Gamerbee stings the competition at Japan Cup

Street Fighter tournaments in Japan used to be dominated by Japanese players. That seems to be changing. Vincent Samaco, flickr.com/vsmak

Zowie's Bruce "Gamerbee" Hsiang, 37, continued his astounding Street Fighter V tournament run with a victory at Japan Cup 2016, which qualifies him for the Capcom Cup championship this upcoming Dec. The Taiwanese superstar triumphed in a tournament full of known and secret killers. This marked his fifth straight tournament, in as many weeks, where he achieved a top-three finish.

The tournament, which featured most of the world's best Street Fighter V players, was a two-day bloodbath in the fighting game scene's mecca. There were plenty of surprises out of the 32 pools that were played and many more when the top 64 were whittled down to eight.

Before the action began, the favorites were arguably all from Asia. With a player pool that included names like YOUDEAL's Tatsuya "Haitani" Haitani, Twitch and Red Bull's Daigo "The Beast" Umehara, Razer's Kun "Xian" Ho, and five of the Evolution Championship Series' top eight finishers (Goichi "Go1" Kishida, Fujimura "Yukadon" Atsushi, Hiroyuki "Eita" Nagata, Joe "MOV" Egami, and Alienware's Naoki "Nemo" Nemeto), this was the most stacked tournament since Evo.

The top 64 run to the last eight was littered with upsets. There were plenty of strong players from Street Fighter 4 that made an impact on the brackets. Whether it was Hiroshi "Nishikin" Nishikido's surprising Necalli play (17th place) or top eight finisher Kanamori "Gachikun" Tsunehori's Rashid, it was obvious that there was still plenty of lesser-known players left to be discovered and rediscovered in the latest Street Fighter title. Some of those unknown names, like Takeuchi "John Takeuchi" Ryota, could be the new breed of Street Fighter V top finishers. As for the West, the only American player to finish in the top 20 was Vu "Ranmasama" Tra, a veteran fighting game player with more success in Capcom's crossover series Marvel vs. Capcom than its Street Fighter brand. The results of some of the West's finest should be a harsh wakeup call to the talent looking to take down a Premier Event.

The character tier list for Street Fighter V looks more solidified based off of Japan Cup's results. In the top eight, there were two Cammys and Kens with a roundup of Chun-Li and Karin. It's clear that those characters are among the top of the pyramid with the jury still out for Rashid's rank.

The invasion

Although this was an event in Japan and the majority of the tournament field was Japanese, two foreign names stood out with their finishes. Gamerbee and Team Secret's Lee "Poongko" Chung Gon from Taiwan and South Korea, respectively, occupied the top two spots on the podium. The fact that two non-Japanese took down the top spots for an event of this caliber could signal a sea change. No longer is it a given that a Japanese tournament is dominated by just Japanese names -- it's any country's ballgame.

Their grand finals set was full of distinctive tactics. Gamerbee played an ultra-defensive Necalli that was armed with anti-air uppercuts, standing medium punch buffers and plenty of jab checks. Poongko played a signature style that could only be described as "gambling." These two were evenly matched. When the other attempted to close the gap or corner the opponent, it was met with a reversal, raw v-trigger activation for the screen freeze or just jabs and light button conversions. In the end, Gamerbee wore his opponent down in the final set to take it all.

For Poongko, this was a tournament finish worthy of his sponsorship and a shot at redemption for his Street Fighter V career. Until now, Poongko's only noteworthy tournament placement since Street Fighter V released was not even in a Capcom game -- it was a top eight finish at Evo for Tekken 7.