The Mortal Kombat tournament plotline is one of the main motivators that drove the story of Mortal Kombat forward, at least, in the earlier games. While the tournament itself may have taken a backseat in later games, its impact and implications on the universe of Mortal Kombat as a whole still hold ground.
In the world of Mortal Kombat, there have been hundreds upon hundreds of Mortal Kombat tournaments that have occurred throughout the generations. According to the universal rules of the game, a realm can declare a tournament against another realm they want to conquer. If they manage to win 10 consecutive tournaments, they then gain the right to conquer that realm. It takes a really powerful individual to win these tournaments. Let’s meet some of them.
5Shao Kahn’s Warriors
Calling for a tournament in order to conquer another realm is something the Outworld realm is particularly fond of doing. Out of all the realms in the Mortal Kombat universe, the Outworld realm stands out as the realm that invokes this right the most and has conquered the most realms in the process. The earliest records of the Mortal Kombat occurring is when Outworld won 10 consecutive tournaments against Edenia, giving them the right to conquer the realm. Prior to that, Outworld has also conquered other realms such as Osh-Tekk, Zaterra, Arnyek Islands, and Vaeternus.
During the tournament between Outworld and Edenia, it isn’t clear exactly which combatants won each of the 10 tournaments for Outworld. It is also unclear whether or not Shao Kahn himself participated in these tournaments. The only thing that’s made clear is that Shao Kahn’s warriors prevailed every single time.
After Outworld won 10 consecutive Mortal Kombat tournaments and successfully conquering Edenia, Shao Kahn set his sights on Earthrealm. Earthrealm has always been a favorable target for conquest as it is universally considered as the jewel of the cosmos, and is apparently an important universal power node. Naturally, it is an easy target for Shao Kahn. To fulfill this goal, he entrusted his right-hand man Shang Tsung, a powerful sorcerer, to hold the tournaments on Earthrealm.
Shang Tsung first did this by interrupting and eventually gaining control of an actual Shaolin tournament. Invoking the Mortal Kombat tournament on Earthrealm marks the first time the ancient tournament is ever held on Earthrealm. Shang Tsung managed to prevail against the champions of Earthrealm and win the tournament, making him the Grand Champion. He would then continue to hold this title for nine more consecutive tournaments.
3The Great Kung Lao
When the very first Mortal Kombat tournaments between Outworld and Earthrealm occurred in the latter realm, the powerful Shang Tsung managed to win nine consecutive tournaments for Outworld with relative ease. One more win might have given Outworld the right to finally invade Earthrealm. However, Shang Tsung’s victory and Shao Kahn’s wishes would be eventually foiled by a man named the Great Kung Lao.
The Great Kung Lao joined the tenth tournament held in Earthrealm, where he would eventually battle the reigning champion Shang Tsung. Despite Shang Tsung’s experience in the tournaments, The Great Kung Lao managed to defeat the powerful sorcerer, making him the first Grand Champion hailing from Earthrealm, and ultimately spoiling Shao Kahn’s plans to conquer Earth. Whenever a champion wins a Mortal Kombat tournament, it is custom for the winner to end the life of the fallen opponent. The Great Kung Lao, however, chose to spare Shang Tsung’s life out of compassion.
The Great Kung Lao’s decision to spare Shang Tsung’s life would eventually come back to haunt him 50 years later. After winning his first tournament, The Great Kung Lao was granted immortality so he can fight once again in the next tournament. Once that moment finally arrived, he was greeted by a now-old Shang Tsung and his new apprentice Goro, a Shokan prince. It is also believed that Shang Tsung corrupted this tournament in some way to ensure his apprentice’s victory.
The Shokan prince proved to be too powerful for the Great Kung Lao to overpower. Goro ended up defeating the reigning champion, returning the tides of conquest back to Outworld’s favor. After the Great Kung Lao’s defeat, Shang Tsung absorbed his soul, where he would stay entrapped for over five centuries until being freed by Raiden. Like his master before him, Goro would hold the title of Grand Champion for nine consecutive tournaments.
After defeating the Great Kung Lao, Prince Goro maintained the role of Mortal Kombat Grand Champion for approximately 500 years, winning nine consecutive tournaments. Just one more victory and Outworld would be given the right to conquer Earthrealm. This marks the beginning of the first Mortal Kombat game. Champions like Sonya Blade, Johnny Cage, and Liu Kang joined the tournament.
Liu Kang, as it turns out, is the descendant of the Great Kung Lao. Like his ancestor before him, Liu Kang managed to defeat the forces of Outworld, become the Grand Champion of the Mortal Kombat tournament, and save Earthrealm at the last hour. After Prince Goro fell at the hands of Liu Kang, Shang Tsung attempted to finish what’s left of Liu Kang. However, he too would be defeated by Liu Kang, forcing him to flee back to Outworld. Liu Kang would maintain the title for four more consecutive tournaments.