This month, ultraviolent video game franchise Mortal Kombat is set to return to movie screens (and HBO Max) for the first time in decades, and that means just one thing: A new generation is going to have the chance to run around hollering “Mortal Kombat!” at the top of their lungs, just like the guy in the Mortal Kombat theme song. You know the one:
The song’s real title is “Techno Syndrome (Mortal Kombat),” and it’s by Lords of Acid members Praga Khan and Olivier Adams, aka the Immortals. But the guy who actually yells “Mortal Kombat,” Texas-based actor Kyle Wyatt, wasn’t involved with the song’s recording. Instead, he’d yelled “Mortal Kombat!” while filming a commercial for “Mortal Monday,” Sept. 13, 1993, the date Acclaim simultaneously released home versions of Mortal Kombat for the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Game Boy, and Game Gear. Here’s an extended version of that commercial—you can hear Wyatt 54 seconds in:
To find out what it was like to be the guy who yells “Mortal Kombat!” in the Mortal Kombat theme song, Slate caught up with Wyatt over the phone. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Matthew Dessem: So you are the guy who yells “Mortal Kombat!” in the Mortal Kombat theme song, right?
Kyle Wyatt: Oh, yeah.
But really you’re in a commercial for the home console versions of Mortal Kombat. What was your life like at the point you were cast in that commercial? You were in New York?
Yeah. I had just left Texas with a buddy of mine. His name was Donald Wesley. His brother is David Wesley who played for the Charlotte Hornets, the Boston Celtics, and the Houston Rockets. We all grew up together. I grew up [in Longview, Texas,] down the street from Matthew McConaughey. And so we moved away, just packed up what we could and moved off to New York to pursue an acting career. And I think that gig was one of my first ones that I got when I was in New York. It was just basic—got the call from my agent, she faxed me over the sides. And I don’t know whether they told us what it was going to be for or what. We didn’t know if it was going to be a short or a commercial or a game. We were supposed to do a lot of yelling and running.
Somewhere in, what, Manhattan?
Yeah, we did it in the downtown Wall Street area. We went down there and started getting directions from this guy. And he started placing us in groups and saying, “When I yell ‘Three, two, one,’ you run and you scream and come around the corner.” And then I think at one point there were several people that were pulled out to be in the principal group. I was one of those guys, and the guy said, “Hey, man, when you come around this deal here, everybody’s just going to kind of circle around you, and you yell from the top of your lungs, ‘Mortal Kombat!’ ” And I did that several times. I don’t know how many times we heard “Back to one. Back to one,” which means go back to position one for the resets. And he says, “Hey, come here, come here. I want to ask you a question.” And I’m thinking at that time, like, Oh, yeah, he’s taking an interest in me. He’s probably going to put me on camera. I’m going to get a little bit of face time here. And he says, “I want you to just yell that with all of your might, like you are summoning the darkest demons in your body.” And I did that take, and that’s the one I remember. I think we did it three or four times, but the one that they show was the one that I did the best job on.
So that audio was recorded there? Or did they put you in a booth later?
No, the audio was there. There was a big crane boom camera that lowered down in. And I don’t remember whether they miked me up there or just took the audio from the camera. I know they pitched it down for the song and did all sorts of variations of it. But that’s me, bro.
So had you played Mortal Kombat at the point that you were recording the commercial? Did you have any idea what the commercial was for?
Had no idea, bro.
So they didn’t even tell you why they wanted you to specifically yell the words Mortal Kombat?
Oh, no, no, no, man. It was a gig. I was able to pay my rent that month.
That’s amazing. So when did you actually see the commercial for the first time? Do you remember?
You know what’s funny? I don’t think I saw the commercial for a year or two down the road. I mean, at that time, I just didn’t really think anything of it. I thought, Hey, it’s a gig. I got paid and it was a one-time deal. I mean, I’m not getting royalties off of this thing. I wish I was. Back then it was a one-time payout thing. And then we signed our rights away for them to use it however they wanted.
When did you find out that it was going to be used in a song as well? Or did you just find out when you heard it the first time? When did you figure out that gig was going to trail you for a while?
Man, I really didn’t find that out until somebody called me up years ago and said, “Hey, dude, we know you did this work here. Did you know it’s being used in a song?” And I said no, I didn’t. I mean, I said, “That’s cool.” And then they started taking the audio and using it in some of the games and in the TV shows and this song and I was like, “Well, that’s cool.” And then I would be talking to my buddies who played the game, and I’d go, “Hey, man, that’s me.” And they were going, “No, it’s not.” I’d say, “Go to IMDb. That is me, bro.” They were like, “No way.” And it’s so funny now. I’m 52. I’ve got a 13-year-old, 12-year-old, and a 5-year-old. And they just think it’s the coolest thing. Now they’re talking to their friends going, “Oh, that was my dad.”
They’re not wrong. So you said you’d had a call about that years ago. How many years after you did the commercial, would you say?
Do you know what? It’s going to be sad. It’s going to be sad. The gig was 29 years ago, and I don’t think I got the call until about 10 years ago.
So until 10 years ago you had no idea that middle schoolers all over the country were yelling “Mortal Kombat!” in imitation of you?
No, I didn’t! I mean, I’ve been a working actor for nearly 30 years and I’ve done all sorts of things—radio, television, voice-overs, cartoons, film, everything.
How did it feel to realize that all this time a lot of people had your voice stuck in their head? I mean, me personally, I did.
I know. I know. I mean, this iconic yell in people’s heads, after they’d played night after night, hour after hour of this game.
When did you play the game for the first time then?
I think it was years and years later. And you know what, man? I think when I played the game, I still didn’t know they were going to be using me. Because gigs like that, you just do them and walk away.
So we’re talking 10 years ago, you discovered that this has been a thing for a while. Had you seen the movies? The 1995 one and the 1997 one?
Yes, I did. Excuse me. Then I’ve got to back up. I probably found out around that time. It was probably ’97.
Because you actually have the first line in it, you know? Before the New Line logo appears, even. Did you see those on home video or in the theater?
I think I rented it. I think it was a Blockbuster VHS.
You should pick up the Blu-ray at some point! You’re on it!
I should, I should. I’m still hoping for that day that Disney calls me.
Well, it seems like it would be kind of a no-brainer to bring you back for one of the movies or something to do the yell again.
Absolutely. It might sound a little bit different after almost 30 years.
Yeah, of course, but it’s still the same voice.
Well, I still have all the same energy, brother.
So do you play the game now? Did you ever get into it at all?
I did not. There’s a lot of MK heads out there that are die-hard fans, but I just didn’t. It’s funny because I grew up in a Christian home under a military pastor’s hand and we weren’t even … golly, I think my mom had taken us to some church services that were showing us all the violence, and the pastors were talking about it and I’m like, “Oh, my gosh! What life am I going to live?”
Unfortunately for your pastors, you’re part of a pretty violent video game. A hilariously violent video game.
All I remember is “Finish him,” and then he rips the whole spinal column out.
That’s the one. So do you have plans to see the new movie? Do you know if you’re in it?
Oh, no. I have no idea. I think I might just take my family. I think that that would be a really neat surprise, not knowing and then just going to see if you are.
Yeah, they haven’t said it, but the trailer has a string version of that original theme. So I would bet that they have the track in there somewhere, which means probably they’ve got you.
How long does it take when you’re getting to know somebody before you tell them that you’re the guy who yells “Mortal Kombat!” in the Mortal Kombat theme song? Is that like an opener?
I mean, it lay dormant for years. And now that there’s all this hubbub of Mortal Kombat movies and everything, if I find somebody who casually tells me, “I used to play that game when I was a kid,” I’m like, “Oh, really? I was the kid that yelled ‘Mortal Kombat!’ ”
I mean, it’s true for you, but that’s also sort of a classic unverifiable claim someone makes in a bar, right? Do people ask you to do the yell to prove it? When’s the last time you remember yelling “Mortal Kombat”?
Oh, yeah. I just did it last week.
I see. Will you do it over the phone?
Would I do it over the phone? Absolutely.
Let’s hear it.
Yeah, you still got it.
I’m going to pay for that one tomorrow.