When Mortal Kombat 1 was announced in May, one of the first (and most fascinating) details revealed about the game was its inclusion of actor/martial artist Jean-Claude Van Damme making an appearance as Johnny Cage. Van Damme is partially responsible for the very existence of Mortal Kombat; he declined to appear in a proposed arcade game from then-developer Midway, leading MK co-creators Ed Boon and John Tobias to come up with an original fighting game project instead.
Now, just a week before Mortal Kombat 1 is released in early access, we finally get our first look at Van Damme as Johnny Cage in an unexpected way: via Ed Boon’s appearance on talk show Hot Ones, where guests endure hot sauces of increasingly excruciating heat levels while being interviewed. Boon talks briefly about Van Damme’s history with the franchise while a 71,000 Scoville-unit hot wing does a Fatality on his tongue.
“When we made the very first game, our original intention was to make Van Damme: The Arcade Game,” Boon said, between winces. “Bloodsport was big, and Universal Soldier, so we called his people and we’re like, ‘We want to make a game based on Van Damme.’ And I don’t know if he declined, or it just never got to him, but [we were] a couple of 20-something-year-old kids who wanted to make a video game. I could see how Van Damme could go ‘No, no we’re not doing this.’ We tried a number of times, going back and forth with him. This time, we hit the lottery and we got him.”
On Friday, NetherRealm and WB Games released the first extended gameplay trailer for Van Damme’s Cage, showing him beat up the in-universe Johnny, Raiden, Kung Lao, and Geras. Van Damme talks a little trash at “Hollywood Boulevard Johnny” and even drops a Street Fighter reference — remember, he was Guile! We also see JCVD Cage dispatch standard Cage with a brand-new Fatality, in which the former shadow kicks the latter through the windshield of a sports car, slicing his opponent’s body in half with a gullwing door, ultimately leading to an increase in the average number of driverless car deaths.
The actor’s appearance in Mortal Kombat 1 appears to be based on Van Damme in his younger Bloodsport/Kickboxer era. He’s dressed in a costume nearly identical to that of the original Johnny Cage design — belt, slippers, and spandex shorts — introduced in 1992’s Mortal Kombat.
Van Damme isn’t the only familiar celebrity face in Mortal Kombat 1. On Wednesday, developer NetherRealm Studios and Warner Bros. revealed that actor Megan Fox will be the face and voice of Nitara, the vampiric Mortal Kombat character from the “3D Era” that Mortal Kombat 1 is drawing liberally from. Other famous folks appearing in MK1 include John Cena as Peacemaker, Antony Starr as Homelander, and J.K. Simmons as the voice of Omni-Man. Those three characters are part of MK1’s first Kombat Pack.
Mortal Kombat 1 is coming to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, and Xbox Series X on Sept. 19. Five days of early access to the game is available through the Premium Edition, which includes the game, its first Kombat Pack, and the Jean-Claude Van Damme Johnny Cage skin.
Update (Sept. 8): This story has been updated with a new gameplay trailer for the Jean-Claude Van Damme Johnny Cage skin and new details.