wrestling promotion that the WWF ran out of business back in the mid-80s.
Forget about the immortal Hulk Hogan; he doesn't exist in this universe. The biggest pro wrestling superstar in the world isn't a big, balding, mustachioed, roided up, cartoonish musclehead. The ACPW World Champion and biggest wrestling superstar in the known universe is a stocky, bald, bearded, everyman that - for those with any knowledge of pro wrestling - looks like the lovechild of A-Train and Boris Zhukov.
WHATCHA YOU GONNA DO WHEN HAMMERHEADMANIA RUNS WILD ON YOU?
This would all be believable if the guy at least had a bombastic personality along the lines of so many top wrestling stars of the day like Hulk Hogan or "Nature Boy" Ric Flair. A charisma machine, Hammerhead Jones is not. More on that in a moment.
As the announcers tell us during the opening credits, pro wrestling is in a boom period and the wrestlers of ACPW have become media superstars, none bigger than the reigning ACPW champion of the past five years, Ted "Hammerhead" Jones. Again, this is hard to believe since every bit of wrestling they show during the opening montage looks like it could have been shot at a Continental Wrestling show in Mobile, Alabama back in 1982. Well, I'm almost in the right part of the country because ACPW seems to be based out of Miami, Florida where, coincidentally, HAMMERHEAD JONES was filmed and Ted Vernon calls home.
Despite tremendous success, ACPW finds itself in a state of flux following the death of Matt "Foxy" Cooper, ACPW's promoter, initially identified incorrectly as a "manager." The future of ACPW now rests in the tobacco-stained fingers of his son, Arthur "Numbers" Cooper. "Foxy" and "Numbers"... Suddenly my "Foywonder" moniker doesn't sound so silly.
Now whereas dear old "Foxy" dad was all about pro wrestling tradition, Numbers Cooper has other plans, most of which will spit on every aspect of pro wrestling tradition. Think of "Numbers" Cooper as being sort of along the lines of Vince McMahon, assuming Vince McMahon looked like John Waters as he would appear if he were a cast member of The Untouchables. Seriously, just look at the guy.
IF JOHN WATERS WAS AL CAPONE'S ACCOUNTANT
Our first wrestling match: Hammerhead Jones vs. Crusher O'Brian. Numbers Cooper watches the match from the comfort of his living room, looking rather unimpressed by what he's seeing. Can't say as I blame him; the wrestling on display in this match is as rudimentary as it comes. The rule breaking Crusher is reduced to a quivering bowl of spandex clad Jello when Hammerhead Jones unleashes a series of hard shots to the belly. Punching guys in the belly (Or as Dusty Rhodes would say, "belly welly") will prove to be one of his favorite fighting tactics in and out of the ring. After ducking a clothesline, Hammerhead Jones lives up to his nickname by taking down Crusher with a running headbutt to the shoulder that's brought vividly to life via what can only be described as "cranium cam."
NO HOLDS BALD
It's here that I find myself forced to confront another flaw in believing that Hammerhead Jones is the #1 superstar in all of wrestling. Every wrestler, especially main eventers, has their own particular finishing move that they use to defeat opponents. El Santo had the Camel Clutch, Hulk Hogan has the big legdrop (or as it's more sarcastically referred to by many - the Legdrop of Doom), "Stone Cold" Steve Austin has the Stone Cold Stunner, The Rock has the Rock Bottom, Ric Flair has the Figure Four Leglock, AJ Styles has the Styles Clash, Bill Goldberg has the Jackhammer, Carlito Caribbean Cool has... Well, actually, nobody really knows what his finisher is, but that's a mystery for another time, another place. The point is that Hammerhead Jones doesn't have a signature finishing move. That running headbutt only serves to set up the move he uses to win this match and that move turns out to be a sunset flip, a basic pinning maneuver so old school that you rarely see anyone win a match with it these days.
Hammerhead wins and the crowd goes wild, especially the young cancer patients wearing Hammerhead Jones t-shirts in the front row. Oh wait, those kids aren't undergoing chemo; they're wearing fake skullcaps, the kind you can buy from any novelty store. It appears the top selling Hammerhead Jones souvenirs are t-shirts, foam fingers that have "#1" on them, and phony novelty bald caps. No sign of any Hammerhead Jones ice cream bars, but then it wouldn't make much sense to wave those around during a match.
There's even a nun accompanying the kiddies, shown periodically throughout the match praying for Hammerhead to be victorious. I know there are those that say that wrestling isn't wholesome entertainment, certainly not something a nun should be seen in the crowd in full habit cheering, but if you take a closer look you'll see many parallels between professional wrestling and stories in the Bible.
Yeah, I'm stretching. Boy, am I stretching. But do you really think it's a coincidence that the Bible says to keep the Sabbath holy and wrestling pay-per-views are always held on Sundays?
Anyway, back to the nun in the front row with the kiddies. She's not just a regular nun, she's not just a nun that enjoys watching sweaty men pretend to pound the crap out of one another; oh no, she's an Irish nun. Work that Gaelic brogue, sister!
THEY HAVEN'T BEEN THIS EXCITED SINCE THE BIBLEMAN LIVE STAGE SHOW
Numbers is not impressed with Hammerhead's victory nor is the reporter in the crowd that visibly displays his disgust with this spectacle called professional wrestling and its top star who is jumping up and down yelling, "#1" over and over. Hammerhead Jones doesn't have much of a catchphrase there either, that's for sure.
HAMMERHEAD JONES EVENTUALLY DISENFRANCHISED FANS WITH HIS POST-MATCH RITUAL OF VISUALIZING THE ENORMOUS LENGTH OF HIS PENIS
Waiting just backstage is the villainous Mountain Malloy, a big balding brute that proceeds to rant and rave about wanting a match with Hammerhead Jones in such a manner that if you only listened to the audio you'd swear Macho Man Randy Savage was on-screen and, man, does he sound drunk. Malloy is played by Rusty Brooks, an actual ring veteran who never really made it to the big time as evidenced by the fact that his more prominent credit is appearing in this film and helping train Ted Vernon for the role. Interviewing Malloy is a man I do believe to be John Stossel's gay kid brother.
"MOUNTAIN MALLOY, HUH? YOU ACTUALLY THINK WE'RE THAT DUMB? EVERYONE KNOWS THAT YOU'RE REALLY HARRY KNOWLES. DON'T EVEN DARE TRY DENYING IT. I'M JOHN STOSSEL... GIVE ME A BREAK!"
As Malloy repeatedly exclaims, "I want him now!" in a manner that makes him sound like one of the horny inbreds from DELIVERANCE, Hammerhead Jones finally makes his way to the back to be interviewed by Larry the ACPW Interview Guy. It's here that Hammerhead Jones officially puts the final nail in the coffin of expecting us to believe that he's supposed to be the biggest wrestling star in the world. Sounding like an English teacher giving some first graders the old "cheaters never win" lecture, Hammerhead registers his disdain for the dirty tactics that Crusher O'Brian displayed in their match, even going so far as to say that Crusher "wasn't worthy of the title of being called a professional wrestler." You tell him Hammerhead. How dare a heel cheat? The scoundrel! That cad!
His delivery would be absolutely perfect if it was meant to be a parody of a goody two shoes babyface wrestler, but this is actually how Hammerhead Jones, the supposed Hulk Hogan of this film's alternate wrestling universe, speaks when talking about an opponent. No trash talking, no "Whattcha gonna do " just a plain spoken guy giving a lesson from the Book of Virtues. So in the film's first five minutes it has been established that Hammerhead Jones doesn't really look or wrestle or talk like a guy that would be the biggest star in the business, and if that wasn't bad enough, he even sounds a tad prissy to boot.
Mountain Malloy breaks out a series of baldness-themed insults only to get blown off by the champ for being too fat and not a good enough wrestler to deserve a shot at the belt. Malloy storms off rather than burst into tears on camera. Hammerhead then takes the microphone and proceeds to eulogize "Foxy" Cooper using his "Kids, don't drink and drive" voice. Even this does not seem to please Numbers Cooper, who proceeds to suck on a cigar in a manner that would make Groucho Marx envious.
Back in his dressing room, Hammerhead Jones is approached by that disapproving reporter, who suffers from the most unpleasant case of Jon Cryer hair I've ever seen on any living person not named Jon Cryer. Actually, it's like he tried to conceal his Jon Cryer hair by feathering it but it didn't fully take. The reporter mouths off about the fakeness of wrestling, how it's not being a real sport, and that wrestlers never actually get hurt because it's all choreographed. Needless to say, Hammerhead does not take kindly to hearing this and nearly gives the twerp the same treatment that John Stossel got back in the mid-eighties when "20/20" did that expose about the scripted nature of professional wrestling and he confronted a wrestler with the same accusations. Hammerhead sets him straight about just how much athleticism it takes to be a pro wrestler and how wrestling fans aren't all white trash idiots, delivering this verbal tongue-lashing with more vitriol and emotion than he displayed in the ring or on camera moments earlier.
Meanwhile, at Titan Tower... Err... Cooper Castle... Eh A big office building containing Cooper Enterprises, the headquarters of ACPW It would appear that running the biggest wrestling company on the planet only requires a boss, a crony, and a secretary to inform people when they may enter the lair of the boss and his crony. It's now time to establish Numbers Cooper as the face of all that is evil behind the scenes in professional wrestling. His first evil act: firing two of his father's closest associates, even going so far to tell them they won't be getting any severance pay. What a fiend! His second act of evil: finding loopholes in the wrestlers' contracts that absolve him of any liability for any injuries they might receive in the wrestling ring. Numbers feels that the old style of wrestling has gotten stale and he plans to revolutionize the entire business by forcing them to compete in actual unscripted gladiatorial battles that can only be won when one person cannot continue. He calls it the "deathmatch," not to be confused with the traditional wrestling deathmatch that involves a wrestler winning after he pins his opponent who is the unable to get back to his feet to by the count of ten or the Japanese style of deathmatch that usually involves barb wire, glass, thumbtacks, fire, explosions, piranhas, etc.
Speaking of death, at the rate Numbers Cooper sucks down them stogies he's going to die of lung cancer before the end of the movie.
Our second wrestling match: Hammerhead Jones vs. Bronco Billy. Judging by his appearance, Hammerhead's opponent in this match appears to have been time warped in from 1975. Despite being named Bronco Billy, there is absolutely nothing about him that plays into his cowboy themed name. In actuality, he has the look of a full service gas station attendant that moonlights as a pro wrestler on weekends - in 1975. They proceed to have what the color commentators describe as a scientific match and speculate as to whether or not this will be the sort of wrestling that Numbers Cooper will promote now that he's in charge. By scientific, they mean a match containing so many elementary, first week of wrestling training moves that even Lou Thesz would be willing to Sabu himself through a table. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with either man's wrestling abilities, it's just that the style of match they're having is incredibly old school even by 1985 standards. This movie really should have been set in 1975. From out of nowhere, Hammerhead wins the match with the dreaded Backslide of Doom. This makes two matches that he's won using a simplistic and unspectacular pinning maneuver and this one wasn't even preceded by the running Hammerheadbutt. He and Bronco Billy shake hands afterwards as the announcers declare how much the wrestling fans in the arena appreciate true sportsmanship. And you thought I was kidding earlier when I stated that this movie takes place in an alternate universe.
I wonder if in this alternate universe there's a Saturday morning cartoon called Hammerhead Jones Rock 'n' Wrestling. One thing's for certain, I sure as heck don't want to eat a Mountain Malloy ice cream bar.
Back in his smoke-filled office, cigar-chomping Numbers Cooper and his nameless pipe-smoking crony prepare to unveil plans for the deathmatch. The vile Numbers vows to blackball any wrestler that doesn't agree to take part in the bloody spectacle he has in mind. Numbers declares that all pro wrestlers are bums that came from the gutter until someone like him made them what they are today so they won't hesitate to agree to compete or risk losing everything and end up back on skid row. The crony asks what if they get hurt. Numbers replies that there are an endless number of untrained, untalented losers willing to kill themselves for a shot at fame and fortune. I wonder if Numbers Cooper went on to produce Fear Factor?
So basically the ACPW deathmatches are going to be like a less glamorous version of the "Battle of the Tough Guys" from NO HOLDS BARRED. Scarily enough, this movie itself is soon going to take some twists and turns that make it seem like a less glamorous version of NO HOLDS BARRED. Considering HAMMERHEAD JONES came along four years before NO HOLDS BARRED, perhaps NO HOLDS BARRED was meant to be a glitzier version of HAMMERHEAD JONES? Hmmm
It's time for our first musical montage. Hammerhead Jones rides a very nice Harley on a dusk to dawn drive to the Catholic orphanage where he grew up. I kid you not. I also don't kid when I say the song playing sounds like a track that wasn't quite good enough to make it onto the soundtrack for REAL GENIUS.
Remember that nun in the front row? Guess who runs the orphanage? Remember those children in bald caps that were standing next to her? Guess who don't have parents? And for the record, the nun's Irish brogue is an F4 on the Fujita scale of overwrought fake movie accents.
Sister Smackdown (Her name is actually Sister Ann but I like Sister Smackdown better) informs Hammerhead that thanks to the money he earned beating up Bronco Billy (apparently the movie jumped forward a whole week during the motorcycle montage), she was able to pay for the repairs the chapel needed. The two of them discuss how brutal the match was. Uh, this brutal match they're speaking of was the "scientific" one that consisted almost entirely of armdrag takedowns and chinlocks. She doesn't fully approve of what he does for a living but is still willing to take his money. Wouldn't that make her more Protestant than Catholic? She also doesn't approve of him riding a motorcycle either. Just wait until she finds out he doesn't wear a helmet.
Uh oh! Orphans are fighting. It's a three-on-one ambush on young Tommy. Hammerhead Jones does a run-in and the heel orphans run away. Instead of Hulk Hogan's famous "Train, Say Your Prayers, & Take Your Vitamins" speech, Hammerhead gives Tommy a lecture on bullies and how little guys can beat big guys. "It's not how big you are; it's how big is your heart," says Hammerhead Jones in a "The More Your Know" moment. I'd watch what I'd say if I were him because quite a few pro wrestlers over the years have died prematurely from having an enlarged heart.
"God bless you, Hammerhead Jones" declares Sister Smackdown as she makes the sign of the cross. If this isn't the most entertaining wrestling movie ever made it's at least carpooling with it.
In case I haven't mentioned it, HAMMERHEAD JONES is a great hand gesture movie. Some movies have great lines of dialogue that the viewer can repeat or respond to; this one has hand gestures. They're constantly acting with their hands in this movie. Watching the film with my friend Alex, we found ourselves constantly posing, shaking our fists, waving our hands like the characters were doing on the screen. You just have to see it to fully understand. This movie sooooooooo needs to be released on DVD.
Our third wrestling match: Hammerhead Jones vs. The Undertaker. Sorry, not that Undertaker. This Undertaker looks like Wolfman Jack's head on Randy Savage's body. On the plus side, this guy not only looks like a credible wrestling opponent, he even displays credible wrestling skills. On the negative side, nobody calling oneself The Undertaker should wrestle in orange and blue candy-striped tights. The announcers discuss the first of the deathmatches and dangers it entails as Hammerhead scores the win using the dreaded Small Package of Doom. Yet again, another match is won using a rudimentary pinning movie and no Hammerheadbutt. All we need now is for him to win with a schoolboy (of Doom) and a rolling reverse cradle (of Doom) and I do believe he will have completed the set of basic pinning roll-up combinations.
It's off to wrestling training school where a rookie is being broken in. Given the time period in which this movie was made, I do believe this may have been a first for a wrestling movie as the trainer schools a rookie on timing and falling properly. Nevermind, the trainer does a complete 180 and lectures them on how the moment they step in the ring its war and the other guy is going to beat the crap out of them for the money. So if wrestling is real and the deathmatches are real then... I'm so confused. If only Hammerhead Jones would show up wearing a shirt so hideous it would frighten me back into thinking straight.
Thus begins a disturbing trend that will continue on throughout the film. Hammerhead Jones may very well be the best wrestler in the entire world and he may very well have God on his side doing it, but when it comes to fashion he desperately needs an intervention. I know there are those that will argue that such flowery shirts are perfectly acceptable clothing but I must vehemently disagree. No non-heterosexual or non-Hawaiian should ever walk around in public wearing shirts like that unless their name is Magnum P.I. Tom Selleck could pull off the look. Ted Vernon, not so much.
No sooner does Hammerhead arrive to talk business, one of the worst stereotypes in the rich history of bad movie stereotypes trots in for some unwelcome attempts at comic relief. The walking gay stereotype from Hell is named Lorenzo and he's the guy that designs the ring attire for the wrestlers. Lorenzo's not gay. Lorenzo's gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! I don't think it is even possible for an actual real life gay person to be this gay. He talks in the most exaggerated phony gay voice possible, he virtually skips around the arena, and he constantly makes gay themed jokes that I do believe could make actual homosexuals watching this scene turn straight just out of spite. You don't have to be politically correct to tell that Lorenzo may very well be the Stepin Fetchit of all cinematic gay stereotypes.
THIS... THIS IS A HATE CRIME
With that unpleasantly out of the way, Hammerhead and Ed the old black wrestling trainer talk shop. The first deathmatch has been signed and it will be Butcher Block vs. Mark Coleman. No, not the MMA fighter Mark Coleman; that deathmatch might actually be worth watching. Coleman and Butcher have bad blood in real life that's sure to make their deathmatch all the more dangerous. Hammerhead ain't having none of it so he hops on a plane to pay his old buddy Mark a visit to try and talk him out of the fight.
At Casa de Coleman, Hammerhead speaks with the wife unit while Coleman plays with his toddler son in the backyard. The fact that Coleman is Hammerhead's friend and is enjoying life with his young child instantly foreshadows that something horrible is going to happen to him in the deathmatch. The wife tells Hammerhead that Mark has to take part in it because he needs the money. She then breaks down into a barely lucid diatribe about how Mark doesn't want his son growing up to be like him or knowing violence and that's why he needs the money he'll earn from taking part in this deathmatch. Try putting that logic together for a moment. The child then tops off the scene by telling his dad, "I love you," thus absolutely guaranteeing tragedy.
Our fourth match: Mark Coleman vs. Butcher Block in the inaugural deathmatch. Butcher Block looks like he could be playing an Eastern European hitman in a Golan-Globus production whereas Mark Coleman looks like a tougher than average lounge singer. The two engage in a bloody brawl as the color commentators actually undersell the brutality of the match. Mrs. Coleman and Hammerhead have chosen to watch the deathmatch on their respective TV sets at their respective homes. Their brawl eventually makes its way to the ringside area where Butcher tosses a massively bloody Coleman into the front row right into the lap of a mortified woman with equally mortifying hair. Is that Stevie Nicks?
NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL SEXUAL HARASSMENT
Butcher then tosses the barely conscious Coleman back into the ring where he rests facedown in a pool of his own blood. Butcher climbs to the top turnbuckle and dives off to deliver a spine-severing - as indicated by the cracking sound effect tossed in - knee to the lower back on the already motionless Coleman, and the referee decides that now, finally, would be a good time to end the match. Medics descend on the ring, the crowd goes silent, Coleman is stretchered out, Mrs. Coleman has a breakdown worthy of a Daytime Emmy, and Hammerhead repeatedly yells, "How is he?!" at the TV screen. The medics and ring announcers fail to provide an instantaneous diagnosis so Hammerhead hurls something heavy through the TV screen after the third, "How is he?" He's never going to find out that now.
Could you imagine Phil Mushnick's column the very next day after a match like this?
Hammerhead vows to put a stop to the deathmatches. Numbers vows to get Hammerhead to take part in one. The two hold a summit inside of Numbers' smoke-filled limousine. When I say smoke-filled, I mean they could have filmed that remake of THE FOG inside of it. It's also funny to note that whenever you see either Numbers or his crony in the back of the limo there's smoke everywhere but never when there's a close-up of Hammerhead. Mr. Vernon must not like second hand smoke too much.
THE SURGEON GENERAL WARNS THAT YOU COULD GET LUNG CANCER FROM SECOND HAND SMOKE JUST BY WATCHING HAMMERHEAD JONES
Numbers waves his cigar at Hammerhead and orders him to defend the belt against Mountain Malloy in a deathmatch. Hammerhead refuses and a compelling Court TV-worthy argument over contract legalities ensues. After Hammerhead angrily storms out of the smoky limo, Numbers makes an ominous phone call. I must say that the actor playing Numbers Cooper really is quite good in his role even though the look and demeanor of the character strikes me as being about a half a century too late.
Hammerhead is next seen doing some bench presses at the gym when a big goomba greaseball, the kind of guy you'd see cast as a stereotypical wiseguy legbreaker, walks up and starts choking him with the weight bar while asking him if he "gets the message." Once again, the logic escapes me. You're going to injure a guy in order to coax him into agreeing to participate in a bare-knuckle brawl? Usually in movies that feature scenarios along these lines the bad guys takes a loved one hostage instead and forces the protagonist to take part that way. Fortunately, the henchdude is one of those fraidy cat henchmen that runs away like a scared little girl the moment someone else around yells, "Hey!" really loud. As the goomba slips away, Hammerhead actually tells others not to bother going after the guy because "the man's just doing his job." Ah, Hammerhead Jones, always sticking up for the workingman.
Hammerhead will come to regret not going after the goomba because the next part of his job involves beating the crap out of Ed and breaking all the fingers on one his hands with a pair of pliers.
Decked out in his latest flowered shirt from the nether regions of fashion hell, Hammerhead is cruising the streets in a swanky convertible when he gets a call on his car phone (Geez, those phones were enormous back then!) informing him of the attack on Ed and instantly speeds off to the hospital. The great thing about this scene is that we get to enjoy a wonderful Ted Vernon ditty entitled "Bad as a Bulldog."
In addition to starring, producing, and co-writing HAMMERHEAD JONES, Vernon even did some of the songs on the soundtrack? I know his bio says that he had his own 50s band. This particular song is like listening to a George Thorougood & the Destroyers song as performed by Vince Vance & the Valiants. George Thorougood songs sound perfectly suited for sitting around a bar drinking beer or some other hard liquor; Mr. Vernon's also sound perfectly suited for sitting around in a bar, albeit drinking a cocktail of some sort with a little umbrella in it. I think you get the point I'm trying to make. Let's sample some lyrics from "Bad as a Bulldog."
wander the street
That joke I made earlier about Hammerhead Jones having his own Saturday morning cartoon; the title of it would have to be Hammerhead Jones Jukin' & Jivin'. If the WWF could get Junkyard Dog on American Bandstand singing "Grab Them Cakes" then I don't see how Ted Vernon couldn't get on to sing "Bad as a Bulldog." Or, considering his questionable fashion sense, at least a guest shot as a judge on Solid Gold.
UPON SEEING HAMMERHEAD JONES LATEST CRIME AGAINST FASHION, FAMED FASHION CRITIC MR. BLACKWELL IMMEDIATELY ATTEMPTED SUICIDE
Hammerhead arrives at the hospital where he's informed of how badly his friend has been beaten. The standout in this scene is the doctor who has the most unsettling eyes I've ever seen. He has demon eyes or alien eyes; I'm not sure which, but they're otherworldly. No normal human should have eyes like that.
"I HAVE SUCH SIGHTS TO SHOW YOU."
Hammerhead barges into the offices of Cooper Enterprises and when the secretary tries to make him wait, he "Fay Wrays" her, carries her into Number's office, and deposits her on his desk. For one brief second I thought a gang rape might follow but, thank goodness, I was wrong. She wisely runs for the hills as Hammerhead attempts to overpower Numbers with the sheer ugliness of his shirt. Try as he might, Numbers cigar smoke is no match for Hammerhead's fashion faux pas. An overwhelmed Numbers breaks down and gives him the name and address of the goomba that did the dirty work for him.
Wait a minute... Hammerhead didn't beat the crap out of Numbers for hiring the guy to put Ed in the hospital but instead vehemently demands that Numbers tell him where he can find the hired goon so he can go beat the bejeezus out of that guy for just doing what Numbers paid him to do? So much for supporting the workingman.
And once again, just as he did with the reporter earlier in the film, Hammerhead Jones shows displays more fire and intensity out of the ring then when he's actually in the ring or cutting a promo.
In the alternate universe in which the movie HAMMERHEAD JONES occurs, tracking down the guy that hospitalized your best friend so you can beat the living hell out of him requires dressing to the nines and renting a limo to drive you to the nightclub where the guy works. In one of those hysterical movie moments that really has to be seen in all its glory to be fully appreciated, Hammerhead finally spots the guy while scouring the club from an upper deck; the goomba then spots Hammerhead standing up there and as their eyes lock, Hammerhead just points at him in the most ridiculously menacing manner possible.
THAT'S RIGHT, MR. SMART ASS... KEEP MAKING CRACKS ABOUT MY FASHION SENSE. YOU'RE NEXT, FOY!
The thug takes off and ends up in the back alley behind the club where Hammerhead's club-carrying limo driver blocks one exit and Hammerhead blocks the other, standing there in the backlit mist like Edward Woodward in the opening credits of The Equalizer. Hammerhead readies for battle but not before informing the thug of the reason why he's about to knock him into the next area code. "Not because you hurt a friend of mine but because you enjoyed it." What sense does a statement like that make coming out of the mouth of a guy that's about the kick the living hell out of you, or for that matter, out of the mouth of a pro wrestler? Then Hammerhead proceeds to beat the crap out of the guy with those hard shots to the belly he likes so much and appears to be enjoying himself the whole time. Logically speaking, shouldn't he know beat himself up since he liked beating that guy up and liking beating someone up is clearly a bad thing in his book? I wonder if presenting Hammerhead Jones with such a logical paradox would cause him to self destruct like NOMAD.
Our fifth wrestling match: Nightmare Moody & ??? vs. Tank Turner & ???. Tank Turner is an average muscle guy, as is his partner, and their opponents are both masked guys. Nightmare Moody is clearly the guy playing Mountain Malloy in a red mask and black bodysuit, and his red masked partner is as generic an old school masked wrestler you're likely to ever see. The identities of the partners are a mystery because the color commentators only name three wrestlers and the third name is "Wild" Willy Wilson, a name they announce as getting into the fray right as the other generic masked guy enters the ring. Moments later, they call a move performed by Tank's partner and attribute it to "Wild" Willy Wilson. Either the audio wasn't synched right in post-production for that scene, both guys had tag partners named "Wild" Willy Wilson", or I'm putting entirely too much thought into this write up and should just move on. For the record, what little bit we saw of this match featured the most armdrag takedowns ever seen in the span of 90 seconds.
Backstage, Mountain Malloy is again cry babying about wanting a match with Hammerhead Jones for the title. Apparently, Hammerhead has been in seclusion - possible wanted on charges of assault and battery after what he just did to that guy - for a month with another tacky. At least this one isn't a total eyesore.
HE SELLS CARS. HE WEARS CARS. THE CARS ARE CLASSIC. THE SHIRT IS NOT.
Finally, the deathmatch is set. Hammerhead Jones will face Mountain Malloy for the ACPW World Championship in a deathmatch. Hammerhead has one condition: if he wins, Numbers Cooper is out of wrestling for good and control over ACPW will be turned over to a third party of the wrestlers' choosing to be named later. And if Malloy wins, Hammerhead agrees to retire. A nervous Numbers agrees but he's got a surprise twist of his own. Numbers has a trump card he's been saving for just this moment. It turns out that Hammerhead won't be facing Mountain Malloy. Instead, he'll be facing a new guy that Numbers has brought in just for this. That person is.... ZAREK, PRINCE OF DARKNESS! Numbers announcement of Zarek's name is actually accompanied by a clap of thunder, yet another reason why I love this movie so.
The hand gestures, the generic wrestling, the songs, the cigar smoke, Sister Smackdown, Mountain Malloy's 4,000 different variations on calling a bald guy names, the moments of excess melodrama, the logic gaps, those hideous shirts... God, this movie is so damn awesome. Someone please explain to me why it hasn't gotten a video or DVD release? This film does not deserve to dwell in almost complete obscurity. HAMMERHEAD JONES should be shared with the world. The world deserves... No! THE WORLD NEEDS HAMMERHEAD JONES!!!
"I'M STANDING HERE WITH CULT FILM DIRECTOR JOHN WATERS. SEEING AS HOW YOU ARE WIDELY REGARDED AS BEING AN EXPERT WHEN IT COMES TO MATTERS OF BAD TASTE; WHAT DO YOU THINK OF HAMMERHEAD JONES' SHIRTS?"
With the big match now set, here comes the obligatory training montage that includes everything from jogging to weightlifting to playing with the orphan Tommy. They really should have saved Vernon's "Bad as a Bulldog" song for this sequence instead of the generic eighties rock music they use.
Main even time: Hammerhead Jones vs. Zarek, Prince of Darkness in a winner takes all deathmatch. But first, another montage. This time we get an excessively long montage of the nighttime Miami skyline as a series of voiceovers inform us that the title deathmatch between Hammerhead Jones and the mysterious Zarek, Prince of Darkness, who we come to learn is from Istanbul, Turkey, is the "match of the century" and has made national news. Security around Zarek is "tighter than Dolly Parton's t-shirt," as we're told that Zarek and his manager haven't been seen by anyone since arriving three days earlier and that Zarek was delivered to the empty arena in an armored car. They may have saved him until the last 20 minutes of the film, but HAMMERHEAD JONES finally has its Zeus. Sorry; I meant to say, "Zeeeeeeeeuuuuuuuuusssssssssssss."
Everyone is piling into the Miami Convention Center to cheer on Hammerhead Jones and I do mean everyone. Old ladies, black guys in lumberjack shirts, white guys in Members Only jackets, Irish nuns, and children in skullcaps; they've all come to see the greatest wrestling match ever.
Ed has nicely recovered from his crippling injuries in time to serve as Hammerhead's cornerman. Hammerhead sits in his dressing room, staring intently in the mirror. Thankfully, he does not stand up, whip out his penis, and declare that he's a big shining star. He does, however, whip out a spiffy red robe with his name and what appears to be Thor's hammer embroidered on the back. The arena crowd can be heard chanting, "Deathmatch!"
Zarek is the first to emerge as the curtains open to reveal...
"HAMMERHEAD JONES, I AM YOUR FATHER."
Covered head to toe in a big brown executioner's shroud, Zarek comes out looking like a giant brown ghost monster from Pac-Man. Or is it...
THE WORLD'S FATTEST JAWA
Despite not knowing anything about Zarek, the crowd came armed with signs that are guaranteed to make defeating him easier for Hammerhead because once Zarek reads the biting insults he'll get completely demoralized. Boy, do these people ever put him in his place with their scribbled taunts.
All the signs help up by the crowd look suspiciously like they were made by the same person. Either that or everyone that came to the arena for this match writes in exactly the same font.
And now it's Hammerhead Jones entrance...
AND HE'S ACCOMPANIED TO THE RING BY A CATATONIC TONY ORLANDO
Wait, my bad, it's actually a wheelchair bound Mark Coleman that Hammerhead pushes down to the ring with him as he makes his grand entrance. Coleman sits there in the chair all the way down to the ring with a blank expression, not moving or looking or reacting to anything going on around him as if he's in a persistent vegetative state.
Hammerhead enters the ring and we get our first good look at his championship belt. Clearly, no expense was spared. I really mean it, no expense was spared.
ACPW WORLD TITLE BELT COURTESY OF GARY'S ENGRAVING OF SOUTH BEACH. THAT'S GARY'S ENGRAVING; FOR ALL YOUR DISCOUNT ENGRAVING NEEDS.
Hammerhead stares across the ring at Zarek, who continues to stand motionless in the corner under the shroud. Zarek even has his own ethnic stereotype manager, who looks like a suicide bomber Shriner. Hammerhead can takes no more, walks up to the hooded hulk, and rips away his shroud to reveal Zarek's true form. And in a surprise twist that nobody could have seen coming, Zarek turns out to be...
POPEYE'S ARCH-NEMESIS BLUTO
Hey, you gotta admit the similarities are striking. Doesn't that look like a crazy-eyed Bluto to you? In the film's funniest moment, Hammerhead turns around, let's out a "Holy shit!", and casually walks back to his corner.
Before the match can begin, Hammerhead needs to have his flashback montage of everything that has happened leading up to this monumental match-up. Stallone had his only a half hour into ROCKY IV, but HAMMERHEAD JONES waits until our hero is actually in the ring staring down Zarek to do it. The montage is brief and we don't even get a music video out of it, instead a series of flashes edited between close-ups of Hammerhead and Zarek. A pity too because I would have loved to hear Ted Vernon belt out his own version of "There's No Easy Way Out."
The crowd is cheering. The orphans are in a frenzy. The nun is praying. Tony Orlando is praying too. Numbers smokes a cigar. The chant of "deathmatch" erupts again. The ring announcer introduces the combatants. The color commentators inform us that Zarek killed two wrestlers in Europe. Now Tony Orlando looks like he's going to cry. The bell rings. The deathmatch is underway. Hammerhead Jones and Zarek proceed to have a match that could be the main event in any National Guard Armory in the country assuming the year is 1982.
HAMMERHEAD JONES... HE'S STILL MORE OVER THAN JEFF JARRETT WILL EVER BE
Amazingly, Hammerhead displays more charisma in this bout than he has in any leading up to it. It's a calm, cool, yet determined demeanor; still not the kind that would convince you he's a wrestling megastar, but at least he's finally showing some main event personality.
After minutes of Zarek no selling and Hammerhead playing cat and mouse with him, the fight spills out onto the floor where Zarek proceeds to slam the champ through a ringside table. An unruly fan smacks Zarek across the back and suddenly Zarek loses every shred of sanity. Ever see NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER? If so, remember how the bad guy tells Jean Claude Van Damme's character to stop messing around with the guy he's fighting and Van Damme just goes stark raving psycho for no particular reason? That's basically what happens here. Zarek's crazy facial expressions would bring a tear to the crazy eyes of Abdullah the Butcher. I also come to realize that if Zarek were completely covered in fur and had ape-like features then he could very well be a real life version of Donkey Kong.
In the middle of his frenzy, Zarek eyeballs the crippled Coleman, enters into a trance-like state, and goes for him. In response, Coleman makes a face that would seem to indicate a loss of bowel functions, assuming the paraplegic still had control over his bowel functions. Zarek kicks the wheelchair over and begins putting the boots to Coleman. Just in time, Hammerhead Jones makes his Superman comeback and sends Zarek's head hard into the ringpost, busting open the monster heel. Numbers is suddenly concerned; so concerned that he actually stops smoking his cigar for the first time in the movie.
A bloody Hammerhead Jones unleashes his much feared belly punches on the wounded Zarek. A riled up Sister Smackdown unleashes her bloodlust and begins cheering wildly. You just know she loved every second of PASSION OF THE CHRIST.
Hammerhead then takes down Zarek with a running axehandle smash to the liver. This is history in the making because I don't think I've ever seen that particular move done before in a wrestling match or any other movie. Hammerhead Jones climbs the ropes and nails Zarek with a leaping Hammerheadbutt to the shoulder in what should have been the key moment of the match that ends up looking like a nothing move thanks to some truly awful editing. Nonetheless, Zarek lets out a pained wail as the announcers inform us that the move just shattered his ribcage. I'm sorry but even Jim Ross couldn't sell that finish.
And just like that, all life appears to leave Zarek's body as he drops to the canvas. The ref declares Hammerhead the winner, the crowd goes wild, and Numbers Cooper's big moment of comeuppance is a brief shot of him looking unhappy and storming off while yelling at some people in the crowd. What? At least the evil corporate bad guy in NO HOLDS BARRED died from an accidental electrocution brought on by being really frightened of Hulk Hogan's "I'm constipated beyond human comprehension and really pissed off about it" face. Couldn't Numbers Cooper at least dropped his lit cigar and accidentally burst into flames or something?
Zarek's manager (who is a good two hundred pounds lighter than Zarek) drags the fallen Prince of Darkness' carcass from the ring as children proceed to storm the ring and Hammerhead raises little Tommy on his shoulders with the title belt. Even that wrestling hating reporter from the beginning of the movie jumps into the ring all smiles to raise Hammerhead's hand. The crowd cheers wildly. Mankind celebrates. World peace is achieved. Jesus let's out a "Hell yeah!" And amid the jubilation, poor paraplegic Mark Coleman is completely forgotten about; still beaten and battered on the ringside floor, possibly trampled to death by the fans storming the ring to join Hammerhead's victory celebration.
HAMMERHEAD JONES LIFTS UP YOUNG BRYAN ALVAREZ DURING THE POST-MATCH CELEBRATION OF HIS DEATHMATCH VICTORY OVER ZAREK, PRINCE OF DARKNESS. DAVE MELTZER (seen left) ALSO CHEERS WILDLY. PHOTO COURTESY OF BILL APTER.
You know what would make this ending even better? If only Ted Vernon would sing for us one last song. He does? Hooray! This one sounds like it should have been a lively country music number from the SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT soundtrack but the country music aspect was stripped away and replaced with a drivin' and jivin' rock beat. Oh yeah! Here we go!
gotta phone in my car and I'm on the run
real hard, I got money to spend
gotta phone in my car and I'm on the run
and let live and do your own thing
Dammit, I so need to get the soundtrack! This movie needs a DVD release and a soundtrack CD. Hopefully, one day, preferably soon, HAMMERHEAD JONES will get an actual DVD release. Someday it has to and when it does I insist that Ted Vernon let me do the audio commentary track. It must be done!
As for Hammerhead Jones himself, I do believe he went on to star in his own VH1 reality series, Hammerhead Knows Best. Given his Catholic leanings, perhaps a religious program along the lines of that show Mother Angelica hosts to be called Please Hammerhead, Don't Forsake Him would have been more appropriate.
MEMORY OF ZAREK
NAME IS SCOTT FOY AND I PAID TO SEE THE SCORPION
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