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EVO 2019: The 5 most memorable moments of the weekend

It was another amazing weekend for fighting games. Shacknews looks back at five of the most memorable moments from EVO 2019.

Header photo credit: Robert Paul

EVO 2019 has wrapped up and the best fighting game players in the world are ready to head home. But for as amazing an experience as this was for live attendees and spectators around the world, this felt like a bit of an odd year for more than a few reasons. It was a weekend of highs and lows. Shacknews is taking some time this Monday to look back at the weekend that was, recalling the five biggest moments of EVO 2019.

Photo credit: Carlton Beener

Dragon Ball FighterZ can only be contained

It's astonishing to see how much Dragon Ball FighterZ fell in the eyes of the folks behind EVO in just the span of a year. One year after setting a new EVO concurrent viewership record during an epic Top 8, Dragon Ball FighterZ was relegated to an unenviable Saturday afternoon slot for 2019. It was seemingly an afterthought, discarded in the wake of a shortened final Sunday.

This did not stop the Dragon Ball FighterZ field from having an amazing Top 8, culminating the only way that it could. It ended with Goichi "GO1" Kushida once again facing off against Dominique "SonicFox" McLean. Yes, it was the same Grand Finals as last year, albeit with different team setups, since the game has changed quite a bit since then.

This looked to be all SonicFox, as he took a commanding 2-0 lead in the first set. There looked to be a bracket reset incoming, but Goichi didn't want to give SonicFox that kind of momentum. More than that, he was determined to avenge last year's Grand Finals loss. So facing that 0-2 deficit, Goichi poured on heavy pressure with Kid Goku, able to come back on his very last character to wipe out SonicFox's entire team to get on the board. SonicFox wasn't able to recover from there, as Goichi completed the reverse sweep to win Dragon Ball FighterZ at EVO 2019.

It was a wild Grand Finals, one that had spectators on the edge of their seats. After it was all over, it was worth asking why DBFZ couldn't have had a prime Sunday slot to share this excitement. Hopefully it makes a big return to the big stage next year.

Photo credit: Robert Paul

SonicFox maintains Mortal Kombat mastery

When it comes to NetherRealm games, there's SonicFox and there's everybody else. While Echo Fox's top fighting game player has branched out to multiple games, it's NetherRealm's library where he succeeds first and foremost. For EVO 2019, he found himself in Grand Finals against good friend and top rival Ryan "Dragon" Walker.

The interesting twist to this story was that these two faced off a month prior at CEO 2019. Dragon had squarely defeated SonicFox with Cetrion earlier in Top 8, easily dispatching Cassie Cage. In an effort to adapt, SonicFox made the switch to Jacqui Briggs, but when that didn't pan out, he went back to Cassie and ran the table to reset and win the Grand Finals.

For the EVO 2019 rematch, both competitors stuck with their characters. But by this point, SonicFox had this matchup fully figured out. SonicFox was even busting out Brutalities for style points. Dragon did his best to keep up, but there was no beating Cassie Cage on this night and SonicFox added another NetherRealm trophy to his mantle.

Going all the way back to the Mortal Kombat reboot, there's been nobody better than SonicFox and while the field has worked to catch up, he's still the clear best in the world.

And if you ever forget, he'll make sure to remind you.

Photo credit: Robert Paul

Street Fighter V hits its low point

Something has to go terribly, terribly wrong for Street Fighter not to main event at EVO. And before Capcom could even ask where things have gone so wrong, Valve gave them an accidental kick to the groin by leaking their big EVO announcement days prior to the tournament. And so Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition made its Sunday afternoon appearance with significantly less fanfare than years prior. It had no big announcement, no momentum, and continues to fall behind other fighters in terms of prestige and hype.

Fortunately, there's nowhere to go now but up. Street Fighter V's Top 8 was preceded by a touching tribute to the series and producer Yoshinori Ono by UpUpDwnDwn's Austin Creed (a.k.a. Xavier Woods of WWE's New Day). Ono had previously indicated that the crushing disappointment of the leak would lead to him skipping his annual address to the crowd, so Creed coaxed Ono into coming out on stage. That led to some fun with an "apology scroll" and a promise of more to come for SFV later this year.

And in continuing the theme of only going up from here, the SFV community came to play. You didn't find a lot of the usual suspects in Top 8 this year, many of them knocked out early in some wild upsets. But in the end, it was a model of consistency in Masato "Bonchan" Takahashi, who returned to the big stage five years after finishing runner-up in Ultra Street Fighter IV to finish the job and walk away the big winner.

That EVO production put up the wrong name during the big moment that a champion was crowned is almost symbolic of how far Street Fighter has fallen. But Capcom Cup is still coming up and the publisher, along with a dedicated team working behing the scenes, will look to regroup and work to bring the series back to its former glory.

Good ass Tekken

On the other end of the spectrum, Tekken 7 only continues to rise to new heights. This year saw over 250,000 viewers witness some of the best Tekken action to come along in a long time. Arguably nothing symbolized the strength of the Tekken player field more than the Losers Finals between Jae Min "Knee" Bae and Hoa "Anakin" Luu. Anakin was inches away from making the Grand Finals, but Knee is a Tekken legend for a reason. Knee was able to reverse sweep from down 0-2 to knock out Anakin and advance to Grand Finals.

But there was one competitor who stood above all of the rest. That was Arslan Ash, out of Pakistan. If you hadn't heard of Arslan Ash, there was a reason for that. The Pakistani player has rarely been able to travel outside of his region to compete in the larger Tekken World Tour. The only official TWT event he had participated in was Thaiger Uppercut, where he won handily.

A relative unknown by those standards, Arslan Ash showed up to EVO 2019 and proceeded to mop the floor with the entire field. Arslan Ash racked up victories over Anakin, Marquis "Shadow 20z" Jordan, Jeannail "Cuddlecore" Carter, Takumi "Noroma" Hamasaki, and yes, Knee, en route to going undefeated for the entire tournament.

Arslan Ash entered EVO 2019 in 42nd place on the Tekken World Tour standings, which will obviously change after last night's victory. Nobody will be sleeping on this Pakistani superstar anymore, as he's now in a good position to compete for the 2019 Tekken World Championship later this year.

MkLeo pulls away from the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate pack

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate got a chance to truly shine in the main event of EVO 2019, marking the culmination of a long journey for the dedicated Smash Bros. community. For many people, it was also their first look at what's mostly a new field of top Smash players. With Gonzalo "ZeRo" Barrios having hung up his hat, there was room for a new dominant player at the top of the mountain. But who would it be?

The emphatic answer to that question looks to be Leonardo "MkLeo" Lopez. MkLeo was knocked into the losers bracket early, having lost to Takuto "Kameme" Ono's Mega Man on Friday. Leo then proceeded to go on a massive tear, destroying anybody that got in his way. His rampage peaked with a Sunday performance that saw him tear through Zackray, Tetsuya "Raito" Ishigura, Ezra "Samsora" Morris, and William "Gluttony" Belaid on his way to the Grand Finals.

Gavin "Tweek" Dempsey had played exceptionally well up to Grand Finals and even looked to have the whole thing won, putting Leo down to his final stock without losing one himself. But you know how these things work when it comes to champions. Leo regrouped, wrecked all three of Tweek's stock on his final one to put himself on the board. Leo didn't let up from there, taking the next two games to reset the bracket and then sweeping the final set 3-0 to win Super Smash Bros. Ultimate with the biggest of exclamation points.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is only just getting started. There are multiple new characters set to join the roster in the months ahead, with Dragon Quest's Hero set to join the legal character roster any day now. This game will look quite different by the time EVO 2020 rolls around, but one thing that will likely remain the same is that MkLeo is the clear best Smash player in the world.

What are your biggest memories of this EVO 2019 weekend? Join the conversation and let us know in the comments.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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