Stephen “Sajam” Lyon, ELEAGUE
This weekend ELEAGUE will kick off its first ever TEKKEN 7 competition, the TEKKEN Team Takedown. TEKKEN 7 has had a storybook-style year since its release last June, and consistently delivered incredible events everywhere it’s featured at. It has been fascinating to follow, as the game has completely eclipsed its reputation from being a game people considered a break in a busy event lineup, to an absolute must-watch at every tournament. With the inclusion of round-ending slow-mo finishes, decade long rivalries, and incredible competition around the globe, TEKKEN 7 has everything needed for viewers of all levels and interest to enjoy.
The format for this weekend’s TEKKEN Team Takedown is something I’ve been hoping to see in the US for a long time. Internationally, there are a number of fantastic team-oriented events for fighting games, like Cooperation Cup, Master Cup, TEKKEN Crash, and the now-retired SBO series. Domestically, the US hasn’t had the massively entered or prestigious team style events that are popular overseas. Team formats always end up creating tense moments and give the fighting game community a rare opportunity to watch teamwork from players. If any modern fighting game has shown why the team format is so great for the genre, it’s certainly TEKKEN 7, with Master Cup’s finals being one of the most incredible finishes in fighting game history. With that said, this weekend’s competition features some of the strongest in the country, and a lot of history between them.
Jimmy J Tran, known as Mr. Naps by many, is far and away the first person on everybody’s mind coming into this event. Jimmy is considered to be the strongest player in the country, and recently finished 2nd to Korea’s JDCR at NorCal tournament Strongstyle. In 2017, Jimmy didn’t travel to compete in the US region’s Tekken World Tour all year long. Instead, he chose to enter only the final 2 events of the year, winning them both, and securing his spot in the Tekken World Tour finals where he ended up in 7th place. Jimmy J Tran is far and away considered the most deadly player in this competition, and will be the X factor for whatever team he ends up on.
Next is Hoa “Anakin” Luu, an Atlanta native who has consistently been one of the strongest American performers. Recently picked up as a Red Bull athlete, Anakin is a TEKKEN vet with a solid and very consistent play style. Anakin is one of the 4 captains for this draft, so it’ll be interesting to see if he tries to assemble the strongest possible lineup, or more wildcard style players that might round out his team. Unlike many of the other competitors, Anakin didn’t actually compete in this year’s Strongstyle, so many haven’t seen him play in tournament since the Tekken World Tour Finals, where he finished 9th.
Known as the “Mouth of the South” Pokchop is one of the most interesting players participating this weekend. Pokchop is not only a TEKKEN veteran, but is one of the loudest trash talkers in the entire fighting game community. There is zero doubt this Atlanta crowd will join him in heckling whomever his team is playing against, since Pokchop is another one of the 4 captains.
The other 2 captains for this event are NYC’s Fab, and the Midwest’s Cuddle Core. Fab is an old school TEKKEN player, an EVO finalist, and as solid as they come. He is less traveled in recent years compared to many of the younger players now that he’s a family man, but his experience will be key. Cuddle Core, on the other hand, is a younger player and one of the stronger Ling players in the US. She has placed very well domestically, and has a big opportunity to step up and compete with the best the country has to offer. Most important, for all of these captains, is where they end up in the draft order, and how their teams get assembled after (presumably) Jimmy J Tran is selected first.
TEKKEN 7 has had a ton of incredible events, but until recently international competition has shined brighter than many of the strong players in the USA. With this event, there is an opportunity for the best of the best to show off their skills domestically in a nontraditional formal. There is so much history and talent deep in the TEKKEN scene, and I’m looking forward to everyone showing off what they’ve got this weekend at ELEAGUE.