In a return to form after a relatively quiet late summer, Juan "Hungrybox" DeBiedma topped The Big House 8's 1,032-entrant bracket without dropping a single set to earn a title at the final supermajor of the 2018 Super Smash Bros. Melee season on Sunday in Detroit.
It was a stormy weekend in Detroit. Dark clouds blanketed the city, bringing with them flashes of lightning and booms of thunder. But in Cobo Center, the only audible rumble was the roaring of a hyped-up crowd, and the only visible flash was that of the top-level Melee gameplay projected onto a trio of polyester screens, with Hungrybox stealing the show.
The Team Liquid member lost only one game throughout the entire event: That loss came in the grand finals to his one-time doubles partner Justin "Plup" McGrath.
Though Plup's second-place finish at The Big House was a disappointment for the Genesis 5 champion, it was also a testament to his resilience. The Panda Global member dropped into losers bracket early after a 3-0 loss to Texas Ice Climbers player Connor "Bananas" Lamb in the first round of Top 64 bracket. To make it into the grand finals, he clawed his way through a minefield of a losers run that included elite players like Jeffrey "Axe" Williamson, William "Leffen" Hjelte, Zain "Zain" Naghmi and Joseph "Mang0" Marquez.
Bananas' strong run at The Big House was the underdog story of the tournament. After overcoming Plup, he followed through by upsetting Hugo "HugS" Gonzalez and notorious Ice Climbers slayer Shephard "Fiction" Lima to make it into winners' side of the quarterfinals. Though he went on to lose his next two sets to Hungrybox and Zain, his fifth-place finish was proof the top player in Texas is a force to be reckoned with.
By placing higher than any other qualifying player, Bananas also ensured himself a spot at November's Smash Summit 7, alongside Axe, who clinched his berth after defeating fellow seventh-place finisher Charlie "AbsentPage" McKinley in a tie-breaking set.
Plup was not the only elite player to drop into losers bracket early. Zain, who's becoming notorious for his weak play against Captain Falcon mains, lost a 3-2 set to Jason "Gahtzu" Diehl in the first round of the top 64. After the Marth main won roller-coaster elimination sets against Rishi "Rishi" Malhotra and Zachary "SFAT" Cordoni to qualify for the losers quarterfinals, Zain notched dominant victories over AbsentPage and Bananas before losing to Plup for a fourth-place finish.
Before falling victim to Plup's losers bracket warpath, Leffen and Mang0 faced off in the tournament's most electrifying set, a back-and-forth winners semifinal battle that ended with a triumphant suicide down-aerial for Cloud9's Mang0. However, the Californian was unable to defeat Hungrybox in the ensuing winners final, and Mang0 ended his streak of even-numbered year The Big House victories with a third-place finish.
As for Leffen, the Team SoloMid member made a crucial error in his losers quarterfinals set against Plup, flubbing a crucial ledge-dash at the end of Game 4 and spiking his controller to the ground in a fit of rage. After the heights of Leffen's dominant Evolution Championship Series victory in August, a fifth-place finish at The Big House surely left a bitter taste in the Swede's mouth.
By earning his first supermajor victory of the year, Hungrybox placed himself firmly in the lead for the year-end No. 1 ranking, a position that had appeared to be in jeopardy after a summer that included Leffen's Evo victory and several major victories for the now-retired Adam "Armada" Lindgren.
Several majors remain in 2018, but Hungrybox's rivals will have to pull out all the stops if they want to knock the Jigglypuff main off his throne before the year is out.