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Team Cuddle_Core wins ELEAGUE | TEKKEN Team Takedown, taking home $50K

Watch the 4-part series premiere on TBS on Friday, March 16th.

Photo by: ELEAGUE

Team Cuddle_Core wins ELEAGUE | TEKKEN Team Takedown, taking home $50K

That was fun! ELEAGUE | TEKKEN Team Takedown took place this past Saturday, March 3rd in Atlanta, GA at the illustrious ELEAGUE Arena, and it was nothing short of exciting, dramatic and must-see-TV. I was fortunate enough to make it down to “The A” to witness all of the action firsthand, so in case you missed any of the action, here’s a thorough breakdown of the whole event.

Not only were the players given the VIP treatment, but the studio audience was taken care of too. Free parking was provided, and this may not sound like a big deal to you, but consider that I visited the CNN Center for roughly 50 minutes and paid $15 just for parking alone.  So yes, this was a welcomed blessing. They then shuttled all of us from the parking deck to the Arena, at which we were processed for tickets, given a free ELEAGUE-branded power bank, a $5 food truck coupon, and a raffle ticket for an ELEAGUE-branded gaming chair, HORI TEKKEN 7 Fight Stick and ELEAGUE gift bag. Nice!

Team Takedown Time

ELEAGUE invited twenty (20) of the best players in America, who would then be split into four teams of five to compete for a prize pool of $100,000, possibly the largest prize pool ever for a TEKKEN tournament. Teams were determined by a team draft that took place on Friday, but did not air until 1pm EST on Saturday, an hour before the main event. If you missed the draft, you can watch it here, but here are the four teams.

Once the teams were made known, the ELEAGUE commentators considered Team Anakin to be the strongest. Led by captain Hoa “Anakin” Luu, arguably the second best player in America, his team consisted of NgObscure, Spero Gin, Speedkicks and Joey Fury – veteran players, as well as those who had some of the most top 8 appearances in last year’s TEKKEN World Tour.

Team Pokchop and Team NYC Fab had rosters that most considered respectable, having longtime veterans along one new school player each – those being Marquis “Shadow_20z” Jordan on Team Pokchop, and Rontray “P.Ling” Sherman on Team NYC Fab (P.Ling qualified for TEKKEN Global Finals last year).

As for Team Cuddle_Core, team member Jimmy J Tran stated to Michele Morrow, “The team itself is not really the best team, but I think we can make it work if we play our matchups right.” When captain Jeannail “Cuddle_Core” Carter was asked her thoughts on Tran’s words, she stated “It doesn’t mean I don’t have faith in my team. I still think we can pull it off. People shouldn’t underestimate others, and we’re going to prove Jimmy wrong.” Anyone watching could tell that Cuddle_Core was somewhat bothered by her teammates words, but Jimmy didn’t say that their team wasn’t any good, nor that they couldn’t win. When compared to some of the other teams, on paper their team did not look like the best. He simply gave an honest answer, but also gave a ray of hope by saying “we can make it work if we play our matchups right.” Later on in the day when asked about it, Cuddle_Core would humbly “He was only being honest.” She understands.

Team NYC Fab vs Team Pokchop

The first team battle would be between Team NYC Fab and Team Pokchop. Fab commissioned Richard “Rickstah” Uehara to lead the charge for his team, while Ricky “Pokchop” Walker, Jr. sent out Matthew “MateoGalvan”Szabo to handle the dirty work. Making use of Akuma, Rickstah unleashed a very aggressive offense that looked to be somewhat unfamiliar ground for Mateo’s Feng Wei, especially the Akuma’s demon flip. In the best of three, Rickstah would take both matches 3-1.

Though the commentators thought the next pick for Team Pokchop should’ve been Wayne “WayGamble” Gamble, Pokchop instead elected to go with Shadow, saying “it’s time to get him [Rickstah] out of here.” Shadow had recently made top 8 at at NorCal StrongStyle 6, having eliminated Echo Fox’s Cho “SAINT” Jinwoo. Before that he had just come in 2nd place at Kumite in Tennessee. Commentator Mark “MarkMan” Julio didn’t quite agree with this pick, but it proved to be the best one Pokchop could have made, as Shadow single-handedly sent all five players from Team NYC Fab to the “shadow realm.” The only player that gave Shadow any turbulence was P.Ling, who took things to a final-final round, but things didn’t go in his favor in end.

Team Cuddle_Core vs Team Anakin

Even though Team Cuddle_Core had Jimmy J Tran on its team, the vast majority still considered Team Anakin to be the favorites. Team captain Anakin didn’t play any games with is first pick, electing to go with Stephen “Speedkicks” Stafford, who is considered one of the most intellectual and calculated TEKKEN players in the world. Facing him from Team Cuddle_Core would be Kawaiifacemiles. Though he has been practicing with Kazumi as of late, Speedkicks felt confident enough to go with Hwoarang against Kawaii’s Alisa. It wasn’t a complete blowout, but Speed triumphed 2-0. Afterwards, Kawaii tried to give Speed a congratulatory hug, but Speed playfully wasn’t having any of it. The hug did end up being secured though, and made for an awkwardly funny moment.

Captain Cuddle would send America’s best Mishima player up next – Cody “KoDee” Dinkins. He chose to bring out Kazuya against Speedkicks, who interestingly counter-picked with Kazumi. The first match was a very close one that came to a final round with both players in rage, but KoDee would steal it. I’m not quite sure why Speed chose Kazumi with the stakes being so high, but after a quick word with Anakin, he decided to go with Hwoarang for the next match. Unfortunately, Speedkicks luck didn’t change, as KoDee would take that match too.

Michele Morrow asked captain Anakin who his next choice was, to which he responded “I think this is an easy decision. I think I’m going to be the one to take KoDee down.” And he was right. Anakin played no games, going straight to his best character, Jack-7, while KoDee went with Devil Jin, considered the best character in TEKKEN 7. Both players put up a respectable fight, but Anakin would take the first match in a final round decision. The second match was almost the same, instead this time Anakin would take the final round with a perfect.

With Anakin standing in the way like Goliath, who would Team Cuddle_Core send up next? The no-brainer pick would’ve Jimmy J Tran, but when asked who she was sending up next, Cuddle_Core said “myself.” Cuddle_Core is no stranger to fighting Anakin or Jack-7. She had beaten him the day before in the captains challenge, and her boyfriend and training partner, Mak “Maknificent” King, is also strong Jack player. So she has the experience.

With robot-on-robot action afoot with Cuddle’s Alisa against Anakin’s Jack-7, she showed the studio audience, Twitch viewers and naysayers why she had complete confidence in picking herself. She completely annihilated Anakin 3-0 in the first match. Anakin would then select Geese Howard, but Cuddle has had experience fighting him too. She took the second match 3-0 as well.

Cuddle would then pick off the rest of Team Anakin one by one, those being Jevante “NG-Obscure” Flint (2-1), Joseph “Joey Fury” Bennett (2-1), and lastly Spero “Spero Gin” Gineros (2-0).

When asked what her winning strategy was, a very emotional Cuddle_Core uttered, “To not be nervous. What beats me a lot of the time is my nerves, and so it makes me lose a lot.”

Grand Finals: Team Cuddle_Core vs Team Pokchop

When it came time for grand finals, nothing changed for each team as far as their starting strategy. Kawaiifacemiles would open up for Team Cuddle_Core, and MateoGalvan would return for Team Pokchop. Mateo would pick off Kawaii, but instead of KoDee coming up next, it was Aerij “Brawlpro” Saeed’s time to shine. He defeated Mateo 2-1.

Michele Morrow returned to the stage to ask Pokchop who he was sending up next. He simply said “Shadow,” then walked off before she could even say another word. It was time for the secret weapon.

It was business as usual for Shadow though, taking out Brawlpro (2-1) and Cuddle_Core (2-0). When fighting KoDee, it looked like he had Shadow’s number at first, because he won the first match convincingly with three rounds to none. But the second match would go Shadow’s way. The third match was a pure knockdown dragout though, taking place on the only floor break stage in TEKKEN 7, forgotten realm. This one came down to the wire. And though KoDee only had a few pixels of health left, he was fighting without any sign of fear. Shadow was at around 75 percent, but KoDee aggressively knocked him down to about 10-15. And just when it looked like Shadow was about to be down for the, KoDee would fall victim to a simple wake-up kick, putting team Pokchop up 4-1. The crowed inside ELEAGE Arena absolutely lost its mind!

Next up would be Team Cuddle_Core’s one and only last hope – Jimmy J Tran aka Mr. Naps. Even though he was the first draft pick, he sat on the sidelines watching everyone else have their moment in the spotlight. That didn’t stop him from cheering on his team, nor from offering sound advice, but now when it was finally his turn he is tasked with doing the seemingly impossible – beat the remaining four players on Team Pokchop. Sure, Cuddle had beaten a handful of team members, and Shadow did too, but the difference was they had other people they could fall back on if they lost. Could Jimmy? Not quite. Yes, the opportunity to revive a player existed, but more than likely it would be Jimmy again, being the best player on the team. So talk about insurmountable odds!

Up until now, Shadow was undefeated with a record of 8-0. But for some reason I was still more concerned for Shadow than I was for Jimmy, who is considered the best TEKKEN player in America and one of the best Bryan Fury players. My concerns were proven correct too, as Jimmy dismantled Shadow 2-0, with Shadow only winning one round out of the whole set.

Not even fazed by what happened to his star player, Pokchop went up next with chants of “ATL” and “no round brown” from the crowd. The first match came to a final round in Jimmy’s favor, and Pokchop would even the score the next game. Jimmy would ultimately take Pokchop out, but it was competitive to the end. All matches came to a final round.

WayGamble, who had been a great supporting cast member up until this point, was next up to bat, but Jimmy took him out 2-0.

Terrelle “Lil Majin” Jackson was the last man standing for Team Pokchop, and what transpired between he and Jimmy J Tran were probably the most intense matches of the night. Both players are  specialists with their respective characters, Lil Majin’s being King. Arguably the best King player in the world, Lil Majin’s setups and tech knowledge are unparalleled.

The pace of the matches showed that both players had huge respect for one another. The spaced out one another, trading pokes, and playing the neutral game to try to locate a big entry point. Ultimately, the two giants would trade matches, Lil Majin snatching the first and Jimmy the second, but Majin closed it out with the “W” in the third. Team Cuddle_Core now had a decision to make. Which one player would they resurrect to give it one last try? Jimmy J Tran, of course!

There are no words that can describe the first match of the second set. Just watch how it ended.

Losing the match in that fashion didn’t faze Lil Majin though. He immediately started going in on Jimmy and was up by two rounds. But Jimmy slowed it down a little bit and surgically won the next three rounds to eliminate Lil Majin. Now it was Team Pokchop’s turn to decide whom they would resurrect. When asked who it would be, Pokchop said matter-of-factly, “you saw me dap him up.” That dap recipient was Lil Majin.

Jimmy and Majin would square off one last time, and on the Kinder Gym. With momentum on his side, Mr. Naps would continue his winning trend to take both matches consecutively and in decisive fashion. Team Cuddle_Core are your ELEAGUE | TEKKEN Team Takedown champions!

What was Jimmy’s strategy? “Just play normal TEKKEN.”

Here’s a breakdown of the prize money for each team.

  • Team Cuddle_Core: $50,000
  • Team Pokchop: $25,000
  • Team Anakin: $12,500
  • Team NYC Fab: $12,500

Final Thoughts

The team format for ELEAGUE | TEKKEN Team Takedown was a great decision. Though some players did not receive as much playtime or screen time as some others, the amount of strategic matchup and teamwork involved added an additional dynamic layer of excitement that I don’t think could have been achieved if just 1v1. It was enjoyable seeing captains taking leadership roles, determining the strengths and weakness of their players to pair up against opponents. A lot of trust was involved, and instead of thinking of yourself, you had to think about your teammates. Not only that, but like that the team format kept the games rolling too. And shoutout to MarkMan, Rip, Sajam, Tasty Steve, Richard Lewis and Michele Morrow for the amazing jobs they did on the mics. Nothing short of superb.

I was also glad to see Cuddle_Core show the world that female gamers can play at a highly competitive level too. Many counted her team out before a single game was even played. But there is no story quite like one of the underdog proving all of their detractors completely wrong. And today her team is $50,000 richer because of it.

Earlier today she posted a tweet stating that some believed Team Anakin threw the games so that she could win, and that Jimmy carried the team. How absurd is that? When a prize pool of $100,000 is on the line, who throws games? So that notion is completely idiotic. And if anyone carried the team, it was Cuddle_Core at first. She took out four players from the strongest team in the tournament, to secure her team a spot in the grand finals. Could Jimmy J Tran have done that? Possibly, but you win some and you lose some, and matchups are very important. Some of Team Anakin may have had an answer for Jimmy’s Bryan (or Dragunov had he chosen him), but no-one seemed to have an answer for Cuddle_Core’s Alisa and Xioayu on this day. She played the matchup game and won the games on her own merit and skill. She also exhibited great leadership skills as a captain. Keep proving the naysayers wrong Cuddle!

Another player that needs special recognition is Shadow 20z. I interviewed him late last year, where he spoke very openly about dealing with depression and how it almost cost him his life. I had always been rooting for Shadow, and it was a true pleasure to witness him perform in such an amazing manner at ELEAGUE. Knowing that the world will also witness it on television does my soul some good. I’m proud of that young man. I sat behind his brother Lathaniel “Joonya” Jordan Jr. in the arena, and we both could not contain ourselves. The best is yet to come Shadow!

And I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about TEKKEN 7 developers Katushiro Harada and Michael Murray. These guys support the game and community so strong! They travel the world far and wide, and travelling like they do is no easy task, especially when you have a family like they do. Thanks for all of your support guys! It was good seeing you two again.

This is only the beginning for TEKKEN 7. We have more great things to look forward too. DLC Pack 3 with Noctis comes out this Spring, Red Bull Conquest kicks off in Chicago next month (same state as Cuddle_Core and Shadow 20z), and the TEKKEN World Tour kicks off at Final Round 21 in under two weeks! And when I spoke to one of the Bandai Namco guys at ELEAGUE, he said they have a few more things up their sleeve, so stay ready!

Lastly, look for the premiere of the ELEAGUE | TEKKEN Team Takedown on TBS on Friday, March 16th, a 4-part series that will include more player stories, behind the scenes, professional editing and more.

GET READY FOR THE NEXT BATTLE!

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Note: To see more photos from ELEAUGE | TEKKEN Team Take down click here.

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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