Every Rocky Reference In Cobra Kai Season 5 (& Which Is The Best One)


Warning: SPOILERS for Cobra Kai Season 5The Rocky movies have been a major influence on Cobra Kai since season 1, and season 5 has the best references yet to Sylvester Stallone’s epic saga about Rocky Balboa. Cobra Kai season 5 sees Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), Chozen Toguchi (Yuji Okumoto), and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) reopen the Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang Karate dojos. They successfully complicate Terry Silver’s (Thomas Ian Griffith) plan to enter Cobra Kai in the Sekai Taikai, the world’s most prestigious international tournament. It turns out Rocky IV is Johnny’s secret weapon in impressing Sekai Taikai’s representative, Gunther Braun (Carsten Norgaard).

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Of course, The Karate Kid was modeled after the Rocky movies’ success. The Karate Kid was released in 1984, after Rocky I, II and III were released and became a pop culture and box office phenomenon, with the original Rocky film winning three Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Just like Rocky Balboa, Daniel LaRusso was an underdog who triumphed against difficult odds, and The Karate Kid even ended at the emotional height of Daniel’s victory, just as the Rocky movies end right after each climactic boxing match. In Cobra Kai, Johnny is perpetually stuck in the 1980s, and nearly all of his reference points are from the movies and music of the decade when he was in high school. However, the popularity of the Rocky movies has endured for over almost 50 years all over the world, and it’s something Cobra Kai is well-aware of as it borrows from and homages the tropes Stallone’s films pioneered.

Cobra Kai continually mines The Karate Kid movies for callbacks, Easter eggs, and references, and the show has somehow managed to keep it fresh and fun even after 5 seasons. But Rocky is also an omnipresent factor in Cobra Kai, especially for Johnny Lawrence since the start of the series. In Cobra Kai season 5, Johnny’s love of Rocky becomes more important than ever, and Rocky IV, in particular, becomes a deciding factor in Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang’s entry into the Sekai Taikai.

Johnny Is A Lifelong Rocky Fanboy In Cobra Kai

One of Cobra Kai season 1’s best moments was when Johnny sat Miguel Diaz (Xolo Maridueña) down and explained his side of his rivalry with Daniel LaRusso. It was the first time the events of The Karate Kid were told from Johnny’s slightly skewed point of view, and it was Cobra Kai‘s very funny meta wink to the fan theory that Daniel-san was the real villain in The Karate Kid. But Johnny also told Miguel about how he met his high school girlfriend and one of the loves of his life, Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue), and Rocky III was a big reason why that relationship even happened.

As Johnny tells it, he and his Cobra Kai buddies went to see Rocky III in the theater in 1982, and that’s how he met Ali. In Johnny’s mind, he and Ali had a perfect love until Daniel LaRusso moved to the San Fernando Valley from New Jersey and stole Ali from him in ’84 (even though they were already broken up). But Rocky III is forever linked to how Johnny met Ali, and seeing Balboa triumph against Clubber Lang (Mr. T) inspired Lawrence. Ever since then, Rocky Balboa became Johnny’s hero.

In Cobra Kai season 4, Johnny turned to Rocky IV to psyche himself up while training to fight Daniel. On the line was who would become the sole sensei of the students of their combined Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang dojos. Sensei Lawrence donned his Walkman headphones and blasted his cassette of Survivor’s “Burning Heart,” one of the theme songs of Rocky IV, as he hilariously trained for his showdown with LaRusso.

Cobra Kai Season 5 Had Even More Rocky References

Cobra Kai season 5 opens with an advertisement for Terry Silver’s new Cobra Kai dojo, which contains an obvious callback to Rocky IV. Silver’s state-of-the-art facility uses the latest technology to monitor his students’ physical performance, and it’s reminiscent of how the Soviet trainers used technology to chart (and enhance, through steroids), the power, speed, and stamina of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). Terry’s high-tech toys are one of the ways he impressed the Sekai Taikai representatives.

However, no one could have predicted that Sekai Taikai’s Gunther Braun is a Rocky fan. Like Johnny, Rocky Balboa is Gunther’s hero, and the German even bellowed out, “Drago!” like Rocky Balboa did from the snowy mountain top in Russia before explaining that Rocky’s “victory over Russia effectively restored my fractured homeland.” Yes, Gunther credited Rocky IV for the Berlin Wall coming down! After Johnny and Daniel’s dojos qualified for the Sekai Taikai, Johnny explained that Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang are two opposing philosophies who have come together to become stronger. Or, as Rocky Balboa told the world after he beat Drago in Rocky IV, “If I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!” Naturally, Gunther got it and loved the reference.

Amanda And Daniel Was The Best Rocky Reference In Cobra Kai Season 5

The best callback to Rocky IV was how Cobra Kai season 5 built Daniel and Amanda LaRusso (Courtney Henggeler) into its own version of Rocky and Adrian Balboa (Talia Shire). Adrian was Rocky’s heart and soul, and before her death in Rocky Balboa, he could never fight at his best or win without Adrian’s support and approval. In Rocky IV, Adrian was terrified that Drago would kill Rocky like he did Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) and she wouldn’t support his fighting the Russian monster. Rocky went to the Soviet Union anyway to train, but it was Adrian joining him to promise that she would stand behind him “no matter what” that lit Balboa’s heart on fire and spurred him on to win.

Cobra Kai ingeniously mirrored Rocky and Adrian with Daniel and Amanda who, for the first time, left her husband because of Daniel’s single-minded obsession with stopping Terry Silver no matter the cost. Amanda took their kids, Samantha (Mary Mouser) and Anthony (Griffin Santopietro), back home to Ohio. But it wasn’t until Amanda found out that her cousin, Jessica Andrews (Robyn Lively), met Terry Silver in The Karate Kid Part III and explained to Amanda what a terrible enemy he really is that Mrs. LaRusso decided to come home and support Daniel. Amanda gave Daniel her unwavering backing to fight Terry Silver after that. In Cobra Kai season 5’s finale, Amanda not only stood by her husband, but she motivated Daniel to “do what you have to do” to beat Silver. And, just like when Adrian gives Rocky her blessing, Daniel finally defeated Terry Silver.

Cobra Kai Season 5 is streaming on Netflix.

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