With the exception of Scorpion and Sub-Zero who get an automatic pass because they’re ninjas, Liu Kang is the one of the most recognisable characters from the Mortal Kombat series, thanks in part to the epic mullet, headband combo he sports in each game. Originally though, Liu Kang was supposed to be totally bald.
For the few people who aren’t aware of, or simply can’t remember what the original Mortal Kombat games looked like, the first few games in the series used digitized actors to represent the characters. Which is basically a fancy way of saying that they filmed actual actors in front of a green screen and then superimposed them into the game, like so.
This allowed the creators of Mortal Kombat to simulate an unparalleled level of detail in comparison to other games of the era. While other games were putting players in charge of a jangled mess of pixels, Mortal Kombat was letting players take control of two guys in ninja costumes.
Because the first game in the series only had a roster of 7 characters, it was imperative that each one was made as unique as possible, both through their appearance and special moves. When it came to designing Liu Kang, the creators based his character on a traditional shaolin monk. Because monks are generally all about peace and not beating people to death with an iron bar, Liu Kang was the only character in the game with a fatality that didn’t explicitly kill his opponent.
According to an interview with John Tobias, this design choice originally went a lot deeper than that and originally Liu Kang was supposed to wear long flowing robes and have a shaved head. However, when the actor set to play Liu Kang, Ho-Sung Pak, was asked to shave his head, he politely told the creators to do one.
With no other choice presenting itself, the creators agreed to let Ho-Sung Pak keep his man-mane intact and in order to explain why Liu Kang didn’t shave his head like other shaolin monks do, they changed his character from that of a traditional shaolin monk to a rebel monk who just wanted to kick some ass.
After the game took off, Liu Kang’s character was expanded upon further and he eventually morphed into one of the most iconic characters in all of gaming history. All thanks to one guy in the 90’s who didn’t want to shave his head.