Today we unveil a new feature at “You Might Be ‘That Guy’ if…” This is the first entry in our periodic series of great “That Guys” in history. This series will salute great “That Guys” who have made lasting contributions to humanity, yet remain nameless and only identifiable as “That Guy.”
You know you’re in distinguished company when your character is mentioned with the likes of great 80s movie villains like Jack Torrance in The Shining, the t.v. in Poltergeist, Gordon Gecko in Wall Street, Stan Gable in Revenge of the Nerds, Hans Gruber in Die Hard, Biff (and Griff) Tannen in the Back to the Future franchise, and The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters. Absent from this list is… what’s his name… I know exactly what he looks like – I can see his face right now… he was in a bunch of movies and always played the rich snobby jerk who was the bully who eventually got his comeuppins… he played one of the best movie villains of the 80s… what’s his name, who is “That Guy”?
“That Guy” is none other than William Zabka (aka Johnny Lawrence) from Karate Kid. Although Zabka played villains in other 80s movies such as Just One of the Guys and Back to School, the pièce de résistance of his acting career has been without a doubt his portrayal of Johnny Lawrence. You certainly recognize his face and remember the characters he has played; however, much like Clint Howard, you always vaguely remember the roles but not his name. As a result, his status in the hierarchy of 80s movie villains has often been relegated to “That Guy” from Karate Kid.
So what makes “That Guy’s” Johnny Lawrence character so great? First, he possessed every quintessential 80s bad boy / villain characteristic: he had feathered hair, he wore a red leather jacket and fingerless gloves, he was a member of a country club, he donned a full skeleton costume with matching minions, and he rode the all important dirt bike. Note that most eighties villains, especially those in high school, possessed nearly the exact same characteristics and this may be part of the reason he is only remembered as “That Guy.” Also, apparently in Reseda, California circa 1984 the end-all-and-be-all was how you performed in the All-Valley 19 and Under Karate Championship. Let’s not forget to show “That Guy” some respect, he was the champion three years running until Daniel Larusso showed up. And speaking of karate, what about the Cobra Kai dojo with Sensei Kresse? Enough said.
His character was privy to some of the most creative and ingenious dialogue ever seen in a movie. Approximately three-fourths of his dialogue occurred in relation to Cobra Kai, Kresse, or the All-Valley Tournament so he said “Yes/No sensei” quite often. Additionally, the “AFI 100 Years… 100 Movie Quotes” seemed to leave this memorable exchange off its list:
Kreese: Sweep the leg.
Kreese: Do you have a problem with that?
Johnny: No, Sensei.
Kreese: No mercy.
Although inexplicably vanquished by a mere crane kick, even if we cannot recall his name, we will always remember William “Johnny Lawrence” Zabka as “That Guy.”
*Although we don’t normally embed videos in our posts, you must watch No More King’s “Sweep the Leg” music video directed by none other than “That Guy” himself, William Zabka – crank up the volume and watch for cameos*