11 min read


Zangief is the OG beat ’em up character for wrestling. He certainly warrants a spot on writeups.org.

Furthermore, he’s more complex — in both game stats and personality — than the initial impression of a generic tough guy wrestler suggests.

This profile is part of our second series of Street Fighter profiles. These entries are more oriented toward the narrative, background and general feel of the characters. In constrast, Sean’s older writeups focused on Super Power Reserve and other alternate mechanics to reflect the gameplay.

As long as we’re mentioning such things, you may also read our FAQ about character writeups based on video games. If you like FAQs.



  • Real Name: Zangief.
  • Other Aliases: The Red Cyclone.
  • Marital Status: Confirmed bachelor.
  • Known Relatives: None.
  • Group Affiliation: None.
  • Base Of Operations: Mother Russia.
  • Height: 7’ (2.13 m). Weight: 400 lbs. (181 Kg.).
  • Eyes: Brown. Hair: Dark brown.

Powers & Abilities

Zangief is probably the best wrestler in the Street Fighter universe.

His natural bulk and strength allow him to go toe to toe with actual grizzly bears – and even defeat them.

He’s capable of shrugging off blows that would seriously injure most people. He’s strong enough to pick up and pile-drive 1,500 pound (680 Kg.) bears.

In fact, he’s so strong that he can easily injure opponents that aren’t world-class fighters. Therefore, Zangief usually only fights those.

Other abilities

Zangief has often been depicted in noncanon appearances (primarily animé) as having severe learning disabilities. Yet he’s not the dullard many believe him to be.

It’s true that he stole the Spinning Lariat move from Haggar, and his signature move the Spinning Pile Drive was discovered by complete accident. But he was able to develop the Banishing Flats technique to help counter his weakness to projectile attacks.

As a wrestler with superior strength his main strategy is to get up close and personal with his opponents. He’ll then grapple them for maximum damage. Wise opponents tend to use projectiles or acrobatic hit-and-run tactics to keep Zangief at bay.

He’s also accustomed to wrestling in the subzero temperatures of Siberia wearing only a pair of speedos. And yes, he’s prone to drinking large amounts of vodka even before matches.

Zangief from Street Fighter video games fist closeup


Zangief was the strongest man in all of Russia. He was so strong that he once accidentally snapped an opponent’s spine during a match. This, coupled with the fact that he had seriously injured countless other opponents and wrecked many training rooms, forced him to train by himself.

Zangief practiced in Siberia by wrestling grizzly bears. This made him even stronger.

While training a sudden squall picked him and his grizzly bear opponent up. It twisted them around in the air and slammed them head first to the ground.

After recovering, Zangief roared with joy. He had discovered his new signature move – the Spinning Pile Driver.

Street Fighter Alpha 2

The Premier asked the Red Cyclone to travel around the world to demonstrated his might. Ever the proud patriot, Zangief gladly accepted.

(While he’s never named, this civil servant clearly is Mikhail Gorbachev  .)

Zangief first clashed with Birdie. It would seem that the Russian won.

After that, Zangief encountered Ken Masters. The Red Cyclone intensely disliked Ken. He was a wealthy and flashy American who had the audacity to wear red – deemed by Zangief a Soviet color.

Ken bested Zangief, to the latter’s dismay.

Later on Mr. Gorbachev congradulated Zangief on showing the world the strength of Russia. Which matches were won wasn’t specified.

Zangief flexing over a white background (Street Fighter)

Street Fighter Alpha 3

Shadaloo activities began to encroach into the Soviet Union. Zangief was once again dispatched by Gorbachev to defend the country.

Along the way he fought matches against E. Honda and Rainbow Mika.

It’s unclear who won in his match against Honda – probably Zangief. He clearly beat Mika, but was impressed by her tenacity. After this bout she became his number one fan.

On his way to the Shadaloo HQ to destroy the Psycho Drive, Zangief was beaten by Blanka. Other world warriors managed to destroy it anyway, and Zangief shielded R. Mika from the explosion.

Since the Psycho Drive was destroyed and the threat of Shadaloo temporarily halted, Zangief returned to his country a hero.

Street Fighter II

Zangief was once again dispatched by Gorbachev to prove the strength of Russia. He was once again beaten by Ken, but did well enough to attract the attention of a prominent wrestling promoter.

Zangief originally turned down the offer. He wasn’t interested in filthy capitalist money, only to prove the strength of his country. But he reconsidered once he realized that the matches would be viewed by millions of people.

He once again returned to his country a hero, and enjoyed drinks and dancing with Gorbachev.

(Seriously, youtube his SFII ending …it’s weird. “You dance very well, comrade!”)

Street Fighter IV

Zangief enters the tournament:

  1. To prove that he’s still got it.
  2. To prove that his wrestling style is better than other martial arts forms.
  3. And of course to prove that Russia is awesome.

That’s about it. His actions don’t really have much of an impact on the SFIV storyline.

Street Fighter V

Zangief is still wrestling in New York. He then travels to England where he is reunited with Rainbow Mika. The two go on a training journey.

Their next stop is China where they meet Rashid, a fan of Zangief’s. Rashid is amazed when Zangief shows off some of his moves.

Zangief then states that Mika and Rashid should spar. Rashid prevails and Mika vows to train harder so that she can eventually beat him.

They return to New York for a tag team match with Vega and one of the 12 dolls. The camera cuts out before the match concludes, so the outcome is unrevealed.

Where is he now?

It’s stated in Street Fighter III that Zangief is still wrestling.

Zangief from Street Fighter video games ready to wrestle


Zangief is a seven foot tall behemoth. He sports many scars from wrestling grizzly bears, a Mohawk and much body hair.

His trade mark costume is red Speedos and matching red wrestling boots.

A lot of the arts depicts him in odd poses that show off his insane physique. He often sports a goofy kind of “I’m trying too hard to perform a feat of strength” expression on his face.

Zangief in Street Fighters 5 - Flexing near a bear and other Russian symbols


Zangief is first and foremost a proud patriot. He wants to show the world the power of Russia in a good clean match – through his massive physique and wrestling moves.

That said he isn’t overzealously blinded by it. Nor is he xenophobic.

He particularly dislikes Ken Masters. In Zangief’s opinion, Masters needs a good solid thrashing in the ring.

Despite his image as a fearless warrior who wrestles grizzly bears, Zangief is an outgoing friendly guy. He also respects other worthy wrestlers, such as Edmond Honda and Rainbow Mika.

He is particularly kind to children and does appreciate the fan support he gets.

Other traits

He’s also super proud of his physique. Zangief will often chide opponents for not being as buff as he is.

He practically worships the whole “muscle power” thing that he’s got going on. This is having been being bested by several opponents that aren’t quite as buff as he is. It makes one wonder if he truly believes this or if it’s just kind of a coping mechanism.

He also has a strong rivalry with Mike Haggar (even though they’ve never met). But in all fairness Zangief stole Haggar’s Spinning Lariat first. But Haggar is one of the best American wrestlers and that Haggar copied his Spinning Pile Driver move (and again also polictics).


Of the representation of gay men in older console games

Zangief was eventually established as being gay. This was conveyed through a number of quotes, such as his “I don’t like fireballs, but I like you” to Ken Masters.

But it was then retconnedMaking changes to a character or story after the fact. out. One of his earliest profiles stated that he felt that beautiful young female supporters at matches were distracting.

(Our suggested No-Prize HypothesisA made-up explanation to plug a plot hole. is that he felt that they were distracting for the straight men he usually fights, not himself. The sportsmanlike Zangief may have felt it gave him an unfair advantage).

In real-world terms, there’s also the issue of the violent repression against LGBT Russians. Given Zangief’s preferences, either the Russia of Street Fighter is much less reactionary about homosexuality… or everybody is pretending very very hard that the greatest Russian strongman and shoot wrestler is totally not gay.

Zangief likely received this bit of character development since he looks like a common caricature of gay men in Japanese pop culture. Namely, he’s big beefy guy with a moustache and revealing clothing.

The use of this cartoonish cliché for one of the few LGBTQ characters in classic brawling video games isn’t… optimal.

Zangief - Street Fighter games - ready to rumble scary eyes


“I am the Red Cyclone !”

“My strength is much greater than yours.”

“Next time we meet, I’m gonna break your arms !”

“Don’t make me angry or I’ll beat the crap out of you !”

“Hit me again… please ?”

“Nothing can escape my furious swirling death move  !”

“At least you can still walk ! Consider yourself lucky !”

“Viscera ! Bone ! Flesh ! My body of steel knows no weaknesses !”

“If you had a stronger body, you might not have been paralyzed !”

“I’ll dedicate this fight to the people of Russia !”

“I’m like a cyclone… If you get too close you’ll be sucked in !”

“Strengthen those triceps ! It is not too late to build your body !”

DC Heroes RPG


Dex: 04 Str: 06 Bod: 06
Int: 04 Wil: 04 Min: 05
Inf: 04 Aur: 04 Spi: 06
Init: 015 HP: 060


Adrenaline Surge: 02, Cold Immunity: 01, Dispersal: 04, Growth: 01, Jumping: 05, Joined: 03, Systemic Antidote: 01

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Adrenaline Surge only works with Strength, Jumping, and Martial Artist.
  • Cold Immunity is a Skilled Power.
  • Dispersal only works to help him avoid projectiles.
  • Growth is Always On and Already Factored In.
  • Systemic Antidote only works against alcohol and is also a Skilled Power.


Acrobatics (Athletics): 03, Artist (Dancer): 03, Animal Handling (Bears): 03, Martial Artist: 09


Iron Nerves, Local Hero (Russia), Languages (Russian), Rich Friend (Gorbachev), Schticks (Burst of strength, Conditional Soaking {blunt force}).


President Gorbachev (High), Edmond Honda (High), Rainbow Mika (High).


Minor Rage, Creepy Appearance (Size, and scars all over his body).


Responsibility of Power.


(Ex-) Soviet Wrestler.



Zangief - Street Fighter 6 concept art - pants trousers

Zangief — vs. Marvel stats

Zangief, like all the other Street Fighter characters, was massively powered up to be able to compete with Marvel’s heavy hitters in the crossover series:

Dex: 05 Str: 07 Bod: 07
Int: 05 Wil: 05 Min: 06
Inf: 05 Aur: 05 Spi: 07
Init: 017 HP: 070


Adrenaline Surge: 04, Cold Immunity: 02, Dispersal: 05, Growth: 01, Jumping: 10, Joined: 04, Running: 03, Systemic Antidote: 02

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Adrenaline Surge only works with Strength, Jumping, and Martial Artist.
  • Cold Immunity is a skilled power.
  • Dispersal only works to help him avoid projectiles.
  • Growth is Always On and Already Factored In.
  • Systemic Antidote only works against alcohol and is a Skilled Power.


Acrobatics: 04, Animal Handling (Bears): 04, Artist (Dancer): 04, Martial Artist: 10


President Gorbachev (High), Edmond Honda (High), Rainbow Mika (High), Colossus (High).


Minor Rage, Creepy Appearance (Size, and scars all over his body).

Mech Zangief - Street Fighter games

Mech Zangief

In the crossover series he also had the ability to change into an Alter Which granted him quite a bit extra raw power and Ego – Mech Zangief ! Switching to his some other interesting abilities at the cost of speed.

Alter Ego takes a full round in which he may take no other action and (same with switching back) costs 15 HP.

Dex: 03 Str: 08 Bod: 09
Int: 05 Wil: 05 Min: 06
Inf: 05 Aur: 05 Spi: 07
Init: 015 HP: same as before


Adrenaline Surge: 04, Air Control: 04, Cold Immunity: 03, Density Increase: 02, Energy Blast: 03, Flame Project: 03, Growth: 01, Jumping: 09, Joined: 07, Systemic Antidote: 03

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Adrenaline Surge only works with Strength, Air Control, Jumping, and Martial Artist.
  • Air Control has no range, has an area effect, and can only make a Basically it can only be used to make a giant cyclone centered on himself and is also catastrophically marginal and costs 15HP every time he uses it.
  • Cold Immunity is a skilled power.
  • Density Increase is always on and already factored in.
  • Energy Blast has range of touch only.
  • Flame Project has no range.
  • Growth is always on and already factored in.
  • Systemic Antidote only works against alcohol and is a skilled power.


Animal Handling (Bears): 04, Martial Artist (AV and EV only): 12


President Gorbachev (High), Edmond Honda (High), Rainbow Mika (High), Colossus (High).


Minor Rage, Strange Appearance.

Design Notes

I had a bit of fun adding a few minor powers (cold immunity and systemic antidote), that thematically fit his concept and a few abilities that he might logically have, but are not explicitly shown in the game.

The Skills listed are also will make the wu more useful and enjoyable, but are of course somewhat speculative.

Writeups.org writer avatar Tom Eilers

By Tom Eilers.

Source of Character: Street Fighter video games.

Helper(s): Sean McDonald (for his take), Street Fighter Wikia, Dr. Peter S Piispanen, William Chamberlin, Ethan Roe.

Writeup revised on the 7th of July, 2018.