In November, we at Melee Stats created our very own Top 100 All-Time list. Although Melissa Blight and I had done this in the past, the level of research and project contributions from the whole team, as well as our collaboration with Panda Global totally elevated the 2021 edition. It reached a new level of authority and cultural relevance to the scene, as well as received far more positive feedback. Working on it reminded me of my love for history, and in many ways the list itself was just an excuse to celebrate Melee history in a digestible, recognizable, and celebratory format.
It’s this very passion for history which has inspired me to try something a little different for this column. Over the next few weeks leading up to Genesis, I want to try to answer one question that’s been sitting at the back of my mind for the last week: what does Melee history look like without the greatest player of all-time?
What if Mango never existed?
When you come up with an insane thought experiment like this, you naturally have to set a few rules. The first one I’m going to set is that everyone else’s participation within the scene stays roughly the same. For example, Armada’s retirements still happen, as do his returns to competing. I’m also not going to be taking Mango’s metagame contributions with Fox, Falco, or Jigglypuff out of the broader development of the game, so it’s not like those characters won’t see any development.
The second rule I’m adding is that I’m only looking at what the scene looks like through the lens of major tournament results since Pound 3, Mango’s first supermajor victory. Although Mango certainly has unique contributions to the scene as an entertainer, I don’t think it’s fair or measurable for me to speculate on how scene viewership, growth, attendance, or general community metrics are impacted by Mango’s absence; as a result, I’m going to assume every major that happens in real life still happens in this alternate timeline. Moreover, my decision to keep this constrained to Pound 3 is to keep things simple and treat the hypothetical on the terms of Mango as we have come to know him today; the supermajor contender.
When looking at majors with Mango, I will try to keep the tournaments brackets in Top 32 or Top 16 (depending on relevancy) as similar to their original selves as possible. I won’t be accounting for potential upsets before them, nor will I be talking about potential loser’s bracket matches. It’d take too much time to hypothesize on their outcomes. Finally, any decisions I make to “keep” or “change” different results in Melee history, which are not explicitly stated above, are boiled down to a subjective attempt to maintain the “essence” of the scene’s history as best as possible. Sometimes, this will result in certain historic moments either never happening, happening at a different time, or involving other people.
I’ll put it this way – at some point, I have to acknowledge that this is really just fan fiction, but for real life. If you try too hard to make sure it’s bulletproof, you’re not going to have any fun with it. So let’s jump into it: what does Melee history look like without Mango?
Melee Without Mango: Pound 3
It’s difficult – perhaps even a bit saddening – to imagine a Pound 3 without Mango. I mentioned before that it was his first supermajor win ever, but it also has an argument to be his most impressive. What makes it so special is that this, more than any other tournament, is where the legend of supermajor champion Mango was born. Without even being seeded in the Top 16 for Pound 3’s final bracket, and in part due to sandbagging his way to loser’s from round one, Mango would claw his way over practically every East Coast Titan in loser’s bracket – Forward, Cactuar, Azen, ChuDat, Cort, PC Chris, and Mew2King – to conquer the last tournament before Brawl.
Of course, none of this happens as far as we’re concerned. The winner’s bracket carries on exactly how it does in real life, with Cort upsetting Azen in winner’s quarters as the main highlight. Over on Mew2King’s side, he sleepwalks through everyone who isn’t seeded in the top eight, handily beats ChuDat and solidly thumps PC in winner’s finals. Without anyone else coming all the way from grand finals to upset him twice, Mew2King safely holds off PC in grands before finishing the event as its champion.
Rumors begin to start again that Mew2King’s unbeatable. He was cleaning up Azen, ChuDat and Chillin in MD/VA at their monthlies like it was nothing, destroying PC Chris as well through the last half of 2007 as well. The one sign of mortality was a bad showing at Viva La Smashtaclysm, but other than that, he had won six majors in the last twelve months – tied with Ken for the most out of any Melee player in a single calendar year. A world where Mew2King is not the best Melee player seems increasingly inconceivable.
Melee Without Mango: Revival of Melee
The history behind Revival of Melee in real life is pretty fascinating. It was originally intended to be just another edition of a No Johns tournament in New York. What made it different was that Mango surprised everybody by announcing that he was going to go. From then, it was off to the races, as everyone wanted to go take a shot at Mango. For our timeline, I had to get creative and do what any good writer does best – conjure bullshit out of nothing.
Let’s put the rest of 2008 in perspective first. Mew2King’s ruling Melee and it sucks. He delays regional and local tournaments all the time, cleaning up their Melee and Brawl brackets alike, and that’s not even going into how he’s cheesing people in 64 with Kirby or winning doubles events. It’s frankly too easy for him and kind of demoralizing for the field. What are organizers going to do – DQ the literal best player in the world at their tournaments? The community just doesn’t have many people left to adequately challenge him. PC Chris isn’t the same competitor he used to be, Mew2King’s lately turned the corner on ChuDat, Drephen and Chillin’s victories over him seem like flukes, and there’s no one on the West Coast who’s close to Mew2King’s Fox, let alone his Marth or Sheik.
But the scene gets a brief glimmer of hope when KoreanDJ, a sleeping giant for the last year, announces he’s coming to New York for a local. Scratch that – he calls out Mew2King on Smashboards, telling him his reign is fraudulent, and he puts $200 on the line for the next time they play in bracket. Smashers are thrilled. More top players continue to sign up for the event and call each other out, and Alukard dubs the event the Revival of Melee.
Mew2King would win the event again his seventh ever major victory. But the craziest part is that his much anticipated showdown with KoreanDJ never happens. In winners semifinals, he instead plays Scar, who is having the performance of his life. Scar got here through not just posterizing KoreanDJ back to the Stone Age, but upsetting DaShizWiz in a manner similar to how he upsets Lambchops in real life. When Scar loses to Mew2King and gets knocked out of the tournament in his loser’s rematch with DaShizWiz, he declines to play a tie-breaker and gets to keep his fifth place finish.
If you thought that was wild, DaShizWiz and Kage both make a monster loser’s run in which they each practically dethrone the old guard of Melee, not too different from what they do at the real Revival of Melee. The difference here is that Mew2King vs. DaShizWiz happens in grand finals, with the legendary Match 4 becoming the final game of the entire event.
Melee Without Mango: Genesis
It wouldn’t be an overstatement to describe the Genesis we all know and love in the real world as a colossal, scene-shifting moment. If Revival of Melee was the initial return of competitive Melee on a national level, then Genesis was like an entirely new generation of Melee players coming together for the long-term to continue playing the game. However, to a layman, Genesis, above all else, was the birthplace of the greatest rivalry professional Smash has ever seen: Mango vs. Armada. Without this rivalry at the centerpiece of Genesis, we will have to come up with something that isn’t quite the same, but strangely parallels with what we cut out of Bizzaro Pound 3.
Armada still makes a scene-changing run to winner’s side of top eight. He doesn’t play as good of opponents as he does at real Genesis, but in some ways, his path is significantly more annoying. First, he holds off Axe in a longer and more grueling 2-0 than you’d think. Then, he has to immediately play Xelic in a Peach ditto before running into the toughest test of the major so far: Darc. It’s hilarious – maybe even tempting – to buy into a universe where of all people, Darc stops Armada right in his tracks, but I’m going to say Armada ultimately pulls through. After that, he beats Mew2King in a heart-breaker.
So, who’s his last opponent in winner’s bracket – in place of Mango as the other half of the greatest rivalry in professional Smash? It’s Hungrybox. He has made an incredible run there as the 15 seed, beating Shiz, Cactuar, and Darkrain on the way. Everyone at Genesis is floored by what he’s done. Winners finals isn’t Mew2King vs. PC Chris, Azen vs. ChuDat, or anything that they had ever seen before. This is a six seed vs. fifteen seed in Peach vs. Jigglypuff, a matchup which had never been played before in a supermajor grand finals ever. In Melee history, this was two all-time unprecedented tournament runs coming up against each other.
But it ends up being extremely anticlimactic. Hungrybox destroys Armada. The games aren’t total blowouts, but there is just no hope to be found in these six-minute, two-stock wins. Hungrybox’s wins are so convincing that it single-handedly changes community perceptions of Peach/Puff, a matchup that used to be considered slightly Puff favored or even. When Armada dismantles Zhu in loser’s finals and returns to play Hungrybox again, he’s getting so methodically torn apart that he tries going Fox and still gets destroyed. Nobody chants “USA,” nobody is going wild for Hungrybox, and nobody is cheering. Instead, they’re walking away in disbelief that a fucking Jigglypuff just won a supermajor, it wasn’t even close, and he didn’t have to play Mew2King.
Melee Without Mango: Revival of Melee 2
You can’t say Revival of Melee 2 without thinking about Kage double eliminating Mango – to this day, one of the most insane esports upsets of all-time. How many other upsets can you say were so colossal that they inspired an entire movie trailer to be made…of its eventual upload? Not many, I’d assume. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say more people remembered Kage vs. Mango from this event than who actually won it.
Speaking of which, this tournament mostly stays the same in our alternate timeline. Hungrybox still wins over Dr. PeePee and for what it’s worth, a couple other notable upsets occur in Top 32. The most notable one is Swiftbass – historically a very strong player against Jigglypuff – sending Darc to loser’s pretty early in the first round. I’ll also add that instead of upsetting KirbyKaze early on, G$ beats Lucky.
Regardless, Melee’s on the verge of something it’s never seen before – a Jigglypuff player who will practically cement himself as the best player in the world. Hungrybox has looked unstoppable over the last six months. He’s won Genesis over Armada, won Revival of Melee 2 over Dr. PeePee, and even Mew2King couldn’t stop him from winning Tipped Off 5. The American Melee scene is collectively in the Clutchbox Zone, so much to where its next tournament draws all the European talent available. If nobody in America can beat Hungrybox, who can?
Melee Without Mango: Pound 4
In our universe, a familiar face from the past does it. Stunning the entire world in his first big Melee event in a year, ChuDat knocks Hungrybox to loser’s bracket in the first round of Top 32. The result sets the tone for the rest of a wild event, where the community sees so many incredible sets. First, there’s Dr. PeePee’s thrilling 2-1 win over ChuDat the round after, and then there’s Drephen beating Amsah and Linguini upsetting Axe a bit earlier than he does for the real Pound 4.
One of the first notable instances of a player’s Pound 4 significantly changing is Armada, who, instead of losing to SilentSpectre, barely scrapes by Zgetto in the Smash Attack rematch. Another big change is that SilentSpectre makes his first ever major top eight. Instead of his historic upset over Armada, he beats Jman and Unknown522 before getting whooped by Mew2King in winner’s semifinals.
Winner’s finals is Armada vs. Mew2King, which goes about exactly as it does in our original timeline. But what makes our Pound 4 different is that something truly spectacular – perhaps even unprecedented in its timeline happens. Hungrybox claws his way back to grand finals after a monstrous loser’s bracket run. He dodges losing in 33rd place by a hair, only to start destroying every hard opponent that this major could throw at him. Eggm, Zgetto, Amsah, Hax, Dr. PeePee, Lucky, SilentSpectre, Mew2King – it doesn’t matter; he’s devouring them. It’s all en route to a rematch with the guy he crushed at Genesis.
Armada looks like he’s in deep trouble. The crowd is dreading the incoming 30-minute 6-0. The last time these two played, it looked hopeless. If they play another set of Puff-Peach, it’s almost guaranteed to be a loss, and Armada’s Fox didn’t look much better either. So instead of playing either character, Armada reveals his Young Link for the first time – about a year before he does it in the real world – and easily dismantles Hungrybox to win his first American major ever.
Stay tuned for Part 2 next week.