He was just a teenage kid who couldn’t travel back in the day, so he dominated where he could. Online. But things have drastically changed since then. He’s sponsored. He travels. He wins big. He represents his country. He has a baby face. He has a full beard. Boom.
Who is this? His name is Tray, but most of you know him as the one and only Princess Ling.
My first memories of Princess Ling are from several years ago. I didn’t know him personally, and I hadn’t met him yet either. But, I remember hearing about him because he was one of very few in America who had reached Tekken God rank in Tekken Tag Tournament 2. Having such a rank made most folks skeptical of whether or not you really possessed any skill. And even if you did demonstrate some, you were simply thrown into the “online warrior” bin.
This isn’t my first time writing about Princess Ling. I wrote about his 10-month reign of terror as the undefeated champion in weekly online Tekken tournament “Fingers to Fight.” He was unstoppable and everyone was gunning for him. So when he finally lost to Shadow 20z, who had failed at doing so many times, it was a big deal. Even Speedkicks said, “took you guys long enough.”
Today Princess Ling is considered a tournament contender and one of the best in America. His teammate SperoGin believes he is the best in America right now. And per Aris of Avoiding the Puddle, Saint of team Echo Fox, the current EVO 2016 and King of the Iron Fist 2016 champion, is on record stating that P. Ling “doesn’t make any mistakes.” That’s a compliment of the highest order. Yes, he’s that good.
My interview with him after the jump.
Tray Suave, thanks for the interview man! Let’s jump right into it! First things first, what is the story behind the name “Princess Ling”? And is it simply “P. Ling” now?
“Princess Ling” actually came from some online player I ran into named “Princess Asuka.” I guess I got bored with my “Sgt-Supernoob” account and borrowed the name. (laughs) But in tournament it’s P. Ling just because it’s shorter.
Is your last name really “Suave”?
Just Tray. (laughs)
And where are you from?
I’m from NorCal. Sacramento, California, but now residing in the Bay Area.
Nice. What’s the Tekken scene like out there?
The scene in Sacramento is pretty impressive. It consisted of a Devil Jin, Angel player that goes by the name Toro and myself.
You’re still in your teens, right? 19 I believe? And when did you start playing Tekken?
No. (laughs) I get this a lot, I started competing when I was fetus it feels like, three years ago, so some people still see me as younger. I’m too old now. I’m 21 as of two months ago. But, I grew up playing Tekken. The earliest game I remember having is Tekken 4.
Did you have a mentor or anyone who taught you how to play the game in the beginning?
At first I didn’t have anyone to teach me. I was just a casual Tekken player up until Tag 2. I met a player by the name ProjectRunAway and we spent so much time online training and trying to get better. He’s really knowledgeable about Tekken and taught me a lot. We probably have played a thousand or more games online.
Shoutout to PRA! You are arguably the best Xiaoyu player in America right now. Has she always been your main character?
Ling was not always my main, however, in the previous games I would choose her and just flip in the air because it was my favorite move.
Has anything changed? (laughs)
But my main character used to be Kazuya, and that was in Tekken 6. I dropped him after many failed attempts of electrics, wave dashes and a thousand plus wins and losses in rank. So overall my execution was garbage. (laughs)
I know the feeling. What have you done to reach the heights you have with your gameplay?
To reach where I am today I’d like to say I put a lot of time in learning characters back in Tag. I procrastinated on learning frame data so that came after my first tournament, Strong Style. I had a notebook with most of the characters frames and how to punish correctly. This took me awhile to do, but it really paid off! And also watching many hours of competitive play on YouTube.
You said something very key, and I hope people caught it. You said “this took me awhile to do, but it really paid off.” I think too many players look for instant success, and don’t really put the work in. So, I’m glad you said that so that they know what it truly takes. Good stuff.
Before you started playing in tournaments you were an online warrior. When and why did you decide to transition from online to a tournament player?
I was apart of this Facebook group some may know as Tekken Online Matchmaking and I seen some post about a tournament that was nearby called Strong Style. So my friend Toro, Ivan (he doesn’t really play much) and I decided we should go! And the rest is history.
Being your first tournament, how did that go?
It was a really great experience. I met players I recognized from playing online and YouTube! I was really nervous since I’ve never had this experience. I ended up with 9th place and and from this tournament bloomed the tournament rivalry of Speedkicks and I!
The perfect segway! I have a saying which goes “rivalries are the lifeblood of any sport!” That includes the FGC. And a few weeks ago Speedkicks released a video sending a message to InTheSkies, plus a little jab at Anakin. You were included in that video. What did you and the rest of ITS think about it, and has it made you personally more eager to face him in tournament?
It was a well put together video. The ITS team definitely wants a piece of him. But I’m looking forward to meeting him in tournament. I believe this would be a tie breaker in terms of tournament wins against each other if we were to play.
If and when you face him, what will be the outcome? Yes, I’m trying to build up more hype! (laughs)
When we play the outcome will become obvious after the first game. I’ve come to understand a few things about Speed, I’m not one to make videos or call outs, but you will see.
I would imagine that being sponsored by InTheSkies has really helped you maintain a tournament focus.
Yes, since I’m apart of this team I always try my best at each event I go to. I’m constantly trying to get better and learn from my mistakes.
How long have you been on the team?
I joined ITS about three years ago, and it’s really like a family. We all help each other level up and hang out whenever we have the opportunity.
Good deal. So, like you said, you’ve gotten better over the years and learned from your mistakes, and then you find yourself representing America in Japan, along with two other greats in Mr. Naps and Anakin! What was that flight like?
Japan was my first out of the country trip and it was a great experience! So glad I went! The flight was interesting… being in the middle seat for 9+ hours geez lol but totally worth!
Was there anything that you remember from your trip that has remained with you? An experience or something about the people and their culture?
When I went to Japan the people that I met were all very friendly. I made new friends and tried to learn the language – still am if I ever have the opportunity to go. Being in the arcades out there was my first time. I haven’t been to an arcade out here in the states, so it was pretty cool seeing multiple games and people just hanging out. I spent so much time at the arcades which really helped me.
I’m so glad I grew up around the arcade era here in America! How you describe Japan is exactly how it used to be here. What did you eat while there?
When I first arrived to Japan I had McDonald’s. (laughs)
I knew that’s what you’d say! (laughs)
It was a shrimp fillet which was new to me! I also had curry, sushi, of course! And tried other Japanese foods.
It all sounds very interesting. I want to visit Japan immediately. Okay, so let’s talk about your matches there. You actually did well, man. You were the only American player to crack the top 16. And being among some of the best in the world, and with much less access to Tekken 7: Fated Retribution than your opponents, that says a lot!
Your first match though. How disappointed were you when you lost to Karei? You had so much life, but then he caught you with a kick that translated into a combo.
I cringe every time I think about my match with Karei! It was so close! I made a small mistake! The new getup options are still weird to me. Before the trip to Japan I was worried about Karei because I think Kazumi is really good. I definitely want a rematch versus him!
In the top 16 you faced Canis, and she was using Claudio. Is Claudio the Ling Xiaoyu killer with his long, poking legs and lethal anti-AOP hopkick?
I haven’t played against too many Claudio’s, even in Japan no one really used him . But from what I’ve played his hop kick destroys many stance transitions. I’m still unfamiliar with punishing him, but it’s all on me, I need to set some time into studying him.
Just off the top of your head, what can you do to counter that though? Because I think people are going to have a pocket Claudio just to counter you in tournaments. I event think Bronson Tran studied that match and picked up Claudio just to fight you.
Next event I go to I’ll definitely be ready for any Claudio’s that come my way! But yeah, Bronson’s Claudio was really good, but looking back at the matches I missed a lot of punishes and simple things I shouldn’t get hit by.
Speaking of Bronson, your grand finals against him at NCR has been a major storyline on social media and news sites. Even Kotaku did a story on it, and not necessarily for the gameplay, but on Bronson’s commentary. What do you think about it all?
It was interesting having Bronson trash talk the whole game. I experienced this one other time when I was in Atlanta where you can only imagine. (laughs) So I knew to wear headphones. It didn’t really affect me, however, since I just blocked it out I was more focused on learning how to deal with Claudio since I was so unfamiliar. But it was a fun challenge and I’d like to play again in tournament soon.
What did you think of his having a microphone?
Well, Bronson did give a ton of exposure to Tekken. That part was great. Him having a microphone was interesting. Can’t say it’s for everyone, but he made it entertaining.
That he definitely did. Do you have any other characters you are good with in Tekken 7? Because some thought you may change characters.
I do have some characters I can play, but not comfortable with. These characters are Kazumi, Law, and Master Raven. I didn’t consider them only because I haven’t spent enough time with them.
Talk to me about your Top 8 match against Echo Fox’s JDCR at Final Round. Is he one of the hardest opponents you’ve ever faced? I ask because I don’t think I’ve ever seen you not win around against someone.
I wouldn’t say the hardest. I definitely made some mistakes using a lot of my tricks on him the first time we played in the team tournament where I took him out.
I missed that.
So when the time came that we had to play again I didn’t adjust fast enough, but this is all a learning experience for me. His character pool is also really good so I wasn’t sure who to expect when we played.
Just a few more questions. For anyone wanting to main Ling Xiaoyu, what are two or three main keys to using her?
I play Ling very different compared to other Ling players, so I may do stuff they wouldn’t. However, I think it’s effective. Some main keys in order to play Ling is to be aware of every situation you’re in and the options for that. Being fluid is very important. Lastly, just keep moving! Ling is very evasive so don’t give your opponent the chance to catch you.
All makes sense to me! I love how you play Ling. What would you say some of her strengths and weaknesses are?
Ling excels in being evasive with her AOP and back turned stance. Limiting the opponent to just a few moves. For weakness, hard to say. She has a few useless moves, but besides that she’s pretty solid in my opinion.
And especially in Tekken 7. I see a lot of Xiaoyu players these days, and everyone uses them differently. Does anyone play her like you do? And are there any other players whose Ling you admire and respect?
No, I don’t think there is a Ling that plays the way I do. My approach to her is very different. As for respecting, CuddleCore plays a pretty solid Ling. Very interesting, but gets the job done. Definitely not as crazy as I am.
What did you think of Tanukana’s Ling play at Final Round?
I did not watch much of Tanukana at Final Round, but from what I’ve seen it looked like she struggled with our competition, which I thought was peculiar.
Lastly, what tournaments can we expect to see you in for the remainder of the year?
I have Wizard World Sacramento, Combo Breaker, and Evo set for sure. Hopefully there is a Tekken tour this year. If or when that gets announced I’ll keep my Twitter updated on upcoming events.
Good deal. Thanks Tray. That’s a wrap!