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The 2023 Capcom Pro Tour season kicked off in spectacular fashion this past weekend at Evolution Championship 2023, which took place in Las Vegas USA. Evolution (Evo for short) is the first of three Offline Premier events on the schedule this year and you could not have asked or a better start to the Street Fighter 6 era. This was not only the biggest Evo ever but it may have earned itself a spot as one of the most exciting and memorable in its history.

It was a massive event with registration numbers that shattered previous records. Over 7,000 players from around the world registered for Street Fighter 6, exceeding the record held at the debut of Street Fighter V in 2016 by almost 2,000. The remarkable success of Street Fighter 6’s launch in June along with special launch prizing this season granting the winner $1 million of a prize pool of over $2 million helped generate a whole new level of excitement leading up to the event.

With the launch of each new Street Fighter title the playing field is leveled somewhat with new players and top players from previous games having to learn the new game. One of the most intriguing things about early events in a new game’s lifespan is seeing how well veterans of the previous game adapt. Some quickly find their new main characters and click with the game quickly while others struggle. It’s also fun to see if any new players rise up out of nowhere to make names for themselves.

At Evo 2023 it is readily apparent that Japan isn’t showing many signs of difficulty adapting to Street Fighter 6 and had a very strong showing. When the dust settled after pools there were 16 Japanese players in the top 24 despite the country having less than 200 players competing in the event in total. By comparison, 3 players made top 24 from the USA even though the event took place on their home turf with the vast majority of the 7,000 players being American. Despite hopes for seeing new talent emerge at Evo this season there wasn’t a single previously unknown player in top 24.

Evo 2023 was truly epic both in its scale as well as the hype matches to be found and it is reflected in top 6. Most of the matches in top 6 finished with a 3-2 score with several being so close that victory or defeat was decided by the player that landed a clutch hit in the final round. One surprise early in top 6 was Japan’s RC|Haitani. Throughout the event he was a wrecking ball with his Chun-Li and made it to top 6 in winners side only to take crushing back-to-back losses with USA’s FLY|Punk beating him 3-0 followed by Dominican Republic’s BANDITS|MenaRD eliminating him 3-1. He would finish in 5th place.

It was also heartbreaking to see Japan’s IBUSHIGIN|Kakeru, who also made it to top 6 in winners, taking two straight losses to first to UAE’s NASR|AngryBird and next to Japan’s ROHTO Z!|Tokido. Both losses were by razor-thin margins in the final round of the final game and when he put his head in his hands after losing to Tokido it was hard not to feel his disappointment.

Tokido, this being his 19th Evo appearance, made it to top 6 in losers bracket and was the last Japanese player standing with the fall of Haitani and Kakeru, having eliminated the latter personally. Following his nail-biter against Kakeru his next match was against MenaRD in losers semifinals and it was another thriller. Once again it came down to which player got the last hit in the final round when MenaRD landed a Blanka Ball combo with his Lightning Beast super Art to win 3-2.

It was now down to the final three players. Punk made it to top 6 on winners side and looked every bit as dominating as he was in much of the Street Fighter 5 era. Incredibly he had not lost a single game in any of his matches up until this point. He dismantled Haitani in winners semifinals 3-0 losing only a single round. His winning streak would come to abrupt halt when he faced AngryBird in winners finals.

AngryBird has had a few close calls along the way, including his previous match against Kakeru, but as always he remained poised and focused no matter the situation. The faceoff between AngryBird and Punk was an intense, back and forth match but in the last game AngryBird took control and won the game in two straight rounds. Punk was sent to losers bracket while AngryBird moved on to Grand Finals.

In losers finals it was Punk against MenaRD to fight for the opportunity to face AngryBird in Grand Finals. Punk’s Cammy took an early two game lead but MenaRD and his Blanka got the runback to tie it up 2-2. In another final round finish MenaRD landed an unexpected command grab to win 3-2.

The final showdown of Evo 2023 between AngryBird and MenaRD in Grand Finals was spectacular and was a perfect way to end one of the best Evo events in recent memory. MenaRD came in from the losers bracket s he would need to win two full sets to take first place. Both players have a very aggressive play style so it was nonstop kinetic action from start to finish.

This one had a lot of momentum swings and MenaRD bounced back and forth between using Luke and Blanka several times. MenaRD made a comeback to win the first set 3-2 but AngryBird’s Ken would go on to win the second set 3-1, making him the Evolution 2023 Champion and earning him a qualifying spot at Capcom Cup X early next year! Congratulations to AngryBird on this unbelievable performance at the biggest and toughest Evo on record!

Top 24 Results
1st NASR|AngryBird United Arab Emirates
2nd BANDITS|MenaRD Dominican Republic
3rd FLY|Punk USA
4th ROHTO Z!|Tokido Japan
5th IBUSHIGIN|Kakeru Japan
5th RC|Haitani Japan
7th SNB|Fujimura Japan
7th SS熊本|Nemo Japan
9th BEAST|Fuudo Japan
9th GYOGUN|Moke Japan
9th TWISMINDS|Oil King Taiwan
9th SR|NuckleDu USA
13th BANDITS|Caba Dominican Republic
13th RED BULL|Bonchan Japan
13th SNB|Yamaguchi Japan
13th VICTRIX|Momochi Japan
17th TODAKAI Panama
17th CR|Dogura Japan
17th GYOGUN|Machabo Japan
17th CG|Torimeshi Japan
17th SS熊本|Higuchi Japan
17th Samurai USA
17th SS熊本|Shuto Japan
17th CAG|GO1 Japan
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