The 2022 Tekken World Tour kicks off with a bang!
The Tekken World Tour (TWT) has finally returned! CEO 2022 kicked off this year's international circuit for Tekken 7. It marks the first official TWT event since 2019 after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Held in Daytona, Florida, players from across the world traveled to the United States to compete in the first Master event of the 2022 Tekken World Tour. Tekken 7's global strength was on full display, as Top 8 featured players from six different countries. However, it was the USA's best player who defended home turf and lifted the championship belt in the end.
Representing Red Bull eSports, Hoa "Anakin" Luu took 1st place at CEO. He defeated Thailand's Nopparut "Book" Hempamorn in one of the greatest Grand Final sets in Tekken 7's history. The victory was something of a redemption arc for Anakin after finishing 2nd at CEO last year.
Anakin and Book's Epic Battle at CEO
As two top players with plenty of hardware between them, Anakin and Book were among the favorites to win the tournament. They both qualified for Top 8 on the Winners side, going undefeated on the first day of play. Anakin even defeated fellow American titan and Red Bull teammate Jeannail "Cuddle_Core" Carter to earn his spot. His dominant run continued the following day, defeating former Tekken World Tour champion Jeong "Rangchu" Hyeon-ho 2-0 in the first match of Top 8.
Book would also win his first Top 8 set against Europe's best player, Vincent "Super Akouma" Homan. While he is known for playing characters such as Jin, Lidia, and Leroy, Book opted for Akuma in a mirror match against the Frenchman. In an incredibly close back-and-forth match, Book prevailed with his left-field decision. This set him up for a Winners Final bout with Anakin.
Against Anakin's tried and true JACK-7, Book went with Lidia. The series' newest character, she is an explosive force who holds a strong seat at the top of Tekken 7 tier lists. This did not faze Anakin in the slightest. Showing great matchup knowledge, Anakin defeated Book 3-1 in rather convincing fashion.
Though it was a rough showing, the loss to Anakin was Book's first of the tournament. He still had a golden opportunity to make Grand Finals. To do so, he needed to end the incredible underdog run of JoKa in the Losers Final.
Making the overseas trip from the United Kingdom, JoKa was one of the biggest stories of Tekken 7 at CEO. After breaking out in online tournaments during the shutdown, CEO was just the second offline event he attended. While he disappointed at Combo Breaker 2022, JoKa proved his skill to the world in Daytona.
JoKa upset a number of top players on his way to the Losers Final. This included brothers Marquis "Shadow_20z" Jordan and Rodney "Joonya_20z" Desjarlais, fellow European Super Akouma, and former EVO champion and arguably the world's best player, Genki "Gen" Kumisaka.
Unfortunately, JoKa ran out of gas against Book. Thailand's titan would route the pride of the UK 3-0 to earn his rematch with Anakin.
A Runback for the Ages
Learning from their first set, Book strayed away from Lidia in the Grand Final. Instead he chose Akuma for the first game. The decision didn't pan out a second time as Anakin repelled the Raging Demon to take an early lead. However, it would be the only game Anakin would take in the first set of the Grand Final.
Facing a crucial character decision, Book opted for his original main who he had played long before the arrival of DLC: Jin Kazama. This turned out to be a much more favorable matchup against JACK-7. With immaculate utilization of Jin's parries, Book began to read Anakin like a... well, book. He won the next three games straight to reset the bracket and put Anakin on the ropes. It was now up to the American to make the proper adaptations.
Unlike Book, necessary changes for Anakin did not involve switching characters. While he occasionally plays Paul Phoenix, Anakin tends to ride with JACK-7 almost 100% of the time. The hulking mohawked robot has been his main since he started his competitive career way back in Tekken 5. With over a decade of experience with the character, Anakin knew that adjustments could be made without a switch.
What followed next will live on in Tekken lore for years to come. Anakin won the first game, but Book took the next two to go up 2-1 and put himself one game away from winning the tournament. Anakin dug deep with his back against the wall and managed to win final round situation in the next game to force a Game 5.
Neither of the two Tekken titans was willing to go home without winning the tournament. In the final round of the final game, Book looked poised to seal the deal. But it was Anakin who would rally late and win CEO 2022 to the roar of a raucous American crowd. There are truly no high points to single out from the set. You owe it to yourself to watch every second of this incredible match.
Anakin: CEO Champion and American Hero
Anakin is no stranger to winning major tournaments. He owns first-place trophies for many of the largest Tekken tournaments held annually in the United States. He has victories at Combo Breaker, Summer Jam (2x) and DreamHack Atlanta (2x). His most recent win is also his second at CEO, having lifted his first belt back in 2016.
The win at CEO 2022 also gave Anakin 400 TWT points. Though that will keep him near the top of the leaderboard for some time, there is no room for complacency. Expect Anakin to continue competing in more TWT events with his eyes on more first-place trophies.