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Series / WMAC Masters

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WMAC Masters is a choreographed martial arts competition show produced by 4Kids Entertainment, and syndicated by the company's "Summit Media Group" division.note 

WMAC stands for the World Martial Arts Council, an organization dedicated to the competition of the world's best martial artists, all competing for the "ultimate prize", the Dragon Star, which acts as a championship belt of sorts. For the most part, these competitions take the form of one-one-one martial arts battles, though other demonstrations and tournaments are shown.

Clearly the inspirations are both Professional Wrestling, with each of the fighters having a gimmick and the presence of kayfabe, and fighting games, with things such as life bars, the general aesthetics of the characters and different areas where matches take place. Even a couple actors from the Mortal Kombat games appear here, such as "Superstar" Ho-Sung Pak, who played the original Liu Kang; and Chris "Red Dragon" Cassamassa (Scorpion) and Hakim "The Machine" Alston (Liu Kang's first fight) from Mortal Kombat: The Movie.

The first season was hosted by Shannon Lee, the daughter of Bruce Lee, and there was An Aesop of the week show, with life lessons imparted in every episode. The second season dropped the host aspect, limited the aesops to And Knowing Is Half the Battle segments at the end, and introduced an Evil Counterpart organization, Jukido, that sought to usurp the Dragon Star in a Myth Arc (which is left unresolved by the end of the seriesnote ).

This Show Demonstrates Examples of the Following Tropes:

  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: "Do what's right! Don't fight!" is often repeated in this show. Justified, if you were taking a class from any real-life martial arts sensei worth their salt (and a lot of the actors on this show are actual martial arts teachers), one of the first things you would learn is that martial arts are theoretically supposed to be used to avoid fights whenever possible; attacking opponents is for self-defense only if they start a fight with you first. Also, the "Code of the Dragon Star" provides a lot of opportunity for knowing being half the battle.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: "Superstar" Ho Sung Pak's backstory. Apparently, he used to be really full of himself, and it almost got him killed when someone he pissed off eventually returned for a rematch...with several of his buddies. "Star Warrior" Ho Yung Pak had to save his brother's life, and Ho Sung Pak has been more humble ever since.
  • Artistic License Martial Arts: Given that the show's premise is "Professional Wrestling, but with martial arts", this is to be expected to some extent. Sure enough, the fights feature lots of spinning and wildly telegraphed moves and are often as much a gymnastics show as a martial arts match; however, given the calibre of talent available (all of the fighters are accomplished martial artists in real life), some of the errors are surprising:
    • The show treats Shorin Ryu and Karate as two separate arts. The former is, in fact, a specific style of the latter.
    • It also delineates Kung Fu and Wushu (generally two terms for the same thing, although this one is a bit more defensible given that certain organizations may brand themselves as Kung Fu or Wushu specifically).
    • Some of the techniques, forms, and weapons used by the competitors clearly do not match the martial art they are supposedly representing, such as Red Dragon conducting a demonstration of "karate" (an art whose name literally means "empty hand") with a katana (a particularly egregious error given that karate's roots are in Okinawa and the independent Ryukyu Kingdom that preceded it, which was very much removed from the sword arts of mainland Japan).
  • As Himself: All the Masters sans Tracer go by their real names and are playing fictional versions of themselves.
    • Even Tracer plays with this trope. The name "Tracy Swedom" is revealed to be a codename (an anagram of "Destroy WMAC"), meaning his real name is never actually revealed. His actor, Michael M. Foley, was actually a military veteran and many of his martial arts accomplishments were in tournaments sponsored by the US military, so his real life background clearly had a strong influence on his character.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Due to the cancellation, this is the apparent end to the Jukido plot: The Dragon Star is stolen by Jukido; even as the Masters realize how Jukido had pulled it off, they've already made their escape, awaiting a helicopter pickup; and worse, Tsunami is joining them, having either joined recently or had been another infiltrator sent in after Warlock, apparently proving Great Wolf's vision wrong except for "theft" part.
  • Break the Haughty:
    • "Superstar" in his backstory, see above Arrogant Kung Fu Guy trope entry. Apparently, he used to be really full of himself, and it almost got him killed when someone he pissed off eventually returned for a rematch...with several of his buddies. "Star Warrior" Ho Yung Pak had to save his brother's life, and Ho Sung Pak has been more humble ever since.
    • Hakim "The Machine" Alston is another example; in his backstory, he thought he was hot stuff until his sensei made him fight a guy named Steve. Steve kicked Hakim's butt, which made Hakim so mad that he knocked Steve to the ground and started beating on him, disgracing his sensei in the process. Hakim still thought he had something to prove, though, so he challenged Steve to an "unofficial" match where they would fight without gloves, "for keeps". But Steve won the match by breaking Hakim's arm and leg, which was Hakim's own fault since Hakim was in such a berserker rage that he was in an "attack attack attack" craze, and Steve was just defending himself. Hakim was so ashamed of himself that he went into training in solitude to learn how to control his anger, and eventually he and Steve managed to make up and be friends.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: A sort-of example with "Jukido", the evil treacherous organization that shows up in season two. It's composed of martial artists who don't want to live by the code of the Dragon Star, meaning they don't want to disciplined, honorable, respectful, courageous, loyal, forgiving, wise, or compassionate. So they formed Jukido so they could use their martial arts skills however they wanted to regardless of the cost to others, and to this end are willing to do things like severely injure Panther off-screen, or attempt to rig a match between Red Dragon and Warlock by having a ninja attack only Red Dragon, although Red Dragon won anyway, or finally steal the Dragon Star.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • An early episode introduces a double crescent kick that Tiger Claw teaches Great Wolf under the agreement neither of them will use it against each other (an agreement that Great Wolf later breaks, leading to a feud between them). After the resolution of the storyline, both Great Wolf and Tiger Claw can be seen using that same technique in their later bouts, even into the show's second season.
    • An episode in the first season sees Tsunami disqualified from a match after he grabs a piece of debris during one of the matches and uses it to hit Yin Yang Man in the head. During the intro to a match in the second season, one of the refs explains to Tsunami, while holding a similar piece of debris, "I shouldn't have to tell you this, but you are not allowed to grab this or anything else and use it as a weapon."
  • Demoted to Extra: Tiana "Black Widow" Noguchi, despite the fact she was supposed to be the women's champion but she was never seen competing. Cyclone had it almost as bad but he was finally given a match in the last episode against The Machine. The two also were barely seen backstage.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Tracy Swedom, likely a result of it being a Gender-Blender Name. He insists that everyone call him by his ring name of "Tracer". No one does.
  • Eye Patch Of Power: Yin Yang Man wears one as part of his gimmick. According to his backstory, it hides the lost eye.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Tsunami, in an effort to woo Chameleon, makes her and Tracer each a drink after their loss in the mixed doubles match. In a moment of absentmindedness, Tracer reaches for the drink with his tattooed hand, revealing his Jukido emblem, before quickly switching over to his other hand. Tsunami was apparently too infatuated with Chameleon to notice. Ultimately subverted with The Reveal at the end of the series, where Tsunami reveals himself as a Jukido agent, meaning he was likely already working with Tracer by that point.
  • Feud Episode: At one point in the show, Great Wolf and Tiger Claw got into a heavy feud, despite having been close friends beforehand. The reason is because in their backstory, Tiger Claw taught Great Wolf a very dangerous move in which the user jumps up and clamps both of his feet onto each side of his opponent's head, which results in a guaranteed knockout. However, Tiger Claw only taught Great Wolf the move on the condition that both Tiger Claw and Great Wolf never use the move on each other. The problem is, at the beginning of the "Broken Promise" episode, Great Wolf breaks his promise and uses the move on Tiger Claw. This gets Tiger Claw royally pissed off at Great Wolf, because Great Wolf had already broken his promise once before, but at the time had seemed sincere in apologizing about it and had promised not to make that mistake again. Eventually, the feud is resolved in a later match when Great Wolf uses the move again but Tiger Claw figures out how to block it this time, and now that Tiger Claw has a defense against the move, Tiger Claw is willing to forgive Great Wolf and they both move on.
  • Filler: A particularly egregious example, the final episode of the entire series is a simple repackaging of the four flashback sequences of The Machine, Yin Yang Man, Superstar, and Olympus from Season 1. No new footage, no new plot points, just completely recycled footage. According to the show's creators, this episode was thrown together at the last minute when they realized they didn't have enough footage to make a full 13 episodes, as required by their contract, and lacked both the time and budget to film anything new. Without enough unused footage to stitch a completely new episode together, they settled on simply rehashing some of the stories they'd already told.
  • Friend-or-Idol Decision: In one episode, it's revealed that the Machine's niece and nephew are a big fan of Red Dragon, and since Red Dragon and the Machine are friends, would Red Dragon mind coming over to the Machine's house one day to hang out when they're visiting? Red Dragon promises he'll be there. However, Red Dragon then meets a very pretty female astronaut who, after they hit it off, invites Red Dragon to watch a rocket launching right from the base. Hey, an opportunity like this doesn't come along every day, and the Machine's a cool guy, surely he would understand, right? turns out Red Dragon chose to hang out with the Machine's family after all. He just couldn't do it, he just couldn't break a promise. The astronaut understands, however, and extends another invitation for much later on.
  • Handicapped Badass: Richard "Yin Yang Man" Branden was one; he was blind in one eye after being in a car accident as a kid. Another factored into his backstory, when he met a martial artist who was in a wheelchair, teaching him to look at his own blindness as a challenge to overcome rather than a handicap and inspired Richard to make up for lost time.
  • Hero of Another Story: There is both a men's and women's division to the Dragon Star Championship, yet the show almost exclusively focuses on the men. Because the show only employed a handful of female fighters (Lady Lightning, Baby Doll, and Princess in Season 1, joined by Chameleon in Season 2), there simply weren't enough to make anything but brief storylines for them. Accordingly, a significant proportion of their fights happen off-screen and, if anything is mentioned of them at all, it's either in brief "highlight reels" (such as Lady Lightning defeating a fighter named "Tarantula" - played by an extra - to become Dragon Star Champion) or not at all (such as her subsequently losing the Dragon Star to another unexplored fighter named Black Widow).
  • Humiliating Wager: With the first Ninja Challenge offering a chance for three ki symbols, Superstar mocks Tsunami's chances. He then challenges Tsunami to a bet where the loser has to do 100 push-ups for every one of the winner's ki symbols (Superstar had nine at the time). As the Challenge goes on, Superstar ups the bet to the winner being on the loser's back and mockingly gives Tsunami a magazine featuring Superstar. The final scene has a victorious Tsunami reading the magazine while sitting cross-legged on Superstar's back as he completes the first third of his push-ups.
    Tsunami: Not bad.
    Superstar: (grunting in pain) Thanks.
    Tsunami: No, I meant the magazine. Just two hundred more to go, "Superstar."
  • In Medias Res: The show begins with the conceit that the WMAC has been operating in its current format for several years or even decades. The pilot episode has an established Dragon Star champion, and competitors are shown with various numbers of collected ki symbols signifying their veteran or newcomer status. A couple episodes show reviewed video of "past" matches that chronologically take place before the original aired start date.
  • Large Ham: Tracy Swedom in spades. A narcissistic ex-military nut who alternates between smug gloating and flashes of irritated anger when disrespected who is also a villainous mole for Jukido, Tracy relentlessly chews the scenery in just about every scene he's in.
  • Left Hanging: The series was cancelled after Season 2, which caused the plot to end on the rather dramatic cliffhanger of Jukido stealing the Dragon Star and Tsunami revealing himself as one of their agents. Staff have confirmed that plans were in the works for a Season 3 before the cancellation was handed down.
  • Magical Native American: Great Wolf. Complete with a prophetic dream like a seer, too! Although the prophetic dream turns out to be wrong about Tsunami, so maybe Great Wolf isn't that magical...
  • Meaningful Name: For most of the martial artists' ki symbols:
    • Hakim "The Machine" Alston got his name because he had to gain iron control of his own emotions in order to prevent another screw-up like the time he lost his temper at Steve.
    • "Red Dragon" was the name of the first martial art Chris Casamassa trained in.
    • "Superstar" harkens back to Ho Sung Pak's tenure as a film movie star.
    • "Olympus" is named after the time Herb Perez won the 1992 Gold Medal in the Olympics.
    • Richard Branden sketches yin yang symbols as a hobby, hence "Yin Yang Man".
    • "Bam", a.k.a. Willie Johnson, shouts "Bam" instead of a kiai.
    • "Mouse", or Michele Krasnoo, had really high-pitched kiais as a child.
    • "Great Wolf" is the translation for Jamie Webster's Native American name.
    • "Baby Doll" Bridget Riley's father gave her that nickname as a child.
    • Eric Betts claims to be able to move as fast as a "Panther".
    • Hien Nguyen got the idea for "Tsunami" from Bruce Lee's admonishment to move fluidly like water instead of in a rigid fashion.
    • Johnny Lee Smith got the name "Tiger Claw" from his tiger claw technique.
    • Finally, Taimek's name is Aztec for "Striking Eagle", so that's his ki symbol.
    • Ho Sung Pak and Ho Young Pak's names can be translated as "Superstar" and "Star Warrior" in Korean, respectively (though, bizarrely, Ho-Sung Pak claims in the first episode that the names are in Chinese, rather than Korean).
  • Mooks:
    • The ninjas that are sent to battle the Masters in the battlezones and in the cage. The ones in the cage wear regular ninja outfits, but the ones in the battlezones wear differently-colored costumes depending on the battlezones. They are not as skilled as the Masters and thus usually go down quickly; they're only there to make the matches slightly more difficult. Part of Tsunami's backstory is that he is a former battlezone ninja that has recently been promoted to full master status. The only exception is the ninja who manages to beat both Superstar and the Machine at once... but he wasn't really a ninja, he was the WMAC Master Warlock in disguise as part of a plan to win the Dragon Star that ultimately didn't work.note 
    • Jukido also had a set of Mooks of their own, ninjas wearing red masks and sashes. They're first seen when Warlock sics four of them on Wizard to keep him quiet about their past in Jukido, and later plants one in the crowd to fix his Dragon Star match with Red Dragon. Presumably they would have appeared more in season 3.
  • Myth Arc: The second season features a shadow war with an Evil Counterpart to the WMAC for the Dragon Star.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Chameleon is never seen without her signature pet... an iguana.
  • The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: The World Martial Arts Council itself; we never see them except in silhouette at the arena, and their decisions are only relayed secondhand, but what they say goes, period.
  • Practical Joke: "The Joke's On You" has Warlock pulling a few. He has Baby Doll look through binoculars, unaware of the old "colored rings around the eyes" bit. He then slaps a "kick me" sign onto Great Wolf's back. He claims he's set up a bucket of water to fall on others, it seems not to work but when Baby Doll and Great Wolf check it out, he hits a button to let it soak them. The pair finally decide to get back at Warlock by putting itching powder into one of his practice gloves... which end up being used by Red Dragon who gets disqualified when he has to remove the glove during a match and strikes an illegal blow.
  • Prophecies Are Always Right: Subverted! In season two, Great Wolf has a prophetic dream in which an evil, "Jukido" version of the referee destroys the Dragon Star declaring it to be a fake, but then Tsunami bursts in as the hero with the real Dragon Star in his hands. As it turns out, Tsunami is himself a traitor, and he's the accomplice who helps steal the Dragon Star for Warlock and Tracer.
  • Put on a Bus: Due to breaking his hip on set during a stunt gone wrong, Panther was entirely absent for Season 2. The writers added in a line of dialogue between Tracer and Warlock indicating that he had been attacked by Jukido, seemingly for getting too close to uncovering their plot.
  • Real-Place Background: The show filmed on-site in Universal Studios Florida and occasionally used parts of the theme park as sets. This was most notable in the second Dragon Star match between Superstar and The Machine, which wound up set in the "Earthquake!" attraction (presented in-show as a subway station that carried fighters to the battle zones). It likely wouldn't have been as noticeable if the show *also* didn't include the portions of the attraction where a semi truck crashes down into the subway and a massive surge of water floods the area.
  • Red Herring:
    • In the first season, when a ninja knocks both Superstar and The Machine off the platform, "Turbo" is suspected of having been the ninja because of a suspicious comment Turbo had made earlier about being determined to win the Dragon Star at all costs. It turns out it was Warlock, not Turbo.
    • In the second season, Sophia Crawford ("Chameleon") is suspected of having been Tracer and Warlock's accomplice, tasked with stealing the Dragon Star from the women's Dragon Star match since Tracer was frequently seen talking to her. In actuality, however, Chameleon, disgusted by Tracer's advances, was actually trying to ignore him. In addition, Olympus correctly points out that if Chameleon were the accomplice, she wouldn't need to steal the Dragon Star, because she had won it fairly. When Chameleon saw that the Dragon Star had been replaced by the Jukido symbol on the pedestal, she screamed in genuine terror, so she obviously was not the accomplice. It turns out the accomplice was Tsunami, of all people.
    • There was a possible third one in the second season as well; when Tiger Claw rescues Wizard from a brutal beating at the hands of Jukido, the masked assailants drop the ki symbol of disgraced former Master "Striking Eagle", who was exposed for lying on his application and banned from WMAC competition. The others briefly speculate if Striking Eagle had joined Jukido to get revenge, but Red Dragon and Turbo are convinced that the ki symbol was planted by Jukido to throw the Masters off their trail. It's never really determined whether that was true or not.
  • The Reveal: The first reveal is that "Warlock" and "Tracer" are actually traitors working for Jukido. The real twist is the second reveal, because it turns out a third WMAC Master was working with them as an accomplice... and the accomplice is comic relief Tsunami of all people!!!note 
  • Ring Out: This only happened twice. The first time was during Kid Carmichael's debut at the Danger Dock battlezone; Yin Yang Man had been winning the match in terms of life points, and one more good hit would've finished Kid Carmichael off. However, at the very last minute Kid Carmichael managed to knock Yin Yang Man off the docks into the water, instantly winning the match. The second time was during the Red Dragon vs Machine match at the Mayan Mystery battlezone; the Machine managed to knock Red Dragon into the water, again, instantly winning the match. Note that this is only in Battlezone matches; in championship shots, the whole point is throwing the opponents off an elevated rotating platform.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Not a "killed" example of this trope obviously, but in the second season, how does the viewer know that Jukido, the evil traitorous organization, is serious about its anti-ethical ideals? Off-screen, they attack and severely injure "Panther", which is why Panther doesn't appear after that.
  • Show Within a Show: All the in-ring action technically takes place in one and especially in the first season. It mostly vanished after Shannon Lee left the show.
  • Significant Anagram: Tracy Swedom = Destroy WMAC They happen to have an anagram finder, this leads to some humorous anagrams of the other characters. However, the anagram finder didn't reveal Tracy Swedom's true nature, because the Masters were called away before they could run the finder on him, and Tracer took advantage of the opportunity by erasing his particular incriminating anagram from the finder, before walking away gloating in song.
  • Suddenly Shouting: "Now entering the World Martial Arts Council arena: Willie Johnson. Ki symbol: The Bam!"
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Any Master who graduates from the Academy; those who train at the academy take part in the competition as the ninjas, getting the crap beat out of them by the Masters. A ninja who distinguishes themselves during their training gets called up to the competition as a Master. Tsunami is the first to do so, followed later by Kid Charmichael.
    • This applies to a lesser extent to the other Masters as well; as the title suggests, the World Martial Arts Council recruits martial artists from the tops of their fields, such as Herb Perez, who took gold in Tae Kwon Do at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.
  • Tournament Arc: Much like pro wrestling, only more explicit as every match is intended to move up to #1 contender status and eventually win the Dragon Star. Over the course of the second season, this is gradually downplayed as the mystery grew from a failed theft to identifying infiltrators from an unscrupulous organization with sinister plans to destroy the WMAC.
  • Twist Ending: The end of season one. It's a Dragon Star match between Hakim "The Machine" Alston and "Superstar" Ho Sung Pak. Who wins? Neither, because a ninja knocks them both off the platform with one attack! We don't find out who that mystery ninja was until season two; it turns out it was Warlock in disguise. He was trying to win the Dragon Star for Jukido, but failed to realize in advance that the WMAC organization does not award the Dragon Star to ninjas.
  • The Unintelligible: Yuji "Cyclone" Noguchi only spoke Japanese and relied on Bam to translate for him, he did however say one English sentence when he was pushed to by Tracer "Get out of my face Tracy".
  • Versus Character Splash: Being inspired by fighting games, of course this shows up. For the important matches, i.e. Battledome and Dragon Star matches, portraits of the competitors facing off would briefly be shown before the match proper began.
  • Younger Than They Look: In a memory flashback, Babydoll is shown with her dad, who doesn't age as Babydoll progressively ages in the flashback.