Think of the best players from 2006: Ken, Azen, PC Chris, ChuDat and KoreanDJ are likely the first names in mind. If you’re a smash hipster, you might say Ek, Amsah, Mikael or other European/Japanese names. But how about smashers from Mexico?
Around 2006 came uploaded footage of Mexican matches to YouTube. Of note was the tech skill of a Fox named Javi. Though it was hard to gauge his precise skill, due to a lack of notable major results from him, his execution nonetheless awed the few smashers who knew of him. A cynic at the time might have been impressed by his speed, but scoffed at his “mind games” and decision-making.
Javi didn’t even play in a traditional way. He used his left thumb to move the control stick, but used his pointer, middle and index fingers to tap buttons on the right side of the GameCube controller in a grip now referred to as “claw” for what it resembles.
This gave Javi a bizarre playstyle unlike any other Fox player in the world. For example, where most other Fox players preferred to start their combos via grab or using Fox’s aerial combos, Javi was a master of converting off knockdown situations with shine and would mix up hyper-aggression with ultra-passive lasering.
Six years later and then just an obscure relic of Melee’s past, Javi came to the forefront of the scene at Apex 2012, one of the most important events in smash history. It boasted its own circuit, the first notable once since the Evo/MLG days, a dedicated stream schedule for multiple games and a heavy international presence.
In fact, the primary reason Javi could attend Apex came from winning an event qualifier in Mexico, the Ticket to Apex tournament. Take a wild guess on what happened after he won.
Now at Apex, with a slew of the world’s best players in his path to immortality, Javi stood as his country’s greatest hope, on the biggest stage he had ever known.
Eking by Cactuar 2-1 in the first round of Top 64, Javi then lost a close 2-1 set with Lovage. Now in losers, he went through Redd and Weon-X before playing KoreanDJ, a returning legend of Melee.
Consider the different paths of their legacies: KoreanDJ was one of the players documented within “The Smash Brothers,” released a year later, for being one of the greatest Melee players ever. Javi, though he technically played in the same era, was nothing more than a footnote among tech skill nerds and extreme scene enthusiasts. Though KoreanDJ certainly remains a “what-if” to this day – due to his academic pursuits somewhat curtailing his career – Javi was an even bigger one, due to where he hailed from.
In their set, Javi utterly dismantled KoreanDJ, three-stocking his Sheik in game one and subsequently two-stocking his Marth. He then moved on to play VaNz, who was fresh off a strong third place at The Big House and one of the most promising talents of the post-Brawl era. In the previous round, VaNz had taken out fellow rising star PewPewU.
The Mexican Fox started off slow, losing the first game by a stock. But he adapted, solidly two-stocking VaNz in the second game and doing it again in the third, despite a Sheik counter pick. His next opponent was the man who sent him to losers bracket: Lovage.
He’s known for being a commentator today, but back in the late post-Brawl era, Lovage was one of the scene’s most admired Fox players. A tech skill revolutionary that had actually won The Big House a couple of months before Apex, Lovage was among the “demigods” of his time, though he had never made a major top eight.
Playing more patiently and cleaner than he did in the winners set, Javi 2-0’d Lovage to then play Hax, a then-world class Captain Falcon player. Many on the East Coast believed that Hax was someone with the potential to usurp even the gods themselves, giving Javi yet another rising star to strike down with a thunderous 2-0.
Javi’s dominance over players like Hax and Lovage in their losers set made him look like a player worthy of fighting smashers from the top echelon of Melee. When he sat down to play Dr. PeePee, someone who had just cemented his place as one of the game’s elite a year ago, not even he could have predicted that his legacy would forever change in that moment.
A man who barely spoke a lick of English and was holding his controller the wrong way had now just defeated a contender for best Melee player in the world, now moving into top four and giving Mexico its greatest smash representative of all-time.
Though Javi lost a lopsided 3-0 to Hungrybox in losers semifinals, it didn’t matter. Javi made history.
He continued being a notable player for about another two years, with many after his Apex 2012 run claiming that he was an easy pick for top ten. Though he finished within the Top 20 for 2013 SSBMRank, since then, Javi’s fallen off. Those who have only been following Melee for a few years may not have ever heard of him.
Javi has had a few solid performances here and there, but for the most part, his impact on the scene is restricted to his amazing showing at Apex 2012. This makes his legacy a difficult one to quantify, if not define in comparison to players who have been around longer, but not reached the same heights as his Apex 2012.
But think about that one performance. From Javi’s status of being from a relatively obscure smash region like Mexico, to him having to beat some of the United States’ most established competitors, to even just his presence at the event alone, who could have ever bet on him?
Outside of Armada, Javi was the international scene’s best placing player at Apex, with many of his European contemporaries drowning in pools. He didn’t just represent Mexico – he had proven himself as an international legend.
From Mexico to New Jersey, Javi’s performance at Apex 2012 will forever be remembered as one of the most thrilling, surprising and greatest underdog runs in Melee history.