The 2019 Capcom Pro Tour has finally come to a close. After a year of intense competition spanning the globe, Los Angeles’ Novo Theater set the stage of battle for the season’s final event — a showdown that would determine the greatest Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition player in the entire world. The victor? None other than New York’s iDom, who rocked the entire arena with a win that dropped jaws and sparked inspiration across the FGC.
Who is iDom?
Derek “iDom” Ruffin is known across the fighting game community for his exploits at Next Level Battle Circuit, a local tournament series/game store in Brooklyn, New York. Rising to prominence with the release of Street Fighter V, iDom became the talk of the East Coast scene for his prowess using Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master Laura Matsuda — but his talent was limited to the East Coast, with many fans noting that he rarely traveled for competition.
This trend changed in 2019, when iDom notably joined the Street Fighter League: Pro-US 2019 tournament series. As a part of Team Storm, iDom was able to showcase his Laura (and Poison) for the entire world to see, and went on to travel for other Premier and Ranking Events within the Capcom Pro Tour. While he has always been an exceptional player, 2019 saw a massively successful year for the young pro, who racked up an impressive 935 points and even ranked at 26th place in the Global Leaderboards.
Despite his hard-won success throughout the season, iDom shocked the Street Fighter community by making Top 8 at Capcom Cup in the face of major challengers — and later sent the entire venue to their feet by making Grand Finals in an all-American showdown that will forever grace the halls of Street Fighter history as one of the most intense battles of all time.
Moke makes a major comeback
While iDom’s experience was nothing short of a Cinderella story, his wasn’t the only tear-jerking narrative to grace the Capcom Cup weekend. The Last Chance Qualifier likewise provided some intense moments and major upsets, which culminated in a venue-shaking Grand Finals set between SoCal’s Jesse “Commander Jesse” Espinoza and Japan’s Naoki “Moke” Nakayama.
The 2019 LCQ marked the last chance for players hoping to score a final qualifying spot in the Capcom Cup rankings. With names like Hiromiki “Itabashi Zangief” Kumada, Miky “Samurai” Chia, and young Urien main “Ryusei” in the runnings, it truly seemed like it was anyone’s game — especially when Itabashi Zangief was knocked out of Winners’ side by none other than FGC OG Alex Valle in a 2-0 run.
As the night wore on, players gathered anxiously around the provided setups to witness the battles that would ultimately determine Capcom Cup’s final qualifier. Tensions rose to a fever pitch when Grand Finals pitted hometown hero Commander Jesse against Rashid main Moke, who may not have even made the event, if not for the support from his community.
After losing his sponsorship midway through the 2019 season, Moke announced via Topanga League that he was finished competing for the remainder of the year. In spite of this soul-shattering development, his fans weren’t about to let him sit out on one of the most important tournaments of the season, and crowdfunded his way to the Last-Chance Qualifier. In a fairytale-esque turn of events, it was Moke who emerged victorious over Jesse’s Dhalsim, taking the win 3-0 in a runback match that had the entire venue shouting with passion and intensity — kicking off the weekend with a truly old-school tournament feel.
Japan’s Team Scarlet takes the Street Fighter League Finals
The Street Fighter League Finals followed up the LCQ’s electric energy on Day 2 of Capcom Cup, culminating two season’s worth of competition from America and Japan’s best SFV: AE talent. With America’s Team Gale and Team Frost making the cut against Japan’s Team Scarlet and Team Aurora, they first had to duke it out amongst each other to determine the single groups that would move on in the country-vs-country showdown — and the right to a $90,000 prize.
After a hard-fought battle, it was Team Gale who beat out Team Frost, with Du “NuckleDu” Dang, Rob “RobTV” Burney, and Sean “Shine” Simpson representing America against Team Scarlet, who took the win over Nemo’s Team Aurora. Facing off against Kenryo “Mago” Hayashi, Masahiro “Machabo” Tominaga, and collegiate pro “Yuji,” Team Scarlet proved a formidable opponent to Team Gale, and ultimately won America’s pros to become the first-ever Street Fighter League World Champions.
A Red, White and Blue Grand Finals
While Japan’s Team Scarlet may have proven themselves as the best Street Fighter League competitors, it was America who ended up rocking the community on Day 3, with both iDom and the #1 ranked Victor “Punk” Woodley steamrolling through the Top 8 bracket. Despite Scarlet’s Mago and Machabo making the cut, they were ultimately defeated by both American pros, with the entire final bracket boiling down to its Western players.
ELeague runner-up Arman “Phenom” Hanjani likewise made a stunning showing on Sunday, proving his strength against fellow Necalli main Machabo to land in Losers’ Finals against iDom, who felled his Norwegian opponent in a close 3-2 set to land in Grand Finals. Punk, true to form, continued his Winners’ side run against the likes of Keita “Fuudo” Ai and Benjamin “Problem X” Simon, unsurprisingly scoring a spot in the Grand Finals of SFV:AE’s biggest tournament following one of the most successful seasons in CPT history.
After an entire year of tournaments, traveling, thrilling wins and crushing defeats, the 2019 season boiled down to a Grand Finals between two of America’s finest players. It was NLBC warrior iDom vs SFV prodigy Punk — the lovingly-titled “stoop kid” who finally left his nest vs the 2019 CPT’s highest ranked player, fueled with momentum from his record-breaking comeback season. Tensions were higher than ever before, with the crowd divided between two favorites: but with Punk having already defeated iDom 3-2 in Winners’ Finals, iDom’s underdog status set fans on edge, willing him to victory in what would be a tear-jerking story for the ages.
Beasts of the East Coast
iDom began his road to a bracket reset using Laura against Punk’s counterpicked Cammy, who took the first two games in a strong showing that seemed to predict a decisive victory. However, iDom promptly turned the tide of battle in the third game after a costume and stage change, forcing Punk to rethink his character choice and switch to Karin.
Despite Punk bringing out his main character — a fighter who has won him a grand total of seven tournaments in the 2019 season — iDom’s momentum was out in full force, taking two more games to reset the bracket against an opponent he knows well from their years of playing at NLBC together.
“In Winners’ Finals we were playing, I just felt like — we play so much, and he normally beats me, but I really enjoy playing him because he’s so good,” iDom said of the battle against his East Coast neighbor. “He pushes me to my limits. It’s more like playing, and wanting to win.”
“You can’t start the show without the star!”
However, his fight wasn’t over, as he needed to win three more games to ultimately secure the victory over Punk. Rather than pausing to take a breather, both players dove straight into the reset, with iDom taking another two games using Laura. It seemed as though he was on the cusp of the Capcom Cup championship: fans watched with bated breath as he walked his opponent down, but Punk squashed his chance at victory at the last moment, leading iDom to change pace with Poison.
Once a staunch Laura loyalist, iDom’s run in the Street Fighter League saw him pick up Poison as a counterpick when faced with a character ban. Since her release, iDom has used Poison at a number of tournaments — most notably at First Attack, where he scored 4th, and again at Capcom Cup as a preventative measure against Punk’s Karin.
“The thing with Poison is, she can control the neutral more,” he explained. “I feel more free, as opposed to moving around with Laura, where I get hit trying to get in and I take unnecessary damage. But with Poison, I feel like I can move around freely. Karin is known to do badly against characters that can keep her out, like Birdie and Dhalsim. Poison is kind of like them. …I think Street Fighter League helped me get my Poison ready, because I got a lot of practice with her. Even after SFL, I just kept practicing Poison. I knew that she would be good on a huge stage like this, when no one was ready for her.”
Becoming the Capcom Cup champion
Although he’d used Poison against Punk in the Winner’s Final, it was this character change that ultimately turned the tide of battle for good. The audience roared in approval as the two faced off for what would be their last game of the season, with Punk taking the first round thanks to a well-timed overhead: but it was iDom who ultimately emerged the victor, sealing his place as Capcom Cup champion with Poison’s V-Trigger II molotov cocktail combo.
The young pro couldn’t contain his tears as smoke shot out from the stage, with fellow player DafeetLee rushing onto the scene to embrace him in a fierce hug. iDom — a player known for never traveling in spite of his talents, always holding down NLBC to the point of near-boredom — took Capcom Cup in a what can only be described as an intensely inspiring narrative akin to that of fictional boxer Rocky Balboa.
“I feel like all the hard work has paid off,” iDom said of his win, holding back tears. “It’s actually surreal, but I’ve never won a Premier Event or anything. This is probably the biggest thing I’ve ever won before. It’s crazy.”
iDom’s hard work includes his training with both the brand-new Poison and grappler Laura, who isn’t a common appearance in major tournaments — a fact that he feels gave him a significant advantage in the fray.
“Coming into this, I actually thought I had a good advantage, because I knew everyone was probably practicing for Karin or Rashid and Akuma,” he admitted. “I knew I would have an advantage. No one is training for this matchup.”
As for his eventual Champion’s Costume, iDom is still undecided as to which of his characters he hopes to choose for the prize — but the coming 2020 season is looking bright for the Capcom Cup champion, who predicts more traveling and further practice with his newfound, whip-wielding fighter.
For now, the fighting game community rests. With a new patch, new characters, and new V-Skills to explore, the offseason will undoubtedly give birth to all manner of unpredictable changes for players as they gear up for another explosive Capcom Pro Tour. Starting in March, just two months lie in the interim between iDom’s groundbreaking win and the upcoming competitive season. A new Pro Tour awaits, with new challenges, characters, and an all-new meta. Are you up for the challenge?