Mortal Kombat has inspired professional wrestling tremendously since the ’90s. Here are eleven times the video game franchise rocked the world of sports entertainment, for better, and in some cases, for worse!
Mortal Kombat and Its Influence on Professional Wrestling
"GET OVER HERE!!!" was a familiar sound that emulated from arcades and homes across the world in the early ’90s. Colorful and varied characters competing against each other using moves that would kill a person in real life? Sounds a bit like pro wrestling and the legendary Mortal Kombat video game franchise!
The two hold many similarities, a sentiment AEW commentator Excalibur had when promoting the new Mortal Kombat movie in an interview with Polygon.com.
"If you think of what pro wrestling is," Excalibur explained, "it’s real-life taken to an extreme."
He continued, "If somebody gets powerbombed in real life, chances are they’re not getting back up from that. We’re in a pro wrestling ring. It can happen five nights a week, ad nauseam.
"Fighting games became taking pro wrestling moves out of the ring and putting it back into a real-world setting. The pro wrestling fighting game and a Mortal Kombat movie are like cousins on the same side of the family tree."
Strangely enough, off the top of my head, I can’t think of a single "wrestler" Mortal Kombat character. Street Fighter has the ravishing Russian Zangief, Tekken has the jaguar (not Tiger) masked King, and Dead Or Alive has the physic defying and ridiculous bounciness of Tina.
No, wrestling may not have inspired Mortal Kombat (at least not until later on anyway), but Mortal Kombat as sure as Goro’s balls has inspired wrestling. That’s what we’re here to talk about today.
1. The Mortal Kombat Inspired Vince McMahon Saturday Morning Show that Never Was
In late 1993, there were rumors that Vince McMahon was potentially starting a new Saturday morning show, one that was inspired by video games such as Mortal Kombat, which blurred the lines of fantasy and reality in the same way as professional wrestling. Bruce Pritchard confirmed the rumors during episode 25 of Something To Wrestle.
"The idea was to produce a Saturday morning, half-hour, ‘battle art’ show, for lack of a better term," Prichard began.
"The idea was to create a studio, and have an indoor arena, and you would take these great karate fighters from around the world, and pit them against each other culminating in a tournament and a champion at the end of the season."
According to Bruce, the show never happened due to the fighters having bigger egos than the WWF superstars. They decided to do their best Hacksaw Jim Duggan impersonation by refusing to do the job for anyone, despite the possible money from live shows and merchandise.
WWF pulled out of the project, but a year later, the show, or at least one similar in design, would see the light of day without the federation backing it.
Renamed the WMAC Masters, the premise was that the World Martial Arts Council would kayfabe batter each other about for the legendary Battle Star trophy.
Hosted by Bruce Lee’s daughter Shannon (for the first season at least. Yes, somehow there was more than one season), you can watch the show on youtube, and it is as gloriously ridiculous as you imagined.
2. The Midway Games (1995-1996)
Aside from all the fireball throwing, spine ripping, and dick punching, another thing that made Mortal Kombat stand out was its photo-real digitized fighters. It was a style defined as Midway’s signature look, later being utilized for the NBA Jam series and eventually their own WWF fighter, WrestleMania: The Arcade Game.
The game was less of a wrestling simulator and more of a traditional arcade fighter, with wrestlers’ moves being heightened and reinterpreted to fit the Mortal Kombat style.
By that, we don’t mean adding a tremendous amount of gore. For example, rather than The Undertaker’s tombstone being a finisher where the opponent’s head would explode on impact, it was a literal cartoon tombstone that the Deadman would batter his opponents with.
Ports were made for home consoles, and a sequel, In Your House, was released a short time after.
You can read more about that, plus other wrestler games for the Sega Genesis, here:
3. Dungeon of Doom
In 1995, when wrestling was still trying to figure out its next evolutionary step, Taskmaster Kevin Sullivan assembled a team of terrifying evil-doers with a penchant for the dark arts that was not too dissimilar to Shao Khan’s evil forces of Outworld to combat Hulkamania.
One could lay claim that the Dungeon was influenced by Mortal Kombat, especially when one of their more god-awful/brilliant moments (depending on how you look at it) introduced us to "The Yeti."
4. Super Giant Ninja
The enormous Ron Reis portrayed The Yeti character which made its disastrous debut at Halloween Havoc ’95, draped in toilet paper and bear-hugging/weirdly humping the Immortal Hulk Hogan.
Soon after, he was repackaged in "Super Giant Ninja" attire, a look akin to that of Mortal Kombat ninja and poster boy Scorpion.
Yes, it can be debated whether or not Mortal Kombat influenced the Dungeon of Doom, but one gimmick that came from the mind of Eric Bischoff during this time most certainly was. I think you all know who I’m talking about…
Just kidding. It was Glacier.
The similarities between Raymond M. Lyodd’s Glacier gimmick and Sub-Zero from Mortal Kombat were undeniable.
First of all, you had the promo packages that heralded his debut.
Dark, ancient, mystical martial arts imagery amplified but industrial techno inspired by Techno Syndrome, or the "Mortal Kombat Theme" as it is more widely known. You know, the one where the guy yells the game title at the drop that you can’t help but techno rave fight to?
Even the "Glacier" title that appears at the end of the package shoots at the screen then epically slams to the side for the reveal, EXACTLY like the intro to the Mortal Kombat movies.
Glacier wore a blue mask, a trendy blue waistcoat, did martial arts, and had ice powers. Yes, Glacier truly earns his place along with the likes of Arachnaman and The Toxic Turtles when it comes to freebooting gimmicks in wrestling.
Unlike his contemporaries, however, Glacier didn’t look like a cheap dime-store knockoff Halloween costume. The budget was thrown at his entrance and attire. Pun totally intended; Glacier was kind of cool.
Soon, other Mortal Kombat style characters were introduced, like Mortis (Chris Kanyon in a mask) and his tag partner Wrath (Brian Clark, sometimes in a mask) to do battle with the iceman. So what went wrong?
According to Eric Bischoff, talking to Conrad Thompson on this chilly subject that keeps popping up on their podcast 83 Weeks, it was timing and casting.
"It had all the ingredients, it was just late to the party," Bischoff admitted. "By the time Glacier’s character actually arrived that party had been shut down, and everyone had cleaned up and gone home. It was over with before it even got started."
Bischoff continued, "If we would have done Mortal Kombat with a character that was of Billy Kidman size, or, you know, someone who was a really great martial artist like Ray was, but someone who was a little smaller so the presentation just looked more like the audience expectations of what a Mortal Kombat character would have looked like, it may have done better."
You can read more about Lloyd’s time as Glacier here:
6. AJ Lee As Kitana
Former WWE superstar AJ Lee is a massive fan of video games (sorry, another intended pun), as she proved during the 2011 Diva’s Halloween Battle Royal when she debuted her now-legendary Princess Kitana outfit.
Not only did her costume look the part, but she also gave the nod to the fan swipe move, sending marks of both wrestling and Mortal Kombat into a bit of a frenzy.
In an interview with Uproxx back in 2013, AJ delved into her fanhood of the Mortal Kombat series a little bit further.
"I think a lot of people like Mortal Kombat II better. I don’t hear 3 a lot as people’s favorite, but again, sentimentally, there was a time when that was like the only game I had. That, and Samurai Showdown I think. I fell in love with Kitana and Sonya."
But who is her favorite character?
"I’ve always loved Sub-Zero’s story. Everything about him has been really interesting, so probably him."
I wonder if AJ is a Glacier fan too…
7. Triple H = Shao Kahn?
For the last decade or so, as the career of Triple H winds down, he has found himself in somewhat of an "end boss" role, the villain in charge raining down punishment on our heroes, such as his feud with Daniel Bryan in 2014.
In fact, it was his match with Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 30 where he cemented his role as the big bad by channeling Shao Kahn during his entrance!
Giant throne, Giant Sledge Hammer, Skull helmet, leather underpants, Triple H and Shao Kahn are indeed a perfect match! Find me the person who says this look wasn’t inspired by the Mortal Kombat series’ main antagonist, and I will show you the biggest liar since Mr. America claimed he had no association with Hulk Hogan!
Since then, Helmsley has rocked out the skull hat look now and again with different variations, and at WrestleMania 32, Stephanie McMahon would join in the fun by giving us her best impression of Shao Khan’s evil wife (and Kitana’s mother): Queen Sindal!
She stood high above the crowd, the background resembling a Mortal Kombat 3 skyline, and delivered an epic evil speech to her undead minions. Sadly, she did not include the infamous "YOU WILL DIE!" line from the Mortal Kombat Annihilation film.
8. Mortal Kombat 11 (2019)
In 2019, Mortal Kombat released the eleventh main game in the series and cast none other than former WWE Woman’s Champion Ronda Rousey as badass soldier Sonya Blade.
Speaking in the trailer for Mortal Kombat 11, Rousey said, "Sonya Blade was the first kick-ass girl I saw come onto the scene. I’ve always admired her and admittedly tried to emulate her in my own way, and now I get to be her!"
She continued, "The first time remember playing Mortal Kombat, my mom was a college professor and one of her students let me play. I was completely button bashing but I was Raiden, and I beat him as Raiden. It was the first time I beat an adult at anything!"
At the launch event for the game, Ronda was joined by some of her WWE co-workers in full Mortal Kombat cosplay.
9. WWE Immortals Game
Of course, Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston are massive video game fans.
As a special treat, Neatherealm studios, the Time Warner-owned game publishers who continued to carry the Mortal Kombat torch after Midway went under, reimagined Woods as Lord Raiden, a playable character in WWE Immortals.
Woods and Kingston continue to show their love for the classic fighter to this day, most recently appearing on RAW in outfits inspired by Scorpion and Glacier. Sorry, Sub-Zero!
Co-creator of Mortal Kombat Ed Boon approved of Kingston and Woods’ inspired gear, tweeting, "Oh. Hell. Yes."
Sadly, Immortals shut down in early 2019. That might have something to do with another wrestling company hitting the scene around that time…
10. Mortal Kombat and AEW
AEW programming is shown on TNT and soon TBS. These networks are owned by Time Warner, who also own Neatherealm Studios and the rights to Mortal Kombat, so expect all future grappling crossovers to appear on that show.
So far, the only noteworthy reference is Chuck Taylor leaping off the Mortal Kombat 1 cabinet and Miro using the Mortal Kombat 2 cabinet as a foreign weapon during the Arcade Anarchy match earlier in 2021 around the time of the new Warner Brothers-produced Mortal Kombat movie release. Liu Kang would be proud!
As for the new movie, there may be one more WWE crossover to make it to the silver screen.
11. The Miz and Johnny Cage
Comparisons have been made between The Miz and Johnny Cage for years, as both carry the sunglasses-wearing, Hollywood a-hole gimmick to a tee. So it is no wonder fans have been campaigning for the awesome one to appear as Cage in the sequel. It’s something The Miz would love to happen, as he told TMZ.
"If I had a shot at it I would want to make sure I give everything I possibly can to make sure that the director, the production company is happy with the character I get, but also the fans because they are the ones so adamant about Johnny Cage being in the movie."
The Miz continued, "I’m not a black belt in karate, but I am willing to do whatever it takes to get every single move perfect and correct.
"This is the first time my name has ever been dropped in something and everyone has gravitated towards the positive side and was really appreciative of that, it really hit me. I was playing this game when I was a kid, Sega Genesis, not Super Nintendo because it didn’t have the blood. I always played the Sega Genesis version and I remember playing as Johnny Cage and to see this all happen would be like a dream come true."
Here is a picture I created to help you imagine what The Miz would look like as Cage, and in no way a cheap plug for my Instagram account @thelittletellyupstairs.
Do you know who else gives Miz his blessing? Original Johnny Cage game actor Daniel Pesina, and it doesn’t get more legit than that!
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