(Writer’s note: The use of Shawn Michaels and his character does create an unintended false equivalence, as there are very few women who get the same privilege he did to become more than his wardrobe)
The last couple days have left me perplexed at reactions to the beta of Street Fighter V. Although R. Mika’s super animation has been changed in the most recent version of SFV, I can’t really say I was expecting the kind of uproar that some people have given it. And as a 20-year wrestling fan, it’s one I can’t really understand.
So just to get the easy answer to the situation out of the way, Derek Daniels pointed out on Twitter that a beta is going to change and those outside the process may never find out why.
The slightly more complicated explanation involves understanding how pro wrestling has and continues to affect games development—not just fighters—in Japan.
My earliest memories of wrestling influencing non-wrestling video games are of Andre the Giant being an enemy in Final Fight (and later transformed into Hugo in the Street Fighter series) and Big Van Vader being immortalized by both Capcom AND SNK as Alexander the Grater in Muscle Bomber (Saturday Night Slam Masters in the U.S.) and Raiden/Big Bear in the Fatal Fury series, respectively. In fact, since the earliest days of fighting games, characters have stolen holds and signature moves from televised matches while adding their own impossible feats into the mix.
A great example of this is Alex’s Boomerang Raid super in Third Strike, which I thought looked silly for years until I started watching New Japan Pro Wrestling and realized that his punch-chop-punch-chop offense is EXACTLY the type of thing wrestlers working Strong Style (a method of pro wrestling that focuses more on actual contact between grapplers than on the safety of the work) do to each other all the time.
So let’s fast forward a bit to Rainbow Mika. Mika is definitely wearing a ridiculous costume in Alpha 3, but for anyone who has watched pro wrestling in the last 20 years that is par for the course for women wrestlers. Even her Flying Peach move, the move that many people see as the most ridiculous or over-the-top, is a normal attack in Japanese wrestling. Hip or butt strikes are not as common as a lariat or suplex, but Ryusuke Taguchi and KANA (who has now signed with WWE and is known as Asuka) both use the attacks. Even in the U.S., Naomi on WWE’s main roster uses the butt attack as a finishing move.
Now that I’ve established just a small bit of history, let’s talk about the edits in question. In the original animation, players could clearly see Mika pat her ass, but now the camera angle has been switched so this is not visible. Breaking this down in terms of wrestling and its mannerisms, Mika was merely signalling the forthcoming move. Wrestlers have often telegraphed their finishing move with a special gesture, many time involving the body part they will use to attack. For example, in modern WWE Roman Reigns cocks his fist like a shotgun before he delivers the Superman Punch and John Cena waves his hand in front of his face before hitting the Five-Knuckle Shuffle (quick aside, but amazing they changed Cena’s other key move, the FU, into the Attitude Adjustment over the years but left the masturbation reference). In days gone by, Shawn Michaels would stomp his foot to signal the superkick, Perry Saturn would lock his hands to signal for the Rings of Saturn (a submission hold) and the list goes one. It’s very possible that Mika’s motion was simply a send-up of this tendency. And it could also be the reason the motion is now invisible.
In pro wrestling, kayfabe is the art of keeping up the facade that everything you see in the ring is real, including wrestlers keeping character when not performing. It’s largely a lost art these days, due to the Internet and social media making it very tough for people to not see through the act, but some wrestlers still do try. For Mika, maybe it was decided that an action that could come off so overtly sexual, even if unintended, was not part of her character. Mika is played mostly as a struggling upstart, a character played partly for comedy but also showing a genuine heart for competition much like NXT’s recent success Bayley. And while Mika’s costume is much more overtly sexual than Bayley’s, a wrestling character is not always defined by the clothes they wear.
Shawn Michaels, for example, basically portrayed a male stripper—although it was never said on TV—when he started his singles career, complete with entrance music that referred to him as a “boy toy.” While he did appear vain and seem to care about his looks early on, he eventually dropped that aspect of the character but kept his stripper-esque outfits and entrance music.
Maybe someone at Capcom decided to change Mika’s super because they never expected the reaction it got, and decided to change it rather than her character. Or maybe I’m overthinking the whole thing. Who knows.