The Evolution Championship series, the Superbowl of fighting games, happened a week ago. I didn’t get to watch the final live because, like most everyone who have seen previous Street Fighter tournaments, PG Punk was going to win this year. Although he’s pretty young and hasn’t been playing fighting game professionally for long, Punk, The Alpha, has become a dominating force in the Capcom Pro Tour scene throughout 2017 with his Karin. Yes, he’s cocky and loves to taunt his opponent during the match. But Punk’s got the gumption and the skill to back it all up.
So, while I watched most of the live streams over the weekend, I didn’t bother to watch the finals live. I figured it didn’t matter because I already knew who was going to win 2017’s Street Fighter V tournament in EVO. Besides, I had things to do… like work and stuff. Sure, it was going to be a big thing, with the United States finally winning EVO against other countries like Japan and South Korea. There was no one that was skilled enough to be The Alpha.
Imagine my surprise when Tokido, the veteran Street Fighter player, won EVO this year! It was a pleasant surprise and I’m glad that he won. His skill at the game isn’t anything to be sneezed at but I didn’t expect him to take EVO. I mean, Tokido has figuratively always been a bridesmaid and never the bride throughout his fighting game career when it came to EVO. He’s always gotten incredibly close to winning the entire thing but he’s always been outplayed by someone else.
I actually couldn’t believe that Punk lost. Like I said, I watched most of the Street Fighter V matches live over the Internet. I didn’t care if it started at 1am over here in the Philippines. I actually love watching the matches live so I watched most of the matches. I even saw the match where Punk booted Tokido to the Losers bracket rather soundly, I might add.
When I heard he won, I didn’t shoot over to watch the Grand Finals match. No, I had to watch the entire thing. Tokido had to battle out of Losers and claw his way with his Akuma to reach Punk, who was sitting comfortably in the Winners bracket. I had to see how good ol’ Murderface managed to take down The Alpha. And, after watching the entire Top 8, I can actually see why Tokido won.
First, you have to understand why Punk calls himself the best. It’s because he is! Ever since breaking into the scene this year, he’s won tournament after tournament without really breaking a sweat. At least, that’s what happened to most of the tournaments he’s entered. But, whenever he does, he loves to do stupid and ridiculous things to get in his opponent’s (and succeeding opponent’s) head. He loves to taunt and even disrespect players by teabagging his foe. You may hate the tactic but, hey, it works! Not only that, he’s able to use Karin with such unfathomable skill that he’ll make a dramatic comeback even when he’s got his back to the ropes.
That’s how Punk normally acts. However, throughout EVO, we got a different version of Punk. Instead of the teabagging, smiling cocksure jokester, viewers were treated to a Punk that was more solemn and serious. This made perfect sense because, well, EVO is the Superbowl of fighting game world, after all. If there was going to be a time for Punk to really get serious, this was it. Also, I’ll bet a lot of people, like myself, felt that The Alpha was going to be the USA’s best bet to finally take home the crown from EVO for Street Fighter, something that’s eluded since forever. However, this was part of the problem, in my opinion, as Punk’s happy-go-lucky personality grated against this state of sobriety. Also, I’ll bet all that extra pressure of everyone thinking that he was going to be the one to break the streak didn’t help.
Now, let’s go look at Tokido. He’s always been called one of the greats in the world of fighting games. He’s always had the skills to win any tournament but he’s never really reached the EVO mountaintop before. Even last year, he was unlucky as he didn’t even make it to Top 8. But last year, you could say Tokido was playing with a handicap. Not because he was playing with Ryu, but because Akuma hadn’t entered the roster of Street Fighter V yet.
Akuma has always been Tokido main character ever since Street Fighter IV rolled out almost a decade ago. But he wasn’t immediately available in Street Fighter V. So, while Tokido was having some success using Ryu, this wasn’t the character he wanted to use. That all changed in Season 2 when The Demon returned in all his glory. Watching Tokido use Akuma in Street Fighter V was glorious, as if he didn’t skip a beat. He was once again pounding fools with The Demon once again. It seemed like this was the thing Tokido was missing. But it didn’t seem like it would be enough to beat Punk because, as I mentioned before, Tokido was actually sent to the Loser’s bracket by The Alpha.
There is one factor that is isn’t visible or easily noticeable, though. That is the experience level. And Tokido has years and years of experience while Punk doesn’t. Tokido has been playing competitively for roughly 2 decades and has been in high pressure situations many, many times. Punk, frankly, has not. In fact, Tokido’s experience with playing competitively is much older than Punk’s age!
While Punk’s been winning tournaments left and right and has come back with some clutch plays, this is still EVO we’re talking about. The atmosphere is different and I don’t think Punk was ready for the pressure of playing on one of the biggest stages in the world and putting the hopes and dreams of the US on his back. And it definitely showed not just during the Grand Finals when Tokido toppled Punk but throughout the entire Top 8. Punk looked nervous and uncomfortable while Tokido managed to let his experience in high pressure situations push him through the entire tournament.
It was definitely a crushing defeat for The Alpha as many people were expecting to take EVO easily because of his past performance. It was a crushing loss for him and you could see it on his face after he lost. Not to take anything away from Tokido as I’m incredibly happy that he finally defeated his demons with his very own Demon, but many people had written him off already. Everyone was expecting some new young kid to take the crown this year and not some veteran like Murderface did.
Punk’s loss may have been a hard one but that’s something he will have to deal with. It’s great that he’s incredibly skilled in the game and he’s already made thousands in prize money. But he’s still very green and he actually needed to love EVO. The loss will only make him stronger. He didn’t need to lose to become humble, though. He needed the loss for the experience of actually feeling a terrible defeat but still have the will to get back up and try again.
And, from the looks of it, Punk will shake it off as he was back to his fun loving self just a couple of days later…
So, ultimately, congrats to Tokido for finally winning EVO. He totally deserved it. And Punk, I hope he keeps his chin up. After all, there are still more tournaments to win. And I hope Punk takes this quote from Street Fighter 1 to heart…
Why do you think Tokido managed to best Punk in this year’s EVO? Let me know in the comments section below!