Best Matches of EVO 2014
Evolution Championship Series

I’ve been watching EVO every year since 2011 when I started to seriously follow competitive gaming, which was also the time when livestreaming became viable through Twitch. EVO has become one of my most awaited times of the year, even more so than Christmas or my birthday (which happens to be on the same month). This year, I’ve compiled some of the best moments that I had been able to catch, whether they’re surprising upsets, absolute blow-ups, or just straight-up hype matches.

Take note that I only followed three games in the main lineup — USF4, UMVC3, and KOF13 (I’m really sorry, but I’m not into Smash). I also included BlazBlue and Killer Instinct since I was able to catch their finals. These moments are listed roughly in chronological order (or close to it), and I’ve done my best to curate each one of them so that you can follow the personalities and storylines that came with the games.

NOTE: These are the ones I got to watch, so it may not be all the hype moments. (Also, I didn’t watch Smash.)

SPOILER ALERT: Most winners are noted in the descriptions. You’ve been warned.

Ultra Street Fighter IV

This is the main fighting game that I follow, so this definitely has the most matches on this list. I’ve been playing Ultra since it came out, so I was really excited to find out which character would look the best and which pro player has adapted best with the update.

Daigo Umehara vs John Choi

It’s the Beast against an American old school legend, and the result was something that should have been on the main stream. Instead, we got this video that was shot “poverty style”, but does makes up for it with the result and the reactions afterwards.

This was in loser’s bracket, so the loser of this match ended up being eliminated from the tournament.

Grandmaster B vs Daigo Umehara

Here’s another Daigo match where he did much better. Grandmaster B is a pretty good Honda, perhaps one of the best in North America alongside Hoodaman and Mike Ross. However, this matchup has never been in Honda’s favor, and he’s going up against the Beast. While it’s not in the same level of swag as his highlight reel of a match against Gamerbee in EVO 2012, it still shows Daigo’s virtuoso skill.

Koji KOG vs XSK Samurai

XSK Samurai plays mostly shoto characters, having mained Ryu prior to Ultra. You can find his matches against the likes of Air and Infiltration on YouTube, and he does hold his own. Meanwhile, it was the first time Koji played in a tournament outside Japan, and he took to it like a duck to water as he put up the swag and played up the crowd.

T. Hawk has become quite viable in Ultra due to having been given a “gun”, which is a much faster Condor Spire that has been wreaking havoc online since release. However, this isn’t just about that buff, but also Koji’s aggressive play. Besides, Evil Ryu is perhaps the most buffed character in Ultra, so it’s all fair and square.

Snake Eyez vs Xian

While Xian is the defending champion, Gen might have become less viable in Ultra. At the same time though, Snake Eyez had become such a force with his Pad-gief throughout the year preceding EVO 2014, and it showed in this match. Seth Killian is right in saying that his Zangief is “beautiful” to watch.

This was a great match between two former EVO champions with their signature characters that went down to the wire. It wasn’t just fireworks, but also smart and tactical play, which made it so tense. In the end, it’s the clutch finish that really made it the best of the night.

Xian vs NGL Chris

Here’s a match where Xian shows a better form, one that he won EVO 2013 with. Meanwhile, NGL Chris is another regular participant in Wednesday Night Fights and is arguably the best Ken in America right now. Facing Xian seemed to be the next step for his development as a player, and he didn’t go down without a fight.

Itabashi Zangief vs Filipino Man

I wanted Itabashi and Snake Eyez to face off in a mirror match, so I was rooting for those Zangief players to do well. As for Filipino Man, I get to watch him every week on Wednesday Night Fights and became a fan of his Rose play.

Despite Itabashi winning this match, Filipino Man showed guts throughout the match by never mentally checking out even when his Rose was about to die, fighting until the very last moment. It shows just how Wednesday Night Fights has helped tremendously to develop its staple players.

(Maybe he should have switched to Poison after all, especially since he just did wake-up ultra anyway.)

Special Team Exhibition: Wednesday Night Fights vs Next Level Battle Circuit

Of course, this was going to be hype since team matches are always fun to watch (Snake Eyez’s breakout moment was from a reverse OCV in Socal Regionals 2014). I watch both WNF and NLBC every Thursday (Manila Time) and have become a fan of both.

This exhibition is definitely for pride and bragging rights, so it was a treat to watch live on stream. On the WNF side, it’s Marq Teddy, Keno, Filipino Man, Velociraptor, and Snake Eyez; on the NLBC side, it’s Zeus, Smug, Sanford Kelly, Sabin (Arturo Sanchez), and Dieminion.

The result wasn’t close though, but the losing team did score one moral victory with a runback.

Snake Eyez vs Fuudo

It’s not really a “hype” match per se, but the confrontation between the best Zangief in America (perhaps the best player in America right now) and the former EVO champion showed the more tactical side of Street Fighter.

This match was a tense footsie battle, with Snake Eyez doing his best to get within Fuudo’s space. However, Fuudo’s strong fundamentals would keep Zangief from getting a grab. It’s also worth noting that Snake Eyez would get impatient and jump forward, which Fuudo usually punishes with Flame Kick.

It turned out to be a Fei Long clinic by Fuudo, showing how to be patient and still be effective against a dangerous grappler. Whenever he does do something careless though, that’s when Zangief would get a chance to do big damage. However, as time wound down, Snake Eyez got more desperate and Fuudo was able to get the last timeout victory to send the American to loser’s bracket.

Ricky Ortiz vs Sako

To make up for the previous item, here’s two notoriously aggressive players who battled on the big stage. While much hype was built upon Daigo’s Evil Ryu prior to the event, Sako had played that character before Ultra came out, and he also plays Ibuki. It was the vortex game of the last remaining Japanese god against Ricky’s fierce rushdown Rufus.

They say that Ricky plays better when he’s angry. Not sure if that was the case in this match, but he did outplay Sako here.

Snake Eyez vs Ricky Ortiz

America did not want this at all — their two chickens having to take each other out. They’ve faced each other before, especially in the team battle that made Snake Eyez famous.

This time, Ricky had to play more cautiously as Zangief does have an advantage in this matchup. It seemed like he was getting the anti-Zangief tech for Rufus, as if he’s playing more like his teammate Justin Wong for this match. However, Snake Eyez would always find a way to get in and get the damage.

Snake Eyez vs Louffy

It’s yet another match to determine who would remain as the last hope of the western hemisphere against the Japanese contingent. Louffy had been the other breakout player in this EVO, but also more of the dark horse while Snake Eyez had been the overwhelming favorite. Louffy’s Rose would prove to be quite a problem for Snake Eyez.

Rose already has plenty of tools against Zangief, but it was Louffy’s play that ties it all together. Snake Eyez had to work towards punishing a mistake and taking over momentum from there. These factors made for a tense back-and-forth affair that went to the very last round.

Louffy vs Fuudo

This match is all about Louffy. It’s true that Rose has an advantage against Fei Long, but this one was being played by the EVO 2011 champion. However, Louffy just couldn’t be stopped by anyone in this event at all, like he has captured his lightning in a bottle. This sealed the deal for a new EVO champion this year.

Louffy vs Bonchan

Few had expected the dark horse to reach the grand finals, and a Pad-Rose no less. For those who didn’t know who Louffy was, they were definitely no longer ignorant of his existence. So it’s either a Sagat or a Rose who would become this year’s champion, two characters that may not be described as “top tier” by most players. But then again, a Gen player was last year’s champion. (Ultra Sagat isn’t exactly like Vanilla Sagat)

Rose actually has an advantage in this matchup, and it showed as Louffy reset the bracket. From there, it was anyone’s game as Bonchan stuck with Sagat and started to get his game going. But whenever he made a mistake, Louffy jumps on it hard and pulls ahead in no time, so Bonchan’s zoning game had to be perfect.

However, the European player with the European character proved to be too good. He had that Sagat’s number, and he ran with the advantage. For the first time in Street Fighter IV, a non-Asian became EVO champion (Nevermind the fact that Louffy is of Asian descent, he’s still French).

Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom

This is a game that I really enjoy watching, but have no idea on how to play. I understand the basics and recognize the technologies employed by the pro players, but my hands can’t understand how this game works. It’s a bit odd for a Guilty Gear player to not be able to play Marvel, but that’s just me.

Apologyman vs TA Wolf

This one is from the pools, and there’s no other words to describe this but “Triple Perfect”. Apologyman has gained quite a reputation due to his unique Firebrand-Skrull-Doom team. As Skisonic would point out later on, it’s an all-or-nothing team, which means that it’s all about maintaining momentum through perfect execution.

TA Wolf also has an unorthodox team, with Haggar on point for some big damage and ways to spoil the opponent’s day. However, Firebrand put him on the defensive, showing that the one who sets the pace first would get the decisive advantage, and it was very decisive for Apologyman.

Filipino Champ vs Apologyman

It’s Apologyman again, but he got smacked back down to earth in this match by the EVO 2012 champion. Fchamp pulled out the Morrigan-Doom-Magneto team to counter the Firebrand team, which wasn’t his usual Magneto-Doom-Phoenix/Dormammu that won him his championship two years ago. He most likely had something specific in mind as Apologyman’s team is well-known for being “cheap”.

Firebrand’s antics in the opening were spoiled by Morrigan’s Soul Fists. It seemed that the best game plan for Fchamp is to not go in and play keep-away to force Apologyman to make mistakes. Fchamp deviated from that in the second and third games, which resulted in Apologyman going up 2 games to 1.

What happened in the fourth game was what made this match so hype, and Fchamp was able to hang on and force the fifth game. It was just as tense in the final moments, but Fchamp was able to use his experience to come up with a clutch performance to win the match, and Apologyman was definitely not happy about it.

Marn vs Chris G

Martin Phan, someone who has been on so many of other players’ highlight reels, is a good Marvel player in his own right. He tried his hand on managing an eSports team, having a League of Legends roster and sponsoring Wolfkrone at one point, but then had to close shop. It may seem that he’s no longer in good fighting shape. But on this particular Saturday, he was Murder Marn.

It’s worth noting that Marn was playing sick with Henoch–Schönlein Purpura. He entered Top 8 finals looking terrible on stream and not being able to clench his fist, as well as suffering from burning pains in his joints. Despite that, he showed up and put up a fight in the runback against Chris G, who proceeded to 3-0 him.

But in any case, reaching Top 8 when most didn’t count on him to show such form is still quite the accomplishment. It was the best form that Marn has shown in Marvel for quite a while.

Insaynne vs Goldenboy NEO

The last match for the first day of Marvel was for the last spot in Top 8. It’s Insaynne’s Nova-Spencer team against NEO’s Phoenix team. It’s through perfect execution with Spencer that enabled Insaynne to win the match and reach Top 8. His reaction after the match says it all.

Filipino Champ vs Justin Wong

Face versus heel matchup here with their classic teams. Justin had a simple plan — take out Phoenix as soon as possible. In the first game, it was a mistake on Fchamp’s part, while it was more of Justin forcing the issue in the second game. However, Fchamp’s Doom kept it from getting to a quick 2-0 for Justin.

The third game saw Justin do a brilliant move with the snapback on Phoenix with a pixel of life on Level 5 meter, which let him get the timeout win. He showed that he can outlame the lamer (he had been doing that longer, since Marvel 2). Fchamp evened it out though, so it got to the last game.

The last game was nothing short of amazing. Just when Fchamp got Dark Phoenix out after capitalizing on a mistake, Justin pulled out the Wong Factor and sends Fchamp to losers.

Filipino Champ vs Chris G

Why would I include this one here, this battle of the lamazoids? It was just interesting to see how Filipino Champ worked to shake off the salt after just losing to Justin Wong in such a dramatic fashion. Chris G was in top form, so Fchamp had to change things up, which he did by breaking out Dormammu in the second game.

From there, it was just a matter of who was cheaper and lamer. In this case, it was Chris G, who has finally reached an EVO Grand Final after being the most hated man in Marvel for years.

Justin Wong vs Chris G

It was Marvel 3’s savior-to-be against public enemy number one. That Morrigan loomed over the whole venue like a harbinger of all things evil, and it was up to Justin with Storm on point to stop her. Since Chris G was coming from the loser’s bracket, Jwong only has to take 3 games to win the whole thing. It was just a matter of focus.

The aerial mobility gave Justin an advantage against Chris’ infamous Morrigan, being able to defend against the Soul Fist shenanigans and take advantage of openings. While Chris G still posed a threat, Justin had been in high pressure situations so many times that he was able to thrive amid the stress.

The Marvelous One has reclaimed his throne.

Killer Instinct

I have not played this game at all; neither I or my friends own an Xbox One, and I’ve only played a minimal amount of Killer Instinct on the SNES. I’ve watched quite a few KI tournaments in the past few months, so I was able to get familiar enough with the gameplay and characters to understand what goes on.

I have to admit that it’s hard to not like watching this game. Even though it’s flashy as hell, you can see just how important fighting game fundamentals are here. But what I like best here is the music; I kept watching mostly because of the combination of the action and the music.

CDJR vs Justin Wong

Justin Wong comes in as the favorite to win the whole tournament, but CDjr made use of Sadira’s keep-away to keep Jwong’s Sabrewulf from getting in with damaging short combos. With smart and patient play, CDjr sent Jwong to losers.

Justin Wong vs MyGod88

This was a literal dog fight between two of the best Sabrewulf players, each with a different play style. Justin Wong is a more tactical and defensive player, while MyGod88 is all about taking risks and going nuts with big damage. Being a losers bracket match, both were going in with an all-or-nothing mindset.

It seemed that MyGod’s constant pressure was making his opponent tilt a bit and commit mistakes, but Jwong got it together and was able to clutch it.

Justin Wong vs Rico Suave

Rico just got knocked down to losers, and he has to recollect himself immediately after and face Justin Wong and his Sabrewulf. He did so by picking Glacius, which seemed to do the trick as he was able to outpoke Justin’s poking style.

CDJR vs Rico Suave (Grand Finals)

Before they played each other, CDJR hugged his friend and training partner. But after that, he had to destroy his friend.

Rico had his Thunder beaten convincingly by CDJR earlier, and Fulgore wouldn’t be of much help either. His only chance was to find a counter against his friend’s Sadira, like what he did against Justin Wong. That’s when he picked Jago, which got the commentators confused for a moment. Perhaps his fireballs and uppercut could help fight against Sadira’s aerial game.

However, it didn’t do much good as CDJR found a way to fight back against Jago. He then picked Sabrewulf as yet another counter, and it did seem like it was going to work. However, mistakes and counter breakers kept Rico from being able to reset the bracket.

CDJR’s reaction showed just how much it meant for him to win it all in this game.

BlazBlue Chronophantasma

I only got to catch some of the Top 8, so the only super hype moment I got to catch was the finals. It was perhaps the most hype moment for this game. I’m not really that big of a fan of BlazBlue due to the character designs, and I also don’t like how it’s just a substitute for Guilty Gear (my best game).

However, with the release of Chronophantasma, my mind is starting to change and I’ve become interested in picking it up. The following EVO moment has convinced me that BlazBlue is not garbage at all.

Garireo vs Dogura

I saw Garireo get sent to losers, and he really looked devastated. Being able to shake that off and work to reach the grand finals, then get the reset and take it all the way showed his tremendous heart and mental fortitude, which are the traits of a great competitor.

You could just see how much it meant for him to bring it back and find a way to win, especially against Dogura’s gorilla-like Azrael. He made the most of his Litchi’s capabilities and was able to successfully take the hard road to victory.

What he pulled off is nothing short of inspirational, and he definitely deserved that hard-fought win and the championship.

The King of Fighters XIII

While Ultra Street Fighter IV is my main game, the KOF series is a more integral part of my childhood. I played KOF 98 and other SNK titles constantly on emulator (namely on NEO RAGE X and WinKawaks) all the way through high sChool. It’s a hard game though, but really fun to watch.

Many would argue that KOF will never be as hype as it was back in EVO 2012 and it was all downhill from there. Perhaps it was kind of true; EVO 2013 was still pretty hype for KOF13, but was nowhere near the same level of energy. Then this year, it got demoted to having their Top 8 Finals on the second day instead of the last. As for the matches, they were alright, but there was little to no hype to be had. ()

It’s kind of sad, but at least KOF14 is coming, and this grand finals was actually fun to watch.

Tokido vs Xiaohai

Tokido didn’t do that well in Street Fighter this year, but he has somehow had a second life in KOF. He won in Southeast Asia Majors just a few weeks ago, and he had now reached grand finals here in EVO. Most people were rooting for him; they wanted Murderface to win an EVO.

They looked kind of even at first since they both have EX Iori on point, but the Chinese player then started to gain an edge. Tokido even had the Chin that perplexed Xian in SEA Majors, but Xiaohai seemed ready with a riposte at every turn.

Through it all, even when Tokido got the reset and was so close to winning, Xiaohai took it instead. But despite not playing out as most would have hoped, it was still one hell of a match. (Tokido also just released his autobiography. Here’s to waiting for a translation.)

Conclusion

It has been such a great EVO, the best one in a while. The thing about past EVOs is that some of the Top 8’s would be hype, while others may be a bit lackluster due to the players that get that far and what the fans wanted to see. I do think that this one saw a greater percentage of big moments than in the past, but perhaps that’s just me still coming down from the high.

In any case, here’s to next year’s EVO hype.

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