Despite not being part of this year’s TEKKEN World Tour, Evo is one of the highlights of the year. This year’s edition was no exception.
LowHigh outlasted the largest ever TEKKEN tournament field to win the TEKKEN 7 title at Evo 2018 on Sunday. The Korean star outlasted more than 1,500 competitors to lift the prestigious trophy.
LowHigh and his Shaheen clinched the title by holding of reigning TEKKEN World Tour champion Qudans in the grand final. Qudans, who lost to LowHigh in the winners’ semifinal, won the first grand final set 3-1. LowHigh responded by taking the first game of the reset and riding that momentum to a 3-0 win and the Evo championship.
The path to win an Evo title - or to even make top eight and play on “Championship Sunday” - is unlike any other in fighting games. A player’s endurance is tested just as much as their skill. This is especially true for a player like LowHigh, who was competing in his first ever Evo tournament.
LowHigh’s run to the title began in pool play on Friday afternoon. He may have been the only “big” name in his pool, but he was far from its only good player. The Korean star’s path included a match against Doune2, who notably defeated Tanukana in last year’s tournament (and would go on to eliminate JChantra this year). LowHigh won that match to remain on the winnners’ side of the bracket heading into Day 2.
Once pool play concluded on Saturday, those who survived returned that afternoon to square off for a chance to compete on the most famous stage in fighting games. The quarterfinals began with more than 200 players but only 64 remained at their conclusion. Super Akouma, Jackie Tran, Yuu, and CherryBerryMango were just some of the players who could not survive this stage. LowHigh kept his name off of that list by defeating Rip to secure a place in Saturday night’s Top 64.
The Top 64 semifinals were a slugfest. Big name players, rising stars, and returning veterans all squared off for a place in Sunday’s finals. LowHigh knocked off Kongojack, then defeated Binchang (who had just beat Take in his previous match) to reach the last 16. He followed that up by knocking off #2-seed Saint to reach Sunday’s finals.
Sunday’s finals featured four Korean players, but that was about the only thing that went according to the script. LowHigh was joined on the winners’ side of the bracket by fellow Korean stars Qudans and JDCR. Lil Majin, the last American in the field, also reached the winners’ side of the finals after knocking off Japan’s Noroma. Noroma was still alive on the losers’ side of the bracket alongside fellow countryman ChiriChiri, Thailand’s Book and Korea’s Rangchu.
It was a finals field that already included plenty of surprises - no Saint, no Anakin, no JeonDDing, and no Kkokkoma - and there would be plenty more in store. Lil Majin sent the crowd into a frenzy by knocking off tournament favorite JDCR in the first winners’ semifinal, then the debuted Evo finalist LowHigh beat the reigning Tour champion to set up an unlikely winners’ final. The losers’ bracket went a bit more as expected. Noroma and ChiriChiri bowed out to Rangchu and Book respectively. JDCR then ended Book’s amazing run through the tournament, and Qudans eliminated Rangchu to set up the final four.
LowHigh entered the winners’ final with the crowd firmly behind his King-playing opponent. LowHigh and Lil Majin split the first two games, but the Korean star found another gear in Games 3 and 4 to take the set 3-1 and punch his ticket to the grand final.
On the losers’ side, Qudans turned into a buzzsaw. After dispatching Rangchu 2-0, he scored a 2-0 win over JDCR and a 3-0 victory over Lil Majin to earn another crack at LowHigh.
Things went well for the experienced Qudans early. He and his Devil Jin took the first set of the grand final 3-1 in convincing fashion. Qudans had momentum on his side, and LowHigh appeared to be crumbling under the pressure of the Evo stage. Instead of folding, the Shaheen player responded with poise. He was able to clutch out the opening game of the second set, then rode that momentum to a 3-0 win and the biggest victory of his career.
The surprises continued even after the tournament ended. TEKKEN series producer Katsuhiro Harada took to the stage after the awards ceremony to announce a second season pass for TEKKEN 7. The new content will include new moves, balance changes, and six new characters. Three of those six characters were announced on Sunday: Tekken veterans Anna Williams and Lei Wulong, and The Walking Dead’s Negan.
With Evo done, the TEKKEN spotlight returns to the World Tour. The Tour continues this coming weekend with a stop at Moscow Fighting Arena in Moscow, Russia.