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Talking with Spero Gin – The Unsung Hero of NA Tekken 7 Finals

According to an “unsung hero” is a person who makes a substantive yet unrecognized contribution to something – a person whose bravery is unknown or unacknowledged. During the North American Tekken 7 Finals, I thought this of a particular player who was not really on everyone’s radar at the time, but his performance was memorable and he definitely contributed to the hype and excitement of the event. He goes by the name of Spero Gin.

I reached out to him right after Thanksgiving because out of all of the players during the North American Tekken 7 Finals, it was he and one other player that I was mostly impressed with than any other. The other was Princess Ling, both which are on team In The Skies (I hope to catch up with him soon).

But back to “Spero.” This interview is late because other than working on TekkenGamer, I work at a college where ever since the NA Finals I’ve had a huge project due. It was actually the reason I didn’t make the event (even though I bought a plane ticket and all). The project was just completed and now it’s back to the grind.

So I waited to share this interview because I believed it deserves the promotion it is worthy of. Spero Gin gave a great performance at NA Finals, and a great interview. You may  have just learned about him, but you’ll learn much more once Tekken 7 drops. Trust me. Enough talk though. Let’s get it in!

First of all, how was your Thanksgiving?

Thank you for asking, very different actually. This was my first thanksgiving away from home. I spent it at my cousin’s ranch about an hour and a half outside Dallas, TX. It was a small get-together and I had no wifi, or cell service for 3 days. Really takes you away from our norms and gives you a lot of time to think clearly. How was your Thanksgiving?

It was great man. Spent time with my wife’s  cousins family. But no wifi though?

Haha, yeah it took a few minutes for me to adjust and stop reaching for my phone. My cousin lives the simple life and they don’t really use much internet. Her husband is a pro rodeo competitor and they spend most of their time outside, taking care of the horses and ranch.

What is your name and where are you from?

Spero Gineros and I was born and raised in a town called Hauppauge which is on Long Island about 40 miles away from New York City.

What does Spero Gin mean and how’d you come up with it? It sounds Italian.

Haha, close! It’s actually Greek. So we have a family tradition of naming the first son after the paternal grandfather. My grandfather’s name was Spero and that’s how I got my actual name. When my grandfather was young, his friends used to call him Gin, short for Gineros. My original Tekken handle was actually PaulPhoenix007 but when I decided to become more involved I wanted a more unique name. Why not use the unique name I already have and merge my family history into it?

What’s it like there? Is there a strong Tekken scene?

So I recently moved to Dallas, Texas. Texas obviously being huge, has many different scenes. I would say overall Houston has the strongest players (DJ Kor, Crow, Vic, Hobo Joe, Devil Jim to name a few). The Dallas scene has some solid players as well (The Realyst, IceColdEdge, Eddy Pistons, LayzE, 10:30, but we all can level up from Houston.

As for NY, I’ll be totally honest with you (the New Yorkers may not like to hear this but it’s the truth). Possibly the most consolidated skill overall in the US but the least willing to practice and level up. Part of the reason I moved to Texas was because of the disappointment of not ever being able to get practice and games with the NY squad. It’s easier for me to travel 3 hours to Houston to play Tekken than to get games with New Yorkers that lived anywhere from 10-30 minutes away. Super frustrating and in my opinion such a waste of potential. I understand people have lives and are busy but when you really love something in life, you can find time to do it. IceColdEdge has a baby and still holds sessions every Wednesday here in Dallas.

How long have you been playing Tekken?

Wow… Ok, so my neighborhood friend theoretically deserves the credit for showing me Tekken. Dan Ridulfo aka Meagada. He introduced me to Tekken 2 around 1999. I played Tekken 2 for a month or so and then begged my parents to buy me Tekken 3. Shortly after that I realized my local mall had Tekken Tag 1. It just so happened to work out that my mom loved shopping so I got to go to the mall and play Tekken at the arcade since around 12 years old. I played consistently from that point until around 2009 when Tekken 6 dropped and then I disappeared from the scene and stopped playing Tekken altogether until about a year ago.

Why’d you drop Tekken when Tekken 6 came out?

So I played T6 a little bit in the beginning when it first came out at arcades and did enjoy it. At that time of my life, I was finishing up school and strongly influenced by my friends and family to go hard on my future career. I wasn’t really supported for my success in Tekken by the people in my life except for my Tekken friends and people in the FCG. Like a fool, I listened to the wrong people and belittled everything that I had accomplished over the years. When I finally found out about Tekken 7, it sparked my return to the scene and desire to be even better than I was in the past.

Your Paul is very strong. Is he your main character, or are there others you use at a high level as well?

Thank you so much. No, he is not my main character. Paul was actually the first character I ever used and I did play him competitively until around 2006 and then dropped him for Eddy Gordo/Tiger Jackson/Christie Montiero. I took a trip to St. Louis on my spring break in 2006 and stayed with Slips for about a week. Slips showed me that Eddy has infinite possibilities in Tekken with his unorthodox style and diverse move list. As a person, I do things very unorthodox in my life and Eddy (capos) became the perfect character for me. I will always be grateful for the training and strategies Slips gave me and give him credit for my past success with Eddy (capos).

What’s the key to using Paul and learning to play him at a high level?

The key to using Paul at high level is to simply play better Tekken than your opponent. Yes, I make hard reads with hard Deathfists, but overall, one must know how to punish perfectly and be defensive. If you know your frame data and anti-character knowledge, anyone can be good with Paul. I like Eddy (capos) more because he’s not as straight forward as Paul and makes people have to think before they act. Kind of similar to Xioayu or Yoshimitsu.

I also have to give credit to Brian H for showing me everything he knows with Paul. He has accomplished so much with Paul over the years and was and still is my mentor with Paul. In my opinion, Brian H is Paul Phoenix himself and instinctively is the best Paul player to ever live.

How long have you been competing in tournaments? And have you ever won any?

When Tekken 4 dropped in arcades, my sister took me into NYC for Tekken 4 Regional’s which took place at the famous China Town Faire. So my official competitive career started when I was 14 years old, January of 2002. I actually always kept a log of all my tournament performances over the years. I’ve won 34 tournaments and placed 2nd at 23 tournaments out of 106 entered tournaments. The tournaments that I am most proud of my performance would be the 2007 East Coast SBO Qualifier which I won, Evo2k7 which I placed 2nd, LCQ #9 and my 7th place at Nationals this past month.

How did you enjoy the US Nationals in San Francisco?

I loved being able to attend a tournament that was solely dedicated to Tekken. Besides old school games, Tekken is the only game I play so I was definitely in my glory being around Tekken, Tekken Fans, Michael Murray and Harada himself. It was also an honor to play some of the best Tekken players from all over the country. I wish Nationals took place on a weekend so more players could have attended. I’m sure work and/or school affected the attendance in some sort.

Were you pleased that you made the Top 8 in America? That’s a pretty noteworthy achievement.

Yes and no. I am extremely grateful that I played as well as I did but I would have liked to take my performance even further than tying for 7th. I wanted so bad to go back to Japan and represent my country. From a different perspective, I missed Tekken 6 and Tag2 and just started playing again about a year ago. On top of that Paul is just becoming my main character again. If I had Eddy, Tiger or Christie I know I would have made top 3 or possibly even won Nationals. So yes, overall I am pleased with my performance considering the circumstances.

You qualified during the last chance qualifiers, right? How many tries did it take?

Yes sir, I did. It took the 9th and final LCQ for me to qualify. For some reason I have to feel defeat and extreme high pressure for my best skills to kick in. I’m the type of person where a 6th sense kicks in when I know I’m about to lose, die or be in trouble.

What was that experience like? Was it mentally and emotionally draining?

It was one of the greatest experiences in my life to be honest. I haven’t felt that alive since Evo2k7. The further along I got in that 9th tournament, the more mentally and emotionally stimulating it became for me. When everyone else was losing hope and getting tired after 8 tournaments and 16 hours of playing the fire started burning more and more inside of me. I felt like I was a real Tekken fighter and living my own story mode. Part of me didn’t even realize the tournament was over when I beat YanFlip and was actually ready to keep playing.

What did you think of the level of competition present?

I thought there was a wide range to be honest. I played some people that had hardly played Tekken before as well as players like Geesemaster who beat Nobi. Like I mentioned earlier, if Nationals wasn’t during the week maybe more top players like Lil Majin, Vic, CuddleCore, Shinblade, Mystic Bill, Blood Hawk, Liquid, Joey Fury and many more could have shown up.

Your Paul play was very strong at US finals. How did you prepare without much hands-on experience with Tekken 7?

Muscle memory training was huge. I would practice at least 4 nights a week with my boy Nashi from NJ online in practice mode. I would study all day moves that had similar animations and frame data from TTT2 to Tekken 7 FR. At night Nashi would pick characters and I would give him a bunch of moves to randomly throw at me and practice punishing over and over. Nashi is a big reason I was able to play as well as I did at Nationals.

We have at least 2 sessions a week here in Dallas and guys like The Realyst, IceColdEdge, Eddy Pistons, LayzE and all the other Dallas guys helped me train by playing solo Tekken Tag 2 and primarily using characters that I could potentially face in Tekken 7.

I also watched tons of Korean, Japanese and American Tekken tournaments and death matches. Justice from Korea was the guy who I followed the most and learned my Tekken 7 Paul strategies from. Justice is definitely the most experienced Paul player in Korea.

And over the years, still until now, I play Tekken 5 Dark Resurrection with my original sparring partner (and cousin) Rob Gin. I feel T5DR is the most balanced Tekken ever made and can help build one’s fundamental Tekken skills. Rob Gin is also another person that helped me be the Tekken player I am today.

Who was the toughest opponent for you?

Man, so many hard matches to pick from. I would have to go with Reno in the LCQ #9. I have very little experience against Lucky Chloe and I had to make a ton of hard reads. Other opponents that stick in my head are CongoJack, LOC, Brian H, P. Ling and Kane.

What thoughts did you take away from the event concerning your performance?

As mentioned above, I was pleased with my performance but there are a few things that I am dissatisfied with regarding the event itself. Certain things that happened were unfair and unprofessional. I will leave it at that for now. I have big plans for 2017 and will elaborate more on this in the near future.

What do you think of the Top 3 going to global finals next month, that is, Mr. Naps, Anakin and P.Ling?

Mr. Naps is in my opinion the best player in the US. I felt this way before nationals. Mr. Naps, Blood Hawk and I were on the same team in 2007 for SBO and he showed me back then his outstanding Tekken ability and character as a person. Anakin is also a great, down to earth guy who I feel is right behind Naps. His ability to adapt is amazing and he still has them young man reflexes. I’m happy for him and was not surprised he qualified. I never really knew P. Ling until recently with me being out of the scene for so long. I beat him pretty convincingly in Pools and he came back to eliminate me in top 8. He is a super smart player and possibly has the most potential for growth out of all 3 players. He is young, humble and dedicated to the game. It was an honor to get to play him and I’m so happy for him that he will get to experience Japan.

Were you surprised Speedkicks didn’t make top 3, and was taken out by P.Ling?

Like Speedkicks, I too was taken out by P. Ling. Speedkicks is the best Hwoarang player I’ve ever played against in my life and I did think he was going to qualify for worlds. But no, I am not surprised that P. Ling took him out because P. Ling is deadly. I recently told him he should rename himself Queen or Goddess Ling rather than Princess Ling because his Tekken skills and Xioayu are some of the best I’ve ever played against.

What did you think of the grand finals between Mr. Naps and Anakin?

If I get into this one, the feathers may begin to ruffle. I’m going to save my opinions on this for what I have planned in the coming months.

Think these guys stand a chance at global finals in December?

Against Japan and Korea, no way. I watch videos online and some of these Japanese and Korean contenders have over 20,000 games played. Just look at what Poongko was able to do in the few tournaments he entered here. I do feel that Mr. Naps, Anakin and P. Ling can destroy some of the other qualified contenders from other parts of the world. Hopefully our boys don’t face and Koreans or Japanese players early.

You attended quite a few Tekken Tour events, but you fell under the radar. How’d you do?

Wizard World STL – 4th place. Wizard World Minneapolis – 9th place. Combo Breaker – 25th place. Wizard World Philly – 9th place. Wizard World Columbus – 9th place. Summer Jam X – Tekken 7 never showed up!Wizard World Austin – 9th place. Wizard World Tulsa – 9th place. Maybe all the 9th places were giving me a sign that LCQ #9 was my tournament.

(Laughs) You represent team In the Skies, and they were several representatives at US Nationals. How long have you been on the team?

I recently became a member of ITS this past September. Heavenly Skies is a wonderful person and has been helping me get my name back out there. She also took me on the team when I was getting 9th place in tournaments and had faith in me before I leveled up. I also will always represent TNY (Team New York). Those are the guys that first saw me play and welcomed me into their squad like I was family. When I was a nobody, TNY stood behind me and helped me level up. Shout outs to Secret, MadOcxx, Kingmitsu, FBI, The Realyst, CidKid, Agent Orange, Mojo, The Game and Fab. My goal is to find a sponsor to help fund me for future tournaments.

Who are some of the strongest members on the team?

P. Ling, WayGamble, Hobo Joe, Mak, CuddleCore, Joey Fury, Yanflip.

Did you go to EVO this year? And will you go next year?

I did not. I was in the middle of moving from NY to TX. You better believe it!

What can we expect from you in 2017?

I’ve been very talkative in this interview so simply I will say that Tekken 7 will be Spero “The All American Hero” Gin’s Fated Retribution.

Any last words for our site visitors?

Tekken is by far the most challenging but rewarding fighting game out there. The beauty of Tekken is that true hard work and dedication always pays off. If you look at my placings, I had the greatest improvement out of any player in the entire North American Tekken Tour. This came from traveling, researching, practicing and having the passion in my heart to win and be the best Tekken player to ever live. I don’t play Tekken for fame or money, I play to challenge myself and excel at the highest level I possibly can at what I love.

Players should get involved in their community. Tekken loves to give back to those who look to help lower level players. This is why I mentioned so many different people in this interview that helped me get to where I am now. We all need to be more involved so the overall level of play increases in the US. I also am somewhat against online Tekken because it takes away from the social bond that you get when you play people offline. But these days I do understand that online play is necessary. Hopefully it is improved in the final version of Tekken 7.

As quoted from Tekken the Motion Picture, “Complete knowledge of one flesh, blood and fist is what creates one’s Tekken. And Tekken, is the key to life.”

Good deal. Thanks Spero!

Aziz Peregrino-Brimah aka Zee the CEO | Founder / Editor-in-chief of TekkenGamer | Gaming has been a passion of Zee's since the early days of Atari and ColecoVision. His first experience with Tekken was in the early 90's, and it was Tekken 3 that sealed the deal. True story... As a teenager Zee once received his Winn-Dixie paycheck and spent it all at the arcade the same day. Needless to say, his mother wasn't pleased.


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