UltimateSSBMRank – The Race for No. 1

Greatness often comes in twos. The best of any field soar above their contemporaries, but the truly great overcome those that can consistently take them to the brink. If you’re spiritual, you might equate this to Yin and Yang. If you’d like a more scientific analogy, think of it this way: for each and every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.

Armada and Mango are the two greatest players in Super Smash Bros. Melee History. For smashers, they are our Magic and Bird; our Ali and Frazier; our Brady and Manning. Over the last decade, the two haven’t just raced against each other for the title of best Melee player in the world – they’ve battled for the number one spot in Melee history.

Combined, Armada and Mango have 35 titles. To put that in perspective, the only other player to have a double digit amount of titles ever is Ken (17), who finished No. 3 on my all-time list. Combined, the other modern “gods” of Melee (Hungrybox, Mew2King and PPMD) have 25 titles. Even if you added Leffen to that list, the number would still be less than Mango and Armada combined.

The titles already show enough, but when you take into account their years of dominance, no one else is close to challenging these two for the top two spots. Mew2King is the only player that has been elite for longer than each of them, but he doesn’t have the championship accolades that Mango and Armada have.

As time passes, if Melee’s scene is still alive, the nuances behind each decade of play will fade away for newer players. What we now think of as the post-Brawl, “documentary” and 20XX eras of Melee could be arguably narrowed down to one smash epoch from 2009 to around now: the battle between Armada and Mango for being the game’s greatest player ever. Whether you think one is better than than the other, they are inseparable rivals that tear each other down, yet lift each other to incredible heights.

Armada grew up in Gothernburg, Sweden, where individually standing out or branching off from others isn’t as encouraged as it is in America. Moreover, with only his brothers and few others in his local scene to play with, much of Armada’s training came from simple, repetitive grinding of his punish game against computer opponents. Remember that this was in the pre-20XX years of training, when it was even harder to practice tech chasing, edgeguarding, etc.

Conversely, Mango was raised in Norwalk, California – where he had access to play the best players in the world. For example, at the time of Mango’s entry into competitive Melee, Ken, the world No. 1, still attended tournaments within the Southern California scene. His best practice came with competing against others.

Of course, it’s not as simple saying that they are polar opposites, as both had their financial struggles growing up. As written in the Glixel profile of him, Armada’s father was a welder who supported a family of 11 children, while Mango grew up in a single-parent household under his mom – and has said before that playing Melee kept him out of gangs.

Because of their contrast in play styles, Armada has a reputation as a player who worked extremely hard to get far, while Mango is frequently thought of as a “natural” talent. But looking at their backgrounds, you could actually argue the opposite – or at least show that these generalizations aren’t entirely true.

In particular, the constant underrating of Armada’s natural talent (or even worse, “peak”) makes no sense. Although he didn’t get an opportunity to compete against the best from America, he still performed extremely well from 2007 to 2008. Often placing near the top of his locals, along with Calle W, Armada had excellent showings in the beginning of his career, as seen from tournaments like the Renaissance of Smash 4 (fourth) and Epita Smash Arena 2 (third) from mid-2007 to early 2008. If you define talent as natural aptitude, doesn’t Armada deserve credit for becoming a world class player in a short period of time, with little to no world class competition?

This is not to discredit Mango, who shocked nearly everyone by placing third at EVO World 2007 (even taking a set off Ken) and Super Champ Combo in the same year. Considering his rate of improvement in a couple and a half years of playing, it’s completely fair to note Mango’s talent, but the main difference between them was that Mango had the opportunity to travel to events like EVO, while Armada didn’t back then. That’s very little to do with any sort of talent gap between the two.

Fun Fact: in 2007, when he also split sets with Mew2King and PC Chris, the then-Jigglypuff main Mango had close or unfavorable records against players like DSF (2-6), Edrees (4-3), DC (1-3) and Romeo (0-1). With his losses to PC Chris and Cort late into the year, you could have even argued that Mango actually had a slight Peach problem. Think about all the levels of irony within that.

By the start of the post-Brawl era, Armada and Mango continued to play Melee, with each of them eventually reaching No. 1 status on their respective continents. Although many doubted Mango even after his legendary Pound 3 victory, an additional dominant performance at Revival of Melee – once again over the former world No. 1 Mew2King – cemented Mango’s status as the country’s best. Meanwhile, Armada had taken his first major tournament in SMASH ATTACK (the first tournament dropped by Amsah in years) and also won Epita Smash Arena 3. The two were set for a clash in 2009: enter GENESIS.

Editor’s Note: I’ll go more into Mango’s Pound 3 run in a separate article. Long story short: after losing to Sensei, Vist and Plank in pools, Mango lost a set of sandbagged Link dittos to Silent Wolf in winners round one. He then went through a massive losers bracket run of beating players like Cactuar, Forward, Azen, Chu Dat, Cort, PC Chris and Mew2King (twice) to win what was supposed to be Melee’s final tournament. Quite literally, he beat every active top player in his path.

To this day, set one of GENESIS grand finals is often heralded as the greatest set in Melee history (with the most clutch moment of the post-Brawl era). Spectators back then witnessed Melee being revolutionized in a way that hadn’t been seen since Ken vs. Bombsoldier. Both Armada and Mango looked like they were playing a completely different game from everyone else, with their precise spacing, adaptations to each other and overall gameplay pushing the meta further than ever imagined.

From Mango’s perspective, this was his third consecutive title and hardest one to earn. Having already proven himself by easily dethroning Mew2King multiple times, Mango was upset by Armada in the initial winners finals set. It was like the Swedish Peach was a robot sent from outer space, just to give Mango a worthy challenger. In Smash History’s 2009 RetroSSBMRank piece, I wrote that “in one swift tournament, Armada had turned from a barely English-speaking Swedish teenage underdog into Melee’s final boss.”

Entering GENESIS with people calling him overrated, a fraud – and even someone who wouldn’t make it out of pools – Armada was a massive dark horse, making his way to grand finals through Lunin, Lucky, DaShizWiz, Mew2King and Mango himself. Because of Armada’s current reputation, almost no casual fan thinks of his GENESIS run this way, but had Armada won the tournament, it would have easily been the greatest Cinderella story of all of Melee history.

After a slight bump at Revival of Melee 2 (infamously losing to Kage twice), Mango returned back to being himself at Pound 4, while Armada lost to SilentSpectre and Amsah to finish a disappointing fourth place: his lowest placing at a notable tournament in three years.

But rather than once again going on a tear of winning tournaments, Mango got bored. Creating an alias of “Scorpion Master,” as part of an inside joke with several members of the Melee scene, Mango started fooling around at tournaments, opting to play Captain Falcon, Mario or Marth in tournament instead of Jigglypuff, Falco or Fox. Newer players might find this odd, but this was a time when tournaments were not as taken as seriously, since they weren’t as a big as they are now. Consider that Mango routinely whooped opponents in friendlies or money matches, like he did to Hungrybox after the latter won Apex 2010 without dropping a single game.

Although Hungrybox finished 2010 as its No. 1 player, per RetroSSBMRank, the justification for the ranking came down to tournament results. By popular perception back then, Mango was still thought of as the best player in the world. For many, this was more indicative of Mango’s skill back then, rather than his bad performances with secondaries (usually as “Scorpion Master”), like his 25th place at Apex 2010. This continued even after his loss to Hungrybox at Don’t Go Down There Jeff, while playing Fox – and even after he lost 2-0 to Cactuar (after actually losing game 1 while playing Falco) at Apex 2010.

Meanwhile, remaining virtually unchallenged in Europe, the Swedish Sniper still proved himself as a member of the world’s elite, finishing runner-up at Apex 2010 and Pound V. Thought no one doubted Armada’s legitimacy as a top player, his lack of a title certainly hurt how he was perceived. With GENESIS 2 coming up in mid-2011 and Mango planning to make the tournament his return to being Melee’s best, Armada had his work cut out for him.

Strangely enough, Armada stayed practically untouchable throughout GENESIS 2, getting his revenge on Dr. PeePee and Hungrybox en route to grand finals. With Mango’s solid 3-1 on Mew2King, both Armada and Mango were on path for a rematch of GENESIS winners finals, but Taj played spoiler, with the Arizona Marth upsetting Mango 3-2. Suddenly, Armada’s path toward winning a title looked a lot easier.

Most people don’t remember, but the first two games of winners finals were Armada’s Peach vs. Taj’s Mewtwo (and some even wondered if there was going to be a Young Link vs. Mewtwo game later in the set). By the end of Taj’s forfeit at the end of Game 3, when he finally tried Marth, Armada was 54-1 in games for GENESIS 2, with the one game he lost being a timeout to Hungrybox, in which he lost by one percent.

Unfortunately for Taj, getting mentally destroyed by Armada wasn’t enough. A red-hot Mango, furious at being denied a winners rematch with Armada, beat Shroomed and Hungrybox to replay the man who defeated his Falco in winners. However, this time, Mango was playing Fox. In the first game of the set, Mango dominantly three-stocked Taj. See what happens in the second game below.

No one has ever literally murdered another top-level player in the middle of a set, but Mango came pretty close. His four-stock of Taj in the last game of their set was so convincing that Taj forfeited immediately afterwards, additionally being prompted by commentator HomeMadeWaffles to unplug his controller. It’s one of Mango’s most classic moments and it was arguably the highlight of GENESIS 2. In grand finals, Armada won a close 3-2 against Mango, where the both of them once again put on a show for the crowd, fighting for whom the world’s best player was. Once again, Armada’s punish game with Peach seemed to get even better, while Mango set the standard for rushdown Fox play.

The two were set once again for a rematch at Apex 2012 winners finals, especially given Mew2King and Hungrybox’s early entry into the losers bracket. When they played in winners finals, the final game count was a solid 3-0 for Armada, though each game went to last stock. Armada ended up winning the tournament over Hungrybox in a second set of grand finals, after the Florida Jigglypuff upset Mango in losers finals. Afterward, Mango went into a brief retirement-phase from the game, while Armada retreated back to Sweden.

Armada’s reign from GENESIS 2 to Apex 2013 is a hotly debated one. Skeptics point toward the relative lack of majors back then as proof of it being overrated. Moreover, outside of GENESIS 2, Armada didn’t have any truly dominant performances at the majors he won with other gods in attendance. At Apex 2012, Armada dropped a set to Hungrybox, while he dropped sets to Dr. PeePee at Smashers’ Reunion and Apex 2013. It wasn’t like he was unbeatable – but then again, given how separated Armada was from world-class training partners, this stretch of play could be argued as even more impressive.

Either way, Mango quickly returned to competing seriously, winning IMPULSE over his fellow American gods. As seen through wins at tournaments like FC Legacy and The Big House 2, Mango was still a top caliber player, but he found himself challenged by his former apprentice in Dr. PeePee. Though many of Mango’s fans believed that he could return to being the best in the world, his loss at Kings of Cali to Dr. PeePee (in both sets of grand finals) showed that Mango couldn’t just sleepwalk his way to victory any more. Moreover, at Apex 2013, Mango lost to a man he once held a mental stranglehold over: Mew2King, who double eliminated him. For the first time in years, Mango looked genuinely mortal.

Fun fact: Mango also has a loss to Bladewise in 2012, at Rule 6 Regional. However, the context behind this loss remains murky. Tafokints told me that despite playing Fox, Mango lost to Bladewise intentionally, just to beat Kels early in losers because he was sick of hearing about Midwest pride. Go figure.

Having proven himself over the last two and a half years as Melee’s best player, Armada retired, saying that he didn’t have the drive to compete any more. After his retirement,many were willing to crown him as the game’s best, but Mango was the opposite, not only criticizing Armada’s reasoning, but also claiming that he knew that he was better than Armada and wanted one more chance to beat him. Flying to BEAST III and winning the tournament (dropping a set to Ice), Mango also played a series of streamed friendlies with Armada, who TO’d, but didn’t play in tournament. Yet by the end of their session, it was pretty clear: even without seriously practicing any more, Armada outclassed Mango.

Mango started playing more, once again having reignited his competitive fire. Losing NorCal Regionals 2013 to Hungrybox, but winning Vindication, Zenith 2013 and IMPULSE 2013, Mango looked like the best in the United States, as well as a heavy contender for EVO 2013. This tournament was hyped up not only because it was Melee’s return to gaming’s main stage, but also because this tournament marked a brief comeback for Armada. For yet another time, the two were heading toward collision.

In a strange twist, they both met again, but in losers bracket. Due to Armada entering the tournament late, Armada had to play Dr. PeePee before top eight, losing their set. Meanwhile, Mango was upset early by Wobbles, the tournament’s underdog. But in typical Mango fashion, Mango had one of the best losers runs of all-time, defeating SFAT, Ice, Dr. PeePee, Armada, Hungrybox and Wobbles to win EVO 2013: what was seen as the biggest tournament ever. After winning EVO 2013,  Mango still competed occasionally, but spent more time with his newborn son and family, while Armada went back into retirement – before once again returning in mid-2014. The two faced off again at Super SWEET, where Armada triumphed 3-2. It was the first of many sets the two would have in the post-documentary era.

Here’s something that not many people know: although Mango ended 2014 as SSBMRank’s No. 1 player, this is because Mango ended the year winning three of the biggest events of the year: MLG Anaheim 2014, EVO 2014 and The Big House 4. By their head to head record, Armada actually finished slightly ahead in 2014, up 7-6, with victories at Super SWEET, a pools win at MLG Anaheim 2014, CEO 2014 and The Shape of Melee to Come 5.

But given Mango’s reputation as a clutch player who showed up on the biggest stage, these tournament wins for Armada mattered a lot less. Juxtapose the rise of Leffen, Hungrybox finally figuring out Armada’s Young Link and a lack of titles from late 2014 to the spring of 2015 – Armada looked like he was in a slump, while Mango looked like Melee’s GOAT when it counted.

However, since then, there’s been little argument for who’s been better between Armada and Mango. In 2015, Armada had one of the most dominant years ever, finishing as the world No. 1, holding a 7-2 record over Mango and winning five titles, including EVO 2015. From the end of WTFox to before winners finals of DreamHack Winter 2015, Armada went 11-0 against fellow gods. Even if in a relatively short period of time, no one else in Melee history has ever had that kind of a winning streak against top five players of any time.

That said, even with Armada finishing last year as SSBMRank’s No. 1 (and likely this year’s too), Mango still has added quite a bit to his resume. Despite the occasional lackluster performance (17th place at HTC Throwdown and 13th at UGC Smash Open), Mango has titles in Press Start, Paragon LA, WTFox 2, DreamHack Austin 2016, SSC 2016 and The Big House 6.

His Press Start losers run, in which Mango started from losers after showing up late, is especially noteworthy as he went 60-4 in games throughout the whole tournament, beating players like Westballz, Hax, Leffen, Shroomed, Lucky,  Hungrybox, Axe and Fly Amanita. At the time, some argued that it was even more impressive than his Pound 3 losers run, given that Mango looked completely untouchable in his sets.

Even if he’s not quite the championship belt holder he looked like from Pound 3 to the end of 2010 (for many), Mango is still a contender. He may never be No. 1 again, but if he keeps winning titles, it won’t matter too much. Every major that he adds is another plus to his collection of unmatched title winning.

Armada and Mango’s rivalry is as fierce, if not hotter than it’s ever been in Melee’s history. Right now, the set count for all-time between them is 20-18 in Armada’s favor, but Mango has played for longer and won more titles. Moreover, given the shady circumstances behind 2008 and 2010, you could have easily argued those as two more years where Mango was No. 1.

Here’s the question you’ve been waiting for: who is the greatest Melee player of all-time between these two?

2. Mango

No. of years ranking in the Top 10 of RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank: 9 (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)

No. of years ranking in the Top 5 of RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank: 8
 (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)
No. of years ranked as RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank’s No. 1: 3 (2009, 2013, 2014)
No. of titles: 19 (Pound 3, Revival of Melee, GENESIS, Pound 4, Revival of Melee 4, Impulse 2012, Zenith 2013, EVO 2013, Revival of Melee 7, Get On My Level 2014, MLG 2014, EVO 2014, The Big House 4, Press Start, Paragon LA, WTFox 2, DreamHack Austin 2016, SSC 2016, The Big House 6)

1. Armada

No. of years ranking in the Top 10 of RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank: 7 (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)

No. of years ranking in the Top 5 of RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank: 7 (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)
No. of years ranked as RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank’s No. 1: 3 (2011, 2012, 2015)

No. of titles: 16 (GENESIS 2, Apex 2012, Apex 2013, Super Sweet,  CEO 2014, I’m Not Yelling, MVG Sandstorm, EVO 2015, Smash Summit, The Big House 5, GENESIS 3, Smash Summit 2, Canada Cup 2016, Smash Summit 3, DreamHack Winter 2016, UGC Smash Open)

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Mango’s argument for more titles doesn’t really hold up, since Armada wasn’t able to attend a lot of them. Due to living in Sweden and initially having little to no financial incentive to go out of his way to travel to America, Armada couldn’t challenge Mango at events like Impulse, Zenith and Revival of Melee.

It’s not that these events shouldn’t be counted for Mango – but they should be viewed in context. You could either hold Armada’s location against him or understand that his presence at any tournament inevitably affects its competitive value. If anything, Armada’s location actually makes his superior consistency against the rest of the field that much more amazing.

I asked Mango on his stream to make his case for GOAT, only to be told, “I think Armada has me for a little bit,” before being quickly reassured that “it’s super close right now,” and to see in three years where the two stood.

Either way, whether it’s Falco-Peach, Jigglypuff-Peach, Fox-Peach, Fox dittos, Marth-Peach or any other matchup that these two throw our way: just know that the two are game-defining players – and they’re definitively the two greatest players in Melee history.

UltimateSSBMRank No. 3: Ken

3. Ken

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No. of years ranking in the Top 10 of RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank: 4 (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007)

No. of years ranking in the Top 5 of RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank: 4 (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007)
No. of years ranked as RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank’s No. 1: 3 (2004, 2005, 2006)
No. of titles: 17  (Game Over, FC1, FC3, Gettin’ Schooled 2, MLG Chicago 2004, MLG Los Angeles 2004, MLG New York 2004, MLG DC 2005, MLG San Francisco 2005, MLG Atlanta 2005, MLG Chicago 2005, MLG New York 2005, MLG Dallas 2006, MLG Anaheim 2006, MLG Chicago 2006, OC2, EVO World 2007)

In my last article, I wrote that most players’ careers are based around their struggle to become the best player in the world, citing Mew2King’s journey to return to that position as an exception to the rule. Similarly, Ken has a unique and vastly different story than everyone, but it’s one with not-so humble beginnings.

Starting off as a stubborn Super Smash Bros. player who couldn’t afford to invest in Melee, Ken eventually picked up the sequel, eight months after its release. Playing Marth, Ken quickly developed a reputation as the best Melee player in his town, often attending free-for-all tournaments – including one at a local gaming store named Game Square. Already seen as someone who was far more talented than his peers, Ken would frequently get teamed up on by any three opponents, but still beat them.

Initially uninterested in the competitive Melee scene, Ken discovered the website Smashboards through his brother Manacloud, who found posts advertising for the next installment of a well-known tournament series: Tournament Go. Written by the tournament organizer and Smashboards moderator Mattdeezie, the preview post for Tournament Go 4 was highly read and commented on, with pre-2004 legends like Recipherus, Mattdeezie himself, Justin Junio, JR Castillo and the Sultan of Samitude being named as notable players heading into the tournament.

It might sound inconceivable today, but if you were getting into the scene back then, there was no way of being able to accurately measure your skill. Each region effectively lived in its own bubble, with only a select group of players willing to travel thousands of miles to compete. You could have easily entered a tournament, been better than everyone else, but have no idea of knowing it.

That’s what made tournaments so exciting back then – and it made Ken’s online boasts legendary. After reading the preview for Tournament Go 4, Ken began bragging online about his victory at Game Square. Given the lack of footage that any smasher had at the time, Mattdeezie and everyone else had nothing to measure Ken by other than his cocky online words. Confident in their ability to quiet what they saw was foolish arrogance, Mattdeezie and Recipherus, the Tournament Go 3 champion, challenged Ken to money matches.

To their surprise, Ken swiftly defeated them. Both Mattdeezie and Recipherus were well-versed in Melee’s advanced techniques, but Ken’s natural sense of fundamentals (being the first player to use dash dancing to large success) and being able to adapt to his opponents led him to victory. Already winning quite a bit of money from defeating the two, Ken was then asked to compete at Tournament Go 4 to prove his worth.

Keep in mind that Marth was initially seen as a simplistic and exploitable character. While he was known for having great range, Marth was thought of as predictable and laggy.  Until Ken showed the character’s potential in his dash dance and movement, most people thought Marth’s strategy was fairly straightforward and defensive. With Ken’s aggressive playstyle and rise to the top, Marth soon entered the discussion for being one of the game’s best characters.

Ken wasn’t a household name yet, but those who did know of him were unbelievably hyped about his upcoming presence at TG4. Imagine if Armada challenged some random player in Nebraska, was swiftly defeated by this unknown talent and then invited them to BEAST VII. Legends of Ken’s talent spread across the scene, building a mystique for the Southern California Marth before he even played a noteworthy tournament match.

Ken won the tournament without dropping a single set, only losing one game to Recipherus. He then proved himself later in the year, winning SoCal Inland Empire and gaining himself around a thousand dollars from both tournament wins.

Sidenote: After Tournament Go 4, Ken met his teammate Isai, who was then known as a godlike 64 player. Seeing that Isai had a knack for smash unlike anyone else he met up to that point, Ken quickly took Isai under his wing and eventually started teaming with him at events. The two, named “El Chocolate Diablo,” became the greatest doubles team in competitive Melee history, at one point winning 21 straight tournaments and being considered untouchable. This, however, deserves an entirely separate article on its own, as most of what I’ve written is based around Ken’s singles legacy.

Most people were in agreement that Ken was good, but not everyone thought that he was necessarily the best player. After several California smashers posted on Smashboards about how other regions needed to prove themselves as “California worthy,” players from other regions said they were willing to fly to the West Coast and dethrone Ken in August’s Tournament Go 5. Among the traveling players were Deadly Alliance’s Wes, Britain’s The Doug (who was also in the Netherlands for a bit of his career) and most importantly, a man named Azen, who was called the Master of Diversity. Even the Midwest’s Eddie, a vaunted Ganondorf player, was coming – and he actually defeated Ken in a money match at the tournament.

Nonetheless, Ken ran through everybody else, once again winning another Tournament Go. But in spite of his victory, many from the East Coast weren’t convinced. Bringing up Azen’s insistence on playing only Sheik throughout bracket as a result of the items-allowed rule set, several felt like the Tournament Go 5 ruleset was innately biased against them, since most tournaments on the East Coast had moved away from allowing items.

Ironically, in contrast to many other smashers on the West Coast who saw items as not detracting from the game, Ken was perfectly fine with playing at a tournament without items. In fact, Ken saw items as a distraction, detracting from Melee’s competitive value and getting in the way of his own success. On his stream years later, Ken said that even back then he was a “Final Destination, no items” kind of player.

The scene was set for 2004’s first tournament: Game Over. Held by Chillin at a local gaming center, the tournament featured the best from Virginia, New York, Maryland, California and even the Midwest  – but this time with items off and on the East Coast. At first, Ken was exposed, losing to Chillin, then seen as a talented, but not particularly notable player, in winners quarters. It was the first time Ken had ever lost a recorded tournament set.

But as his losers run quickly showed, an angry Ken was not to be denied. Initially barely getting by Mild, Chillin’s brother and a Sheik player, Ken then beat HellFox, Chillin (after a failed Sheik counterpick in their first game), DA Dave and Isai, before taking down Azen in grand finals. It’s the first great losers run in Melee history and proof that even if Ken could bleed, being able to eliminate him from a tournament was an entirely different beast.

Half a year later, Ken made his way to MLG Chicago 2004, where he beat Eddie, but lost another set: this time to his protege Isai. Defeating Indiana’s KishSquared in losers finals, Ken then beat Isai in two sets, once again winning another tournament. As time went on, it became clear that Ken was the villain that the smash community needed to kick everyone into competitive gear. At FC1, Ken won without dropping a single set, handily defeating Azen two more times and once again looking untouchable. Someone or something needed to humble him.

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Tournament Go 6 proved to be the experience that showed Ken that he still had much to learn. At the first tournament to feature both the best of America and top members of the Japanese smash scene, Ken notoriously lost to Captain Jack’s Bowser and Donkey Kong in public matches before the tournament, after initially starting off their friendly sessions doing well against Sheik, Captain Jack’s main.

As if that wasn’t enough, Ken was upset early in bracket by a Washington Peach player, Sastopher. Clearly taken aback by his loss, Ken later lost to DieSuperFly, finishing what was then thought of as the biggest tournament in a lackluster ninth place. Suddenly, the once undefeated Marth had egg on his face.

Immediately, people from the East Coast and other doubters jumped on him, claiming that Ken was no longer No. 1. Ken still had many supporters (including Azen himself) who said TG6 was just an off tournament, but others like Chillin cited the results as proof that Ken no longer could be the best. At September’s MLG San Francisco 2004, Ken didn’t have anything close to the kind of comeback tourney that he might have expected, finishing third to Captain Jack and Isai. As I wrote previously within a Smash History Article:

“Keep in mind that this was now the second event in a row where Ken had failed to win.  Consider how there was now a wide open spot for who the world’s definitive No. 1 player was. If it wasn’t Ken any more, was it Azen because of his performance at TG6? Or did Captain Jack clearly take the mantle at MLG San Francisco, showing that he held dominance over the West Coast?”

As he did many times in his Melee career, Ken silenced his doubters with a resounding victory at MLG Los Angeles 2004 and an impeccable showing at MLG New York 2004. All his losses considered, Ken still ended 2004 as the American No. 1, if not Melee’s best player.

After initially losing January’s MOAST 3 to Isai,  Ken went on a tear, winning MLG DC 2005, MLG San Francisco 2005 (over his nemesis DSF), Gettin’ Schooled 2 and FC3. Due to school time frequently interfering with players’ ability to travel, winning a title meant more than ever, since they were frequently spread out.

Was Ken untouchable during this period of time? Not exactly. In addition to losing a set of Roy dittos to NEO at MLG DC 2005, Ken also lost to Chillin at GS2 and early in pools to Sastopher at FC3. However, Ken’s consistency in winning tournaments seemed to prove those losses as inconsequential.

By August 2005, Ken, along with a few other American smashers, was invited by his international rival Captain Jack to attend an invitational called the Jack Garden Tournament. Here, Ken had an opportunity to test himself against the best of Japan: who at the time were still thought of as far above the rest of the international scene in terms of technical skill. I’ve written before about how stacked this tournament was for its time, but in case you want to know:

…there was a tremendous amount of hype from both ends on who was going to actually win the tournament. Would it be the American legend Ken, like he did at almost everything else he entered? Or was he going to lose to Isai? There were concerns from either of the two struggling from jet lag and facing an unfamiliar Japanese style of gameplay. Before the tournament, East Japan’s Mikael, a Peach main, boasted that he wasn’t impressed by Ken.

These three weren’t the only contenders. Take its host, Captain Jack, who had won major events as recently as a year ago, or longtime Japanese legend Masashi, arguably West Japan’s greatest player. You also had Aniki, who in addition to being maybe the best Link player in the world also had a series of public friendlies  with Ken, where the Japanese Link defeated him. Hell, you could have even argued at the time that this was going to be the tournament where Thunders, a Japanese Fox famous for creating the Thunders combo,could finally get over his consistency issues and realize his true potential.

For Ken to win this tournament, even if it didn’t technically qualify as a Smash History title, was so remarkably impressive – especially given his opponent in grand finals. Despite Ken having never played a Falco as aggressive, technical, unrelenting and intimidating as Bombsolider, Ken somehow managed to stay cool, find holes in his approaches and hold on. Winning grand finals with a cool 4-2, it was official: having defeated even Japan’s best, Ken was the unquestioned king of smash.

The documentary has covered this before, but Ken was awed by the difference between Japanese and American culture. In Japan, good play was applauded no matter what, while Ken was often jeered and rooted against within the United States, due to being the favorite heading into every tournament. On one hand, the trip to Japan gave Ken a much needed break from the stress of competing against fellow Americans. But at the same time, Ken was growing disillusioned with Melee.

In October, losing MLG Los Angeles 2005 to Isai didn’t even seem that like big of a loss to Ken, who at this point had stopped actively practicing Melee and was playing far more World of Warcraft in his free time. Even winning MLG Atlanta 2005 (after losing his first set to Azen) didn’t seem to thrill Ken. Tensions between him and Wife, along with other members of the community who felt Ken was unsportsmanlike and aloof, reached a boiling point online. In the post-MLG Atlanta Smashboards thread, Ken wrote that he didn’t even like Melee any more, mentioning that the joys he took from the game were from winning money and silencing his haters.

With many dropped sets throughout 2005, Ken wasn’t quite as dominant as his number of titles would show, but given how vastly different “losers Ken” was from the rest of his competition, his losses were usually ignored. Fighting him in losers was effectively playing an entirely different player form – far more dangerous and less apathetic in gameplay than the externally contentious and apathetic Ken, who seemed to both relish, but also tire of being Melee’s villain.

2006, however, was the first year that proved to be a struggle for Ken. Winning MLG New York 2005 (yes – you read the title name correctly) without dropping a set, Ken then shockingly lost to PC Chris twice. Although the sets weren’t necessarily lopsided, Ken actually abandoned Marth and tried out Fox, given how locked down PC Chris seemed to have his Marth.

It’s speculation as to whether this loss sparked Ken’s previously deteriorating competitive drive, but either way, Ken learned from it. Losing only a set to PC Chris (MLG Anaheim 2006) and another one to Chu Dat (MLG Chicago 2006) within the next half a year, Ken won MLG tournaments in Dallas, Anaheim and Chicago, adding another legendary run at Zero Challenge 2. At this tournament, he defeated Sastopher, Captain Jack, KoreanDJ, Mew2King and Chu Dat – a mix of past legends, breakout players and members of the current elite. Come August, Ken was easily the heavy favorite heading into MLG Orlando 2006.

But after losing KoreanDJ in winners, along with Isai in losers, Ken finished fifth – his worst placing since his disappointing showing at Tournament Go 6. Getting seventh at MLG New York Playoffs 2006 and third at MLG Las Vegas 2006, with losses to Azen, Mew2King and KoreanDJ (twice), it was clear that the competition had caught up to Ken. With an additional local tournament dropped to Taj, who defeated Ken in Marth dittos to close out the year, Ken looked more vulnerable than ever. Even if he still finished the year as 2006’s most successful player, heading into 2007, it was hard to imagine Ken being the best for much longer.

Ken stayed quiet for the first half of 2007, amid rumors that he was going to retire. With a growing SoCal scene that featured up and players like HugS, Edrees, DSF and even a very young Jigglypuff player in Mango, Ken still dominated his local scene, never dropping a set at a local throughout the year. In July’s Zero Challenge 3, Ken showed up to his first national in months, losing to PC Chris and Mew2King, but still finishing a respectable fourth. Even if he wasn’t the world No. 1 any more, Ken still had the skill to compete at a top level.

After losing in winners to Mango at EVO World 2007, it would have been easy to say that the Ken was past his prime, but once again, Ken proved skeptics wrong. Making his way through Chu Dat, PC Chris, Mango and HugS (twice), Ken effectively finished off his prime with the ultimate swansong by winning Melee’s biggest tournament ever (at the time).

His EVO World 2007 win was so legendary that even after he was retired from the game, people used to frequently wonder how much better Ken was than anyone else. That didn’t change after his final tournament of the year at Super Champ Combo, where he lost to Wobbles and Chu Dat for seventh. Either way, Ken had nothing left to prove.

When Ken returned to his first tournament at Kings of Cali in 2012, there was incredible hype for the event. Placing a modest 33rd, Ken still showed a good amount of promise for someone who hadn’t practiced in years, taking a game from PewPewU in pools and also finishing third in teams with Dr. PeePee. While the former world No. 1 wasn’t quite an elite player any more, he still had the talent to compete and awe others. After an epic exhibition match with Scar, who successfully beat Ken, it was official – Ken was finally back in the Melee scene.

In the modern meta, Ken has seen ebbs and flows in his gameplay. Though he’s currently only ranked No. 18 on SoCal’s power rankings, this is partially due to his recent inactivity from competing. With set wins over almost all of SoCal’s best players over the last three years, along with modest, but impressive placings like his recent 33rd and 49th at GENESIS 3 and EVO 2016, Ken can still contend with almost anyone in the world. If you don’t believe me, ask Armada and Hungrybox, who have both dropped games to Ken in bracket.

Ken’s most impressive achievement in the modern era was arguably his run at EVO 2015, where he finished 13th, including a dominant six-stock 2-0 over Westballz. Before that, Ken exceeded expectations at MLG Anaheim 2014, when he placed 21st, just losing to Lucky in the finals match of the tournament’s open bracket. Had Ken won that set, it would have marked his return to the final stage of MLG: one almost a decade after his prime.

Of course, Ken’s accomplishments in the modern era (including being one of the first two Melee players, along with KoreanDJ, to be a part of a team) don’t prove that he has the potential to return to being the world No. 1. Ken has certainly suffered his share of losses and disappointing placings, but given what he’s already done throughout his career, they definitely add to his legacy.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Ken’s prime is the most impressive long-term stretch of play in Super Smash Bros. Melee history. No one else in the scene has been No. 1 in RetroSSBMRank or SSBMRank for three consecutive years. If you were daring enough to count Ken’s dominance in the pre-Game Over era, you could argue that he was the world’s best for four years. Add in 2007 and that’s arguably 5 years of Ken being a top two player. For reference, only Armada has been top two for longer (2011 to presumably now).

When it came to titles, no one won quite like Ken. Despite playing in an era where tournaments were not as widespread as today, Ken still is tied for the number two spot in titles of all-time. Think about that for a moment: Ken has won more than almost everyone else in Melee history – and his prime was only for five years in an era.

To put his ridiculous amount of success in perspective, Ken’s 17 titles don’t even account for Tournament Go 4, Tournament Go 5 and Jack Garden Tournament. If you included those, Ken has 20 significant major victories: the most in Melee history and four times the amount that Azen, his closest rival up until 2007, had. This is not to disrespect Azen, who has his own incredible legacy, but it shows that even their rivalry was significantly in Ken’s favor.

As Melee’s first ever true champion, the  Ken is unquestionably a member of Melee’s “holy trinity.” Starting off as the game’s best and winning Melee’s biggest tournament near the end of his prime, Ken didn’t finish No. 1 on my all-time list, but there’s no question that he is a trailblazing legend – one who will always be remembered as the king of smash.

UltimateSSBMRank No. 4: Mew2King

4. Mew2King

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No. of years ranking in the Top 10 of RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank: 10 (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)

No. of years ranking in the Top 5 of RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank: 9 (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)
No. of years ranked as RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank’s No. 1: 2 (2007, 2008)
No. of titles: 9  (Evo East 2007, Evo West 2007, Cataclysm 3, FC-Diamond, SCC, C3 October Tourney, Chu Datz Final Biweekly,  TBH3, Shine 2016)

Mew2King is unlike other smash players. Rather than being defined by a journey to become world No. 1, Mew2King has been defined by his still-ongoing struggle to return to the throne. His career is a walking paradox: one in which he has spent moments looking like a chaingrabbing, villainous Mega Man boss, but also as a rootable underdog. Sometimes, he’s looked like both.

Either way, it’s a fascinating career arc that transcends any binary description you could give it. Even if his legacy is one that deserves far more words than what I’ve written, I’ve tried my best to cover the less known aspects of Mew2King’s time in the Melee scene.

Starting off as the Melee equivalent of a guitar player practicing alone in his room and arguing with more renowned guitarists online, Mew2King was a frequent poster both on Smashboards and GameFAQs. He often discussed character matchups and tier lists with fellow smashers.

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Beneath the awkward forum posts was a young teenager that had a passion for video games. Although I couldn’t find evidence of any tournament that Mew2King attended within Melee’s first few years, his history on Smashboards is well-documented. In 2003, he unleashed a massive bombshell of data to the online community, manually calculating a list of statistics about various aspects of the game – all before resources like 20XX came to fruition.

That said, Mew2King still lacked something that his contemporaries had: tournament experience. While players like KoreanDJ often money matched others or competed to get better, Mew2King tediously collected obscure data about Melee and was initially more known for his online presence. When you take into account his instantly recognizable prose and his tendency to have unrelentingly strong opinions, you can see how a young and occasionally immature, if not socially unaware Mew2King drew his fair share of skepticism and ire.

Sidenote, from his Reddit AMA three years ago: “I like mewtwo. so mew2… king <_< just stuck lol. I wanted to post on smashboards and gamefaqs. I actually think i stole the name from another guy on smashboards called mewtwoking and I liked it so I took it myself with a 2. I just wanted to post on the boards though that’s it.”

With a lot of technical skill for the time, but few “mind games” and little experience competing, Mew2King attended his first major on June 25, 2005, at Getting Schooled 2. Though he didn’t end up placing anywhere near the top, a 23rd out of 99 entrants wasn’t too bad for the rising Fox player, especially because he tied in placings with solid regional players like New England’s UnknownForce. It was clear that Mew2King had more potential than people at the time might have wanted to admit.

Five months later at BOMB 4, a tournament featuring MD/VA’s best and a similar field of competition, Mew2King finished not only ninth in singles out of 105 players, but he won his first ever doubles tournament. Vidjogamer and him finished first out of 43 teams, which included established duos like the Newlyweds (Husband and Wife), Deadly Alliance (Wes and Mike G) and the runner-ups in NEO and Oro. This was the first of numerous doubles tournament victories for Mew2King, whose doubles resume is basically untouchable (and worthy of a separate article) to this day.

If that wasn’t enough, Mew2King finished a surprising third at the first Pound, held in January 2006. A much smaller tournament (55 competitors) than GS2 or BOMB 4, Mew2King still outplaced players like KM, Wife, Husband and even Chillin. Mew2King’s remarkable improvement over the course of a year of competition and more years of data-collecting was now undeniable.

Today, Mew2King’s Fox may not look very flashy, but back in 2006, its technical ability was revolutionary. If Chillin was the godfather of bread and butter combos with Fox and PC Chris set the standard for controlled aggression, Mew2King brought in a new era of technical Fox’s. Unlike many of his contemporaries, who went for hard reads to continue a combo or ran away after a hit, Mew2King could waveshine, chaingrab, edgeguard deep with shine and hit precise Firefox angles from off-stage, then known as “Mew2King angles.” Over time, people realized that these pluses in his gameplay weren’t just gimmicks, as many accused the infamous Zelgadis of abusing on vastly inferior opponents years ago.

Having top eight showings at every major tournament he entered, including an impressive second place under PC Chris at FC6, Mew2King was a consistent top ten player and arguably the world’s best Fox main. He had the wins to back it up too, beating Ken at MLG New York Playoffs 2006 and Azen at MLG Chicago 2006. If that wasn’t convincing enough, Mew2King boasted a 3-1 record against a still-strong Isai and also went back and forth with another new star of the era: KoreanDJ.

Mew2King finished the year as No. 6, per RetroSSBMRank, but at different points of the year you could have argued that he was even higher. In fact, the Smash Panel Power Rankings put him as the world’s No. 3 – just behind Chu Dat and Ken. With 2007 coming up, Mew2King’s next challenge was to become the best player in the world. He also needed to figure out how to fight Chu Dat and PC, both whom he held a combined 0-9 record against.

If you’re a “documentary kid,” you might have the perception that 2007 Mew2King is the most dominant player of all-time. Watch any of Mew2King’s numerous victories from back then – the adage of “men among boys” seemingly couldn’t look any more clear. As the smash documentary states numerous times, Mew2King back then was known as “The Robot” due to his stellar and seemingly inhumane conversions off grabs and in edgeguard situations as Marth: a new main that shot him to the top of the scene.

Yet, with all-time legacy becoming a more prominent discussion in Melee’s 15th year, there’s been more skepticism toward what many consider to be Mew2King’s peak. For starters, Mew2King finished ninth at the year’s biggest tournament in EVO World 2007. He also held negative records vs. Chu Dat (4-6) and KoreanDJ (1-3), respectively finishing second at both Pound 2 and MLG Long Island 2007 under each one.

It wasn’t like Mew2King was immune to other upsets either: he lost to Drephen at Viva La Smashtaclysm late in the year, dropped another set to Chillin at UMBC III and even lost to Cactuar at Smashacre (albeit still taking the tournament). Once you take into account that KoreanDJ’s travel was heavily restricted because of school, it’s easy to retrospectively think of 2007 Mew2King as overrated, as the Crimson Blur and HugS said during their streamed discussion of all-time rankings.

Although Mew2King certainly wasn’t indestructible, there really wasn’t an argument for anyone else as No. 1. in the year. Having a year-long resume with wins at EVO West, EVO East, FC Diamond, Super Champ Combo and Cataclysm 3, Mew2King was by far the most successful smasher of 2007. You could have also argued at the time that his EVO losses were flukes, given the tournament’s best of one and random stage selection ruleset before top eight.

Consider that against the top ten of 2007, Mew2King finished with a 32-16 record, going 18-12 versus the top five. For comparison, Armada in 2016 has gone 23-15 in serious sets vs. Hungrybox, Mango, Mew2King and Leffen, while never losing to anyone beneath them. Though the results definitely show that Mew2King’s prime isn’t quite on the level of someone like Armada, it’s important to acknowledge that it was still the best of its time by a good margin. Watch this crew battle at Zero Challenge 3, in which Mew2King essentially destroys a crew of elite players by himself.

Heading into 2008, it seemed all but guaranteed that Melee was going to die, with its sequel Super Smash Bros. Brawl getting attention from even Melee’s top players, including Mew2King. Pound 3 was effectively going to be Melee’s goodbye – and Mew2King looked like the surefire favorite heading into it. After breezing through pools, he dispatched of names like Hax, Chillin, Silent Wolf, Vidjogamer, Chu Dat and PC Chris to make it to grand finals. Think about that for a moment: Mew2King had figured out even how to beat Chu Dat.

Instead, Mango played spoiler to what was at first predicted to be Mew2King’s coronation as the last king of Melee. Mew2King barely lost the first set 3-2, before losing the second set 3-1, the final game being a desperate Jigglypuff ditto on Brinstar.  Nonetheless, not everyone was convinced from Mango’s epic losers run.

After Pound 3, the johns police came out in full force: Mew2King only lost because of matchup unfamiliarity, the tournament being run beyond midnight, Mango having his bracket opponents throw their sets against him, etc. Regardless of how true or false these reasons were, Mew2King was still widely acknowledged by many as the game’s best, just having an off tournament at Pound 3.

Even Mango near the end of 2008 wrote that he thought Mew2King probably deserved to be considered the best in Melee. Consider that back then, Mew2King played in a better region and lost only one serious set for the rest of the year, winning every other tournament he entered. Both players, the best of their respective coasts, were set for a clash at Revival of Melee in 2009.

Mew2King was coming fresh off a victory over PC Chris at GIMPED 1 (dropping only a set to him), while Mango hadn’t lost since UCLA V in early March 2008. However, Mango quickly showed that his Pound 3 win wasn’t a fluke, dominating Mew2King in three games in winners finals and sending him to losers finals against DaShizWiz. If you have any knowledge about Melee history, you’ll know what happened next.

Even though he lost his grand finals set against Mango, Mew2King still had one of the greatest comebacks in Melee history. His final match against DSW at RoM losers finals is one of the most widely watched Melee videos on YouTube and a display of the kind of comebacks that Mew2King was capable of – and still is, to this day. Though most people were now willing to concede that Mango was the best player in the world, Mew2King fans still had their ray of hope that he could someday become No. 1 again.

The reality, however, proved to be a bit more difficult. Playing a lot more Sheik now, due to his renewed belief of Sheik as the best character in Melee, Mew2King still couldn’t quite figure out Mango, ending the year with a 0-7 record against his SoCal nemesis. The low point came at August’s SNES, when Mew2King was beaten so badly by Mango in winners that he refused to play in his losers finals set against Hax.

Mew2King’s decline in status and confidence didn’t come from just losing to Mango. In addition to finishing second to Jman at Apex 2009, Mew2King placed only fifth at the summer’s biggest major in GENESIS, a tournament that many on the East Coast hoped would be a return to form for him.  Here, Mew2King lost to some random Swedish Peach in winners semis and was eliminated by Zhu, finishing fifth.

From the post-Brawl era to 2013, Mew2King’s fans attributed his decline to Brawl, with several still calling him the best Melee player, but saying that he held himself back by playing both Brawl and Melee at tournaments. Sometimes, he’d even drop out of one game to compete in another. Even more tellingly, Mew2King himself admitted numerous times that he didn’t like playing either smash game that much and only competed because smash financially supported him.

A strong in-game reason for Mew2King’s  struggles was how weak he was at three matchups: top-level Jigglypuff, Falco and Ice Climbers – all of whom he was open about hating. I could create a massive list of all of Mew2King’s tournament results and losses from 2010 to the end of 2012, but the story is mostly the same. He’d always either place just under another god (assuming they played their main), fifth at a tournament featuring all of them  (save for his awful 17th place at Apex 2012, when he lost to Wobbles and forfeited against Hax) or get upset in one of the above three matchups.

Yet, there’s another positive to his legacy: how game-changingly good he was in other matchups from 2010 to the end of 2012. In spite of his long list of losses to fellow gods and even a few bad losses to players considered slightly worse than him, an on-point Mew2King was notoriously brutal in annihilating lesser players than him.

During this period of being considered the “gatekeeper” god, Mew2King never lost a best-of-five set in any matchup against Marth, Sheik, Captain Falcon or non-Armada Peach, while still maintaining a strong record in several other matchups. In particular, the existence of Mew2King’s Sheik was one of the reasons that people pointed to for why Captain Falcon could not win a major.

A long time ago, when I talked to Spawn, an older Connecticut Sheik player from the post-Brawl era, he mentioned how he used to download videos of Mew2King’s Sheik on edgeguards and study them across a variety of matchups. If KoreanDJ and Captain Jack were initial innovators of Sheik’s metagame and aggression, Mew2King wrote the textbook for how to ruthlessly finish off opponents off-stage. He was also infamously untouchable in the Sheik ditto, never losing a set until dropping one to Shroomed in late 2014.

Moreover, Mew2King’s Marth was so far ahead of other Marth players that people back then considered this character “solved” in terms of combo potential. Forget playing a spacie against it on Final Destination, which was already well known to be formidable  – trying to play against Mew2King in the Marth ditto was thought of as even worse. Before Dr. PeePee eventually became known as the best Marth dittoer in the world, Mew2King was considered having perfected that matchup.

Mew2King’s medley of characters and counterpicks, mixed with his seemingly endless knowledge of different matchups, made defeating him a daunting task for any non-god. Even his low-tiers in tournament were terrifying to play against.

Throughout all the almost-performances, heartbreak and upsets, Mew2King still consistently showed one thing: his competitive resilience. For most others, frequently being on the receiving end of historic Melee moments and seemingly always being under No. 1 would be too much to handle. Even though Mew2King has a history of being quite open about his emotional issues, occasionally saying that he’d quit a game after a bad loss, etc, his long-term actions show something else.

Instead of ever actually leaving for good, Mew2King kept attending tournaments. Despite his occasional johns, negative attitude and proclamations of quitting Melee, he still clearly had the internal fire of a champion.

Going into Apex 2013 with no serious god wins from the previous two years (only two sets against Dr. PeePee’s experimental Fox and another two against Mango’s secondaries at Sudden Death IV), Mew2King somehow double eliminated Mango, then considered to be back in top shape and ready to end Armada’s reign over Melee. It was the first time Mew2King had defeated his rival in a serious set since 2007 – and an ironic role reversal from years before. This time, Mango’s return to being considered Melee’s best was spoiled by the man he defeated at Pound 3.

Finishing third at Zenith 2013, fifth at EVO 2013 and second at the Fall Classic, Mew2King slowly chipped his way back into the national conversation for being not just a “gatekeeper,” but as much of a threat to win majors as his  contemporaries. A more cynical person might say that Melee’s revival and growth during 2013 was the sole catalyst behind Mew2King’s growth – but nonetheless, his renowned focus and confidence in Melee seemed to be coming back. He even had occasional set wins over Dr. PeePee and Mango on the year, which was remarkable because of how frequently he used to lose to them. Enter The Big House 3.

Winning TBH3 was easily Mew2King’s best achievement since 2007, since it was the first ever tournament that Mew2King won over two gods in attendance. It also marked the start of what many to this day refer to as the “Return of the King,” in which Mew2King won 15 more tournaments in a row, including four more set wins over Mango (one of which Mango played Captain Falcon in, but the other three were in mostly serious sets). For the last quarter of 2013, you could have argued that Mew2King looked like the world’s best player again.

From 2014 to now, Mew2King still hasn’t reached the level of dominance that he had in 2007 or even late 2013. That said, he’s still finished in the top five of SSBMRank for the last two years, with an additional title at Shine 2016, several other tournament victories and many top eight showings. Add in a legendary losers run at UGC Smash Open last weekend – Mew2King is cemented  for yet another finish as a top five player. If you take into account RetroSSBMRank, 2016 marks a decade of  Mew2King’s status within the elite echelon of play. Not even Chu Dat has that kind of career success.

Although he hasn’t won a generation-defining event since taking FC-Diamond, Mew2King has had moments where he’s looked capable of returning to the top. In the last three years, Mew2King has boasted 3-0’s over every god and Leffen, showing that when he’s on-point, the former No. 1 could still defeat anyone in his path.

If you’re an optimist, you could say that Melee’s growth makes the possibility of Mew2King ever winning an EVO-level event bigger than ever before. After all, with him having shown the ability to beat anyone in the world, it’s seemingly just a matter of time until Mew2King puts it together for one last immortal run.

But at the same time, with the biggest talent pool that Melee’s ever seen, along with Mew2King’s simultaneous dedication to Smash 4, it’s tough to envision Mew2King ever coming back to No. 1. For every significant victory over a fellow god, you could just easily point to an upset or disappointing placing.

One thing for sure: in a career filled with so many highs and lows – but far more highs  – Mew2King will continue to awe and inspire smashers, always surprising us when we least expect it. If last weekend at UGC Smash Open didn’t prove it, a decade’s worth of magic certainly proves Mew2King as Melee’s No. 4 player of all-time and by far the game’s longest standing giant.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes – I know Juggleguy doesn’t main Fox and that these weren’t serious matches. But this video is too perfect.

UltimateSSBMRank No. 5: Hungrybox

5. Hungrybox

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No. of years ranking in the Top 10 of RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank: 7 (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)

No. of years ranking in the Top 5 of RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank: 7 (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)
No. of years ranked as RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank’s No. 1: 1 (2010)
No. of titles: 8 (Apex 2010, The Fall Classic 2013, Paragon Orlando 2015, DreamHack Winter 2015, PAX Arena, Battle of Five Gods, EGLX and EVO 2016)

*EDITOR’S NOTE: A lot of the content I’ve placed below is from my previous articles regarding Hungrybox. If you’ve been following my website since earlier in the year, you might have read a similar piece about Hungrybox winning EVO 2016, briefly summarizing his post-documentary career up until his victory. I’ve since deleted that post, but kept much of its content within this write-up on Hungrybox’s legacy, due to the topic being somewhat similar. As you might also recognize, many of the quotes in this article are from an interview I did with Liquid Crunch, which you can read here. Does this count as recycling my own work? Who knows.

Hungrybox began playing Super Smash Bros. Melee from a young age. At some point in middle school, both he and his best friend (now coach) Captain Crunch became the two best at their school – and they played together frequently, with Hungrybox first maining Ness.

The two were in for a rude awakening. Entering their first real competitive tournament around late middle school, they got “rocked,” per Crunch’s recollection. Though they were clearly not ready to successfully compete, both Hungrybox and Crunch joined what would become one of Florida’s best crews in WATO (What Are The Oddz).

“Originally, when Juan and I joined the crew, they were surprised at how quickly we learned,” Crunch said.  “We were by far the youngest (13 and 14 years old) in the crew and they took us in as the young apprentices.”

At some point in their training and playing, it became evident that Hungrybox wasn’t like everyone else – he had the resources, competitive drive and talent to become much better than being just the best of his friends.

“Juan had a few factors that were beneficial: as a person, he’s always been able to focus and compete in anything he put his mind to,” Crunch said. “But he also had a ton of support from his parents. He literally had people from WATO over his house like every single day after school. If he was ever alone, he’d constantly invite people over to play. I guess his need to be around other people and competitive nature brought it out.”

Within WATO, Hungrybox quickly gained expertise in different matchups, facing Peach mains like Legion and Marin, Sheik players, such as H1roshi, and Fox, versus uuaa and Crunch.

Moreover, the rest of the Florida scene had a variety of other high-level mains and playstyles for Hungrybox to learn. With players like DaShizWiz and Lambchops representing Falco, Green Mario and UberIce (also an Ice Climbers) playing Mario, KeepSpeedN sometimes bringing out Sheik, Linguini playing Ganondorf, Skrach and QueenDVS playing Marth and Smashmac playing Doctor Mario, Hungrybox’s knowledge of matchups expanded far beyond his initial crew.

Even though Melee temporarily died after its sequel Super Smash Bros. Brawl came out, Hungrybox continued playing, having switched mains to Mario to Jigglypuff to Doctor Mario and back to Jigglypuff again, now getting top eight placings at tournaments like FAST 1, TGMTSBCO and Event 52. In an AMA he held on Reddit before Apex 2014, Hungrybox wrote, “Well, I chose Puff because she had Rest and I thought it was a super funny move to use on my friends. I realized it was easier to use than most people made it out to be, and so I took advantage of it.”

While his first place finish at Revival of Melee 2 in 2009 is considered by many to be when Hungrybox was considered a top player, he still had several impressive victories before. At the first Revival of Melee in March, he placed seventh, losing to legends PC Chris and Chu Dat, but also defeating respectable players in Reno, RaynEX and KoreanDJ: considered at that point to still be legendary in skill.

These weren’t Flukes either. Hungrybox finished third at Get Smashed in January and second at Tipped Off 4, showing that he was one of the best players in the South, if not soon to be its No. 1. Hungrybox also won HERB2 and Tipped Off 5, along with placing third at GENESIS, considered to be the most important Melee tournament of the year and still thought of as as the go-to-watch for legendary tourneys.

Think about it: his 2009 resume clearly showed that Hungrybox wasn’t just a rising star: he practically jumped to being a top five player out of nowhere. Let’s take a look at his victories in the year – Eggm, Hax, Cactuar, Kage, Chu Dat, Zhu, Jman and a combined 13-2 record against Dr. PeePee, DaShizWiz and Mew2King.

This is despite getting heavily underrated by most tournament organizers. For example, at GENESIS, Hungrybox only lost to Mango, once in losers finals, but again in the winners round of 16. Even at a tournament he actually won in RoM 2, Hungrybox got seeded to Mango’s side of bracket, being projected to play him again in winners semis, before Kage upset Mango in winners quarters.

When I asked both Scar and Toph on their show about their thoughts on 2009’s RetroSSBMRank, they both immediately stopped reading the list upon seeing who was at No. 3: Hungrybox. Though this seems to be accurate of what others thought at the time, facts and research definitively paint a different picture of his skill.

In retrospect, there were several reasons for why Hungrybox was underrated. Jigglypuff was overwhelmingly seen by members of the community as cheap, along with being slow and boring to watch. Jigglypuff’s best kill move, Rest, was seen as an unfair one-hit KO against her opponents, while her aerial mobility and range was also thought of as broken.

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Despite Mew2King’s hilariously blunt assessment (even with his own weakness and hatred for Jigglypuff), you could have argued that Hungrybox’s success was not sustainable, due to matchup unfamiliarity for many people in the scene. In fact, if you were a critic, you could easily point to one player as a consistent thorn in Hungrybox’s side: Colbol.

A fellow teenager and a Florida Fox player that finished No. 4 within the state’s PR in 2007, Colbol routinely dismantled Hungrybox in tournament (or clutched out heartbreakingly close sets) from 2007 to the end of 2008. That slightly changed in 2009, when Hungrybox got a lot better and was able to now take sets from him, but he still finished 11-13 on the year against Colbol. Perhaps Jigglypuff wasn’t as good as people thought: this might have been enough reason to discredit Hungrybox’s achievements in 2009 and expect a return to earth for him in 2010.

Instead, Hungrybox placed second at Pound 4, then the biggest Melee tournament of all-time, and second at HERB3 to Dr. PeePee. He then proceeded to win CEO 2010 over Dr. PeePee, defeat Jman twice again at a No Johns monthly in January and breeze through Apex 2010, where he plowed through Kage, VaNz, Mew2King and Armada (twice), winning the major tournament without dropping a single game.

Let that sink in for a moment: Hungrybox won eight straight games against gods of the era, including defeating Mew2King’s Fox on Rainbow Cruise, one of the most lopsided counterpick choices ever. Winning Tipped Off 6 over Dr. PeePee also helped his national perception and made Hungrybox the official king of the South, especially with a new 9-2 record on the year against Colbol, his former kryptonite.

However, like several great rivalries, you can’t mention Hungrybox’s successful 2010 without acknowledging that he still lived in the shadow of Mango: then a well-liked rival, due to his flashy, aggressive and unrelenting style of play, with all his characters, including the loathed Jigglypuff.  In contrast to Mango being a crowd favorite, Hungrybox, frequently rooted against, often would force his opponents to play more deliberately and less combo-heavy game. It made Hungrybox a source of derision within the smash community, both to Mango and others who insulted how he played, saying that it was bad for the game or not fun to play against.

In fact, at Pound 4, Mango beat Hungrybox in mostly Jigglypuff dittos, notoriously jabbing him to punish a missed rest in grand finals, causing a furious and humiliated Hungrybox to drop from ledge seconds later, forfeiting his last stock of the tournament. This moment was unfortunate for Hungrybox because it also obscured what was actually an exciting winners finals in their last set, where he came within a stock from beating Mango.

Even with his successes in the year, the images of Mango’s jab punish was enough to leave Hungrybox’s rise to the top with an asterick. Was he really the best player in the world or was he just taking advantage of a year when Mango no longer cared about competing? That’s not going into Mew2King prioritizing Brawl ahead of Melee or Armada rarely being in America. Even after winning Apex, Hungrybox was routinely whooped in money matches and friendlies against Mango’s secondaries, causing many to still question his legitimacy as a Apex champion, since Mango sandbagged for the majority of the tourney and was popularly seen as still the game’s most talented player.

Strangely enough, Hungrybox hit a slump to end his then-best year as a Melee player. Although he technically got his revenge against Mango at Revival of Melee 3 (beating his Marth and Captain Falcon), Hungrybox lost to Mew2King and Dr. PeePee, finishing fifth. An up and down performance at the year’s final major in Don’t Go Down There Jeff, where Hungrybox beat a serious Mango (now playing Fox), but lost to Fly Amanita and Lucky for fourth, showed the RetroSSBMRank No. 1 of 2010 in danger of losing his spot.

Hungrybox then had a moderately successful 2011, when, outside of dropping two local sets to Plup and losing a set in GENESIS 2 pools to Lovage, he lost only to fellow gods. Consistently beating everyone else and continuing a stretch of dominance against Mew2King, winning three consecutive sets, Hungrybox made a name for himself with his hallmark consistency. A soon-to-be college student who didn’t always have the time to prioritize Melee, Hungrybox still had three major obstacles in the three gods above him, which included Mango’s return to seriously competing with his new main, Fox, at GENESIS 2.

Armada, in particular, had been biding his time until playing Hungrybox again in winners semis of Pound V, this time having developed a surprise counterpick.You may have already read what I wrote before about the significance of Armada pulling out Young Link for the first time against Hungrybox in winners semis of Pound V – but  just in case you haven’t, here’s what happened.

Imagine the setting: you’re a competitive Melee fan and at this point, you’re a believer in Armada being a “god,” but you’re not quite sure about his ability to overcome Hungrybox, given how badly his Peach lost to the Florida Jigglypuff a year ago. Maybe you thought that Armada would reveal a Fox secondary, but when he tried that at the first GENESIS, it got humiliated by Mango’s own Jigglypuff. By the time the first game of the set starts, it hasn’t sunk in yet, but the stone-faced Swede is playing Young Link. This is the first time a player of Armada’s caliber has seriously picked a non-top tier in tournament as a counterpick.

Four minutes pass by in the match and you’ve realized the Young Link character select wasn’t a joke or a sandbag attempt – it was a brilliant counterpick that led Armada to a two to one stock lead over 2010’s most successful player. Eight minutes later and Armada completes a double-two stock set victory, with a simultaneously baffled, excited, bored, yet cheering crowd.

Hungrybox now had a new problem on his hands in Armada’s Young Link, also losing to Dr. PeePee in losers finals at Pound V. If you thought his set against Armada at Pound V was brutal, watch the 30+ minute set at GENESIS 2 winners semis, where Hungrybox clutches out a timeout, one-percent victory in the first game, but gets thoroughly dismantled in what commentators HomeMadeWaffles and Phil called “the wackest fucking set in the world,” with gameplay that “kills tournaments,” among other statements. Hungrybox finished fourth at GENESIS 2, getting eliminated by Mango in losers semis.

At Apex 2012, Hungrybox initially looked vulnerable. In the third round of winners bracket, he lost to KirbyKaze, being cast into a brutal losers bracket that featured heavy hitters from every region.

Hungrybox proceeded to have one of the most underrated losers runs of all-time. Starting off by making his way through Silent Wolf, Hungrybox then beat Zhu in a runback of their last-game set at GENESIS and overcame a god-slaying Wobbles (who at just beat Mew2King in winners) to make top eight. If that wasn’t enough, Hungrybox had to beat Shroomed: a rising Doc player whom Hungrybox worried about playing in bracket one day, due to both Shroomed’s skill and Doc’s perceived favorable matchup against Jigglypuff at the time.

Rematching KirbyKaze for fifth place, this time Hungrybox came out as a victor, also dominantly 3-0’ing the tournament’s hero in Javi, who was hot from an upset over Dr. PeePee in the previous round. That left just two more opponents: Mango and Armada. Solidly 3-1’ing Mango in losers finals, Hungrybox also managed to take a set off Armada in a 40+ minute 3-2 set, before finally falling in the second set of grand finals around half and hour later. Although Hungrybox hadn’t won the tournament, his epic losers run stood as one of Apex 2012’s most remarkable stories.

But as more time passed on, Apex 2012 felt like just another tournament that marked close-but-not-quite results for Hungrybox, seemingly stuck as Melee’s silver and bronze medalist. Zenith 2012 was especially a disappointment for Hungrybox, who plac e an underwhelming fourth place with losses to Chu Dat and Dr. PeePee. At the other majors he attended in the year, IMPULSE, FC Legacy and The Big House 2, Hungrybox placed third, second and second, losing all his sets against Mango and Dr. PeePee.

Still successful in his sole set against Mew2King in 2012, Hungrybox looked more or less destined to be stuck at No. 4, no matter how consistently he did well at larger tournaments. Hungrybox even suffered a rare tournament loss in the middle of the year at YOL4, where his old Achilles heel Colbol double eliminated him. Though those were the only local sets Hungrybox ever dropped, they still showed that he wasn’t quite as untouchable as a trying Mango, Dr. PeePee and Armada.

Enter 2013’s first major: Apex 2013. Hungrybox went through his bracket, including tough opponents in Shroomed, Leffen and Overtriforce, before playing Armada in the one-year tournament anniversary rematch. Before the set even started, Hungrybox eagerly asked Armada if both of them would agree to a double blind character pick. As Armada selected Young Link, Hungrybox chose Ness, causing a bizarre mix of groans and hype from the crowd near them. Yes – you read that right.

Needless to say, Hungrybox’s out-of-nowhere counterpick didn’t work, even if doing better than expected. After going down 2-0, he went back to Jigglypuff, briefly winning a third game, but losing a soul-crushing game four in which he lost via a timeout after two failed rests. Mentally destroyed from his loss to Armada, Hungrybox fell to Mango for fifth, bringing his lifetime record against the SoCal legend to 3-13, with only two wins over Mango’s mains.

Even after defeating Mango at NorCal Regionals 2013, winning after flying out to Northern California with little money, Hungrybox still couldn’t break out with a premier win. Placing second, third and second at Zenith 2013, EVO 2013 and The Big House 3, losing to Mango another three times, Wobbles and even Mew2King twice, Hungrybox only won a single major all year with two or more gods attending at The Fall Classic 2013, winning it over Dr. PeePee and Mew2King. It was clear that Hungrybox could take sets from anyone in the world, but could he put it all together to win a title with all of the top three in attendance?

As Dr. PeePee seemed to fall in the god rankings, Mew2King started to pose a new problem for Hungrybox. After he started off the year with a lopsided 13-4 lifetime record against Mew2King, the latter seemingly figured out how to fight Jigglypuff, dominating Hungrybox at The Big House 3 and repeating his performance at Revival of Melee 6, along with going on a tear of winning tournaments to close the last quarter of the year. As a result, Hungrybox finished No. 5 on 2013’s SSBMRank.

2013 wasn’t only a tough year for Hungrybox as a player. His resentment with being consistently rooted against, along with always feeling like he was second to someone else reached an ugly boiling point when he wrote a lengthy comment on Mango’s Reddit AMA in 2013, detailing personal grievances and negative accounts regarding Mango – all after the latter won EVO 2013, then the biggest tournament in Melee history and one that spawned a new generation of players.

Regardless of whether the listed complaints were justified or not, Hungrybox’s comment derailed the AMA and brought one side of an embarrassing conflict between them to a national audience. The two were forced to talk out their problems in front of the Melee community’s viewers on an episode of Melee It On Me. It was a messy and tense situation for everyone involved, with a still-incensed and prideful Mango clearly livid at Hungrybox, apologizing for some of his behavior in the past, but still angry that he had ruined Mango’s reputation, which Mango said he had been especially trying to work on, given the scene’s growth and his standing as its best player.

Though many people saw Hungrybox’s actions as selfish, if not immature and ill-timed grudge-holding, others saw it as Hungrybox standing up for himself, after years of being seen as a villain. Come the release of “The Smash Brothers,” a competitive Melee-related documentary that also chronicled his rivalry with Mango, Hungrybox gained a fair share of new fans and supporters, though the documentary is still criticized for showing Mango in a negative light. To this day, there remains controversy over the AMA, though the two have grown from it and resolved most of their problems since.

Hungrybox started 2014 with a respectable, but slightly disappointing fifth at Apex 2014, losing to an upstart Leffen and his rival Mango again. He showed a brief return to form at Shuffle V with taking a set off Mew2King, but once again finished as a runner-up, before finishing third at Revival of Melee 7: just under Mango and Mew2King, but getting sponsored by Team Curse (later merged with Team Liquid) shortly afterward. Hungrybox managed to defeat Mew2King in a thrilling five-game losers set at GOML 2014, but still lost the tournament to Mango after almost making a four-stock comeback in the final game.

His high hopes quickly started to fade again, with convincing losses to Mew2King at Pat House 2 and Hungrybox’s worst tournament since becoming a god: a seventh place at MLG Anaheim 2014, where he was eliminated by Axe. It was his lowest performance at a significant major since getting seventh at RoM.

After two strong comebacks at CEO 2014 (a failed Fox counterpick against Armada’s Young Link aside) and EVO 2014, where he placed third and second, Hungrybox looked like he was back to his regular self. At these tournaments, he had not only beaten Mew2King, he also beat Dr. PeePee and double eliminated Armada’s Young Link (retiring it), before just failing to defeat Mango. Hungrybox also won Tipped Off 10, plowing through Mew2King 6-1 to win the tourney, giving him his first tournament win over a god in 2014 and a hot hand heading into The Big House 4.

Unfortunately,the Michigan tournament marked an even worse placing for Hungrybox at a major than MLG – he finished ninth, losing to Leffen yet again and getting eliminated by Lucky. Although he finished the year as No. 5 on SSBMRank, Hungrybox – and his character Jigglypuff, once considered to be cheap and low-skill to use – was clearly on the decline. With many members of the community not even sure if he deserved No. 5 over Leffen, it was natural to wonder: was Hungrybox still a god?

Like he’s done throughout his career, Hungrybox responded to any skepticism by winning. At the beginning of the year, he won Paragon Orlando, with wins over Mew2King and Armada’s new Fox. This tournament was particularly special, not just because of winning in his home region or its comically lopsided grand finals – it was the first time Hungrybox had won a tourney in years, with Armada or Mango in attendance.

Hungrybox then had a few bumps in the road, with otherwise decent placings. Eventually finishing fifth, Hungrybox lost to PewPewU in winners quarters at Apex 2015, before being eliminated by Armada in the Paragon rematch. At MVG Sandstorm, Hungrybox defeated Leffen, but was sent to losers by Armada and lost to Westballz in a controversial losers semis where the two were moved to another setup mid-set. Hungrybox then placed fourth at Press Start, losing to Lucky and Mango again, but making his way through Mew2King and SFAT.

According to Crunch, CEO 2015 marked a turning point for Hungrybox in the summer. Although he finished a respectable fifth, he was crushed by a lopsided 3-0 against Armada and held yet another loss to Mango: his eleventh straight loss in a row to him. It all but seemed to confirm that even if Hungrybox was a consistent top eight placer at nationals, with exceptional victories every now and then, he had already peaked.

This self-doubt, along with questions about how much longer he could play this game, along with graduation and a full-time job coming up, depressed Hungrybox and made him wonder if a Jigglypuff could ever win again. Crunch said that at this point, even he was beating Hungrybox in friendlies. After the tournament, Crunch decided that he was going to do his best to help his friend succeed at the top level, due to seeing what he thought were obvious, but fixable flaws within Hungrybox’s gameplay.

“Instead of repeatedly exploiting the same holes that he had, I decided I could close them up,” Crunch said. “I saw how much potential he had, but also noticed a lot of stupid habits that we could easily remove. I believed we could make it happen.”

With renewed confidence and backing from his best friend, Hungrybox didn’t immediately win another tournament, but he showed fight and a new-found discipline in his victories, even embracing crowd boos when he started ledge stalling as an evasive tactic. Finishing second to Leffen at FC Return and second again to Armada at EVO 2015, Hungrybox still was able to take two sets off Armada, another off Leffen, but most importantly, finally vanquish his long-time demon in Mango, not only eliminating him from the biggest tournament of all-time, but poetically denying his chances at a threepeat.

Granted, Hungrybox still had a long way to go before he could win a title again. At Paragon LA, he suffered an early loss to Professor Pro in bracket, subsequently defeating Ken in a three-game, last-stock scare, S2J, Fly Amanita, Shroomed, Plup, Lucky, Leffen and Westballz, before just barely losing to Mew2King in losers finals. Hungrybox followed that up with a strong second at HTC Throwdown, though he was completely outclassed in grand finals against Leffen, losing, but not acting too defeated about it and having to prepare for The Big House 5.

Here, Hungrybox tore through a Fox-filled bracket of Zhu, Darkatma’s Fox, Ice, Mango and Mew2King, placing only second to Armada. Even though he hadn’t won a major and suffered an upset loss, Hungrybox was looking the best he had ever been in his career, now optimizing his gameplay through the help of a training partner and coach in Crunch. While Hungrybox’s out-of-smash ambitions initially seemed to be reason to think his decline was inevitable, the balance between his career and hobby seemed to give him fresh clarity and insight.

With DreamHack Winter 2015 coming up in Armada’s hometurf of Sweden, Hungrybox came prepared, training harder than ever with Crunch and optimizing his own gameplay. With the support of his best friend Crunch, Hungrybox won the tournament, defeating Axe, Westballz and Armada, losing only one set in grand finals to Armada. By the end of the Melee season, Hungrybox had now become the No. 2 of 2015’s SSBMRank. The question was how much further he could go.

For the first half of 2016, it looked like Hungrybox was unstoppable. After getting third at GENESIS 3, partially due to SDing on the last stock of a game within a loss to Mango, Hungrybox tore through Pax Arena, Battle of Five Gods and Pound 2016, dropping only one set to Mango at Battle of Five Gods, otherwise dominating him and every other opponent he faced. After a second place at Smash Summit 2 in a thrilling two-set loss to Armada, Hungrybox obliterated Mango and the field at EGLX. During this period of time, 2015’s No. 2 player had a case to be the new world No. 1.

Even with occasional tournaments like DreamHack Austin 2016 (second to Mango), Get On My Level 2016 (third to Mango and Leffen) and WTFox 2 (fifth, after losing to Wizzrobe and Mew2King), Hungrybox still had fantastic showings at Low Tier City 4 and CEO 2016, winning both tourneys without dropping a set, thumping Mango and Mew2King in his victories. It was then to almost no one’s surprise when, after getting sent to losers early by Plup, Hungrybox came back through S2J, Mango and Plup to face Armada in the grand finals of EVO 2016: the biggest tournament ever and decided for which of the two would become the world champion.

Despite playing against Fox – a matchup now considered to be Jigglypuff’s hardest in the game – Hungrybox soon held a commanding 2-0 lead in grand finals against Armada. But when Armada adjusted, dominating on his own counterpick, as well as Hungrybox’s in the fourth game, the set’s momentum shifted toward Armada at 2-2.

In Game 5, down two stocks to one and gaining enough percent to die from a stray up-smash from Fox, Hungrybox mounted his own comeback, smash DIing out of an upair from Armada that would have otherwise ended the tournament. After taking Armada’s third stock of the game, Hungrybox only had one more to go, but was under a tremendous percent deficit of over 100 percent. With the world watching, Hungrybox finished off Armada with a clutch rest: just another crazy comeback that smashers had grown accustomed to seeing from “Clutchbox,” this time on the Melee’s biggest stage ever.

With the bracket now reset, Hungrybox and Armada traded games of the second set, but by the end of Armada’s commanding three-stock victory in Game 3, Hungrybox found himself in a 2-1 hole against the world’s best player. Once again under a huge percent disadvantage against Armada, Hungrybox found a grab and rested Armada to end the game. Hungrybox then won a last-stock final game to cement himself as the EVO champion.

Hungrybox once said that his goal as a Melee player was to be able to “touch the ceiling,” effectively meaning that he wanted to have a moment where he could affirm to himself and everyone around him that he was the world’s best Melee player. Winning EVO 2016 was the final validation that Hungrybox had always dreamed of achieving.

But just as quickly as it felt he won EVO, Hungrybox found himself somewhere he had never truly been: the No. 1 target for other players to beat. After finishing second to Mango at Super SmashCon 2016, losing to SFAT and Mango again at Shine 2016 for fourth and dejectedly placing fifth at The Big House 6, losing to SFAT for the second time in a row and Armada, Hungrybox looked more vulnerable, as he did earlier in his career. Though only a few people thought it at the time, some people went so far as to say that SFAT’s dominant 3-0 at TBH6 proved that Jigglypuff had been “figured out.”

However, on October 13, 2016, Hungrybox announced that he had quit his engineering job at WestRock to pursue Melee, marking the first time that he has fully invested himself into smash. Since then, Hungrybox has streamed far more and placed better than his brief post-EVO slump, finishing second to Armada at Canada Cup 2016, Smash Summit 3 and DreamHack Winter 2016 (though he finished second at CFL Smackdown Weekly 104 last Monday to Plup).

Moreover, with UGC Smash Open happening this weekend, Hungrybox could potentially add yet another title to his already lengthy list of accomplishments. Even if he doesn’t finish this year as No. 1 in SSBMRank, his undeniable impact as a competitor this year has placed him within a special stratosphere of greatness: even higher than he was before and arguably within the Mount Rushmore of Melee players, as HugS puts him (though in HugS’ list, he has Hungrybox as No. 3 of all-time).

Despite controversies surrounding his career, whether they be in his outspoken personality, his infamously lengthy popoffs, the character he plays, his playstyle and more, Hungrybox is without question one of the five best Melee players ever: a resilient, odds-defying force to be reckoned with and an irreplaceable part of this game’s history.

UltimateSSBMRank No. 6: PPMD

6. PPMD

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No. of years ranking in the Top 10 of RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank: 7 (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)

No. of years ranking in the Top 5 of RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank: 5
 (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014)
No. of years ranked as RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank’s No. 1: 0
No. of titles: Revival of Melee 3, Winter Game Fest VI, Pound V, Zenith 2012, Apex 2014, SKTAR 3, Apex 2015 (7 titles)

At the end of the second set of Apex 2015 grand finals, it was confirmed: after a half-a-year hiatus from attending major tournaments, PPMD won the first premier tournament of 2015 – then the largest Melee tournament ever.

PPMD took a deep breath and shook the hand of his opponent Armada, before getting pummeled via hugs from numerous people behind him. Temporarily overwhelmed by all the emotion, putting his face in his hands, the North Carolina Falco/Marth legend eventually got up from his seat and raised his arms in exhilaration.

It was the last title PPMD won.

Starting off around 2007 as a Mario player, PPMD, then known as Dr. PeePee eventually switched to playing both Falco and Marth, though he mainly played Falco for his early career. Before he broke out, Dr. PeePee trained with his brother Twitch, people like LoZR and other members of a relatively obscure smash scene within his state. When players thought of the South back then, they mostly thought of Florida players like Colbol, Lambchops, Hungrybox or DaShizWiz – not quite North Carolina smashers.

One common misconception about Dr. PeePee’s legacy is that his first noteworthy performance was at Revival of Melee 2, where he notably out-placed Mango, defeating Lucky, Darc, Jman and the Mango-slayer Kage, en route to second place under Hungrybox. While this was certainly his breakout tournament, it wasn’t like Dr. PeePee was a nobody.

Before RoM 2, Dr. PeePee had a series of strong showings at Tipped Off 4 (fourth), HERB1 (fifth), HERB2 (fourth) and Tipped Off 5 (third). Though he lost to established players like Linguini, Colbol, Tope, Hungrybox and Scar, Dr. PeePee actually had wins over Colbol, Tope, Chu Dat, DJ Nintendo and Lambchops. In fact, he actually beat Hax at HERB2, causing the then-Captain Falcon player to proclaim Dr. PeePee the best Falco in the world – a lofty claim in 2009, with Mango, DaShizWiz, Zhu and PC Chris still in the scene.

As a contrast to his successful breakout at RoM 2, Pound 4 marked a quick hangover tournament for Dr. PeePee. He only placed ninth, losing to Axe and Lucky, though he beat KirbyKaze and Chu Dat. Two months later though, Dr. PeePee had his revenge against Hungrybox, defeating him twice to win HERB3, his first wins over the Florida Jigglypuff ever.

After a slightly underwhelming third at CEO 2010, (losing only to Hungrybox and forfeiting his losers finals set against Colbol), Dr. PeePee once again had another strong showing at Apex 2010, where he finished fourth. Taking sets from Eggm, Taj, Darc, VaNz, Zhu and Wobbles, while only losing to Jman and Armada, Dr. PeePee showed his matchup expertise and excellent fundamentals, but it was hard to tell which of his several performances (including losing a Falco ditto early in the year to SleepyK at a local round robin) were indicative of his skill.

Imagine the world’s surprise when in November, Dr. PeePee won Revival of Melee 3. With wins over Darc, Jman (twice), the reigning RoM champion Hungrybox, KirbyKaze and now Mew2King (twice), it was clear that Dr. PeePee was even more than just a tourney dark horse – I would argue that the RoM 3 victory cemented his place as one of the world’s top five players, even taking into account his loss to KirbyKaze in winners.

Sidenote: above is the most notorious match of RoM 3 – its final game. While most people look at this set and say that Dr. PeePee caused Rainbow Cruise to be banned, that’s actually not entirely true. Though his match highlighted several flaws with the stage, showing that it held a comically large value as a counterpick stage, many players, such as Hax, had complained about these stages before. In fact, as you can see here, this stage was still legal in tournament at Pound V.

To prove his title victory at RoM 3 wasn’t a fluke, Dr. PeePee traveled all the way to San Diego, attending Winter Game Fest VI near the beginning of 2011. Here, he defeated Shroomed and Mew2King (for the third time in a row), before beating Mango’s Captain Falcon in winners finals. Defeating the secondary once again in the grand finals rematch before going 1-2 against a serious Mango’s Falco, Dr. PeePee won his second straight title. At this point, he defeated Mango, Hungrybox and Mew2King at his last two tournaments. That left one more top player who the North Carolina legend had yet to defeat: Armada.

Making his way through the likes of Kels, Lovage, Amsah and Mew2King, Dr. PeePee found himself against the Swedish sniper in Pound V grand finals: a rematch from Apex 2010. Going up 1-0 early and even holding a two stock to one advantage on Armada’s counterpick, Final Destination, Dr. PeePee couldn’t hold on and ended up losing the set 3-1. Not to be easily defeated, Dr. PeePee clutched out a 3-2 win over Hungrybox to once against face Armada, this time in grand finals and needing to win two sets.

Could a tournament victory be more poetic? Even the lights went out during grand finals! Pound V marked Dr. PeePee’s third straight national tournament win, but consider that at each one, he had to defeat a motley of different gods. Overcoming Armada, who looked prime to win his first American major, was the final step needed for most to assess Dr. PeePee’s place as a “god” within the metagame.

With Mango frequently sandbagging, Mew2King playing a lot more Brawl, Hungrybox seemingly no longer a huge problem and having just defeated Armada, Dr. PeePee, in a span of four months had become Melee’s championship belt holder. Heading into the summer’s GENESIS 2, and even playing a bit more Fox on the side to moderate success against Mew2King, it was easy to believe that Dr. PeePee was the favorite to win  – even if the tournament was Mango’s planned return to seriously competing.

Reportedly due to him being sick, Dr. PeePee struggled through pools, losing to Taj, Fly Amanita and Tope. Although Dr. PeePee still made it relatively far in bracket, he ended up losing to Armada and Shroomed for seventh: a disappointing return to mortality for a man who once looked like the newcomer to the throne. Remaining undefeated in his region for the rest of the year, Dr. PeePee went to Revival of Melee 4 in November, where he beat Jman and Mew2King (twice), but still lost to Mango, who now Falco ditto’d Dr. PeePee for the entirety of their sets, winning their game count 6-1. While most of the games were close in stocks, it was clear that Mango was just a step ahead.

Dr. PeePee then started off 2012 with a disappointing fifth place at Apex 2012, losing to Armada and getting upset by the tournament’s hero in Javi. He then recomposed himself and won Northwest Manifest two months later, defeating Westballz, Eggz, S2J, SFAT and Lovage, some of the West Coast’s best players, showing that with Mango’s brief post-Apex 2012 retirement phase, Dr. PeePee still had a case to be the best active American player. The late spring, however, had Zenith 2012 in the horizon – and with the likes of Hungrybox, Mew2King, Jman and Chu Dat attending, Dr. PeePee had his work cut out for him.

At first, his chances didn’t look very good. Playing against a rowdy loud crowd that rooted for his opponents for the first three rounds of the main singles bracket, Dr. PeePee had quite a lot to go through, having to play regional favorites (Tristate) like Swedish Delight, StricNYN3 and PC Chris in a row. If you thought that was frustrating, watch his winners semis set against Mew2King, where Dr. PeePee gets visibly irritated mid-set and gets destroyed after winning the first game. Nonetheless, Dr. PeePee made his way through losers, beating Jman, Hungrybox and Chu Dat to rematch Mew2King, taking two sets, winning the tournament and popping the hell off after finally defeating the crowd favorite.

Clearly having recovered from his early-year loss, Dr. PeePee traveled to Canada a little over a month later, to attend IMPULSE, which had all four American gods attending. Here, he beat Hungrybox and even took his first set of full Falco dittos over Mango, who had then come out of retirement and back to seriously competing. Although he finished only second, losing the rest of his sets to Mango in grand finals, the gap between the two was closing.

The dynamic between Dr. PeePee and Mango is a fascinating one to look at. Despite Dr. PeePee’s outwardly reserved personality and the latter’s well-known reputation as a goofball, both players shared quite a few similarities beyond just being top competitors. In addition to playing the same character (Falco) with distinctive, fast, mixup-heavy and somewhat freestyle gameplay, they also both reveled in being able to shut up crowds that rooted against them and were close friends.

But think about how different they were. If Mango’s Falco was known for his creative use of aerial drift, mixups on shield and heavy amount of pressure,  Dr. PeePee’s was a bit more honest, dash dancing and shooting lasers more frequently, less about calling out his opponent and more heavy on choking them to death with stage control. Some of these are generalizations that shouldn’t be taken to extremes (and could apply to any player), as the two often took elements of eachother’s play and incorporated them into their own styles, but their contrast is still worth mentioning. For a while, Dr. PeePee was thought of as Mango’s Falco apprentice and successor, with the SoCal legend being one of the first community members to believe in him, dating back to RoM 3.

Dr. PeePee continued to have a successful rest of the year, placing second at Smashers’ Reunion in Norway, managing to take a set off Armada in the first set of grand finals, including a near-four stock. By the end of the summer, Dr. PeePee looked every bit the part of the top three player that he was in 2011. He and his mentor Mango were set for a clash at Kings of Cali, set in Mango’s home turf in Southern California.

At this point, Mango fully returned to being an active top player, winning IMPULSE, FC Legacy and The Big House 2 – all tournaments featuring fellow god players. When Dr. PeePee faced him in winners finals at KoC, you could already guess who the crowd was rooting for. Like Zenith 2012 winners semis, Dr. PeePee lost, but this time in a 3-0 and having to try a desperate Marth counterpick in the third game.

However, after defeating Axe in losers finals, Dr. PeePee had to play Mango for the rematch in what was considered at the time to be the greatest Falco ditto ever. With practically everyone in the venue rooting against him, Dr. PeePee clutched out a final last-stock ditto over his mentor, once again jumping out of his chair to celebrate.

It’s sometimes easy to forget that even well-regarded players like Dr. PeePee do not always act like perfect people. While certainly understandable to sympathize with his emotional outbursts, which were done after silencing crowds that rooted against him, you’d also be justified in finding his actions immature.

In particular, think about the KoC ending from Mango’s perspective. You have arguably cast aside any direct benefit to yourself as a competitor by actively helping a rival turn himself into a god-tier player – around the same time you’ve receded away from the scene. You’ve not only been rooting for his success, but you’ve also been a really close friend to him. Now imagine that you’ve returned to the scene with a newfound competitive drive and you lose to that player. He obnoxiously pops off in front of you, your home crowd and your friends before even shaking your hand. For Mango, this was not only disrespectful to everything he had done for Dr. PeePee, but it was hurtful. Even if unintentional, Dr. PeePee’s actions at KoC temporarily threw a wrench in his relationship with Mango.

However, when it came to meaningful results, winning KoC was an notable achievement, followed up by an excellent second place at Apex 2013, where Dr. PeePee defeated Colbol, Hax, Mew2King (twice) and revealed his Marth, becoming the first Marth player to take a set off Armada: something that not even Mew2King had done at the time. With Armada’s retirement after Apex 2013, the world’s No. 1 spot was now for the taking, but Dr. PeePee looked poised to take that spot – especially when he won an entire tournament over Mew2King while playing Marth a month later. Consider that at this point, beating Mew2King as Marth, both in the ditto and against his Sheik, was considered near impossible.

However, Dr. PeePee struggled for the rest of the year, relative to his expectations. Finishing fourth at Zenith 2013, losing to Hungrybox and Mango, he then started EVO 2013 off with a bang, defeating a temporarily-returning Armada, but losing to Wobbles and Mango to place fifth. To make things worse for himself, he placed third at The Fall Classic 2013 and The Big House 3,  both times behind Hungrybox and Mew2King, looking extremely dejected in each loss. Dr. PeePee ended 2013 as No. 4 on MIOM’s SSBMRank, an underwhelming position given how strongly he started off the year.

After closing 2013 with beating Hungrybox and winning Tipped Off 9, Dr. PeePee responded by having one of the most impressive tournament runs of all time at Apex 2014, where he blitzed his way through Kage, HugS (albeit being taken to Game 3), aMSa, Mango and Mew2King twice to win the first major of the year without losing a set. Most impressively, after already going up in the winners finals set, Dr. PeePee four-stocked Mew2King on Final Destination, something that had never been done before in tournament and was so scarring for Mew2King that he didn’t counter pick to this stage in the second set.

Though Dr. PeePee didn’t enter a major tournament for months, he still entered quite a few local tourneys within his area, winning everyone one, along with Civil War VI. Come SKTAR 3, the world was waiting: would the break from major tournaments hurt Dr. PeePee’s chances or was he now going to be the world No. 1? It didn’t hurt that this tournament was also the full-time return of Armada and not just a temporary one like EVO 2013. With every god but the slumping Hungrybox attending, the stage was set for entertainment.

Somehow, Dr. PeePee prevailed, winning the tournament without dropping another set, plowing through Armada, Mango and Mew2King, closing the tournament with a four-stock on Mew2King’s Sheik. If you were around the scene at that time, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind: Dr. PeePee was the new world No. 1.

Think of it this way: Dr. PeePee had now won his last eight sets against gods and had yet to drop a serious set since losing to Hungrybox at the Big House 3 (he dropped one to $Mike at a local while playing Peach). That’s almost eight months of staying undefeated – one of the longest streaks in Melee history. Dr. PeePee’s SKTAR 3 win also got him a new sponsor, team Evil Geniuses. He’s now known as PPMD.

Unfortunately for PPMD, his time at the top didn’t last much longer. Dropping a set to Leffen in pools and losing to Mango and Mew2King in bracket, PPMD finished a relatively surprising fourth at MLG Anaheim 2014, then the most hyped up tournament of the year. He followed that up with a strong, but still let-down fourth at EVO 2014, beating Mew2King again, but losing to Armada and the nemesis he once thought he’d gotten over in Hungrybox.

On September 24, 2014, PPMD announced within a post on Evil Genius’ website that he had been struggling with depression and therefore had not been attending major events after EVO 2014. While PPMD still attended weekly tournaments within his region, easily winning each one throughout the year, they still weren’t the kind of high-stress, ultra-competitive and high-stakes majors that his contemporaries attended, like The Big House 4. With the scene growing more competitive and PPMD’s personal demons plaguing him, it was difficult to believe that PPMD could ever reach the top again.

PPMD’s win at Apex 2015 can’t be overstated. In addition to once again surviving multiple-game scares with top 15-20 players in S2J and PewPewU, PPMD had to beat Armada and Leffen in last-game sets. Given PPMD’s struggles with depression, it was hard envisioning him overcoming his physical exhaustion at a tournament that ran late into the early morning and had to be moved to another venue – let alone clutching out last-game sets against the world’s best players and dealing with a bracket reset. It’s one of the most remarkable storylines in all of Melee history.

Even though he seemed ready to come back to tourney-level shape, PPMD began suffering from extreme bouts of low fatigue, hindering his ability to travel and drastically changing his physical appearance, as the once in-shape and active Melee god began to gain weight and essentially be isolated from the scene. Combined with depression, it not only hurt PPMD’s ability to travel, but his ability to stream, as he practically disappeared from the public eye, placing a respectable third at EVO 2015, but being unable to attend The Big House 5.

Winning Canada Cup 2015, a small regional held late into the year and also winning a local Get Smashed at the Foundry tournament against SFAT while playing Fox dittos (for whatever it’s worth), PPMD showed a bit of promise heading into the first Smash Summit, but the transition back to a competitive environment against similarly-tiered and rising players was demanding, to say the least.

Along with losing exhibition matches against S2J, SFAT and Axe, PPMD also lost to Armada and was upset by Plup: someone who many now consider to have usurped PPMD’s place in the new “Big Six” with Armada, Hungrybox, Mango, Mew2King  and Leffen. Nonetheless, PPMD finished No. 6 on MIOM’s SSBMRank.

Months later at GENESIS 3, the first major of 2016, PPMD impressed many with a fifth place showing, defeating players like Lucky, Swedish Delight and SFAT in bracket and losing only to Mango and Armada. Although he still hadn’t beaten a god since Apex 2015, PPMD still looked promising, taking a game off Armada in bracket and even zero to deathing Mango to start their set. With Battle of Five Gods coming up in March, PPMD was prime for a comeback.

Sadly, PPMD was not ready for such a tournament. Unlike other events, which gradually build up to an intense final bracket of the best players, Battle of Five Gods was an invitational tournament where competitors had to be on their A-game from the get-go, playing their sets in front of a large crowd in the Austin Convention Center and hearing commentators over the microphone during their set. Yet, for a man who was tormented from both physically not having enough stamina to compete at majors and his own emotional issues, PPMD put up a valiant effort out of the gate, dispatching PewPewU in relative ease (3-0) and beating Ice 3-1.

Afterwards, everything went wrong for PPMD. After losing to Westballz, PPMD now had to play in a “death group” stage, where he had to play MacD, Wobbles, Plup and Silent Wolf. PPMD didn’t just lose every set – he finished 2-12 in games and was eliminated at 10th place. If you watch his set against Silent Wolf, you can hear an emotional Scar talk on commentary about how proud he was of PPMD for still competing after so many years of striving to be No. 1, also surviving everything he had been through. That was PPMD’s last set in tournament.

No one knows what lies ahead. He will certainly not make it on MIOM’s SSBMRank, due to attending only two events all year. It’s hard to say where a tournament organizer should seed him if he ever comes back. The talent pool is not only bigger than ever before, but the gap between the top echelon of players and everyone else is growing thinner, with resources like 20XX available to nearly everyone.

That’s not even going into if PPMD’s stage-positioning heavy, movement-oriented and conservative combo game can directly translate to the modern top echelon of play on its own. In today’s game, something as simple as a tech flub, dropped combo or missed opportunity could lead to losing a stock. When you combine that with medical conditions that restrict his ability to travel and physically take a toll on him, it creates a terrifying obstacle harder to overcome than any opponent that smash on its own could ever create.

Even still, PPMD’s legacy is one of a kind. In addition to holding one of the game’s most dominant stretches, he has more than enough years of being a top five player and boasts an impressive amount of titles to solidify his place among the game’s best. It doesn’t hurt that PPMD is also a semi-frequent poster within Reddit and Smashboards, occasionally answering messages from smashers and fans alike (although given PPMD’s active presence on Smashboards for almost all of this decade, it isn’t too surprising).

Putting No. 6 next to PPMD is already an understatement to the life-changing figure he’s been for the Melee community. In spite of all the adversity he’s faced, PPMD has always bucked the odds, shown tremendous work ethic and proved himself as a champion. With a unique legacy that will live on no matter what, PPMD isn’t just some figure that Melee fans are waiting to see return at GENESIS 4, as he is planning to do – he’s an immortal; a truly awesome inspiration for everyone who has followed him through his outstanding career.