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.

One thought on “UltimateSSBMRank No. 6: PPMD

  1. Really enjoying these reads man, keep up the good work! Gotta say i felt a bit sad reading that ending, as i remembered PPMD’s Death Pool run…. Here’s to him coming as strong as ever!

    Like

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