Many of today’s wrestlers grew up playing the original Street Fighter games in the 1990s. You may be surprised at how much this video game franchise has influenced professional wrestling (and vice versa)!
How Professional Wrestling Influenced Street Fighter
HADOKEN! SHORYUKEN! TATSUMAKI SENPUKYAKU!
If you recognize those three battle cries, you must be a Street Fighter fan. And if you can pronounce the last one, you must be a Street Fighter god (or Ryu and Ken themselves)!
Many professional wrestlers today grew up with the original games, but before we talk about Street Fighter’s influence on wrestling, let’s talk about wrestling’s influence on Street Fighter.
Street Fighter hit arcades in 1987, but the sequel Street Fighter II is where the real legacy begins among gamers in 1991.
The franchise would become the premium fighting game in ’90s arcades, its only real competition being Mortal Kombat.
So, how did professional wrestling inspire Street Fighter? First of all, we have the characters.
To start us off, hailing from Russia, we have the red cyclone himself, Zangief.
The main inspiration for the character was Victor Zangiev, a former soviet amateur grappler who turned pro and joined New Japan Pro Wrestling in 1989.
As the Street Fighter saga grew, many more pro wrestling characters would be added to the roster. Like Joshi Puroresu Rainbow Mika, who debuted in Street Fighter: Alpha 3.
There is El Fuerte, a Luchadore inspired by legends El Santo, Rey Mysterio, and possibly Nacho Libre, given the character’s backstory of trying to raise money for his orphanage. He first appeared in Street Fighter IV.
There is Alex, an all-American tough dude from Street Fighter 3 whose persona was inspired by Hulk Hogan, including a pre-match shirt rip.
And, of course, where would Hogan be without Andre the Giant?
Hugo was a homage to the legendary giant and would enter the tournament in Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact. On top of that, if you picked him to battle Alex, the two would even replicate Andre and Hogan’s stare-down from WrestleMania 3.
2nd Impact was Hugo’s first Street Fighter game, but his video game debut was in Final Fight, another fighting game series set in the Street Fighter universe.
Final Fight isn’t the only game that shares a world with Street Fighter. For example, Saturday Night Slam Masters was Capcom’s pro wrestling game with a roster that would go on to make appearances in the Street Fighter franchise, almost as if it were Streets Fighter’s Ohio Valley Wrestling, FWA, or other developmental territories.
You can read more about Saturday Night Slam Masters, and other ’90s hit wrestling games here.
The Times Street Fighter Influenced Professional Wrestling
So how has Street Fighter inspired professional wrestling? Well, primarily through cosplay, of course.
First, we have Zelina Vega, who once paid tribute to her video game namesake.
First, we have Zelina Vega, who once paid tribute to her video game namesake. At the 2019 Royal Rumble, Zelina made her entrance decked in Street Fighter Vega’s trademark mask and claw.
Zelina picked that night to dress up as the egotistical Spanish assassin as if it was his fictional birthday!
Zelina Vega is no stranger to fancy dress. She also dressed up one time as Mortal Kombat’s green ninja Jade.
No, that wasn’t a segue to my Mortal Kombat piece that you can read here, but rather one to the blue ninja princess Kitana, who AJ Lee once cosplayed as, because AJ Lee has also dressed up in Street Fighter garb.
Lee’s character of choice was Interpol agent Chun Li. But unfortunately, it wasn’t for a wrestling show but rather a Halloween party in 2017.
The segues keep coming, as Reika Saika from Tokyo Joshi Pro probably has one of the most screen-accurate portrayals of Chun-Li’s cosplay to date.
Saika is a former bodybuilder, and as such, her fantastic figure duplicates “the strongest woman in the world” down to Chun Li’s epic thighs that she built up, no doubt through years of spinning bird and lightning kicks.
In 2019, The Elite, consisting of The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega, were set to take on The Lucha Bros and Laredo Kid in a trios match at the inaugural Fyter Fest.
The familiar “Be Elite” theme played throughout the arena, only to switch to the opening theme of Street Fighter II, and the crowd went crazy! See for yourself below:
Out came Nick and Matt Jackson, dressed as Ken and Ryu, respectively. An Akuma-attired Kenny Omega then followed.
Then there is Cody. The Final Fight vigilante made his way to Street Fighter in Street Fighter 3, but he became a mayor by Street Fighter V.
Cody from Street Fighter bears a striking resemblance to a particular WWE star with his sharp suits and bleach-blond hair.
So who better to play the character for the SFV Arcade Edition? Why Kenny Omega, of course.
The character’s look may have inspired Cody Rhodes’s bleach blonde hairdo, but you would be hard-pressed to find a bigger Street Fighter fan in pro wrestling than Kenny Omega. As well as the epic entrance with the Young Bucks, Kenny’s signature move, the flying knee, is known as the V-Trigger, which is named after Street Fighter V‘s power gauge system.
And who was that taunting Omega on the phone in that ad?
Why none other than WWE Superstar Xavier Woods, AKA UpUpDownDown’s Austin Creed.
Kenny explained how the commercial came about during an interview with upcomer.com.
“Actually, it’s a weird story. We had actually spoken originally, specifically, about the E3 showdown, and once we started to spitball ideas on how to go about making it happen, it was either Kim or Brett that kind of stepped in and said, ‘We have this crazy idea…'”
Omega continued, “I guess they originally weren’t even going to say it because it was so unique.
“They had never done a mix of live-action and gameplay before, but because of the wacky amount of ideas I had been throwing out there and spitballing in their direction while discussing with Austin Creed, I think they probably felt a little more comfortable in attempting this live-action Cody trailer.
“So they dropped the idea by me and asked if I was comfortable and had the schedule and if I would be willing to essentially cosplay the new version of Cody and hype this thing up.
“Of course, as an avid Cody player and fan, it was kind of a dream job, and it was a lot of fun, and I am glad I was able to do it.”
This leads us to this article’s main event:
The New Day vs. The Elite. The battleground? Street Fighter.
The New Day and The Elite are on opposite sides of a forbidden door. However, the two factions have been feuding for years now, and their battleground of choice is the Street Fighter games.
It started at CEO 2016, where Omega would beat Austin Creed in a best of five contest on Street Fighter V.
The following year Creed would fly to CEO 2017 specifically for a rematch with Omega, taking place in Omega’s hotel room. The game of choice this time would be Tekken 7, and Creed would get his win back over Omega.
This led to a much-hyped rubber match at the grandest stage of them all. At least in the video gaming world, E3 2018.
However, this time it would be different. Each player was granted two teammates. Creed chose Big E and Kofi Kingston, and Omega would choose Nick and Matt Jackson, giving us the fabled dream match of New Day vs. The Elite.
The hype was real. Even WWE surprisingly got in on the action, bigging up the event on WWE Now.
The New Day would win the group matches, but the actual main event would be the rubber match between Creed and Omega.
A gentleman’s bet was placed. As if the stakes weren’t high enough, the loser would have to eat habanero peppers.
Kenny played as his beloved Cody Travers, and Creed assumed the role of Ibuki.
Finally, after a hard-fought battle, Omega picked up the victory.
True to his word Creed would eat the peppers. Then in a sign of true sportsmanship, Kenny would also eat a pepper. Finally, the spicey-faced foes thanked the crowd, and the battle was over for now.
So will we ever see The New Day take on The Elite in an actual wrestling ring? It seems almost impossible now with the creation of AEW. But, according to Nick Jackson, when questioned about dream matches by ESPN, we did come close.
“Off the top of my head, I would say The Elite versus New Day because that was actually close to happening at one point, but it just never happened, but I think if that six-man would’ve happened, it would’ve torn the house down.”
It’s a sentiment Kofi Kingston echoed in a recent interview with the Battleground podcast.
“We talk about working with The Elite all the time. We talk about having a six-man [tag team match] with The Elite. That would be great. We kind of touched on it when we played Street Fighter, and that wasn’t supposed to actually happen. We thought at some point it would be pulled, but here we are, man. It’s crazy. It’s a good thing.”
Who knows, stranger things have happened in the world of professional wrestling, and the bridge between New Day and The Elite is powerful, as Creed demonstrated with a sign on G4’s Attack Of The Show when Omega began his sabbatical to heal up from a career’s worth of nagging injuries.
The game may have fighter in the title, but Street Fighter sure does have a magical way of bringing people together, be it strangers in the arcade, siblings at home consoles, or factions from rival wrestling promotions.
These stories may also interest you:
- 11 Times Mortal Kombat Inspired Professional Wrestling
- Fantasy Wrestling – What Is It All About?
- Glacier in WCW – Eric Bischoff’s Frigid (and Costly) Failure
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