It’s not easy to break into the highest echelon of competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee, let alone its top ten. Even those who make it there don’t always have enough consistency to remain a long-term threat.
Before MLG Orlando 2006, KoreanDJ was the kind of player who resided in the grey area between the elite and everyone else. He simultaneously had a target on his back as a notable player, but he also wasn’t consistent to the point where he could be considered a member of Melee’s vaunted elite.
With wins on the likes of Isai, PC Chris and Mew2King, KoreanDJ also had losses to people such as Wife, Rob$ and Chillindude. These weren’t anywhere close to bad players, but they were surprising lows relative to the kind of talent that many perceived KoreanDJ to have. On sites like GameFAQs and Smashboards, many of his biggest supporters used to half-jokingly claim that he was secretly the best player in the world. Think of him at this time like what Leffen was in late 2014.
Heading into MLG Orlando 2006, there were three big contenders: the longtime Melee king Ken, ChuDat and the MLG New York Opener champion in PC Chris. Lurking on the outside was Mew2King, the returning Azen and KoreanDJ: a wild card heading into the event.
Although MLG Orlando 2006 was a prestigious event, keep in mind that by modern standards, the golden age of Melee was still relatively small. Seeding was mostly determined by previous placings at MLG-ran events. For example, Azen was seeded below the top ten for this tourney, due to his lack of serious attendance at other tournaments. Melee also wasn’t at the point where its scene could have four-digit attendee majors.
As a result, keep in mind that going into bracket from pools, KoreanDJ had to quickly play at his A game. In the first round, KoreanDJ had to play RockCrock: one of America’s best Ganondorfs at the time. Nonetheless, he won in a dominant 3-0.
Next, KoreanDJ played Rob$, a longtime Falco who placed top eight at FC6 and even defeated him at the same tournament. If KoreanDJ lost the runback, he would have had to play The King for 13th place and then likely the loser of Isai vs. ChuDat for ninth. With another 3-0, KoreanDJ advanced, ready to play his East Coast nemesis: Mew2King, in winners quarters.
To cue back to Wife’s not-entirely-accurate, but famous description of KoreanDJ as a “ball of hot fire,” KoreanDJ was heavy on overshooting moves and unrelenting aggression. Meanwhile, Mew2King played far more passively and around ledge, preferring to bait his opponents into committing first and then punishing them afterward. The two were different players, but also similar for improving around the same time.
KoreanDJ had been struggling against Mew2King. Though he beat him to start the year at MLG New York Opener 2006, he lost to him in losers bracket. Afterward, he lost three more sets against him at MLG Dallas 2006 and MLG Anaheim 2006. It would have been reasonable to expect Mew2King to win yet another set against KoreanDJ. Imagine everyone’s surprise when the New England underdog broke the streak and beat his Tri-State rival, 3-1.
EDITOR’S NOTE: In hindsight, it’s a pity that KoreanDJ’s Melee career wasn’t longer. Despite their different approaches to Melee, the two became relevant players around the same time and were known for their tremendous work ethic and deep edgeguards. Can you imagine how amazing a KoreanDJ appearance at Pound 3 could have been?
This is just my opinion, but had he kept playing along with Mew2King and the rest of the post-Brawl greats, KoreanDJ’s all-time legacy could have been even higher. Seriously – watch the video below, recorded in 2014, and tell me that KoreanDJ couldn’t have won that set in an alternate universe where he fully dedicated himself to Melee. Ignore the awful commentary.
Now in winners semifinals of MLG Orlando 2006, KoreanDJ had to play the ultimate test for any prospective smasher: Ken. Outside of New York Opener 2006, in which Ken lost to PC Chris, Ken hadn’t dropped a single tournament he entered in the year. In fact, PC Chris and ChuDat were the only players who managed to take sets against him in the entire year. Ken was like Armada, if he won even more and lost even less.
There are no videos I can find online of the set, but judging by everyone I’ve talked to, it’s one of the most important sets in Melee history. KoreanDJ’s 3-1 over Ken was the biggest accomplishment of his career. It elevated his status from a player on the cusp of greatness to now a threat to beat anyone in tournament. Sitting across from him in winners finals was Azen, who had never played KoreanDJ at that point in tournament.
This was a remarkable change from what most expected entering MLG Orlando (another Ken vs. ChuDat or PC Chris finals). In fact, had I not been restricted by my methodology for making this list, Azen’s performance at this tournament would have been near the top.
Though KoreanDJ lost to Azen and ChuDat in the following winners and losers finals sets, his performance at MLG Orlando 2006 gave New England its best showing at a national ever. It also cemented his ascent to being a member of the Melee elite. Beating Mew2King and Ken at the same tournament at the time would have been a daunting task for anyone in the world.
KoreanDJ didn’t win MLG Orlando 2006, but it set the rest of his career in motion. He quickly became one of the three best players in the world, as he finished second at MLG Las Vegas 2006 and won MLG Long Island 2007 months later. Though KoreanDJ’s legacy certainly transcends just one tournament – and is still one of Melee’s greatest “what ifs” – his performance at MLG Orlando 2006 remains one of the scene’s most memorable moments.
If KDJ had continued playing for 5-6 more years, the melee scene would’ve been COMPLETELY different– comparable to if Leffen had never emerged. I suspect KDJ would’ve become number 1 at some point and possibly stayed there for a while. We wouldn’t be talking about the rise of the 5 Gods the same way we do now had he kept playing. I’d say its “tragic,” but it sounds like KDJ had better stuff to do with his life anyways.
I think if KDJ had continued competing for 4-5 more years, the melee scene could’ve been completely different– similar to something like if Leffen had never emerged. KDJ would’ve become number 1, and probably would’ve stayed there for a good amount of time. We wouldn’t talk about the rise of the 5 Gods the way we do now if he had stayed playing the game. It’s almost tragic, but it sounds like he had better things to do with his life anyways though.