If you follow professional Tekken, you know the Koreans are the kings of the court, the rulers of the land, the cool kids on the block, the cream of the crop, etcetera. Watching top Korean players flex their skills almost makes it seem like they're playing an entirely different game from almost everyone else. Their masterful command of spacing and movement (it's called “Korean backdashing” for a reason) unlocks a new layer of strategy and mind games that assists them in their frequent, usually decisive domination whenever they play outside of their homeland.
However, not all top Korean players are tightly united in nationalistic brotherhood. Similar to USA's East Coast vs. West Coast FGC rivalries in the late 90s to mid 00s, Korean Tekken players are also divided between their own domestic clans and groups. Thus, they frequently clash within regional Asian tournaments. The most recent battle took place this past weekend, at Rev Major 2017, in the Philippines, when Knee–who has developed a reputation as a bit of a lone wolf–came head-to-head with Echo Fox's JDCR–possibly his greatest rival–not once, but twice throughout the tournament.
The first fight occurred at an unsurprising point: winners finals, after both men managed to handily destroy everyone in their way and maintain their positions on the better side of the bracket. JDCR, a bit of a character loyalist known for his amazing Heihachi and Armor King from Tekkens 5 through Tag 2, picked Dragunov, one of his two mains in Tekken 7 (the other being the aforementioned Heihachi). Knee, being a shapeshifter who can effectively use any character on the roster (but is known for his fantastic Bryan), selected Feng. What began then was quite possibly not only the best match of that entire top 8, but potentially one of the best Korea vs. Korea sets in Tekken history, not just due to the impressive, almost otherworldly display of skill by both players, but by the incredibly energetic and infectiously enthusiastic Filipino FGC crowd.
Knee took an early lead of 2-0, with JDCR only barely managing to graze victory by the tips of his fingers for several rounds. However, he soon succeeded in adapting to his opponent's playstyle, slowly evening things up and eventually taking the win. Clocking in at almost 23 minutes and taking the battle to the fifth round of the fifth game, it was a set of nail-biting, teeth-grinding intensity and suspense that could only be performed by two of the best players in the world, and elevated by a lively crowd that stayed in high spirits throughout and commentators (Tasty Steve and MarkMan) who could barely even commentate at all during particular moments due to hype overload. It's a set worth remembering, and will be remembered for years to come as an effective showcase of what high level Tekken truly looks like.
"These matches are so good. You ever have food that's so good, you have to go in the kitchen and thank the cook? ... It's a good-ass Tekken. I want two more. Can I get two more Tekkens to go?"—Tasty Steve
However, the story doesn't necessarily end there. After Knee was sent to losers finals, he fought his way past Take, one of Japan's Tekken elites and met JDCR once again in grand finals. JDCR stuck with Dragunov, and Knee stuck with Feng. Unfortunately for the lone wolf Knee, his opponent had his number. JDCR managed to keep up the momentum he gained from the previous bout, denying Knee a bracket reset, winning 3-1. This victory concluded a two-part journey of a pair of titans clashing and shaking the world (or at least the Philippines) with their unmatched ability. There were heart-pounding timeouts and sweat-inducing close calls; some rounds had the majority of their time spent with both players spacing and posturing non-stop because of the sheer mutual respect they had for the other's skill—no unnecessary risks.
The tournament concluded with one final, surprising moment that elevated the double feature even further: an unexpected display of good will between two men who seemingly had bad blood between them for the last several years. After unplugging his stick from the console, Knee offered his hand in a gesture of respect that few thought would happen anytime soon. JDCR accepted his rival's hand and shook it, while also taking a deep bow. The Rev Major crowd, also knowing of their strained relationship, erupted in cheers once again.
Rev Major 2017 fell under a lot of peoples' radars for a number of reasons (such as very late night/very early morning stream times in North America, not being a Capcom Pro Tour event for Street Fighter V, small game lineup, etc.), but as a major stop for the Tekken World Tour, it's definitely worth watching, not just for Tekken fans, but for fighting game players who love witnessing raw passion and extremely high level play.
If you wish to watch these two amazing sets, you can do so on the official Tekken Twitch channel here.
Did you catch this amazing top 8? Other than winners and grand finals, what matches at Rev Major's Tekken tournament did you enjoy? Let us know in the comments below, and enjoy more hype Tekken action at Evo this weekend!