Cobra Kai star Billy Zabka on his love of ’80s rock, jamming with Robert Downey Jr. and the time Eddie Van Halen gave him a guitar lesson

Cobra Kai
(Image credit: James Clark)

One of the very first scenes in the very first episode of Cobra Kai depicts Johnny Lawrence, former karate badass (to use Johnny’s favorite descriptor) and walking 1980s artifact, hopping into his beat-up red Pontiac Firebird and cranking up Poison’s glam-metal anthem Nothin’ But a Good Time.

It’s one of many ’80s rock-soundtracked moments we’re treated to, courtesy of the soon-to-be sensei: Throughout the first three seasons, Johnny unapologetically rocks a Zebra No Tellin’ Lies baseball tee, inspires his teenaged karate disciple, Miguel Diaz, to change his ringtone to Ratt’s Round and Round and, later on, sneaks Diaz into a Dee Snider concert as physical therapy for a (literally) back-breaking injury. Clearly, Johnny Lawrence loves hair metal.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.