Final Round XX, the first Street Fighter V premier event of the Capcom Pro Tour 2017 season, debuted this past week in Atlanta. The leaderboards were stacked and the metagame had shifted to uncharted territories, but the grand finals ended up being a grapple between Team Razer's Kun "Xian" Ho and Team Grapht's Keita "Fuudo" Ai, with Xian ultimately taking home the win 3-1.
Are rivalries back? Fighting games need rivalries and Street Fighter V is no exception. With rivalries, passions are ignited and pride becomes a greater prize than money. Street Fighter V at Final Round XX would not be as memorable without arguably the best post-game celebration, or "pop-off" in recent memory.
Xian may have won the tournament, but the rivalry between Kenneth "KBrad" Bradley and Joshua "Wolfkrone" Philpot was on full display in Atlanta. Whether it was their online interactions, disrespectful displays post-match, or indirect shots at one another, this was a rivalry between two players with no room for love. Although the match was quick and anti-climactic, the aftermath was not. KBrad stood in front of Wolfkrone for almost 30 seconds and stared him down until the latter offered a temporary peace offering in the form of a handshake. That moment exemplified the grit, the excitement, the painstaking rivalries that the fighting game community was founded on.
The Top 8 was a refreshing departure from the typically narrow metagame, fielding five different characters: Rainbow Mika, Ibuki, Guile, Akuma, Zangief, Cammy and Laura. With the new season of changes, the majority of the characters on the final day were mix-up heavy, playing at a frenetic pace.
Xian was the true king of the tournament with his new character, Ibuki. The Singaporean player also made a splash with F.A.N.G., but the immediate impact of his new choice was undeniable. With a dominating victory in the grand finals and an overall impressive showing throughout the tournament, Xian entered the conversation as the best player in the world to kick off the new season.
There were plenty of fantastic showings at Final Round XX, but few compared to the breakout performance of Korean up-and-comer, Kong "Verloren" Hyungsuk. Despite a loss against Evil Geniuses' KBrad in a Cammy mirror match, Verloren, one of the players in the formidable Korean trio of Park "Xyzzy" Han-Byul and Sim "NL" Geon, made sure that the world was on the lookout for a new global Street Fighter power.
Three players made their comeback with a Top 8 finish: Xian, DetonatioN Gaming's Hiromiki "Itabashi Zangief" Kumada and Winterfox' Gustavo "801 Strider" Romero. For Itabashi Zangief, this was an overdue premier appearance. His signature offense with Zangief made him a legitimate matchup nightmare for anyone opposite of him and his high placing at Final Round XX was just the beginning. As for 801 Strider, this was a return to top form that was two years in the making. After a quiet 2016, the Utah pro was in prime form with a buffed-up Laura that looked eerily like his soul-crushing Abel in Street Fighter IV. It's up to him to continue the momentum, but a Top 5 finish at a premier is a great start.