Let’s face it: The US vs. Japan rivalry in Street Fighter IV was an absolute disaster this year. Pundits and commentators will try and spin it positive, but I assure you that the objective view is far bleaker.
5 out of the top 6 winners including were from Asia, with 4 of those 6 (including the champion Fuudo) being Japanese. Yes, American player BrokenTier Latif cut down champion after champion to reach the finals to create the perfect Cinderella story, but he was absolutely mauled in the finals by relatively unknown Japanese player Fuudo. As much as it paints me to say this, these are the cold hard facts: Latif squeaked by Daigo Umehara and Tokido while they made execution mistakes yet got hammered by the first Japanese player who didn’t. As Fuudo delivered the coup de grace to take the championship, the Japanese players in the audience quickly rushed up and carried him on their shoulders as they proudly displayed their flag. Their message was clear: you got lucky and we’re still the top dogs.
While I stomp on the toes of those who want to overlook the circumstances surrounding Latif’s miracle run, there is another player who made a miracle run who is getting shunted aside. His name is Eduardo Perez, and you may know him better as DMG Puerto Rican Balrog.
The origins of Eduardo’s namesake PR Rog are obvious: he is Puerto Rican, and he played what was the most fearsome Balrog in the United States. Despite his fiery emotions he is one of the true gentlemen of the sport and it’s easy to see why he’s such a fan favorite. Recently however, even the most hardcore fans have admitted that PR Rog is in a slump. Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Perez was still placing high enough in tournaments to where he remained relevant, but it was generally acknowledged that he was no longer one of America’s elite players. His rank was lost in the midst of stars such as Mike Ross, WolfKrone and Justin Wong and his #2 ranking at EVO in Street Fighter IV was more of a testament to how many tournaments he played than to his actual talent (which he confirmed by bowing out of the tournament early).
Then, on Saturday, I saw PR Rog was playing Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Now I loved PR Rog but I regarded his involvement in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 much in the manner of a cat chasing a laser pointer; entertaining, but futile. Perhaps I am not giving enough credit to his ability, but how many people can honestly say that PR Rog was on their radar for MVC3? Everyone was talking about Justin Wong, Clockw0rk, Fanatiq, Filipino Champ, and Combofiend. I figured I’d get to see PR. Rog play, maybe blow up a few n00bs, and then I could go back to watching the X-games. Then something really strange happened.
He kept on winning.
These weren’t just noobs…he was beating, he was beating not only contenders but favorites to win the tournament. Combofiend, Sanford Kelly, Filipino Champ all fell to PR Rog’s offensive torrent. His Dante, Tronne and Wolverine didn’t seem technical to the naked eye yet they were steamrolling all in their path with ruthless efficiency. After each of those victories however, something truly incredible happened.
PR Rog turned to the crowd and roared, jumping up and down as the audience went ballistic. Then, as though a switch had been flipped, he would walk back to his opponent and offer kind words and a handshake or a hug. The hype, the enthusiasm, the fire . . . it was like the clock had been turned back on PR Rog’s gaming career only with a different game. When he succeeded in coming back from the loser’s bracket to make the final against Viscant and reset the series, the cheers were just as loud as they would be for Latif a few hours later.
I figured that the day PR Rog didn’t play Balrog would be the day I called him a cop out. Yet here I am at 4 in the morning after the tournament has ended, and don’t know if I’ve ever been happier to be one of his fans. I only started following professional gaming in the past year or two, and PR Rog was definitely a personality I latched onto so it’s nice to see him come back in such a spectacular fashion. I hope for nothing but great things for him in the future.
Use whatever character you want Eduardo, because to your fans you will always be PR Rog.