Header photo by Stephanie Lindgren.

Throwing down at Final Round

This year’s Capcom Pro Tour kicked off with a brand-new season, bringing with it a major storyline between two of the fighting game community’s biggest rivals: Punk and Tokido. The two famously faced off at the Evolution Championship Series in 2017, following a successful season for Punk - leading fans to wonder who would come out on top.

Despite a hard-fought battle, Punk ultimately lost the set against Tokido, leading to a tumultuous season for the young pro in 2018. However, Punk has shown that he is back in a big way, as evidenced by his performance at Final Round 2019. Punk saw himself in Top 8 after a long weekend, making his way to Grand Finals from the Losers’ bracket after being taken out by Capcom Cup 2018 champion Kanamori ‘Gachikun’ Tsunehiro. There, he met with Street Fighter veteran Yusuke Momochi, throwing down in a nail-biting match between Karin and Zeku that saw Punk emerge the victor after his convincing bracket reset.

Action heats up at NorCal Regionals

Punk made another major showing at NorCal Regionals, just a week after his success at Final Round. Similar to the year’s first Premier, NCR featured stacked pools and a slew of killers in the mix, including Daigo Umehara, Gachikun, and Tokido. These three competitors made their way into the Top 8 alongside Punk, which wrapped up in a show-stopping Grand Finals set between Punk and Tokido - hearkening back to their original brawl at EVO 2017.

The crowd went wild as Punk faced off against his longtime rival, managing to clutch out a bracket reset against Tokido’s Akuma 3-2. The two went at it again in another close set, with Tokido proving victorious - but that was far from the end of Punk’s run in the Tour, despite his largely secured spot in the running at Final Round.

Mixing it up at The Mixup

The 2019 Capcom Pro Tour places a greater emphasis on holding Premier tournaments outside of the continental United States, with the first of these taking place at The Mixup in Lyon, France. With 700 Premier points up for grabs, pros weren’t about to miss out on this crucial event, with some of the best players in the world in attendance.

Capcom Cup 2018 runner-up Hiromiki ‘Itabashi Zangief’ Kumada made a showing at the Premier, as well as UYU’s Leevy ‘Oil King’ Lin and Fudoh’s Tatsuya Haitani. Europe’s best competition likewise came out to play, including ELEAGUE 2017 champ Arman ‘Phenom’ Hanjani, Evolution 2018 champion Benjamin ‘Problem X’ Simon, and notable Zeku main and Capcom Cup 2018 Finalist Amjad ‘AngryBird’ Alshalabi.

AngryBird and The Beast

Of these competitors, only 8 could make it to Sunday’s Finals, with AngryBird being one of them. The pro worked his way up to the Top 8 in Winners’ side, taking out Punk in the Winners’ Semi-Final in a convincing 3-0 run - leading to a nerve-wracking set against Daigo, himself.

While ‘The Beast’ has had a fair run throughout SFV’s lifetime, the 2019 Pro Tour could prove to be another major break for the fighting game god, who has made a steady showing as the season progresses. While Daigo was taken out of the running early on at Final Round (as were many other pros), he put up a fierce fight in NCR’s Top 8 against Gachikun, going on to take out AngryBird at The Mixup 3-2.

Old-School vs New-School

This set up The Beast to play against Punk in The Mixup’s Grand Finals - but not before Punk took out Problem X and AngryBird in Losers’ side, after getting knocked out of Winners’ by AngryBird in a dominating 3-0 run during the Semi-Finals.

Punk and Daigo’s Grand Finals set pitted two of the fighting game community’s favorite players against each other in one of the most intense battles of the season. Daigo’s solid run in Winners’ side led him to convincingly take the first game - but Punk wasn’t out of the running just yet, managing to reset the bracket in a smooth 3-1 finish.

Their next battle wasn’t as streamlined, with the two going back and forth in the reset’s first two games 1-1. It was one of Street Fighter’s most seasoned fighting game pros up against one of the new generation’s fiercest fighters; although Punk appeared to have a win in the bag, Daigo came back in a big way, tying up their score 2-2 in the nick of time with Guile’s well-placed crouching short.

This set up the two for a final game, which Daigo seemed ready to take after winning the first round and pummeling Punk in the second. However, Punk isn’t one to take a beating, making the comeback of the season on a sliver of health to take their last Grand Finals set 3-2.

Tokido or Punk - who will dominate the 2019 season?

Thus far, Punk has won two Premier events out of three in the 2019 season. Comparatively, his rival Tokido has taken the only other Premier outside of Punk’s victories, leading to yet another close competition between the two pros outside of their EVO 2017 rivalry.

Punk’s comeback marks a major turnaround for the player, as well as for SFV’s 4th competitive season. While Momochi has continued to make strong showings throughout the Pro Tour, as seen in his battle with Punk at Final Round following the 2018 Capcom Cup, Daigo has likewise shot back to the top of the rankings, placing higher and higher with each tournament - and drastically so.

With these comebacks in mind, fans and competitors alike are gearing up for the season’s next Premier - Combo Breaker 2019. Hailed as one of the top fighting game events of the year, competition has never failed to disappoint, as seen in 2018’s Grand Finals set between Kun ‘Xian’ Ho and UYU’s NL. Considering Punk, Tokido, and Daigo’s stellar performances this season, there’s no telling who will come out on top - but Punk’s dominating run thus far could very well see him land in the tournament’s top placements in 2019.