Ralph Macchio and “Cobra Kai” co-star William Zabka gained traction as the teenage leads of the 1984 hit “The Karate Kid.” As a result, they were thrust into the public spotlight early on and became stars in their own right, leading not only to the widely popular Netflix spin-off series “Cobra Kai,” but also numerous roles and guest appearances in other films and TV shows. One of the duo’s most noteworthy appearance, however, might be a joint guest appearance they had on “How I Met Your Mother” back in 2013.
Here’s everything you need to know about their appearance on the show.
Macchio and Zabka Played Themselves in Season 8 of the Show
Season 8 episode 22, “The Bro Mitzvah,” shows Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) and Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel) kidnap Nail Patrick Harris’ character Barney Stinson, in order to surprise him with everything he wanted to make a perfect bachelor party (dubbed a “Bro Mitzvah” by Barney). Among these things are a clown (to satisfy Ted’s request for “Mind-Blowing Entertainment”), and, as shown in the clip above, to meet the “hero” of “The Karate Kid,” which Ted and Marshall believe to be Ralph Macchio.
Ted, however, insists that the “true” hero of the movie is in fact Johnny Lawrence, portrayed by William Zabka, echoing a popular and long-held fan theory that the true villain of “The Karate Kid” is in fact Daniel LaRusso, and Johnny, who was only ever trying to defend himself, was the victim of Daniel’s unjustified violence. In the clip, Ted states Ralph Macchio “is NOT The Karate Kid! The Karate Kid was William Zabka, star pupil of the Cobra Kai dojo, who this monster defeated with a cheap, illegal, headkick in the most tragically haunting film ending of all time.”
Near the end of the episode (also shown in the clip), it is revealed that the clown, who has been tagging along with Ted and the guys throughout the episode, is actually William Zabka, who reveals himself by removing his wig and face paint. Jubilant, Ted embraces Zabka and the episode ends.
Zabka went on to appear as himself in six more episodes of season 9 of the show, after Barney invites him to be best man at his wedding.
Ted’s Theories Have Fans Questioning the Story Behind ‘Cobra Kai’s’ Creation
Ted’s steadfast belief in the popular fan theory has been evident since at least 2009, in a season 4 episode, when he summarized “The Karate Kid” as:
the story of a hopeful, young karate enthusiast whose dreams and moxie take him all the way to the All Valley Karate Championship. Of course, sadly, he loses in the final round to that nerd kid. But he learns an important lesson about gracefully accepting defeat.
“How I Met Your Mother’s” public acknowledgement of the fan theory so early on has led some to believe that the CBS show inspired the idea behind “Cobra Kai.”
However, in a 2020 interview with Comic Book Resources, co-creator Josh Heald dispelled the myth that “Cobra Kai” only exists because of Ted’s theories on the show. He did say, however, that the fact that How I Met Your Mother and others questioned the true roles of Daniel and Johnny in the film helped encourage them to make “Cobra Kai”. He elaborates in the interview:
All that stuff just kind of buoyed us a little bit when we were conceiving the show and comparing the storylines to pitch the show because it made us feel confident that we weren’t the only ones, and we didn’t think we were, but it was nice to see other creators have Karate Kid on the mind.
There was nothing that specifically said to us that there was this Karate Kid thing happening so let’s go do this but it’s always nice that we knew there was this giant, untapped audience out there who would want to live with Johnny and Daniel in their living rooms as long as we could keep it going.
Although How I Met Your Mother might have called that Johnny was a deeper character than audiences might have believed back in the 1980s, it’s still likely fans would have gotten to enjoy “Cobra Kai” nonetheless.
Be sure to tune in to Season 4 of the Netflix show, which will be released Dec. 31.