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The first of the “big three” North American Fighting Game tournaments, Combo Breaker 2023, came to a close last night. The Chicago-area tournament saw thousands of entries in virtually every major fighting game on the market and crowned over 25 champions. But when it came to the top games we saw plenty of familiar faces and in two Grand Finals, Guilty Gear: Strive and Tekken 7, we saw repeat champions.

The main event of the weekend was Guilty Gear: Strive which had over 1000 competitors alone.

International Epic in Guilty Gear: Strive

This led to the Strive top 8 being one of the most diverse in the entire tournament. Players hailed from the US, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Sweden. As the bracket progressed, it became apparent that Israel’s Zando and the USA’s TempestNYC were some of the strongest contestants. The grand finals showdown between the two did not disappoint. TempestNYC quickly reset the bracket with some oppressive Leo pressure. But Zando did not back down. Eventually, the match came down to the final round of the final game. TempestNYC dominated the final two rounds and clutched out the win, becoming one of the only repeat champions in Strive.

The Rivalry Continues

Tekken also saw a repeat champion in Pakistan’s Arslan Ash who continues to build his legend. He was able to take down legendary Tekken god Knee, who managed to reset the grand finals bracket. This being one of the first majors for the Tekken World Tour, Arslan Ash is all but guaranteed to gain spot in the TWT World Finals next year. Like Street Fighter, Tekken 7 is looking at the final months of its life, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can continue his dominance once Tekken 8 releases. An honorable mention also goes out to Italy’s DanielMado, who stood as the sole representative from Europe in the Tekken top 8.

Arslan Ash also finished third in the King of Fighter XV bracket where he was met with fierce opposition from two Mexican players Wero Asamiya and Seis MX. Wero and Seis would eventually face each other in the grand finals with Wero taking the win. This year’s Combo Breaker served as a coming-out party for the Mexican FGC scene. They not only walked away with first and second places in KoF but also saw a third-place finish from Jazdero in Street Fighter V. Outside of KoF, Mexico hasn’t seen many top-flight finishes even within North America. So to see so many strong competitors from Mexico show up in a big way at CB has been a testament to the growth of the FGC in recent years.

End of an Era

Lastly, the midwest defended its home turf in Street Fighter V, where Milwawkee’s JustaKid (entered as JAK) bested iDom. JustaKid is often seen as one of the brightest new talents in the Street Fighter scene and taking down, arguably, the best Street Fighter V player on earth is a great way to add to those claims. He’s also going to be able to say he’s the last player to win a main stage major for Street Fighter V, as the rest of 2023’s majors will feature Street Fighter 6 as the main game.