Overcoming a seemingly lopsided character matchup, Snake Eyez won the Capcom Pro Tour US & Canada West using his signature Zangief.
Never tell the odds to Darryl "Snake Eyez" Lewis, perhaps the best and most well known Zangief player in the world. Snake Eyez won the Capcom Pro Tour US & Canada West online qualifier against JP main Reynald, flipping the bracket in an on-paper lopsided matchup. If ever there was a 10-0 matchup in Street Fighter 6 you would think it would be JP versus Zangief.
The former is the high-tier zoner of your nightmares, dominating the online ranks with Mortal Kombat-esque projectile trap spam. The other is a beloved, but perennially underserved grappler who--much like other grapplers--struggles to get in under pressure. And despite having an upper hand on paper, Reynald was never able to take advantage of the situation and continually allowed Snake Eyez to walk forward and dominate.
How did the best Zangief in the world do it? Let's look.
Snake Eyez, Zangief Capcom Pro Tour-bound
The first thing to know about the JP-Zangief matchup is the most obvious. One fighter wants to keep you out, the other wants to get in. Potentially on the verge of receiving a massive nerf in the near future, JP zones out opponents better than any character in Street Fighter 6. However, just because you have a machine gun doesn't mean you always know how to do it.
In the case of the long-time and successful King of Fighters player Reynald, he simply didn't know how to keep Snake Eyez from walking forward as Zangief. The Grand Finals bout kicked off about as one-sided as you can get, as Snake Eyez used brute force and Drive Meter-draining headbutts to score a perfect round.
This was important for the tempo, as Snake Eyez was sent to the loser's bracket against Reynald earlier in the tournament. Much of Snake Eyez Zangief success in this match came through well-timed jumps, parrying JP's delayed projectiles, and capitalizing on opportunties.
But, that's also the heart of the problem with this matchup. Despite doing everything right, Zangief still has to get in the door. Reynald was able to use JP's projectile spam to effectively keep Snake Eyez at the mid-range.
It actually looked like for a moment that Reynald would prove the tier-lists correct, taking a 2-1 lead. However, you can never count out a player the caliber of Snake Eyez on a character like Zangief.
The bracket flip
Snake Eyez' biggest tool in overcoming the JP matchup came in the form of well-timed Critical Art counters. Many of Zangief's super attacks offer projectile immunity, as well as a vacuum effect. And, if we're being honest, Reynald showed his lack of knowledge in the matchup by attempting to get into button-pressing brawls at the wrong times. The Grand Finals Reset was hallmarked by long stretches of JP and Zangief just exchanging button presses.
And if you know anything about Zangief, it's that he has some of the best buttons in the game. Long chops, wheel kicks, and his notorious headbutt all add up to crushing damage. In the end, Reynald simply couldn't find a way to trip up Snake Eyez and had to resort to brawling--a battle JP will always lose.
The final blow from Snake Eyez and Zangief didn't come from some galaxy-brained combo. It was just big hits, counter pokes, and consistent damage. With that, Snake Eyez qualifies for the Capcom Pro Tour and does so on the most unlikely of character picks.
However, that's also the story of fighting games. You can never count out a character specialist, even against massive odds.
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