In 2017, Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma looked all but undefeatable against any character besides Fox, capturing Super Smash Bros. Melee’s No. 1 ranking with only a few scattered losses to Captain Falcon and Sheik. Leading up to this year’s iteration of Shine, Boston’s premier major, things looked a little different, with Hungrybox shaking off losses to Fox, Falco, Captain Falcon, Sheik, and even Yoshi over the last six months. However, the Jigglypuff main remained undefeatable against one top-tier character: Marth.
Last night, Zain “Zain” Naghmi did the impossible, defeating Hungrybox in two best-of-five sets as the animated Boston crowd chanted “pop the bubble” behind him. In his winner’s semifinals set against Hungrybox, Zain scrapped his way to victory, closing out a tight game five with a pivot topper forward smash. After defeating Joseph “Mang0” Marquez to ensure himself a spot in grand finals, Zain looked dominant in his rematch against Hungrybox, closing out a game-four victory on Yoshi’s Story to win his first-ever major tournament in electrifying fashion.
Zain’s winning run put him above a whopping three members of Melee’s “Big Six,” though Justin “Plup” McGrath primarily played his tertiary main, Samus, before Sunday’s finals. However, once Plup faced god-level competition, he switched to his practiced and polished Fox. Ultimately, Plup finished in fourth place, dropping sets to Mang0 and Hungrybox.
Perhaps the most surprising member of Shine’s Top 8 was Jason “Gahtzu” Diehl, the Floridian Captain Falcon main known for helping invent the “20GX” movement to optimize Falcon’s punish game. Gahtzu rode a dream bracket of floaty characters into Top 8, where he impressed the crowd by defeating Zachary “SFAT” Cordoni and securing himself a fifth-place finish.
Gahtzu was joined in fifth place by his fellow Captain Falcon main, Johnny “S2J” Kim. For his fifth-place finish, S2J defeated such players as Dajuan “Shroomed” McDaniel and Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallett.
Shroomed, who finished at seventh, had an impressive loser’s run of his own, clutching out four tight game fives before defeating Edgard “n0ne” Sheleby 3-0 in his Top 8 qualifier match.
At the end of the day, Zain stood surrounded by fans on Shine’s stage, tired but proud of his incredible accomplishment. Now that the young Panda Global member has shown that he’s able to take major tournaments over the best players in the world, the metagame is forever changed; another major-winning contender has risen from the ranks.