by Aidan Adams / @ComradeAidan
Photograph by: Robert Paul / @TempusRob
The pinnacle of anyone’s professional career is never the big break. It’s not that huge promotion, the corner office, a nice raise, or your work being recognized. The pinnacle of a professional career is when your hard work, perseverance, and elbow grease turn into a masterpiece. For Hungrybox, this was at EVO 2016.
The stage was set, with one of the most prestigious fighting tournaments underway. The Melee singles bracket was as typical as ever, until Hungrybox pulled through in the Top 8, continuing an undefeated spree that took down Mew2King, Mang0 and even Armada in a nail-biting double series. Although seeing one of his most successful years in his career, with 17 Top 2 finishes in 2016, Hungrybox faced adversity on the homefront, with the recent passing of his beloved father shortly after his top place finish at DreamHack Winter 2015.
The odds were stacked against Hungrybox, to say the least, with Armada dominating the American scene, along with rising stars such as Plup, S2J and a seemingly return of Mew2King. As EVO progressed, the Top 16 quickly solidified, and as soon as it reached Top 4, Mang0’s weakness to Hungrybox’s lethal Jigglypuff showed, as Mang0 was knocked out of the Losers’ Semifinals in a convincing 2-1 comeback. The Top 3 solidified into a gridlock between Armada’s unstoppable Peach, Plup’s undefeated yet volatile Sheik, and Hungrybox’s patented Puff. Plup took the first game of the Loser’s Finals, only to have Hungrybox win three straight games to send Hungrybox to the final boss, Armada’s infamous Fox.
The age-old adage of the Underdog vs the Champion became a reality in the Grand Finals. Armada sat in the chair, in expectation of his last match, while Hungrybox walked onto the stage to assorted cheers and chants for the Puff main. Armada was expected to end yet another tournament undefeated, having prepared his Puff-killer Fox for the tournament. Hungrybox needed to win two full Best-of-Fives against the one of the best players Melee has ever seen. The stage was set, for redemption, or for ultimate glory. Hungrybox started the first round off with a 2-0 game lead. Albeit down to the last stock, the crowd was thundering for the underdog to take the first round, but had the tides turned by a resurgence of Armada’s Fox on the favored Final Destination, taking two games with convincing leads. This left the round at 2-2, with one match to decide whether Hungrybox moves on to a second, final round or if Armada clinches yet another perfect Major. It all came down to where the match started, on Battlefield. In an intense Game 5, the competitors got down to the last stock and duked it out to the very end, with the Puff prodigy scraping together a finisher to solidify the game and take the first match.
The second match began even tenser with the last, with a visibly shaken Armada and a more determined Hungrybox beginning the match on Battlefield. After another bout on Battlefield, the scores were tied 1-1. This was already looking to be another five game series, with the players already grinding through a grueling five game battle. The third stage was Final Destination, giving Armada another commanding win, losing only one stock throughout. After a two stock comeback on Dream Land, it was back to the painstaking 2-2 tie, with a final match being on Pokemon Stadium.
Every viewer, in the crowd and at home, seemed to have held their breath as the announcer counted down the players, as the very final game of EVO 2016 Melee was about to go down between Armada, “The Swedish Sniper” and Hungrybox, “The Fifth God”. Everything was on the line for Hungrybox, having fought his way out of the Losers bracket to take on an undefeated Swede for a chance at his first Major win since Apex 2010. It was Hungrybox’s ultimate opportunity, and Armada’s swan song. Every movement and dash felt like a deadly ballet underway, with a possible stock coming out at any second. As the Stadium shifted and the players gave it their all, it came down to what seemed to be a lead by Armada to end it for good. But Hungrybox didn’t back down, swinging back the game with a risky Rest stock into a one-to-one stock that ended in one of the most legendary clutches in Smash history, Hungrybox taking down Armada to win EVO 2016.
It was as if a caged animal of emotions was prodded and released, the crowd erupted in screaming cheers, all for an overwhelmed, in tears Hungrybox, as the runner-up Armada sat and stared at the CRT, as if he missed the last train of the day. Hungrybox’s win at EVO was not only a defining moment in his career, but a defining moment in Melee history.