Rocky Balboa is now a rich man free to do whatever he wants. The champion watches as his friend and mentor Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) announces that he will fight Ivan Drago (Dolph Lungren), a gigantic Russian amateur boxer, in an exhibition match in Las Vegas. It will be a mammoth media event the East versus the West. It will be an opportunity for Creed to re-establish himself as a champion. He tells Rocky: "We're never gonna fit the normal life never, 'cause we're the warriors . . . and without a war to fight, a warrior might as well be dead."
When the high-tech muscleman from Russia meets Creed in the ring, he literally punches Apollo to death. Rocky resigns his championship and decides to fight Drago in Russia. Although his wife (Talia Shire) is opposed to the vengeance match, she can't dissuade him he's a warrior and warriors must fight.
So it's off to Siberia where Rocky trains in the wilderness, assisted by Paulie (Burt Young) and Creed's old right helper Duke (Tony Burton). While Drago's muscularity is measured by computers and enhanced by steroid injections, Rocks earns his strength the hard way he chops wood, pulls carts with rocks in them, and runs up a mountain.
The match is set. It's the Russian fighting machine versus the street smart American. Although Drago has the harder punches, Rocky has the heart and the endurance to win. Even the Russian people are moved by his tenacity. And, of course, all the world loves the underdog.
Rocky IV is designed as were all the other movies in this series to move us viscerally. And that it does. Sylvester Stallone stands tall in victory, draped in the American flag a fitting image for 1985 when citizens seem to shiver at the sight of the red, white, and blue. No wonder the box-office tallies for Rocky IV are Herculean. This movie saga seems to mirror our fondest fantasies about manhood, the fighting spirit, and patriotism.