Fighting game character designers have always been inspired by real life personalities, especially martial artists (in turn, making fighting games even more awesome). In other cases involving celebrities... it's simply a coincidence (or is it?).


Bret Hart Vs. Diesel (Survivor Series '95)
& Ryu Vs. Akuma (Street Fighter Alpha 2)


Many professional illustrators use inspirations from movies, magazine covers, or real life photos for their 2D artwork, and sometimes cleverly mimic other forms of art... like pro-wrestling. Any creative person who enjoyed watching television in the 90's was definitely watching the crazy things happening in the World Wrestling Federation. The early WWF had so many great characters and legends.

As you probably know, many fighting game characters take direct inspiration from these real life wrestlers. In this case... a popular headlining photo / magazine cover of Bret Hart Vs. Diesel from Survivor Series (1995) made a statement worldwide. Releasing only a few months after this iconic photo, DAI-CHAN's iconic SFA2 poster clearly takes direct inspiration from The Hitman and Kevin Nash!


Hulk Hogan Vs. Andre The Giant (1987)
& Alex & Hugo Andore (SFIII: 3rd Strike)


Wrestling was getting HUGE in the late 80's... worldwide. In Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, Capcom decided to recreate the iconic standoff between Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant from Wrestlemania III (1987) - further cementing the idea that both characters take inspirations from the WWF / WWE legends. "NO BABY OIL!" ~Andre The Giant


Don Frye & Mike Haggar
(Submitted by Chris S.)



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I can't think of a better man to play Mike Haggar of Final Fight than legit mixed martial arts legend and former pro-wrestler, Don Frye. Don Frye won the freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling events during an Olympic qualifier in 1987 and made his professional boxing debut in 1989... (interestingly, the same year Final Fight was released). Did someone over at Capcom see Frye in the ring and become inspired to create Mike Haggar? It's quite possible. All I know is that if a live action Final Fight movie starring Don Frye existed, life would be significantly better.
[UPDATE: July 16th, 2018]
Life is significantly better. After many years of this character / celebrity comparison existing on the internet, in June 2018, the Frye himself was cast as Mayor Mike Haggar in a fan film: "The Broken Gear: A Final Fight Film". Thank you Game Basement Productions for turning our childhood dreams into a reality. Enjoy the full 30-minute martial arts flick below.



Saul Goodman & Sol Badguy

If you need an explanation on this one... well, the joke went way over your head (and you've missed out on some of the best TV shows of all time). It's all good, man. Saul Goodman, played by Bob Odenkirk, is a criminal lawyer from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Perhaps Sol Badguy's "FREE" belt buckle commemorates the time that Saul Goodman got him out of a jam. A reckless dude like Sol probably would need a cheap criminal lawyer like Saul. Makes perfect sense.

Fedor Emelianenko & Abel
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There's a considerable possibility that Abel from Street Fighter IV is loosely based on the badass MMA fighter, Fedor Emelianenko. After seeing the image with Fedor in his blue Gi about to pound his victim into submission (above), it's impossible to deny Abel's likeness to Fedor. 


Kazushi Sakuraba & Gai Tendo

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Japanese MMA icon Kazushi Sakuraba and Buriki-One's hero, Gai Tendo share an obviously resemblance. It's true that Gai Tendo is based on the protagonist of the manga/anime Baki The Grappler, but it's also very possible Gai's design also took some inspiration from Sakuraba - who was a rising star during the time Buriki-One was released (and was well-known for his bright orange hair).


Royce Gracie & Jacques Ducalis

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The French Judo master from SNK's Buriki-One definitely resembles Brazilian Jiujitsu icon, Royce Gracie. While Jacques isn't "entirely" based on Gracie, Judo and Jiujitsu definitely have their similarities.


Jeffry McWild & Childish Gambino




"I'm so pretty"... Donald Glover. You made Jeffry McWild cool again. Sega needed a little kick in the teeth to get hype building for VF6. Childish Gambino's breakout music video for This is America (2018) is a work of controversial art. Fighting game references? Aside from the Jeffry McWild pants, Gambino also does a very Bruce Lee-esk "Wooo". Not sure if that was intentional.

What's interesting to me is... Donald Glover was born 1 month after me (in 1983). We are the same age. That means he is part of "The Fighters Generation" if he was ever into fighting games as a kid... so was his Jeffry McWild cosplay on purpose? Did Donald Glover want me to raise Jeffry's rating a few points? I'm gonna leave it as plausible.


Joe Weider & Clemence




You may (or may not) have heard of the famous Canadian bodybuilder and entrepreneur Joe Weider. The same goes for Clemence, a pro-wrestler from the obscure fighting game, Fighting Layer. All I know is that the first time I saw Clemence, I immediately thought of the Weider logo (pictured above) as it appears on my home gym. What makes this interesting is that Weider is clearly famous for the "arms folded" pose, the same pose Clemence is seen in (in the only artwork for Clemence that exists). Also, somehow I always see an eyepatch over Weider's right eye in the logo now. lol.


Golddust & Exodus

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Here's another one from Fighting Layer. The odd-looking wrestler, Exodus, is clearly based off of WWE icon and infamously bizarre wrestler, Golddust (AKA Dustin Rhodes, son of Dusty Rhodes). As a WWE fan since the 90's, I gotta say Golddust was always pretty underrated. I definitely enjoyed his stuttering gimmick while it lasted. *HOH*


Darun Mister & The Great Gama

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The Great Gama is a Pehlwani wrestler from India who was famous in the early 1900's. Darun Mister's design appears to be heavily based off of the Great Gama. Nuff said? That's an intimidating mustache if I've ever seen one!


Jackie Chan & Lei Wulong


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I couldn't have found a better shot of Mr. Chan! Simply identical huh? Namco obviously made Lei Wulong to be just like Jackie Chan in almost every aspect... he's a world renowned hero of China, after all. In its debut, Tekken featured a Bruce Lee inspired character, and who in the right mind wouldn't want to see the dream match-up of Jackie Chan VS Bruce Lee? Only Namco could pull it off so well.


Bruce Lee, Fei Long, Kim Dragon, Liu Kang, Marshall Law & Long

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Don't you dare call any of the above fighting game characters "rip-offs". The designers simply wanted Bruce Lee's legend to live on with their designs. These "homages" to Bruce Lee (especially the likes of Fei Long & Marshall Law) proudly portray Bruce Lee at his prime. Namco's Marshall Law (as seen in Tekken 6 & TTT2) is undeniably the most authentic representation of this legend due to his wide array of accurate moves & poses. Marshall Law's son, Forest Law also represents Bruce Lee's son, Brandon Lee. In Xuan Dou Zhi Wang, "Long" is also a pretty accurate homage to Bruce Lee... and one of the only characters above who actually uses Nunchakus in-game.


Jet Li (as Wong Fei Hung) & Lee Recca

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Lee Recca from The Last Blade series is nearly a replica of Jet Li (as Wong Fei Hung) from some of his classic martial arts movies, such as: Fong Sai-yuk and Once Upon a Time in China.


Sam the Seed & Chin Gentsai
(Submitted by Izacc Paul Rivera)

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"Sam the Seed" is a character from the movie Drunken Master (1978)... Chin Gentsai is obviously closely based off of him. Chin's student is Kensou, while Sam's student is Jackie Chan in the Drunken Master Movie. Jackie Chan's character in Drunken Master (Wong Fei-hung) and Kensou also share some similarities.


Steven Seagal, Baek & Robert Garcia
(Submitted by criatura_catodica & others)

Steven Seagal in his earlier days definitely shared some of the same physical attributes of Baek from Tekken & Robert Garcia from KOF. You could say Baek is more of an Asian Steven Seagal while Robert is more of a... well... skinny Steven Seagal. Since Seagal is a martial arts icon, I can't denounce this as a coincidence. For the record, Seagal is an awesome martial artist... this guy will f*ck you up in real life, regardless of his belly fat.


Andre the Giant & Hugo/Andore

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I never thought one of the classic "baddies" from Final Fight would actually cross over to Street Fighter. My jaw pretty much hit the floor when I first saw Hugo in SFIII: 2nd Impact. He wasn't a very popular character back then, so Hugo's appearance in SF3 was a huge fan service for old school Capcom fans. Capcom kept his visual design nearly identical to his original Final Fight appearance, yet managed to fleshed him out further thanks to SF3's awesome art style. The 3rd Strike artists set out to create a huge, clumsy pro-wrestler, who looks slightly off balance at times, but hits very hard. It's sheer brilliance what they did with his animation and design in SF3.

The late great Andre The Giant is a legend... and Hugo (Andore) is a great homage to the iconic pro-wrestler. Andre deserved more than just being a generic Final Fight bad guy, and his Street Fighter appearances really make a statement. As one of the "biggest" big guys in Street Fighter, Hugo never fails to entertain the audience... just like Andre did. 


Hulk Hogan (Hollywood) & Bass


Bassamania brother!!!  ...yeah, that's all for this one.


Raiden & Big Van Vader
(Submitted by Webmaster@BigVanVader.com)

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Raiden (also known as Big Bear) was based off of real life pro-wrestler, Leon Allen White, better known by his ring name, Big Van Vader. These two clearly have the same crazy hairstyle, body type, and similar wrestling attire. Big Van Vader was a badass pro wrestler in his day, which makes Raiden a bit cooler than he seems at first. It's Vader Time! Sadly, Leon White passed away in 2018. R.I.P. Lord Vader. You're a legend.


Bill Goldberg & Craig Marduk

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The iconic WCW/WWE wrestler Goldberg was an obvious inspiration to Tekken's designers when they came up with Marduk, a Vale Tudo fighter. They have strikingly similar appearances, moves and taunts. In Tekken 4, Marduk actually performed some of Goldberg's trademark "arm raises" in his win pose. Those animations were removed in the later games. However, Marduk still has some of Goldberg's iconic moves, such as his spear and jackhammer.


Rey Mysterio & El Blaze

El Blaze's resemblance to Rey Mysterio is as clear as day, and probably one of the few intentional tributes by Sega. I suppose they thought a light and speedy lucha libre wrestler would fit in well with the VF cast, and they were spot on.


Rock & Triple H

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It's likely Namco would've used pro wrestlers as reference when they were illustrating & rendering the "big guys" of the Soul Calibur series. How else would they achieve such realistic-looking character models? Namco seems to have taken it a step further particularly in Soul Calibur 3 (2005), as Rock's facial structure eerily resembles Triple H's... both in the official artwork and in the actual game.

The ironic part is that Triple H is known for using a sledgehammer (especially since 2005?), and Rock has always used a battle axe / hammer. After seeing Triple H doing his trademark pose next to Rock's SC3 artwork, it's hard to label this one as just a coincidence. To add to the irony, Triple H's WrestleMania 22 entrance featured him sitting in a throne in full barbarian attire, with a huge battle hammer next to him. There's no doubt about it... Rock and Hunter are indeed separated at birth.


Mike Tyson & Balrog

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This is one of the first, and one of the most well-known likenesses in fighting game history. For those of you that don't know: Balrog's name in the Japanese version of Street Fighter 2 is none other than "Mike Bison"... which obviously has the same ring as Mike Tyson. Capcom purposely changed his name to "Balrog" in America to avoid any potential lawsuits... funny stuff. And in case you didn't notice, Balrog's SF2 character select artwork is practically based on that photo of Mike Tyson with the white background (above).


Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa & Feng Wei

Tagawa played Shang Tsung in the first live-action Mortal Kombat movie and Heihachi in the live-action Tekken movie. Too bad Feng wasn't created when Tagawa was younger, because if they made a Tekken movie back then, this guy would've made a great Feng. Angry face FTW! It's not officially confirmed, but I personally believe the Tekken designers based Feng Wei's facial structure off of Tagawa's.


Bill Cutting & Dampierre

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Due to his top hat, mustache, and height, Dampierre's appearance is reminiscent of Bill "The Butcher" Cutting (played by Daniel-Day Lewis) as seen in Gangs of New York (2002). Their personalities are very different though.


Alex Delarge & White

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White from Real Bout Fatal Fury Special shares an obvious resemblance to Alex Delarge (played by Malcolm Mcdowell) from A Clockwork Orange (1971). White's visual design was clearly based off of A Clockwork Orange's psychotic protagonist. Thankfully, White left his jock-strap at home. lol.