Who is Mike Barnes in Cobra Kai season 5? The quick history of Karate Kid’s "bad boy"

Mike Barnes in Cobra Kai season 5
(Image credit: Netflix)

Cobra Kai is no stranger to re-introducing and revisiting key characters from Karate Kid’s past. That’s no different in season 5, which sees former Cobra Kai student Mike Barnes make a comeback in surprising fashion.

But not everyone has watched Cobra Kai and Karate Kid Part 3. So, who is Mike Barnes? Why does he have a history with Daniel LaRusso? And what is his relationship with Terry Silver? All will be revealed in our cheat sheet to the man once known as "Karate’s Bad Boy." Spoilers for Cobra Kai season 5 follow.

Who is Mike Barnes?

Mike Barnes in Karate Kid Part 3

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

For that answer, you’ll have to go back to 1989’s Karate Kid Part 3. While many will likely be familiar with the first two movies in the series, the third in the trilogy was more divisive – but no less crucial to understanding Cobra Kai’s major players decades later.

Mike Barnes is one of the main antagonists in Karate Kid 3 and is played by Sean Kanan. He’s secretly hired by Terry Silver – who is seeking revenge on Daniel and Mr. Miyagi on behalf of his war buddy Kreese – to win the All-Valley Tournament and beat Daniel.

Daniel, though, isn’t exactly thrilled about the idea of joining the tournament. This causes Mike (and his karate henchman, naturally) to force Daniel’s hand, harassing him and his new friend Jessica in a bid to get Daniel to sign up to the All-Valley.

Terry then takes Daniel under his wing to train him for the tournament, making him more vicious and driving a wedge between LaRusso and Mr. Miyagi in the process.

The pair eventually reconcile before the tournament, with Miyagi defeating Mike, Kreese, and Terry. Mike later loses to Daniel in the sudden death final of the All-Valley.

Mike Barnes in Cobra Kai season 5 – spoilers within

Mike Barnes in Cobra Kai season 5

(Image credit: Netflix)

Decades later during Cobra Kai season 5, Daniel scopes out Mike (once again played by Sean Kanan) – who he suspects of being one of the few possible remaining allies still in league with Terry.

One suspicious phone call sets alarm bells ringing and Daniel attacks Mike, who explains he’s actually the owner of a furniture store. Despite a further ruckus thanks to Chozen, the pair leave on good terms – with Mike giving Daniel the number to Terry’s shady lawyer.

Once Terry finds out about Daniel’s attempts to dig up dirt, the billionaire retaliates by burning down Mike’s store.

In the season finale, Mike – broke and with his marriage now on the rocks – kidnaps Daniel, Johnny and Chozen but soon turns his attention towards getting revenge on Terry Silver.

Mike helps Johnny and Chozen defeat Terry’s senseis at Silver’s mansion and steals a Rembrandt painting to make up for his lost store. 

For more on the finale, be sure to check out our complete breakdown of the Cobra Kai season 5 ending.

Bradley Russell

I'm the Senior Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, focusing on news, features, and interviews with some of the biggest names in film and TV. On-site, you'll find me marveling at Marvel and providing analysis and room temperature takes on the newest films, Star Wars and, of course, anime. Outside of GR, I love getting lost in a good 100-hour JRPG, Warzone, and kicking back on the (virtual) field with Football Manager. My work has also been featured in OPM, FourFourTwo, and Game Revolution.