Game: Street Fighter V
PG|Punk made a big impression last year with his 3rd place finish at NA Regional Finals: Red Bull Battle Grounds. This year he is now part of any conversation discussing who the best player in North America is. He started this year taking 25th at Final Round 20 but since then he has been on fire, taking 1st place at the West Coast Warzone 2017 Ranking Event and now taking 1st at NorCal Regionals 2017. He has likely earned enough points to get into Capcom Cup 2017, and it's only April!
What makes him such a fun player to watch isn't just his Karin play. He's arguably the best Karin player in the world right now, and that's saying a lot considering the company he keeps. It's also his demeanor when he plays. Sometimes he looks bored, sometimes slightly amused as if toying with his food. It's rare to see him fazed by anything. He just keeps a likable carefree attitude while he ruthlessly imposes his will on his opponents, backing them into corners and punishing mistakes.
Punk Rocks the Grand Finals
The Grand Finals was an all-American affair with PG|Punk squaring off against Liquid|NuckleDu, who narrowly defeated Punk earlier in Winners Finals. With Punk coming out of the Losers Bracket he would have to win 2 sets to claim first place, and that's exactly what he did. Between the two sets, Punk defeated NuckleDu by a combined 6-1 (3-1 first set, 3-0 second set). By looking at that score you would think that it was a blowout, but it was anything but. As with their earlier encounter in Winners Finals it was a game of adapt and counter-adapt, and it was a game that Punk seemed one step ahead almost the whole Finals.
Liquid|NuckleDu vs PG|Punk in Grand Finals.
PG|Punk Steamrolls Some of the World's Best on Way to Grand Finals
After a big win at NorCal Regionals 2017 two weeks ago, PG|Punk was a heavy favorite to do well at Dreamhack Austin. In the finals for his pools, however, CJ Truth threw a big wrench into that plan by beating Punk 2-1, putting Punk into the Losers Bracket early in the tournament.
What happened next was extraordinary. Punk went on a warpath and defeated many of the world's best players on his road to Grand Finals. What makes it even more impressive is that aside from his match against ECHO FOX|Justin Wong, they were all extremely one sided. Take a look at the table below to illustrate.
|Top 48 Opponent||Score|
|Qanba Douyu|Xiao Hai||Won 2-0|
|Hx CYG BST|Daigo Umehara||Won 2-0|
|EG|Ricki Ortiz||Won 2-0|
|CYG BST|Snake Eyez||Win 3-0|
|ECHO FOX|Justin Wong||Win 3-1|
|GRPT|Haitani||Grand Finals Win 3-1 and 3-2 (6-3 total)|
Grand Finals: PG|Punk vs GRPT|Haitani
Both PG|Punk and GRPT|Haitani had won Premier Events prior to Dreamhack Austin, and both are considered among the world's best players. With Haitani being in Winners Bracket he would only have to win one set to claim victory, while Punk would have to win two sets coming out of the Losers Bracket. The first set was over very quickly with Punk scoring a 3-1 win. Haitani had some flashes of success but could never build any sustained momentum, as Punk would just come right back and win the next round handily. The second set looked to be a repeat of the first set, but Haitani kept making adjustments and eventually started finally getting momentum. Haitani tied it up 2-2. In the last match Punk won the first round and was one round away from victory.
What happened at the end of that second round was truly incredible. Both players were low enough on life that any hit would lead into a combo that would finish off the other player. Punk landed a combo that surely would have won him the tournament but somehow he missed his Critical Art, giving Haitani new life. Both players scrambled and within seconds Haitani connected with an attack and went into a combo, but he too missed his Critial Art! Finally, after Haitani lands a few more attacks, Punk dashes forward and catches Haitani in a throw. This ended the match and secured Punk his second Premier Event victory.
PG|Punk vs GRPT|Haitani in Grand Finals.
PG|Punk is one of the most exciting players to watch in the Capcom Pro Tour right now. Currently holding the number one spot on the CPT Global Leaderboard, PG|Punk has already secured a spot at Capcom Cup 2017. It isn’t just his incredible skill that makes him so fun to watch, it’s his antics when he’s not playing. He is often referred to by his nickname ‘The Alpha’ and it is well earned. At CEO his recurring shtick involved dramatic adding and removing of Pokemon hats, sometimes wearing as many as four at a time. As with all of his antics, he’s projecting a confidence in himself and his gameplay. He’s having fun and it’s obvious. A more practical benefit is that he is trying to throw his opponents off their game and disrupt their thought process. Some players can ignore the show and some can’t. Players like PIE|Smug, who often exhibits his own light-hearted antics between matches, plays along. XSK Samurai, in Losers Finals, let it get to him and it may have cost him. It’s always fun to watch, and Punk is a fan favorite.
If there’s a negative consequence to the “Punk Show” it’s that sometimes it looks like he’s playing with his food too much. He was put into the Losers bracket early by XSK Samurai, although he would get his revenge by eliminating Samurai in Losers Finals. He then had a very close call against the Dominican Republic’s MenaRD, where he narrowly avoided elimination with a 2-1 win. He was one round away from being eliminated in top 8 by Japan’s Gachikun and his solid Rashid play, but he worked his way back to steal victory to move on. Punk once again ran the gauntlet through the Losers Bracket to get to Grand Finals. This time he fell just short of forcing a bracket reset.
PG|Punk vs PIE|Smug in Losers Semi-Finals
PG|Punk vs XSK Samurai in Losers Finals
Grand Finals: CYG BST|Snake Eyez vs PG|Punk
The Grand Finals between PG|Punk and CYG BST|Snake Eyez was very exciting to watch and incredibly close. Once Snake Eyez tied it up at 2-2 Punk surprised everyone by switching to Nash, which is a harder matchup for Snake Eyez’ Zangief. Snake Eyez went on to win the final game to win the set 3-2.