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Origin Story: Mortal Kombat's Liu Kang!

VO: Riccardo Tucci WRITTEN BY: Ty Richardson
Liu Kang may not be the face of the franchise, but he is the series' main protagonist. His life is full of hardship, and he dies on more than one occasion. Before you pick up Mortal Kombat 11, check out Liu Kang's story so far.
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Mortal Kombat Character Origins: Liu Kang

Liu Kang has held many titles throughout the “Mortal Kombat” series; Defender of Earthrealm, Mortal Kombat Champion, and now, Ruler of the Netherrealm. Whether you like him for his sweet costumes or hate him for spamming his bicycle kicks, this Shaolin monk is more than just a goody-two-shoes hero. He has survived the Mortal Kombat tournaments several times, defeated Shao Kahn - THRICE, been killed and resurrected into a murderous zombie, and died at the hands of his own mentor. Suffice it to say, Liu Kang has been through Hell!

During development of the first “Mortal Kombat”, Liu Kang was originally designed as a bald monk, but series co-creator John Tobias started drawing him to look like Bruce Lee. Not only that, but Ho-Sung Pak, the actor who played as Liu Kang in the first two games, refused to shave his head. Gameplay-wise, Liu Kang was designed to be a fighter for new players, a character that was easy to control and could pull off awesome moves with little difficulty. To better portray him as the “hero” of “Mortal Kombat”, Liu Kang was the only fighter on the roster to not have a traditional fatality. Seriously, it was just a flip and an uppercut. As for his story, Liu Kang’s narrative was pretty straightforward. He was once allied with the White Lotus Society before becoming a Shaolin monk and fighting for Earthrealm. Canonically, he would be the one give Shao Kahn the beating of a lifetime, becoming “Mortal Kombat” champion and preventing Shao Kahn from merging Outworld with Earthrealm.

Liu Kang would make his return in “Mortal Kombat II”, and this time, he was out for blood! Shao Kahn would send Baraka and his Tarkatan army to massacre the Shaolin monks. Seeking revenge, Liu Kang enters the Mortal Kombat tournament on Earthrealm’s behalf. This would be the same tournament where Liu Kang meets the beautiful and deadly Princess Kitana. Despite his Shaolin brother, Kung Lao, winning the tournament for Earthrealm, he is swiftly killed by Shao Kahn. Fueled by vengeance, Liu Kang defeats Shao Kahn, wounding him.

That didn’t stop Shao Kahn from coming back in “Mortal Kombat III”. After being rejuvenated by the sorcerer known as Quan Chi, the emperor of Outworld breaks the rules of Mortal Kombat and invades Earthrealm. You’d think a guy would learn, but no. Liu Kang defeats Shao Kahn yet again, forcing him and his army to retreat. Finally, the dude calls it quits!

Unfortunately, Earthrealm would fall under the threat of a fallen Elder God named Shinnok, who also managed to capture Princess Kitana. With the help of Earthrealm’s other warriors, Liu Kang sets out to bring down Shinnok and rescue Kitana. Unfortunately, after Shinnok’s defeat, the two admit that they cannot continue their relationship. Kitana must continue being the new ruler of Outworld, and Liu Kang must resume his duties as Earthrealm’s protector. Was this a relationship that was not meant to be?

Alas, the answer is: no. During development of “Mortal Kombat II”, it was believed that Liu Kang would be killed off in the story. However, series co-creator Ed Boon didn’t think that would make any sense. “It’d be like doing part three of ‘Star Wars’ and not having Luke Skywalker in there,” he said. While Liu Kang was alive and well in “MK3” and “MK4”, the sixth generation of game consoles would also mark his death. Released in 2002, “Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance” opens with Quan Chi and Shang Tsung teaming up to murder Shao Kahn AND Liu Kang. This would be the first and only “Mortal Kombat” game to not feature Liu Kang. The sorrow was not limited to Liu Kang’s fictional allies. Series composer Dan Forden was so affected by Liu Kang’s death that he had written a piece dedicated to the Shaolin monk, which would be used for the next game.

Liu Kang would return to the series as a secret character in “Mortal Kombat: Deception”. Although, Earthrealm’s former protector is not the same. Instead of being the same old honorable, sensible monk, Liu Kang is now a bloodthirsty zombie with chained hooks around his wrists. We find out in “Mortal Kombat: Armageddon” that Raiden is responsible for resurrecting Liu Kang. Sorry, bud, but that didn’t seem like such a hot idea!

Thankfully, this version of Liu Kang wasn’t around for long. In the 2011 reboot of “Mortal Kombat”, Raiden sends a message to his past self - “He must win”, effectively retconning everything we’ve just been over! (Thanks, Raiden! You’re the BEST!!) Anyways, while Raiden tries to decipher his alternate self’s vague message, Liu Kang believes that he is the one who must win. However, they end up repeating the events of the first three games until Raiden finally figures out that “He must win” refers to allowing Shao Kahn to merge the realms. Our Shaolin monk, on the other hand, begins questioning Raiden’s sanity, believing that all of Raiden’s assumptions had caused his friends’ deaths. Liu Kang fights the Thunder God only to end up getting roasted alive and his soul sent to the Netherrealm.

“Mortal Kombat X” picks up right where the reboot left off. Liu Kang doesn’t have much of prominent role as he did prior, but it does help set up future events. Alongside Jax, Nightwolf, Kitana, and other Earthrealm victims, Liu Kang serves under Quan Chi and fights for the Netherrealm. Only problem is that Quan Chi is killed by Scorpion about two-thirds into the story. Following Lord Shinnok’s demise, Liu Kang and Kitana become Netherrealm’s new rulers.

And that’s Liu Kang’s story leading up to “Mortal Kombat 11”, and from the looks of it, some serious s*** is about to go down! Raiden has delivered Shinnok’s head to Liu Kang and Kitana, serving as a warning should they so much as step foot on Earthrealm soil. Could Liu Kang be preparing a merciless war against the Thunder God? Will we ever see the Shaolin monk return to his former glory? Well, “MK11”...FINISH IT!!...the story, I mean.
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