Even as the fighting game community has expanded rapidly over the last decade, Community Effort Orlando’s professional wrestling aesthetics have made it a unique and memorable stop on the competitive circuit. The yearly event gives the community a chance to show off their creativity and individuality by allowing finalists the opportunity to walk the ramp to a life-sized wrestling ring, posing and posturing to their own selected intro music along the way.
Past CEO events have seen some incredible moments, such as Kevin “Dieminion” Landon’s surprise appearance and Kenneth “K-Brad” Bradley’s near-perfect Stone Cold Steven Austin impersonation. The players who managed to make it into a CEO 2018 finals bracket took the usual showmanship to another level. Some of these performances were just as impressive as the action in the ring; here are my favorites.
Since first making a name for himself in 2010, Seon-woo “Infiltration” Lee has come out of his shell, transforming from a stoic South Korean champion into one of the funniest players in the fighting game community today. He put that sense of humor on full display when arriving at the ring for the Street Fighter V finals, where he mimicked the sexy stylings of former WWE superstar Val Venis.
The best part? The actual Venis—who now bills himself as an “anarchist, cannabis connoisseur, and cryptocurrency enthusiast”—complimented Infiltration’s performance on his Twitter, calling the imitation “freaking awesome.” The fighting game community has cultivated a burgeoning relationship with professional wrestling, which also led to the fantastic CEO x NJPW program the Friday night before the tournament.
Goichi “GO1” Kishida was already a big deal among fighting game fans before he skyrocketed to further fame with Dragon Ball FighterZ. He ruled the roost in a number of obscure fighting games, the most notable of which was Melty Blood, an old-school genre effort from Under Night In-Birth developer French Bread that remains a cult classic today. GO1 likely learned his unshakable defensive resolve from Melty Blood, so he showed love to his past by walking out to the ring accompanied by the series’ original opening theme.
Despite being a relatively new team, UYU rolls deep at major fighting game events, especially when one of their own makes it to the end of a tournament. Sang-hyun “Jeondding” Jeon showed off his team’s heft during his Tekken 7 entrance, which saw him flanked by many of his fellow UYU boys.
Wrestling fans with good ears will notice Jeondding borrowed a classic theme from WWE’s storied Evolution stable, with teammate Julian “Beautifuldude” Franco pulling off a Randy Orton pose for good measure. Jeondding would go on to win the entire tournament, no doubt buoyed by the power of this incredible intro.
17-year-old Super Smash Bros. for Wii U competitor Zack “CaptainZack” Lauth has put other players to shame with his entrances before. He can usually be seen mimicking the moves of his chosen character, Bayonetta, but at CEO 2018, he pulled out something special to the tune of a Fire Emblem Fates track.
Most players are content to pose a bit to their favorite song, but CaptainZack incorporated props and a choreographed dance reminiscent of Fire Emblem character Azura. The routine drove his fans wild.
Last but not least, we have the brilliant Vineeth “ApologyMan” Meka, whose charming performance almost made us forget his bizarre proclivity for warming up cereal. ApologyMan’s intro drew upon classic Dragon Ball tropes and also honored his usage of an underrepresented character.
ApologyMan joined forces with fellow Dragon Ball FighterZ competitor Luis “Teemo” Gomez; the duo dressed up as Dragon Ball buddies Tienshinhan and Chiaotzu. Upon entering the ring, Teemo latched onto ApologyMan’s competitor, Ryota “Kazunoko” Inoue, and mimicked Chiaotzu’s last-ditch self-destruction attack, eliciting a chorus of cries from the commentators. The skit’s conclusion wasn’t captured on camera, but Dawn “Yohosie” Hosie mentioned on Twitter that she covered Teemo with a fake explosion to bring the bit to an end.
Kazunoko himself played along, collapsing to the floor of the ring in a crumpled heap much like Yamcha’s turn in another famous Dragon Ball Z meme. ApologyMan’s entire intro felt like a true community effort. Even though he and his fellow American players fell one by one to their Japanese counterparts, the skit highlighted the communal spirit of the community.
By drawing inspiration from the world of professional wrestling and leaning into the scene’s penchant for outlandish posturing, Community Effort Orlando allows players the opportunity to inject a much-needed dose of individuality into competitive gaming. As the tradition has expanded, players have raised the bar with their skits in each passing event. And while there’s a chance these competitors will eventually disappoint us, they made sure to keep our hopes up for another year.
Ian Walker loves fighting games and writing about them. You can find him on Twitter at @iantothemax.