Kage isn’t just an oaf from Canada with a charmingly dorky vocal inflection. He’s a Super Smash Bros. Melee legend and the greatest Ganondorf player of all time.
Although I’ve only selected one tournament run for the sake of making this list, in this article, I’m going to focus on an even greater theme: Kage’s rise to prominence and how it reflects the underdog story that has been his career. In no way does this discredit the sheer greatness of his run at Revival of Melee 2, but while writing, I thought it would be just as fitting to talk about another underdog run that retrospectively set the tone for Kage’s Revival of Melee 2: his run at Revival of Melee.
Keep in mind that this tournament was named because it was seen as Melee’s first post-Pound 3 major. Initially starting off just as another local tournament in New York, Mango, the Pound 3 champion boasted that he was going to attend and win another major on the East Coast to shut his doubters up. Eventually, nearly every top player, past and present, said that they too were going. Mew2King. KoreanDJ. Jman. Azen. PC Chris. ChuDat. DaShizWiz. If Ken and Isai had announced their return, this would have easily been the most anticipated tournament in Melee history. Even without them, it had a fairly strong case.
Kage was relatively unknown. He was one of the better players in Canada, but keep in mind that he was arguably below Vwins when they attended locals together. Canada’s most notable player of the last few years was The King, an innovative Jigglypuff that placed well at majors, but was well past his prime. In hindsight, if you had to pick someone to put Canada on their back at a national, Kage was an unlikely hero.
At Revival of Melee, Kage did something that no one thought a Ganondorf player could do in the modern era: finish fifth. Easily dispatching of KoreanDJ, Jman and Azen, Kage lost only to DaShizWiz and PC Chris: two of the best Falco players in the world. People were baffled at how a Ganondorf could do so well. The last notable result by one was in 2005, when Eddie won a respectable, but nowhere near major tournament in MLG Orlando 2005.
His supporters thought that Kage’s performance proved that the character was much better than most initially envisioned, perhaps even being top ten. In addition to Ganondorf’s exceptional punish game and needing few openings to get a kill, Kage’s fundamentals showed that the character had a few abusable tools in neutral as well.
Others weren’t convinced. In addition to players like KoreanDJ and Azen being rusty from seriously competing in melee, they could have been unfamiliar with the Ganondorf matchup, since they were rare to encounter on the national scene. Either way, Kage’s accomplishments didn’t end at Revival of Melee. After placing a respectable 17th at GENESIS, Kage had one more surprise in store.
Moving into Revival of Melee 2, there was no doubt about the tournament’s biggest contender. Mango had trounced every opponent on his coast and hadn’t dropped a tournament for all of 2009. Mew2King, thought to be the closest skilled competitor in the United States at the time, looked totally lost against Mango in their sets and was distracted by playing a lot of Brawl. Players like Zhu and SilentSpectre routinely were roasted and BM’d by Mango’s secondaries. Without Mew2King or even Armada in attendance, most people assumed the rest of the competition were playing for second place.
Faced against the No. 1 seed in Mango for winners quarters, Kage likely was playing an opponent who paid him no attention other than maybe surprise that someone played Ganondorf to modest success. I can’t say for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Mango didn’t know who Kage was.
If you just watch the first 40 seconds without knowing the final result, you’d probably assume that Mango was going to destroy Kage. But instead of going down further, Kage surprised Mango by catching his jump mid laser and knocking him off stage. One read on his jump later and Mango lost the stock.
This set the tone for the rest of the game, with Mango eating a brutal 117 percent zero-to-death on his second stock and falling behind. In less than two minutes, Kage had gotten into the head of the world’s best player, who quit out of the first game. With Kage up 1-0, Mango picked Pokemon Stadium, now switching to Captain Falcon as well.
Unlike the first game, which was at least competitive, this one wasn’t close. In less than two minutes, the Pound 3 champion rage quitted once again. Kage crushed Mango, without even playing a top tier, sending him to losers bracket before top eight had even started.
Though Kage lost to Hungrybox in winners semis, his Jigglypuff adventures wouldn’t end there. Facing Darc in losers quarters, a strong regional player in New England and experienced Jigglypuff player himself, Kage made it to losers semifinals, where he once again had to play Mango, pissed off and hellbent for revenge.
After Kage won a tight game one vs. Mango’s Falco, Mango then did something that very few people of his era could make him do: he switched to Jigglypuff. His Jigglypuff had lost games in bracket to players like Armada and SilentSpectre, but people at the time considered it to be on a different level than anyone else in the world. Make no mistake – Mango had taken off the ankle weights.
Since Pound 3, no one had defeated Mango’s Jigglypuff across a whole set, let alone eliminated it from bracket. The crown on his character’s head wasn’t just figurative. Kage now had to accomplish something that not even Mew2King had figured out how to do: defeat Mango’s Jigglypuff.
And in game two, Mango showed many what they expected. Now in full “tryhard mode,” Mango three-stocked Kage effortlessly on Dreamland, setting up a game three where it looked like the uncontested champion of Melee had momentum. Yet in a twist of fate that no one expected, Kage adapted.
At the end of the set, Kage approaches the recording setup and yells one of the most iconic Melee phrases of all-time, “I just beat Mango, where you at?” While it may seem ridiculous to put his two set wins as a bigger underdog run than his initial Revival of Melee run, think about how impressive it was to beat Mango back then. Beating him once could have been discarded as a fluke, but twice was enough to immortalize Kage’s place in Melee history.
Even with getting beaten by Dr. PeePee in losers finals, Kage’s third place at Revival of Melee 2 is still the gold standard of Ganondorf performances in the post-MLG era of Melee. Today, it’s the highest and most impressive placing by Ganondorf at a supermajor ever.
Though Kage is no longer in the top class of modern players, he still has moments of brilliance. At Apex 2014, Kage defeated SFAT and Westballz, two rising West Coast stars at the time. A year later at The Big House 5, Kage notably led a huge regional crew battle comeback against the Northern California crew, defeating dizzkidboogie and Shroomed as the Canadian anchor. He was also voted into Smash Summit and took a game off Armada at The Big House 7.
Just earlier this year at DreamHack Montreal 2017, Kage defeated ChuDat twice and HugS to finish second place at one of Canada’s biggest tournaments ever. Perhaps more than any other player in Melee history, Kage’s legacy consists of being the ultimate underdog. If you’d like to hear more about his upset over Mango, I couldn’t recommend the following video underneath enough.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to another smash history project coming up, I have decided to make the next article about all the remaining five spots on my greatest underdog runs list. Although I wish I had enough time to give each run its own due diligence, I hope that this list remains as valuable as my other ones. If you feel differently, please let me know!
I know this probably won’t make the list due to it happening this year, but would s2j’s run at shine 2017 make the top 15, or do you feel that it wasn’t to the same prestige as the other runs?