In 1992, Midway Games developed a game designed by Ed Boon and John Tobias, which originally was made to be a game starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. Instead, a fantasy-themed fighting game was created, and while still reminiscent of the movie star, instead featured seven characters who enter into a martial arts tournament, hellbent on defeating the antagonist of the game: Shang Tsung.
The game takes place on Earthrealm, which is really just another name for what we call Earth—a rocky planet orbiting the Sun. Unlike Earth (I’m assuming), Earthrealm has been attacked many times in an attempt to conquer the people and the land, being the “jewel of the cosmos”, and all. But, seven different locations serve as backdrop for actual gameplay,
Explained in later games, Shang Tsung was banished to Earthrealm 500 years prior, eliciting help from the monster Goro, and seizing control of the tournament in order to destroy Earthrealm.
When it comes to the fighting itself, the seven protagonists (if you can call some of them that) have a shared set of attack moves and their own “Fatality”—a finishing move that is both gruesome and effective in defeating their opponent. Shared moves include: the leg sweep, uppercut, and a move they called “juggling” —a move where the character attacks their opponent midair, using rapid-fire actions.
In the single-player game, the player faces each of the seven characters in a singles timed match consisting of up to three rounds, ending with a match against a mirror version of themself. The goal is to drain the opponents health bar, and if playing with multiple players, the first to drain their opponents bar (or has the most health if both bars still have health) wins the round. The player that wins two rounds first, wins the match.
Once the player has faced each of the seven characters, they move to the second round: three endurance matches, each with two opponents for the player to face. If the player defeats the first opponent, the second opponent enters the arena, resetting the timer, but not resetting the player’s health.
If the player makes it through the second round, they face the realm’s sub-boss, Goro. Get past Goro? The final match is against the bad guy, himself: Shang Tsung.
If a player wants to train, as you might call it, there are mini-games between certain levels titled “Test Your Might”, where players can break blocks of various materials and fill a meter for points, using rapid button presses.
The game sounds simple enough, but between 1992 and 1993, when the game became popular, Mortal Kombat created controversy between political officials and parents. The game produced strong opposition to its violence against characters that looked like human beings. The opposition was so strong, that Senator Joseph Lieberman and Senator Herb Kohl held hearings on the effects of video game violence on society.
As a result of the hearings, the entertainment software industry had to create a rating system for games, and feature that rating on their package. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) was born.
So, you might asking yourself, “What does this have to do with wrestling?”
So, let’s recap. Mortal Kombat is a video game that features:
- Combat sports
- A tournament to declare a winner
- Heroes and villains
- Finishing moves
- A gameplay that looks a lot like a 2-out-3 falls match
- Endurance rounds that look a lot like a royal rumble
- A mini-game that looks a lot like training
- A main event match
- Complex backstory for each character
Sounds a lot like the features of professional wrestling, right?
It got me thinking: what if Mortal Kombat was a women’s wrestling game? What if the development team, production team, characters, setting, and game rules were actually components of women’s professional wrestling?
Well, with live wrestling slowed down to practically a halt, it seemed like the time to turn Mortal Kombat into a hypothetical women’s wrestling video game. For the purpose of this article, we’re using the original 1992 Mortal Kombat as our template.
The Creative Team
The game wouldn’t happen without a strong creative team to produce it. The creative team for this game consists of women’s wrestling pioneers, well-known artists in the industry, and (maybe) a fictional video game developer. We also threw in a few important elements usually found in a game’s features, made specific to women’s wrestling.
- Developer: Bell To Belles Games
- Publisher: Bell To Belles Games
- Designers: Mildred Burke and June Byers
- Programmers: Sara Del Rey and Emi Sakura
- Artist: Olivia Walker
- Composer: Poppy
- Platforms: All
- Release: 1935
- Genre: Fighting
- Mode: Up to 2 players
- Cabinet: Upright
Allysin Kay has the attitude fit for a Hollywood star, and the talent, too. Much like Johnny Cage, Allysin will keep it classy while she kicks your ass.
Game moveset: Green Bolt, Shadow Kick, Ball Breaker
Su Yung would make the perfect Kano—a mercenary from a dangerous (and undead) organization.
Game moveset: Spin Attack, Knife Throw
Fatality: Heart Rip
Bea Priestley is about as cold and calculating as it gets, so making her the new Sub-Zero makes perfect sense.
Game moveset: Ice Freeze, Slide
Fatality: Spine Rip
Sonya Blade joins the original game in hunt of Kano, so it’s fitting that Rosemary would be our representative from the Special Forces.
Game moveset: Ring Toss, Leg Grab, Square Flight
Fatality: Kiss of Death
Meiko Satomura debuted over 25 years ago at the age of 15 years old. The veteran is practically a god in women’s wrestling, so casting her as Raiden—God of Thunder and protector of Earthrealm is only right.
Game moveset: Teleport, Lightning, Torpedo
Fatality: Electric Decapitation
If you had to choose the ultimate babyface, Becky Lynch would be your choice. In Mortal Kombat, Liu Kang is the babyface. Earthrealm’s chosen champion enters to defeat Shang. I can’t think of anyone but Lynch for that type of glory.
Game moveset: Fireball, Flying Kick
Fatality: Cartwheel Uppercut
Io is a vengeful spector in her own right, making her kindred spirits with Scorpion—the former ninja and the nemesis of Sub-Zero (or Bea, in this scenario). Bea and Io come from joshi programs, so it could happen…
Game moveset: Spear, Teleport
Fatality: “Toasty”- She tears her face off, breathes fire at her opponent, and the opponent bursts into flames (sounds fun)
What about the bad guys?
First, let’s talk about Reptile.
Reptile was the first video game character to be hidden from regular play, and would only show up in the game if extreme conditions were met. In the original Mortal Kombat, he wasn’t playable, but he had an arsenal of hybrid moves taken from Sub-Zero and Scorpion’s moveset, making him a formidable opponent.
In the original Mortal Kombat, Reptile had zero backstory. Only later did we discover Reptile was a Zaterran—a humanoid race of reptilian creatures on the brink of extinction.
Thunder Rosa works as Reptile for a number of reasons, but primarily because she exists in both the world of mixed martial arts and professional wrestling, making her hybrid moveset just as dangerous as Reptile’s.
Like Reptile, Thunder Rosa is brutal with her approach, arriving swiftly and unexpectedly to take the win. Fortunately, you won’t have to wait for a silhouette flying past a moon for her to show up.
Let’s get to the fun characters: The Bad Guys
The battle plan was always a map to the ultimate victory: a “ladder” that showed all of the characters an opponent would have to face in order to win the tournament. First, near the bottom of the ladder would be the seven playable characters.
The game saved the two top spots for the toughest opponents: Goro and Shang Tsung. In this particular case, Shayna Baszler and Asuka.
Goro is a member of the four-armed half-human, half-dragon race called the Shokan. Dominating the tournament for the last 500 years, Goro is known as the sub-boss that trumps all sub-bosses, and went down as one of the toughest bosses in video game history, speaking to his power and brutality.
Goro was designed to be tough to beat; his pure power and strength overwhelming to his opponents. So, who better to be the Goro of this game than Shayna Baszler?
Both a mixed martial artist and professional wrestler, Shayna is undeniably brutal. Last year, Shayna had a 75-percent win record; one of the highest of WWE. Any opponent would not be thrilled to face this former NXT Women’s Champion, in the ring.
Finally…the main event.
When it comes to power and talent, no one is more feared than Asuka, herself.
Just considering her work at WWE and NXT alone, Asuka is the second Women’s Grand Slam Champion, third Women’s Triple Crown Champion, and held the longest undefeated streak in WWE history at 914 days.
While 914 days is not the same as dominating a tournament for 500 years, the streak proves that Asuka is one of a kind, the main event. No other female wrestler comes to mind when considering which would be the measuring stick for even the greatest of champions.
It’s not until in later games that players find out about Tsung’s real backstory and sorcerous powers, so he stays shrouded in a mystery for the original game; much like the original Asuka.
We do know that Tsung is nearly impossible to beat as the game’s main event, which also sounds like our Empress of Tomorrow.
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Original pictures of talent are credited to WWE, AEW, Impact, Shine, SHIMMER, and Women of Wrestling. Please credit the edited photos in this article to Kristen Ashly (@KristenAshly).