Shoryuken interview: Mike “BloodySamoan” Mulipola talks Tekken, professional wrestling, art, and how to balance your passions

By on August 24, 2018 at 12:00 pm

Kenny Omega playing Street Fighter V. Xavier Woods playing Windjammers. There’s a massive crossover between wrestling and the fighting game community, one that’s only grown thanks to the visibility of the aforementioned stars. (And also aided by Bandai Namco’s crossover friendship with New Japan Pro Wrestling.) When you discuss the FGC and wrestling at the same time, those are the names that get brought up.

But not only are they not the lone wrestlers of the FGC, they aren’t even the only wrestling champions in our community. Those that watched the Evo 2018 pools for Tekken 7 may not have known that the masked player “BloodySamoan” wasn’t just some random King enthusiast — this is a man capable of performing King’s move list in real life on anyone that crossed him in-game. A few weeks after Evo, he did just that to defeat Liam Fury for the IPW Heavyweight Championship. In the process, he added his name to the very small pool of FGC players with pro-wrestling gold around their waist.

During that Evo 2018 stream, prior to all of the above, I was among the ignorant.

I saw Mike “BloodySamoan” Mulipola’s match versus Japanese Hwoarang pro “Batz”. Mike may have lost, but I was impressed enough by his play (and by his obvious passion for the game — and King) that I thought to myself “Ah, I’ll just google him and tell him I thought he did well. Dude seemed really good, and he traveled a long way for Evo.”

I found his site. Galleries of bright, punchy illustrations appeared. Dynamic poses, labored form, and eye-popping design were bread crumbs down to a little blurb I had to read twice just to make sure it was real: “During the weekends, I spend my time dropping people on their heads as a professional wrestler for Impact Pro Wrestling.”

Few people get to live one of their dreams. The Liger of New Zealand is living three, and I absolutely needed to know more about how he pulls that off. Luckily, he was more than happy to share.

Crow_Spaceboy: You’re not just a pro wrestler, or an artist, or a fighting game player. You’re all three of those things, and you’re very good at them all at the same time. So to find a starting place, I just want to ask: what came first?

Mike “BloodySamoan” Mulipola: What came first? First for me was comic books. I fell in love with comic books when I was 5 years old. All I wanted to do as a kid was draw… and then came pro wrestling. Pro wrestling was the closest thing to real life superheroes I had ever seen when I was a kid, and around that same time, the first Tekken came out. King was in it. There I was, just a kid just mashing buttons, and I was like “He has a suplex! He’s a wrestler!”

Crow_Spaceboy: It was a natural progression.

BloodySamoan: Yeah. There’s a line of discovery through each of them.

Crow_Spaceboy: It sounds like most of your life you’ve been drawing or playing Tekken. How long have you been wrestling, though?

BloodySamoan: I’ve been wrestling for just over 12 and half years. I’m the current IPW Heavyweight Champion, and I just won it this past weekend for the first time. Before that, I was the Armageddon Cup Champion and I’ve been tag champion a few times… but even though I won the Heavyweight Championship, easily the best thing that’s happened to me is that one of those Tag Championships was shared with King Haku.

Crow_Spaceboy: For those that don’t know about New Zealand’s Impact Pro Wrestling, give the wrestling-loving FGC a bit of a rundown on the IPW.

BloodySamoan: Impact Pro Wrestling in New Zealand was the standard-bearer for the modern era of professional wrestling in this country. In the ’70s, New Zealand was a hotspot — we had Peter Maivia, Ric Flair, Andre the Giant, and others. Then, for years there was no pro wrestling at all until IPW opened up. We’ve been around for over 15 years, produced talent like Dakota Kai, TK Cooper, Johnny Idol, let’s see… Travis Banks. I’ve had many hard hitting matches with him. New Zealand has really made a name for itself thanks to IPW.

Crow_Spaceboy: That’s incredible.

BloodySamoan: It’s great. I had a tag team match recently at one of the comic conventions in New Zealand with Travis. He teamed up with actor Michael Rowe (Deadshot from the TV series Arrow). So he got to jump into the wrestling ring and bust out some DDTs and flying elbows for this comic book crowd.

Crow_Spaceboy: This is a good time to talk about the new IPW champion, isn’t it? Tell us about Liger.

BloodySamoan: Liger is a bully. When I put the mask on and step in the ring, I just want to hurt people. I just go out there and drop people on their heads. I’m Samoan, and there’s a certain stereotype for Saomoans, but I think I’ve turned it a bit with the mask. I laugh at how similar I am to Samoa Joe. We’re both larger guys, mean, but also deceptive and smart.

Crow_Spaceboy: This is a good point to mention that one of Liger’s finishers is the “Donkey Lariat.”

BloodySamoan: [laughs] Yeah.

Crow_Spaceboy: It’s good. It’s a good name. Five stars.

BloodySamoan: The other finish I use, “Cape Killer”, is a reference to the mechanized anti-superhero suits in “Civil War”. I just remember reading that and thinking “Ah, that’s a great name.” I always try to infuse geek references in anything I do, because it’s just who I am.

Crow_Spaceboy: The art that you did for the lariat is great, too. I really love this picture.


BloodySamoan: Ah! That was for the Super Show trading card game! That’s right. It’s a wrestling trading card game. I have trading cards of me: kid version of myself never thought that’d happen. AJ Styles and Ricochet are in there, too, before they were signed with WWE. And then there’s me. [laughs]

Crow_Spaceboy: That’s so great.

BloodySamoan: They wanted to put Liger in and I said, “I’m doing the art for me.” It worked out well. It’s a really good game, too. I recommend it to anyone that is a wrestling fan. I have a lot of fun playing it.

Crow_Spaceboy: What art are you working on right now? What’s the best place for people to see your art?

BloodySamoan: In terms of art I’m working on, I’ve got more Headlocked stuff. Got my “Breat Hart” story coming out in January, and I’m working on an exclusive print for the “All In” event next month. I just finished the Stone Cold Steve Austin story. You can see it all on my site or on Instagram.

Crow_Spaceboy: I’ve wanted to ask: Are you a fan of Tiger Mask at all?

BloodySamoan: Aw, hell yeah. You can tell by my mask design. Misawa is one of my all-time favorite wrestlers. I love the anime, Tiger Mask W, as well. Tiger Mask and Jyushin Thunder Liger are huge favorites. Of course, Jyushin is where I came up with the “Liger” name. But, for the record, my all time favorite wrestler is The Great Muta.

Crow_Spaceboy: You must like the NJPW/Namco crossovers in Tekken 7. Maybe we’ll see a Tiger Mask rage art someday.

BloodySamoan: Give King the Tigerplex ’85? [laughs] When they were announcing the NJPW crossovers, I was so excited. I can give King NJPW shirts and color him like my mask. I love that in the Tekken series, you can tell the makers of the series are huge wrestling fans. Pretty much every character in Tekken has at least one wrestling hold.

Crow_Spaceboy: This is a good place to pivot, because I think a lot of the FGC’s first interaction with you will be the Evo 2018 stream. You had a real tough match with Japanese pro Batz. Walk me through your experience during that time. Have you gone back and seen it?

BloodySamoan: When I was playing, I thought I played pretty poorly. Watching it back now, I think I did okay — it was still early-ish in the morning and I felt like I was still warming up, but I did have a few matches prior to him that I won, which was cool, I guess. But, I still felt unprepared for him. Then I found I’d be on stream and I was like, “Agh, I’ve got all of New Zealand on my shoulders.” [laughs] I do have Hwoarang experience from NZ but Batz’s play is so different. And I love that about Tekken — it’s a very expressive game, you can be very creative and unique with every character. As an artist, I’ve always appreciated how free its system lets you be.

I played okay, it killed me inside that I dropped some combos. I hit the kip-up float then dropped the Powerbomb ender. I thought, “Ah, you idiot!” The second match went better because I was hitting the kick parry. That’s “The Great Muta” spot. Hitting that on stream made my tournament: Dragon Screw into Figure Four. I’m a flashy “highlight reel” sort of guy so anything I can do to be “out there” and surprising, I’ll go for it.

The above combos were made in January, and are still creative as hell months down the line.

Crow_Spaceboy: I love that you call it “The Great Muta” spot. Regardless of how you felt about it at the time, I thought you were impressive — you stood up to one of the world’s best, took a round and made some hype. You also showed something that I’m not sure is super well-known — and kind of dated yourself a bit. The commentators didn’t even know this: you kept trying to punish JFSR with B+1,2. That was -12 in Tekken 6, and is -10 now. I’m guessing you’ve been socking Hwoarang in the jaw for more than a few years, and it was habitual.

BloodySamoan: Yeah, I absolutely rely on legacy skills. [laughs] New stuff, particularly new characters, are my kryptonite. To be honest, I don’t keep up with frame data — I’m a very “feels by” player, so if they change something on me it always catches me off guard.

Crow_Spaceboy: Still, legacy skills can carry you really far. You are ahead of people just picking up Tekken for the first time, more often than not.

BloodySamoan: Yeah. I went 4-2 and placed 193rd, and I won the side tournament and got one of those ZOWIE lag-free monitors. So regardless of what happened, I got a memento. Not bad considering I wasn’t originally going to go to Evo — I was going to the States for the “Headlocked” convention, and Evo happened to be two weeks later, so I stayed a bit. My expectations were exceeded, because I was mostly going to have fun and test myself.

Crow_Spaceboy: Do you think not having any sort of pressure or expectation helped you?

BloodySamoan: Yeah. I take everything in stride and just play my game, do my thing. It helps me focus on the important things, just working on each match as it comes.

Crow_Spaceboy: Switching gears a bit — you juggle so many disparate things. Art, wrestling, gaming. Do you have any advice for others trying to accomplish their dreams?

BloodySamoan: I manage to juggle it because I love everything I do. It’s not easy, I don’t have a schedule, but I just try to do a little bit of each every day, at least. If you love something you find the time to make it work. You have to find the time, then do it. In terms of a mantra? “Do the work, don’t be a dick.” That’s all you need to succeed in life.

Crow_Spaceboy: It’s good advice.

BloodySamoan: Maybe I should follow it. I showed my “King Moves in Real Life” video to Batz before our match and said “If I lose, I can do these moves to you in real life.” [laughs]

Crow_Spaceboy: [laughs] Sounds like Liger said that.

BloodySamoan: Psychological warfare, there.

BloodySamoan: Ultimately, I had a great time. Evo 2018 was great. I made a lot of friends, played great games, got to share my love of wrestling and Tekken 7. You know, I know the Bullet Club. I’m friends with Bad Luck Fale. We’re in a time where I’m surrounded by people at Evo with Bullet Club shirts and it’s just crazy.

Crow_Spaceboy: On that point… this is probably a flippant question: Kenny Omega’s played Tekken. You play Tekken. You’re both champions. Any chance you’ll throw down with him?

BloodySamoan: Kenny Omega… [laughs] So, two years ago when New Japan came down to NZ, I hooked him up with the local FGC to play Street Fighter V. I went and met him, and he was playing, I played with him, got my ass kicked because I don’t know that game. I asked him if he wanted to play some Tekken and he was like, “Nah, I don’t play that.”

Crow_Spaceboy: He played Tekken with Xavier Woods. There’s a storyline there. Sounds like you might need to beef.

BloodySamoan: I’ll catch up with them both next time. I’ll smash ’em. Teach them how to play King properly.

Crow_Spaceboy: One of my goals this interview was to avoid saying anything that would get myself Donkey Lariat’d from the other side of the world. But I can’t help myself, I have to ask: You think you’re the best Tekken player in the wrestling world right now?

BloodySamoan: [pauses, laughs] I would say… I’m up there? “Best Professional Wrestler King Player”? Yeah. I’ll take that crown. I’ve seen Xavier and Kenny play Tekken separately. As an aside, I want to play Lil Majin, just because of his energy and vibe. He gets it.

Maybe the collective FGC doesn’t know his name yet: BloodySamoan, Liger, Mike Mulipola, whatever you choose to call him. But we should, and I think we should both for his many individual talents and for the fact that he represents the passionate, hardworking, and creative qualities that make the FGC so great. He has seamlessly chased divergent passions and weaved them through our niche scene, making it a better and more interesting one in the process. Liger, bully he may be, proves that you can find the time to do what you want in life, no matter what.

Even if it’s just dropping people on their heads.

Hey, I'm just a 3D-head in a 2D-world. I like pretty much all FGC stuff, and I really like hearing about the way people think about games.