I remember seeing The Karate Kid in middle school and hoping I could be nearly as cool and as good at karate as Daniel LaRusso. Okay, maybe I would've preferred to have all the glory without all the ass-kickings he took to get there, but still, he was generally a guy that I wanted to be.
Now as an adult watching Cobra Kai, I'm glad I'm nothing like Daniel LaRusso. This may be a hot take but in the first two seasons of the series I've learned that he is the absolute worst, and seeing him in action as an adult doesn't make it that hard for me to root for "bad guy" Johnny Lawrence.
Daniel Held Onto The Feud With Johnny Lawrence Too Long
We all hold our grudges in life, but Daniel LaRusso holding onto his feud with Johnny Lawrence for decades is a bit much. These guys squared off over 30 years ago over the course of one school year, and Daniel won that feud and had a great karate career afterward! He really has no reason to be petty all these decades later, and yet he's still harboring such hatred in his heart for this man so long after the fact. I get that Johnny was a pain in the ass, but how can you really be so angry when you came out on top?
Daniel Kicking Robby Out Before The Championship Was Too Much
I get that tensions were running high when Daniel was blindsided by the fact that his student and houseguest Robby Keene was Johnny's son, but kicking him out of the house for that was a step too far. Perhaps if he had talked it out with Robby before the All-Valley Under-18 Karate Championship, Robby could've gone into the tournament with a clearer head and avoided that cheap shot by Hawk. Obviously I don't have a crystal ball that predicts the outcome of fictional events, but I won't sit here and act like I think the falling out between Daniel and Robby didn't play a role in the situation.
Daniel's Efforts To Ruin Johnny's New Cobra Kai Are Petty
I can accept the fact that Daniel LaRusso can actively dislike the way Cobra Kai teaches its students karate and want to give another way for teens to learn martial arts. What I cannot accept are the lengths he went to damage the business or prevent it from running, even when he knew Johnny Lawrence wasn't living the best life. Trying to convince the landlord not to keep him in business and keep Johnny's team out of the tournament was ridiculous, though thankfully others realized that as well.
He Dumped A Lot Of Work On His Wife Pursuing A Passion Project
Credit to Cobra Kai for making this a plotline in Season 2, because one of the first things I noticed when Daniel started putting so much time into Miyagi-Do was that he was leaving Amanda with all the work at the car dealership. He had the money that he could have brought somebody in to look over the dojo while he attended to his livelihood rather than forcing Amanda to pick up his slack. At the very least he could've held classes after business hours or hired contractors to remodel the school! Daniel should've had a better plan for starting the karate dojo that didn't make his work a burden on others, end of story.
He's Weaponizing Teens To Settle A Feud
It should also be pointed out that Miyagi-Do was explicitly created by Daniel LaRusso to combat the impact Cobra Kai was having on the kids in Los Angeles. And really, it's not like Cobra Kai was setting the world on fire. Sure, the numbers jumped when Miguel won the All-Valley tournament, but it's not like there was really a demand for another karate dojo in the same school district. In fact, Daniel ended up poaching some of Johnny's students, so once again, it was just a petty move. Even pettier that he turned these kids against Cobra Kai which culminated into a massive fight at the high school that he should take some responsibility for.
Daniel Has A Superiority Complex
I've been dancing around this statement for a couple of entries now, and I can't hold it in anymore. Daniel LaRusso has a superiority complex, but not in a way that's inherently obvious. In Season 1 of Cobra Kai, he's the man with a wife, a nice house, and a successful business. And yet, part of the reason I think he's so passionate about going up against Johnny Lawrence is that he's partially jealous at the success Johnny has, and the renewed passion he has inspired for karate. Daniel has it all, but it's not enough, and I think it wounds him at first that he can't get fully into the world of karate again as Johnny did.
Daniel Is Too Soft On Samantha
I won't say that Daniel is necessarily easy on his daughter Samantha, but I will say that he lets his daughter off kind of easy compared to some of the ways he's alienated and played with Robby's feelings. I guess as a dad I can understand the soft spot for his daughter, but it's not like hanging out with Robby was the reason she drank. And while Johnny wasn't necessarily in the right for letting her crash at his place, there weren't very many other options. All I'm saying is I think Samantha got off a little easy, and that Daniel put too much on Robby and Johnny in that situation.
The Crane Kick Was Illegal
Look, I know I shouldn't drudge up the past on a feature that calls out Daniel LaRusso for not letting go of a decades-long feud, but this is perhaps the biggest reason why he is the worst. Daniel built his reputation, his business, and his prominence in the community all on a win that shouldn't have happened. As Johnny Lawrence pointed out in Cobra Kai, the crane kick Daniel performed in The Karate Kid was an illegal move, and he should've been disqualified for performing it. Instead, he was given the win and a path to success while Johnny's life fell apart.