A History of The Big House Pt. 1

This weekend, Super Smash Bros. Melee fans will see arguably the most exciting major of the year. With almost all of Melee It On Me’s active Top 100 players from last year coming to this event, including a possibility of Leffen making his highly anticipated return to the United States, make no mistake: The Big House 6 has potential to be the tourney of the year.

That’s not to insult majors like EVO and CEO – along with Apex in the past – but you could argue that The Big House’s reputation in excellent organization, consistent presence over the last six years and primary emphasis on Melee (and other smash games)  makes it the premier tournament of 2016. Only GENESIS and Pound come close in terms of history, smash centricity and prestige, but no tournament has a combination of the three while having a reputation for excellent TOing like The Big House.

In today’s Smash History article, I’ll be taking a look at The Big House’s history – how one underrated Midwest regional series essentially became the equivalent of Melee’s Masters.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This article will focus mainly on Melee singles.)

The Big House
October 22, 2011
118 Melee entrants

Before The Big House became known for being a guaranteed lock for at least a thousand entrants, it had humble beginnings. Robin “Juggleguy” Harn was already a well-respected tournament organizer within the Midwest, but after running several successful SWEET tourneys, along with being a prominent member of University of Michigan’s smash club, he went for something a bit bigger, pun intended.

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115 entrants doesn’t sound like a big deal now, but back in 2011, any tournament drawing those numbers could bring in talent from other regions. Along with almost all of the Midwest’s finest, The Big House in 2011 featured players like Lovage S2J, SFAT, tafokints, KirbyKaze, Unknown522, Violence and others coming to invade.

As far as how the tournament was ran, Juggleguy started by running 16 pools of seven or eight players, with the top three advancing to a final 48-man bracket. In case you’re curious about the pools for this event, you can see them here.

Here’s another fact about the first Big House: it was part of a “Road to Apex” circuit, where each region held a different tournament to give $100 to its highest placing in-region player. The circuit also rewarded members of each tournament’s top eight with points, which would be used for seeding priority at Apex 2012, the first major of the next year. The biggest question entering the tournament was simple: could the once-vaunted region of the Midwest defend its turf from its Californian and Canadian invaders?

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Top 8
1. Lovage
2. S2J
3. VanZ
4. KirbyKaze
5. Unknown522/Duck
7. RaynEX/Weon-X

Although Southern California took the tournament’s top two spots, one of the tournament’s most inspiring runs came from the hometown Michigan favorite: Duck, then a rising Samus player. After defeating Weon-X, SFAT and Dart! to make it to winners’ semifinals, Duck played against Lovage, a guy who was arguably Melee’s sixth best player by the end of 2011. While Duck lost the set 3-1, he also had one of the most exciting moments of the tournament.

Another Midwest hero, VanZ, then an Ohio Peach and Sheik player (with a Young Link secondary), tore through winners, beating Frootloop, ORLY, Idea and upsetting Unknown522 en route to winners finals, where he played Lovage. VanZ went up 2-1 in the set and even four-stocked him in game two, but ultimately lost  3-2 and dropped losers’ finals to S2J 3-1.

Speaking of which, after being sent to losers early by Unknown522, S2J went on a rampage. He made his way through the Toronto and Midwest guantlet, defeating Tink, RaynEX, Duck, KirbyKaze (3-0’ing him in Captain Falcon vs. Sheik, then thought of as a natural counterpick to Captain Falcon) and VanZ. By the time S2J was ready to play Lovage, it seemed all but guaranteed that the SoCal Captain Falcon would win the first ever Big House, considering what was at the time a 4-0 head to head record in S2J’s favor for the year.

But Lovage held on, winning the set 3-1 and concluding a bracket where he also defeated KirbyKaze. His victory spawned unprecedented Lovage hype, where people wondered if this tournament was going to be the start of his ascent to godhood. For newer players, this sounds ridiculous, but during the same year, Lovage also had wins over Hungrybox, Mango (albeit sandbagging) and Wobbles.

Does this mean Lovage could win The Big House 6? Probably not, but his bracket run at the first Big House certainly stands as a notable start to what might be Melee’s most iconic smash-centric major. Either way,  with him attending this year’s Big House, I’m personally rooting for the return of “Peak Lovage.”

The Big House 2
October 6-7, 2012
128 Melee entrants

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Having already ran a success in 2011, Juggleguy continued the tournament series for another year. The overall number of entrants at The Big House 2 may not show that much of an increase, but the name recognition of people involved in the series certainly meant a lot. Ever hear of Mango and Hungrybox? How about VGBootcamp, who streamed the tournament’s bracket matches?

Once again a qualifying tournament for “the Road of Apex” (Apex 2013), The Big House 2 ran over the course of two days, to allow Midwest competitors to drive back home early on Sunday. It didn’t hurt that the tournament’s venue was changed  from a function room called the Michigan Room at UMich’s North Campus to Pierpoint Commons, which was in the center of campus, located near several food stops, computer labs and lounges.

(On another fun note, The Big House 2 also was probably Project M’s second mainstream appearance at a top-caliber regional after FC Legacy. Metroid1117, who played Ike, won the tournament, defeating Mango in grand finals and placing over Hungrybox, Nintendude, Fly Amanita, Kels, MattDotZeb and Strong Bad in its top eight. I digress though – back to Melee.)

Top 8
1. Mango
2. Hungrybox
3. Fly Amanita
4. SFAT
5. Unknown522/KirbyKaze
7. Chillin/Frootloop

Outside of a solid national breakout from Frootloop, a Wisconsin Falco at the time who beat Lovage, lost a close 2-1 to Chillin and then beat Slox, Duck and Westballz en route to seventh-place, it’s hard to mince words here: the Midwest got destroyed. Sorry, Juggleguy.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: How did I forget to finish a section about Hanky Panky? Thank you to Reddit poster “randyfkn” for bringing up the Ohio Peach, who beat Westballz, Scar and Duck, just losing to Mango and SFAT for eighth?)

That didn’t mean the tournament lacked hype. In fact, the winners semifinals set between Unknown and Hungrybox was the highlight of the tournament. Here, Unknown went up 2-1, even defeating Hungrybox on Dreamland, before barely losing game four, partially due to a powershielded crouch cancelled upsmash, which almost would have certainly won him the set. The two then battled for another game until last stock, where Unknown missed a tech on a platform, getting Hungrybox the classic last stock rest that he’s so known for today.

Some other memorable moments from the tournament were the defending champion Lovage’s surprisingly disappointing 17th place finish (losing to Frootloop and Trail), along with SFAT’s redemption-filled fourth place with a victory against Unknown after being sent to losers by him. Fly Amanita’s losers bracket run to third place, with wins over Trail, Frootloop, KirbyKaze and SFAT, was also noteworthy.

After Mango won grand finals, it was clear that The Big House was more than just a well-run regional. Its second over iteration brought two gods and a new level of production to its streaming. The Big House 3 was all but guaranteed to be even bigger.

The Big House 3
October 12-13, 2013
172 entrants

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Once again, The Big House series grew in hype, garnering itself appearances from three gods, Dr. PeePee, Mew2King and Hungrybox. Just in case that wasn’t enough, The Big House 3 also had Hax, PewPewU, SFAT (for the third year in a row) and even Kage the Warrior – all big names from other regions who, perhaps, could give the gods a challenge. Hell, even Wife showed up.

This time, however, the tournament didn’t take place at the University of Michigan. Once again streamed VGBootcamp, The Big House 3 also took place in the Hilton Garden Inn, which was then one of the most highly rated hotels of 2013. According to Juggleguy’s 2013 Smashboards post, made in the summer, the venue was twice as big as the venue of The Big House. Other than wobbling being banned for the third year in a row, a controversial decision at the time, there was every reason to be thrilled about The Big House 3.

It’s also interesting to note that registration for this tournament started as early as August, showing that The Big House was no longer just a big regional with out-of-region names. The series now had business-like planning, putting an emphasis on efficiency, planning and long-term growth.  If you were a smasher who couldn’t afford to travel to EVO in the summer, The Big House 3 seemed like the Fall Classic (and not that Fall Classic!) to attend.

Top 8
1. Mew2King
2. Hungrybox
3. Dr. PeePee
4. SFAT
5. Hax/Nintendude
7. PewPewU/Darkatma

There were several intriguing moments from this tourney – Hungrybox had one of the most iconic moments from the tournament when he began rapping along to Yeezus while playing against Dr. PeePee in an intense losers finals set. Nintendude also had a solid upset over PewPewU in top eight (despite no wobbling allowed), while PikaChad upset Scar and Kels during his ninth place run.

Don’t be fooled though: the biggest storyline was Mew2King’s joyous victory, with him vanquishing his demons in Hungrybox and Dr. PeePee. During his epic Marth ditto game two against Dr. PeePee in winners semifinals, you can hear an animated Scar yell “heartbreak incoming” to Mew2King fans, before Mew2King clutched the game out. Here’s a few facts that support how unlikely it was for him to win the tournament:

– According to Smash History’s RetroSSBMRank articles, Mew2King hadn’t won a tournament with two or more other attending top five players since EVO West in 2007.
– Mew2King hadn’t ever won a tournament featuring two or more other “gods.” For reference, even Jman had done it at Don’t Go Down There Jeff.
– From 2011 to 2012, Mew2King was 10-18 against Top 10 players from each year (not just gods!), also holding a 2-6 record against Dr. PeePee since the start of Zenith 2012 grand finals and a seven-set losing streak (0-7 since Zenith 2011) against Hungrybox. Not only was his status as a “god” rational to question, but it was natural to wonder if Mew2King seemed on his way out of Melee.

After winning The Big House 3, Mew2King went on a tear, winning every single tournament he entered until Apex 2014, when he finally placed second. You could argue that this tournament launched one of the most dominant tournament-winning stretches in Melee history. In fact, guess which famous Mew2King skeptic was cautiously optimistic by the end of the year – and months later still on the hype train?

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Of course, this is not to say his cautious optimism was unwarranted at the time, but it definitely goes to show that a lot can change in just a few years. If you think he was super high on Mew2King, how about HectoHertz?

I’ll be going over the last two Big House tournaments tomorrow, as well as giving my predictions and underrated storylines heading into The Big House 6!

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