Well, I'm willing to die for my family.
—Cole Young to Raiden, Mortal Kombat
Born and orphaned in the South Side of Chicago, Cole Young lives with his wife Allison and daughter Emily. A one-time champion, Cole is now making his earnings as a MMA fighter with a declining reputation. When Jax Briggs meets up with Cole, he begins to learn of his heritage and soon finds himself fighting alongside the likes of Sonya Blade, Liu Kang, Kung Lao, and the Thunder God Raiden in a battle to protect Earthrealm from Shang Tsung and his Outworld Champions.
Later, Cole and his family were out having dinner when a strange individual then appeared and starts freezing everything around them. Just then, Jax Briggs showed up in front of the Youngs and sheltered them in his truck. He explained to Cole that the dragon marking was no birthmark and it actually meant he had been chosen to fight. He told Cole to get to Gary, Indiana and find a woman named Sony Blade. Cole offered to stay and fight, but Jax warned him that this would only result in the death of both him and his family.
Following Jax's instructions, Cole travelled to Gary, where he discovered the ramshackle home of Sonya Blade. There, Sonya explained to him that the dragon marking is an invitation to something she had researched for years, a tournament known as Mortal Kombat. Cole was skeptical of the idea, but before she can explain further, their discussion was interrupted by a man she has chained up, Kano. Sonya told Cole that Kano was a member of the Black Dragon Clan and she was tracking another champion, whose throat Kano slit, killing him and taking his mark. They are then attacked by Syzoth, the Reptile. They worked together to fight the reptilian assassin and eventually Kano managed to kill him by ripping out his heart.
Following this incident, Sonya told them that they need to get to Raiden's Temple, where legends said champions of Earthrealm used to train for Mortal Kombat. Kano claimed to know where the temple was and Sonya bribed him to take them there for 3 million dollars, though she privately admitted to Cole that she did not have those amount of money. The group then journeyed to the temple. On their way to the destination, Sonya and Kano were at each other the whole way, until the trio were found by Liu Kang, a member of the Order of Light, who then guided the them to temple. There, Liu Kang informed the trio that time was short and they had to begin training for the tournament in order to defend Earthrealm. He introduced the trio to Lord Raiden, who was immediately dismissive of them all, stating that Cole was in no mental or physical state to fight. Cole pleaded with him to help, explaining about the man who tried to kill his family. Raiden replied that only death awaited him, but he countered that he was willing to die for his family. "Let's see if you have what it takes," answered Raiden. Just then, Shang Tsung and his forces of Outworld appeared, trying to claim victory by killing Earthrealm champions prior to the tournament. Raiden, however, expelled them by setting up a barrier around the temple.As the training began, Liu Kang and his partner Kung Lao explained that the entire purpose of the training was to unlock one's "arcana", granting a special ability. It quickly became clear, however, that Cole was struggling with the training since he was repeatedly pushed to his limit and beyond. However, despite his pain and anger, nothing happened. He was even more annoyed when Kano managed to unlock his arcana through anger during a contentious dinner. Ultimately, Lord Raiden dismissed Cole following a training with Kano, telling him that he had failed to find his arcana and without it he was a liability to others. Cole asked how this could be the case, given his own dragon marking and the fact that he was the only champion who had had his marking since birth. At this, Lord Raiden revealed to Cole that he was the descendant of one of the greatest ninjas ever, Hanzo Hasashi. Raiden explained that Scorpion descended to the Hell upon being killed by Sub-Zero, but he saved his child, allowing the Hashashi bloodline to live on. Raiden continues that he had hoped the power of the Hasashi bloodline still lived within Cole, but he now knew this was not the case. Raiden then used lightning to open a portal, telling Cole to go home to his family. Following this, Kano betrayed the group under Kabal's persuasion and used his arcana power of eye laser to take down the barrier that Raiden had erected over his temple. Shang Tsung and his forces then attacked while, back in Chicago, Goro the giant four-armed Shokan warrior showed up to kill Cole and his family. During the fight, Allison attempted to intervene but in vain. Cole, angered and upset by the danger to his family, finally woke his power and unlocked his arcana. This gave him a golden armor that appeared over his upper body as protection and the ability to absorb and redirect attacks, as well as duel tonfas to fight with. Using these new powers, he was finally able to overcome Goro, tearing him apart. Afterwards, a flash of lightning appeared. Allison, worried, asked him what it was, while Cole assured that it was okay as the lightning was a doorway back. He stepped into it and found himself back at Raiden's Temple. "Impossible," declares Shang Tsung, and Raiden thanked him for helping his fighter find his arcana, further claiming that after 4,000 years, the Hasashi bloodline lived on.
Lord Raiden then opened a portal to the Void, bringing the remaining Earthrealm warriors with him. Aggravated, Shang had Sub-Zero to attack Cole, preventing him from transport away. Kung Lao tried to stop him, but Shang drew him over by using his magic and then began to suck out his soul. Liu Kang, hearing what was happening, raced over to try to stop him, but Cole restrained him, knowing that he would only get himself caught or even killed. The two watched helplessly as Shang drained Kung Lao until he was nothing but a shrunken corpse.
After arriving the Void, Liu Kang lamented that Earthrealm was lost without Kung Lao, but Cole replied that it was not over yet as they had to fight. Hearing this, Lord Raiden presented Cole with a blade once used by Hasashi, telling him that Hasashi's spirit would fight with him if he used it. Cole then devised a plan by which the Earthrealm fighters would fight Shang Tsung's forces one by one, taking advantage of Raiden's ability to send people to anywhere within Earthrealm, and then saving Sub-Zero for last for them to take on together. He volunteered to the task of fighting Mileena and assigned others with specific targets.
Raiden dispersed the fighters to begin the battles. Cole and Liu Kang were sent together to battle Mileena and Kabal respectively. However, the fight did not go well for Cole as Mileena proved a fearsome opponent, able to extend her jaw to reveal row after row of teeth and constantly teleporting such that Cole found it hard to know where she was coming from. Still, he continued to hold on until Sonya Blade appeared, having discovered her own arcana power after defeating Kano. "A little help?" he asked her and she shot Mileena with Energy Rings, blasting a hole straight through her body, killing her.
Following the fight, Sub-Zero appeared, having paid a visit to Cole's home and trapping his wife and daughter in ice. He showed Cole a bracelet made by Emily before freezing and shattering it to taunt him. Enraged, Cole chased him back through the portal, negating his own plan to gather up the champions so that they could all face Sub-Zero together.At first, things did not go well for Cole as he battled Sub-Zero in the ice palace that Sub-Zero had made out of the gym where Cole fought his MMA match. Nevertheless, Cole was able to hold off Sub-Zero and his fighting spirit resonated with Hasashi's blade. This connection summoned forth Hanzo Hasashi from the depths of Hell, now going by the name "Scorpion". Scorpion taunted Sub-Zero, asking if he remembers his face, and then the two began an intense duel. While Scorpion was fighting the Cyromancer, Cole tried to chip away at the ice encasing his wife and daughter, but found himself unable to break it. He joined Scorpion and fight Sub-Zero together to a standstill. Scorpion helped to free Cole's wife and daughter during the fight before telling Cole to leave Sub-Zero to him. He then told the weakened Cyromancer that he hoped he would burn in the fires of hell, but instead he learned to control them. Scorpion then finished off Sub-Zero by breathing fire all over the Cyromancer, roasting him away and ending his life.
After Cole successfully rescued his family, Scorpion then thanked Cole for freeing him and told him to watch over the Hashashi lineage before retreating back to the Netherrealm. Later, Raiden returned with the other champions and Cole introduced them to his wife and daughter as his friends. Soon afterward, Shang Tsung appeared, declaring that he would send armies, but Raiden sent him away with lightning. The Thunder God then told the champions they must seek out other champions around the world.
Later, Cole Young packed up things in the gym and was leaving for Hollywood to recruit Johnny Cage, the movie star of the film Citizen Cage.
Befitting his upbringing as an orphan on the rough South Side of Chicago Cole’s initial fighting style manifested as an extremely aggressive and furious style of mixed martial arts that focused on him pounding his opponents into submission. Early on in his fighting career this style served him especially well and allowed him to defeat former MMA champion Eddy Tobias and claim his title. Over the years, however, Cole’s style began to become less effective as newer opponents began to take advantage of his form’s weaknesses like its lack of defense and poor battlefield control ability. After training at Raiden’s temple and realizing the fuel to his arcana is in fact his desire to not simply win but to protect others though Cole’s style shifts to incorporate more dodging and blocking as well as moves from Okinawan Kobudō, a martial art that emphasizes weapon usage. This transition in fighting style is aided by his arcana, which manifests as a kind of extremely durable metal skin which can absorb the kinetic energy of his opponent’s strikes to empower his own blows and which can also generate weapons in the form of both normal and bladed tonfas from his arms.
Cole Young is an original character created for the 2021 Mortal Kombat movie. Screenwriter Greg Russo, in publicity material for the Mortal Kombat film, stated that Cole Young's storyline came in part from his own life. As he began working on the project, he and his spouse were about to have their first child. He incorporated his own questions about what it meant to be a father and if he would be a good dad into the character. Cole was originally envisioned akin to a Shujinko-like character arc (an oft-used narrative tool of introducing a "newcomer"), facilitating the role of (re-)introducing the story via existing characters, providing the audience a new protagonist experience.
- Cole is portrayed by British-Chinese actor and martial artist Lewis Tan, who is the son of Philip Tan, a renowned stuntman, actor and martial arts choreographer.
- In the HBO Max documentary "From Game to Screen", Cole Young's actor Lewis Tan admits to having played Mortal Kombat as a child and his parents not being happy about it, so he would sneak to play it late at night. "And now, look at me, Mom."
- In another of these documentaries, "Kombat Evolution", Mortal Kombat director Simon McQuoid describes Lewis Tan as an incredible fighter who just will not stop. Tan explains that he comes from a fighting background and that real martial arts is very similar to him to acting because it's about expression.
- Mortal Kombat (2021) Press Kit Revelations. Retrieved on April 16, 2021.