Red Bull’s Tekken star Hoa ‘Anakin’ Luu spoke to Esports.gg about Red Bull Golden Letters’ unique format, his obsession with Jack, his inspiration and how his Dad taught him to show mercy.

Ahead of the Red Bull Golden Letters event, Esports.gg got the chance to speak to Tekken icon Hoa ‘Anakin’ Luu in person at the Red Bull Gaming Arena venue. The Tekken star spoke positively about the potential of the fresh format designed specifically for the Golden Letters event.

Anakin also let us into the reason behind his obsession with Jack, how his father guided him to show mercy and what it’s really like playing in a Beat the Pro event.

What is Red Bull Golden Letters?

The Red Bull Golden Letters event features Tekken 7 and a brand new format devised by Red Bull UK’s esports staff that incentivises high risk plays.

hiKaneandTrench, Sep

A total of 96 players from open qualifiers went head to head on Day One, with the top four progressing to Championship Sunday. The four players to progress were UK representatives KaneandTrench and Ayorichie, Germany’s Sephiblack, and Fergus from Ireland. They will join the four direct invites which include North America’s star player Anakin (Twitter).

A chat with Red Bull’s Tekken star Hoa ‘Anakin’ Luu

First off I have to say it’s pretty sweet to be sponsored by Red Bull and play inside their own company arena, the Red Bull Gaming Sphere. This is basically your home turf away from home. Any added pressure to perform?

RB | Anakin: “Definitely playing in the Red Bull Gaming Space, the game is elevated and the stakes are higher. I know I have to represent, it doesn’t really add pressure it’s something I use to motivate myself. I try to get that relax mindset when I’m competing, I don’t really try to add pressure to myself, I’m looking to remove it and be as loose as possible. With my playstyle playing Jack, I’ve just got to be ready… for a party. (laughs).

I know what the stakes are, I’m definitely looking to take 1st place. That’s one thing Red Bull always does right, they make super cool trophies and I’m planning on taking this one back with me.”

The Red Bull Golden Letters trophy being shown off on the Beat the Pro stream

You’re clearly someone who has embraced their sponsorship. We’re not talking a casual plug here or there, this really feels like a collaboration. You’ve got the name, you’ve got the merch. It feels to me like you wear it with pride.

RB | Anakin: “Definitely. This is my 5th year at Red Bull, and I know how the culture operates and how supportive the team is. I’m ready. I learned when I joined that one of the cool things you get to do is wear exclusive gear that isn’t available in stores or easy to get hold of.

I owe a lot to Red Bull where I am right now with Tekken and in general. I’m passionate about everything Red Bull related and being around the company I’ve learned a lot, it’s an opportunity to better myself.

The gear is an extra perk, free clothing, I’m not complaining (laughs). When Red Bull initially reached out to me, opportunities in Tekken were not vast. It’s only recently that we can become pro Tekken players with the Tekken World Tour. I cherish it so much, because it hasn’t always been this way.”

Red Bull and Anakin made the Anakin Tekken Academy series
Anakin collaborated with Red Bull to create the Anakin’s Tekken Academy, a free educational series

Red Bull Golden Letters features a Beat the Pro event. When you sit down with a fan to play, can you tell already who the sweats are?

RB | Anakin: “Absolutely. I’ve done my fair share of Play the Pros and normally the guys who are serious and are there to win the prize they’re not as friendly. You’ll get a ‘what’s up’ but you can tell how focused they are on the screen. Some people are there just to have a good time, and that’s when you’ll get chatting.

But sometimes fans will try to trick you. you’ll get someone walk up and say they’re a big fan and how excited they are to get to talk to you and then they’re ALSO really good at Tekken. That’s what throws me off but in any Beat the Pro event I always give it a fair fight, I’ll play my main character Jack. I take it seriously as if it was a tournament. People came to play the Pro, they didn’t come to play some guy just leaning back playing whatever.”

“In any Beat the Pro event I always give it a fair fight, I’ll play my main character Jack. I take it seriously as if it was a tournament. People came to play the Pro, they didn’t come to play some guy just leaning back playing whatever.”

Anakin on his approach to Beat the Pro Events

I’m going to show my age here but when I played the original Tekken games in my childhood versus my older brother, Jack was considered a bit of… a lame character. Get me up to speed has that changed?

RB | Anakin: “Back in the day the coolest Tekken characters were ones that draw on pop culture figures. They played Law because it reminded them of Bruce Lee, they played Lei Wu Long because it reminded them of Jackie Chan.

With Jack he was just a big old boring robot that did a bunch of damage (laughs). He was slow, he wasn’t cool, he didn’t even talk! The other characters had so much personality being from all over the world that made Jack one of the least attractive characters.

Jack-7 - Anakin's signature character

But it wasn’t really the storyline of Jack that caught my attention it was the way you played him. And being from the city of Atlanta, it’s a character that has been played by a lot of the stronger players over the years.

I grew up playing Tekken in the early 2000s, and seeing all these strong Jack players I would say he was naturally in my blood. I’ve always judged it by results and it got to a point where I was doing better with Jack against my practise partners than with all my other characters.

Jack is like a silent killer, I can relate to that. You’ve got to be able to party and turn up the heat with him even though he’s a big solid defensive character. I feel pretty cool I’m one of the few players that put Jack-7 on the map, and that’s something special to me. I hope when Tekken fans think of Jack-7, I’m one of the players they think of. “

Red Bull athlete Anakin plays Tekken 7 against fans at a Red Bull Conquest Qualifier in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA on 21 September, 2019.a // Colin Kerrigan / Red Bull Content Pool //

Out of interest if they made a new Tekken Tag with three characters in a team, who would you pick from the current Tekken 7 roster?

RB | Anakin: “I’d pick Jack-7. Second I’d pick Paul Phoenix, who is another signature character from my Atlanta’s Tekken scene. I used to main Paul, he’d be my second.

Third it’s tough because I’ve been known to play a lot of characters. But if HAD to pick, I’m just going to go with the best character Fahkumram, I know people going to hate me for this. He gets a lot of hate for being so overpowered but hey you got to have a strong anchor. He plays to my strengths. Jack-7, Fahkumram and Paul Phoenix would be three.”

“Sometimes in the arcade other kids would step up and play and my Dad would step in and say ‘let him win, let him win 2 rounds’. My Dad was the one who tried to show me to demonstrate mercy back in the day (laughs). I feel like that’s carried on 20+ years later.”

Anakin on playing in the arcades as a young kid

For the Red Bull Golden Letters Beat the Pro, what happens if you meet just a pure innocent soul who is just honoured to meet you and then you smash him to pieces. Is there any part of you that is saying ‘I should probably go easy’?

RB | Anakin: “Back in the day my Dad would take me to the arcades, and I’d often play against older players because I was so young. But sometimes in the arcade other kids would step up and play and my Dad would step in and say ‘let him win, let him win 2 rounds’.

My Dad was the one who tried to show me to demonstrate mercy back in the day (laughs). I feel like that’s carried on 20+ years later. Of course I’m going to try, I’ll pick Jack and respect my opponent but sometimes if I get a little lead I’ll ease up a little bit and let them get a round. I like to make it fun, but in order to have fun I feel I got to win. That’s the competitiveness in me.”

How do you expect this Red Bull Beat a Pro to go? People are flying from all over just to play you.

RB | Anakin: “I feel like this Red Bull Beat a Pro I’ll be facing a lot of people I’ve never played before. This is my first time in London, I’m definitely going to give it my full focus. I feel if you signed up to this event then you are a serious Tekken competitor.

I’m looking to get good games in against quality opponents all day long. Usually its just a booth in the middle of a big tournament and people just stop by. Not everyone is a Tekken player, but this event will be different.”

On the unique format of Golden Letters

The format of the main event at Red Bull Golden Letters is quite unique in that if a player achieves three “perfect or great” scores they will win the series. How do you guys think this will change players’ approach? And what can we expect to see as a viewer?

RB | Anakin: “This format is completely new and I’ve actually been thinking a lot how the matches will go. There are two additional ways you can win a series, either by getting two PERFECTS (winning and not losing any health) or by getting three GREATS.

Thinking back on previous matches I’ve played and seen, getting a PERFECT depends a lot on the player’s playstyle and maybe character operates. If it’s more of a momentum character that starts with one big knockdown and it leads to the next then its far more likely.

“With a format like this never taking place it’s hard to call it, but PERFECT and GREATS are already hype, this just amplifies that for the viewers. With this system, at any moment it could REALLY go down.”

Anakin on Red Bull Golden Letters’ Unique format

With poke characters that sit back more then it just leaves a lot more opportunity for an opponent to get one hit and ruin the PERFECT. For GREATS it can be achieved with just a little bit of life left, which is awesome for tournaments like Red Bull Golden Letters, where you’ve got the potential for a lot of highly contested matches.

With a format like this never taking place it’s hard to call it, but PERFECT and GREATS are already hype, this just amplifies that for the viewers. With this system, at any moment it could REALLY go down.”

Who came up with the format?

RB | Anakin: “Red Bull London’s staff came up with it, I didn’t have any helping hand in it. This is something they’ve been working on for a while for Red Bull Golden Letters. I’m just glad to be here. Just a couple of months ago I didn’t know this was in the mix, but when they asked me it was an immediate yes.”

Hoa “Anakin” Luu poses for a portrait in Atlanta, Georgia, USA // Brian Hall / Red Bull Content Pool //

Team Liquid recently shared a video in which a few of their Dota 2 players said they found inspiration from watching the Netflix F1 series Drive to Survive, which features the Red Bull team quite heavily. I was wondering which traditional sports stars have impacted or inspired how you pursue your FGC career?

RB | Anakin: “I actually started on that series last year and it got me SUPER hooked on Formula 1. I mentioned the pride I take in just being part of Red Bull, and they has two teams in Formula 1. I was cheering for those guys and watching the story.

When it comes to traditional sports, every sport has their standout players and those are the guys I try to focus on, because I’m trying to be THE best player. Anything I can learn from their mindset. When I watched people like Kobe Bryant as a kid, he came across as someone who accepted no excuses, super focused, super locked in all the time, and he had that killer instinct. I always look for that in a lot of other athletes.

“When I watched people like Kobe Bryant as a kid, he came across as someone who accepted no excuses, super focused, super locked in all the time, and he had that killer instinct. I always look for that in a lot of other athletes.”

Anakin on taking inspiration from traditional sports stars

For example in American Football, there is Tom Brady. On the outside he looks like some regular average joe, but he plays quarter-back and he wins all the Super bowls.

Tom Brady’s work ethic is incredible, and just like Kobe Bryant, he isn’t in the business of making excuses. I feel if I’m going to get the top, I need to be as much of that as possible. Those are the people I pay attention to, those top high-level number one athletes, like Kobe Bryant, Tom Brady, Serena Williams.. they’re just built different.

They can be intimidating sometimes, but that intensity, that edge it definitely works out in your favour when your in tournaments. People can feel it, and it can even give you advantage before the match event starts. To have that kind of reputation, I can respect that.”

You can follow the Championship Sunday finale of Red Bull Golden Letters over on the official Red Bull Twitch channel.

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Lawrence

Lawrence "Malystryx" Phillips

Director of Content | Twitter: @MalystryxGDS | Twitch: MalyPlays

Malystryx is Editor-in-Chief/Managing Editor at Esports.gg. and a veteran esports journalist, content creator and personality. He has been involved in the esports scene since 2004 and has worked with many different organizers and portals, including SK Gaming, ESL, Dexerto, GINXTV, Razer and Monster Energy. Malystryx was also a broadcast talent on Valve's Dota 2 Pro Circuit over the last few years, creating on-site video content for PGL and Starladder. In his spare time he streams on Twitch as MalyPlays.