In the history of the Evolution series, no American born player has won the most current Street Fighter game since it was called B4 in 2000. It’s been a bloodbath of American Street Fighter players falling to the great Japanese players like Daigo “The Beast” Umehara in Street Fighter IV or Shinya “Nuki” Ohnuki in 3rd Strike. But, 2017 might be the year the impossible happens.
Looking at the current Capcom Cup standings, three American players sit atop the leader boards. Victor “Punk” Woodley is the top dog, Du “NuckleDu” Dang is a close second, and Darryl “Snake Eyez” Lewis is starting to push the other two. These three players are playing a level above the rest of the competition right now and will give America its best shot at an Evo title in years.
History is not on America’s Side
The last real chance came in 2009, when Street Fighter IV was still in its first year. Like the famous ‘Evo Moment: 37’ in 2004, the ballet between Justin Wong and Daigo Umehara in 09’ was one of the most unforgettable sets in fighting game history. Justin pushed Daigo to his limits, but the strength of his unrelenting Ryu carried him to another Evo title. A year later Ricki Ortiz had her shot and in similar fashion, but couldn’t quite get over that hill that was Daigo.
Americans have been close. Real close. But, in the end, the Japanese players have prevailed proving their international fighting game dominance. Justin Wong has four runner ups in Street Fighter. Jason “Afro Cole” Cole did win two consecutive Street Fighter II: Turbo titles, but no other American has sniffed a title.
Meanwhile, even Europe has an Evo title in the past 15 years. In one of the most surprising Saturday and Sunday runs ever, Oliver “Luffy” Hay ran through loser’s bracket to eventually beat the favorite, Masato “Bonchan” Takahashi, and be the first French player to win Evo.
So, if Europe has one, is America just getting an unlucky break each year? Yes and no. It’s tough when players have been close on so many different occasions and not come away with any hardware. But that would be taking away from the Japanese rigorous training and overall talent level to reach their goals. Justin Wong made us believe it’s possible, but now eight years since his loss to Daigo there still hasn’t been much progress made.
The Big Three Americans can Win Evo
Enter 2017, the year that goes against conventional wisdom and has three American pad players dominating the scene. Daigo looks…old. Infiltration is focused on his personal life. Tokido and Momochi have been missing in action. The usual names aren’t putting in the same work. The best Japanese players are getting passed up by this new group of uber-confident, experienced, American born players.
Loud, brash, and cocky is not the archetype the world’s best players fall under in Street Fighter usually. It’s the calm, cool, and collected that win those crucial sets. Punk is changing the entire game, playing on the screen, and with your mind. If players aren’t ready, they will crumble under his intense zoning pressure. Hit one button, whiff, and it could be game over…Oh, and here’s a teabag for your trouble.
The next two have been around a little longer than the young Punk. These two have been around the block. Snake Eyez has been bringing the American crowd to their feet since early in Street Fighter IV’s life cycle. NuckleDu is coming off a 2016, where he won the Capcom Cup, which is almost as unlikely as an American winning Evo.
The three best players were born here, bred and raised here and now give the American fans who have been holding out hope, like delirious Cleveland Browns fans, that one day an American will win an Evo. The big three give Americans three chances to do it. At no other point, have the three undeniable best players been Americans one month before Evo. I haven’t even mentioned other monsters like Bryant “Smug” Huggin or Eduardo “PR Balrog” Perez. So for the love of all things holy, keep the Evo trophy here in the states.
Featured Image courtesy of twitch.tv/evo2k