Mortal Kombat almost starred Jean-Claude Van Damme


Mortal Kombat is a series known for its comedic ultra-violence and surprisingly deep and expansive world-building. A fact that has led to the coining of the phrase, come for the gore, stay for the lore by fans of the series. Speaking of lore, did you know series mainstay and large-dicked legend Johnny Cage was almost Jean-Claude Van Damme. 

The story goes that before Mortal Kombat was the game we all known and love today, it was originally going to be a vehicle for action star, Jean-Claude Van Fucking Damme. The genesis of this bizarre idea apparently being traced back to the producers of Universal Soldier who approached Midway Games to float the idea of making the actor the star of his own game.

Midway were apparently all kinds of on-board with this idea, immediately setting about digitising the actor and coming up with a bunch of names for a game featuring his likeness. According to Mortal Kombat OG Ed Boon, the name they settled on prior to Van Damme turning down the chance to kick the shit out of endless waves of digital bad guys was simply VAN DAMME. Which well, is pretty fucking baller.

For some reason Van Damme himself disliked the idea of shooting waves of dragon energy out of his dick or something and eventually the deal to appear in a game fell through. However, Midway kind of like the idea of a game featuring digital actors knocking ten balls of shit out of each other and set about making the idea a reality. They set about making Mortal Kombat.

Somewhat annoyed at Van Damme dropping out of the project, Midway games decided to use his likeness anyway, creating a character who looked almost exactly like him called Johnny Cage. Not content with “borrowing” Van Damme’s likeness, Midway dressed the character in the same kind of outfit worn by the actor in Bloodsport and then crafted a backstory for him that established he was an egocentric, dickhead movie star.

Seemingly not content with dunking on Van Damme just the once, the creators of the game then gave the character a few special moves inspired by cool shit he done in his movies. Such as obliterating a man’s nutsack with a megaton punch delivered from the splits position.

A move so supremely effective in the Mortal Kombat universe it can even bring a Shokan prince capable of tearing someone apart with his 4 beefy man-arms to his knees. 

Since then Johnny Cage has become his own character, but the Van Damme influences remain in some of his characterisation, even decades later because a character inspired by that much man is going to retain some of his features.