During this weekend’s 2GGC: Civil War event in Santa Ana, California, professional Super Smash Bros. player Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios was bested by new kid on the block Luhtie, who, in an massive upset, kicked him back to 49th place in the overall tournament. The best-of-five series was brutal, but ended in Luhtie defeating the well-known champion and a crowd of people cheering in shocked celebration.
Many thought the event, which pits some of best Super Smash Bros. for Wii U gamers against one another, would end in a standard victory for ZeRo, the undisputed Super Smash Bros. 4 global kingpin from 2014 to 2015. A relatively unknown player in the Super Smash Bros. scene, reportedly only playing the title for about 11 months before entering the 2GGC: Civil War tournament, Luhtie was believed to be ambitious if not a bit naive to go head-to-head with ZeRo. But things took quite the turn come game time.
In the match-up, ZeRo played as one of his signature characters, Diddy Kong, while Luhtie mained Zero Suit Samus. The series was a tug-of-war between the two gamers, but Luhtie managed to stay alive by delivering critical blows in mid-air attacks, moves that proved smart when he lasted until the final match’s last stock, though he was barely hanging on.
Luhtie was at 138% damage and almost certain to die at the hands of ZeRo. While Luhtie repeatedly dodged ZeRo’s attacks, ZeRo kept lunging in attempts to defeat his opponent for good. However, this left the champion exposed and vulnerable, and Luhtie pounced. The newcomer blasted ZeRo’s Diddy Kong off the top of the game’s stage at just 54%. The crowd and commentators roared with disbelief and excitement at the fact that Luhtie outplayed one of the world’s best Super Smash Bros. gamers.
Fellow Smash professional player Nairo noted ZeRo’s shaky confidence early on. “ZeRo played with very little confidence [and was] very nervous,” he said on Twitter. “[That’s] very rare to see.” This uncharacteristic demeanor was likely detriment to his performance, even more so when paired with Luhtie’s relentless plays.
While Luhtie reflected on his win, stating on Twitter that he was “feeling unreal” post-game, it was a different story for ZeRo. The champion took the loss quite hard, a somewhat unexpected response from a pro player with so many past wins and so many hours of experience. In a series of tweets, ZeRo addressed his defeat and coming in 49th, his worst placement ever:
“Time to hang the controller for good… Not a good day to be zero or a zero fan. I don’t deserve your kindness. When I lose I wanna study and improve and keep playing but I just don’t have the will to keep playing after that… [It] sucks to make something your life every single day, all day, and still be absolutely, completely, beyond terrible.”
In the end, however, Luhtie’s victory was short-lived, as he ended up being eliminated during his very next match. He placed 33rd overall.
This certainly isn’t the first time an eSports icon has been taken down by an under-the-radar gamer, and certainly won’t be the last. Luhtie’s win over ZeRo isn’t just an example of the complexities of gameplay styles, experience, and time spent perfecting the angle at which you approach a certain title (and certain opponents), it also shows how eSports has become larger and larger over the years. With an attendance inching toward 1,000, and high-energy battles like Luhtie versus ZeRo, 2GGC: Civil War is but a single event that seems to prove eSports could be as big as regular sports.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is available now.