Over the weekend, talent was abundant in Boston for the Smash Wii U event at Shine 2017. Shining star Gonzalo "ZeRo" Barrios was in attendance, along with a myriad of other top professionals looking to snatch the title from the Chilean favorite.
Despite the ever-increasing level of talent present, ZeRo defended his Shine title in dominant fashion. That isn't to say, however, that the quarrel for and during top 8 was all peaches and cream. In fact, 19-year old Gavin "Tweek" Dempsey had something of a breakout performance as he battled his way through losers' to face ZeRo in the grand finals.
For all competitors, the path leading to the grand finals was one marked by a handful of some memorable, and sometimes heartbreaking moments. We detail some of the them below.
Light, the defender
Everyone loves hometown heroes. Shine 2016 saw Rhode Islanders Tyler "Marss" Martins and Jacob "Craftis" Barrios make top 8, so it was expected to see a local or two place high once more.
While both Marss and Craftis performed admirably again, placing 13th and 33rd respectively, it was Connecticut's Paris "Light" Ramirez's 9th place finish that stole the show. A Fox specialist ranked 2nd on the New England power ranking, he was knocked into the lower bracket by Evolution 2017 champion Saleem "Salem" Young. This signaled the beginning of a solid run, as he took out the likes of Erik "Mr. E" Weber, Jacob "JK" Johnson and James "VoiD" Makekau-Tyson before finally losing to PGR top 6 player Larry "Larry Lurr" Holland.
Light's performance this weekend proves that New England is in no shortage of high-level players, and that we shouldn't be surprised to see more of him moving forward.
Tweek tears through, but ZeRo dominates
In terms of results, Tweek's summer has been his best one yet. The New Jerseyite-turned-Ohioan Cloud specialist has been a paragon of consistency as of late, having placed 4th at Evolution 2017 and 1st at Low Tier City 5. It was a near given to see him ranked near the best, something that almost didn't happen.
After a nail-biter Game 5 set with Elliot "Ally" Carroza-Oyarce in the winners side of top 48, Tweek was sent into the lower bracket early. Undaunted, he went through gauntlets of solid threats like Rasheen "DarkWizzy" Rose and Brian "Cosmos" Kalu to make it into top 8.
It was clear that he was in the zone at that point. He proceeded to win all but a single game against a laundry list of PGR top 10 players that included Leonardo "MKLeo" Perez, PGR Nairoby "Nairo" Quezada and Larry Lurr in top 8 on his road to the grand finals. He had all the momentum in the world going for him, but he was up against someone under similar circumstances: ZeRo.
Up until that moment, ZeRo had only suffered two game losses throughout the entire tournament. Both Tweek and ZeRo were on even ground for much of their bout, with the former winning the first game; however, ZeRo eventually clutched the rest of the set out 3-1.
ZeRo prevailed once more this weekend, and seems to again be steering the wheel of competitive Smash Wii U. Time and time again he presents himself as an impenetrable fortress, but as history shows us, things are constantly subject to change.
If there are four competitors that have the ability to take ZeRo down, it's Nairo, Tweek, MKLeo and Salem. These are arguably his greatest threats. Can he remain on his mountain peak, or will one of these players strike back with a vengeance next time they meet?