Warning: Contains SPOILERS for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Some surprising MCU characters are coming together for a fighting tournament in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The second movie in Phase 4 of the MCU has expanded the worldbuilding of the franchise with Wenwu’s leadership of the Ten Rings throughout the centuries, the paradisiacal realm of Ta-Lo, and the underground perils of Macau’s fighting tournament. Taking place after the events of Avengers: Endgame, the plot of Shang-Chi and its two post-credits scenes also give more feature some unexpected Marvel characters.
While most of the competitors in the tournament have signed up to survive rows of deadly fighters a la Mortal Kombat, Bloodsport, and Enter the Dragon, Shang-Chi only wants to find his sister Xialing. But since the titular hero becomes an internet sensation after fighting Razor Fist and his henchmen on a moving bus, Shang-Chi quickly becomes part of the main event. Before facing off against his sister and being ambushed by Wenwu and Death Dealer, Shang-Chi is able to witness other unlucky fighters putting their lives on the line.
Shang-Chi’s participation offers an exciting spectacle made even more thrilling by guest appearances from various unexpected MCU characters. The movie shows very little of the brutal, no-holds-barred event, but it does establish just how skilled Shang-Chi must be to be considered for the main battle, given how other participants are allowed to use their superpowers. Besides the sumo wrestler and the poor soul he crushes against the window while Shang-Chi enters the ring, here’s every character present in the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings tournament.
In Marvel Comics, Shang-Chi spent his childhood and early adulthood improving his body and mastering multiple forms of Chinese martial arts at the behest of his father, Fu Manchu. Because of his isolation from society, all of Shang-Chi’s time was devoted to his training, thus allowing him to become Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu. With hand-to-hand combat skills that put him on par with Captain America himself, Shang-Chi is without question one of the most formidable fighters in the Marvel Universe, as proven by his victories over super-powered heroes like Wolverine and Spider-Man.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings incorporates the titular character’s comic book origin and martial arts prowess, albeit without the racist stereotype of Fu Manchu, fortunately. Instead, it’s Iron Man’s comic book archnemesis – Wenwu a.k.a. the Mandarin – who transforms him into a human weapon. The grueling training Shang-Chi is forced to go through during his childhood pays off when his defeat of Razor Fist earns him a spot in the tournament, raising the expectations of every fighter and spectator present. However, Shang-Chi’s skills aren’t enough to earn him a victory against his sister Xialing.
The biggest surprise appearance in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is Abomination. Played by Tim Roth in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, Emil Blonsky had been missing from the MCU ever since he was beaten into unconsciousness by the Green Goliath. For years, his whereabouts had been unknown. There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the character, with many thinking that Marvel had abandoned one of the Hulk’s greatest enemies. The second Shang-Chi trailer then delivered a welcome surprise by teasing a cage fight between Abomination and Doctor Strange‘s Wong — a battle that, although still brief in the movie, teased an exciting future for both characters.
As promotional material for the movie had suggested, Abomination does have the upper hand over the sorcerer due to his sheer strength. But once Wong gets fed up, he shifts toward a more aggressive stance and uses a well-timed portal to hit Abomination with his own fist, knocking him out. The aftermath of the fight suggests that Wong and Abomination have developed a friendly bond after many similar battles, and the fact that Wong reprimands Abomination for getting too carried away suggests they arranged the results of the fight. The last fans see of this unlikely couple is Wong opening a portal to Blonsky’s maximum-security cell, which means that Abomination is only taking a break from his imprisonment during the events of the movie. It’s possible that he will be officially pardoned in She-Hulk, where Tim Roth is confirmed to return in a bigger role.
Abomination isn’t the only major MCU character who made a surprising cameo in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. When Shang-Chi was filming, a photo that showed Benedict Wong (Wong) together with Simu Liu (Shang-Chi) was shared online. Indeed, Wong completely humiliated Abomination in the tournament, though he didn’t achieve it without receiving a couple of bruises himself. Wong seems to be helping Abomination receive a breath of fresh air once in a while, and as for why Wong is participating in an underground championship, it could be that he’s gathering money to maintain the Sanctum Sanctorum or to travel to wherever he’s going in the Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer.
Shang-Chi ends up signing up for the tournament while looking for his estranged sister Xialing, who happens to be the one in charge. Not only does she own the tournament but she also masters the art of one-on-one combat, which helps her defeat Shang-Chi without breaking a sweat. As Xialing later reveals, she built the tournament from the ground up out of spite, given that Wenwu doesn’t allow women to hold positions of power in the Ten Rings. Since the post-credits scene of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings reveals that Xialing has taken over Wenwu as the leader of the Ten Rings, the future of Macau’s fighting tournament is unknown. Perhaps someone like Sharon Carter a.k.a. the Power Broker will take advantage of it to expand her empire, or perhaps Valentina Allegra de Fontaine or whoever she works for will keep it running so she can find more recruits for her new team of anti-heroes.
One of the first fighters Shang-Chi and Katy see when they’re introduced to Xialing’s underground fighting tournament is a Black Widow. Although it was always known that many girls had gone through the Red Room, the only Black Widow to have appeared onscreen until the end of the Infinity Saga had been Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff. Taking place between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, Black Widow featured Natasha breaking other Widows free from General Dreykov’s command. Without anyone to answer to, these highly skilled spies are bound to appear in the MCU more often. Life could be tough for them, as they don’t have a fairly regular civilian life like Melina Vostokoff, Yelena Belova, and Natasha Romanoff, so it’s reasonable to see one Black Widow competing in the fighting tournament, presumably to sustain herself.
The Black Widow’s opponent in the low-rank fighting pits is a man with camo pants and a glowing body. The burning red glow that seeps through his bones is the exact same seen in the Extremis test subjects from Iron Man 3, where Aldrich Killian — who stole the “Mandarin” moniker from Wenwu and hired Trevor Slattery to imitate him — used Maya Hansen’s technology to enhance his healing factor and become extremely powerful. The Extremis soldier in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings doesn’t showcase the fire-breathing abilities usually seen in these characters, and he seems to be losing the fight against the Black Widow. Given that the Extremis-powered people seen in Iron Man 3 had the tendency to blow up in a cloud of fire, it’s likely that the virus has been stabilized, perhaps with the side effect of removing the fire-breathing skill. Nevertheless, the fact that Extremis still exists after the death of Aldrich Killian suggests that AIM may still be out there somewhere.