A trio of strong South Korean competitors traveled to Peru last weekend for a major Tekken 7 event, but they were met with fierce resistance by a group of local players who managed to keep Korean players from winning even a single game in the finals.
South Korea has long been considered the most dominant region in the world when it comes to Tekken competition. Only recently has that perception been shaken thanks to the rising popularity of the official Tekken World Tour. Unlike other developer-backed circuits, the Tekken World Tour has struck a promising international balance in its geographical distribution of tournaments, giving players across the world a much better opportunity than ever before to establish a name for themselves and qualify for the global finals.
Last weekend, the Tekken World Tour’s next stop after the glitz and glamour of the Evolution Championship Series was at an event called Collision, an annual Tekken tournament that has been hosted in Peru since 2016. As a premier Master event, Collision served both as a great way for local talent to earn a grip of points towards qualifying for the Tekken World Finals in Thailand this December as well as an enticing trip for international talent with the means to travel and an interest in rounding out their own prospects.
Just under 200 players registered to compete in Tekken 7 at Collision, but the eyes of the world were on three South Korean visitors: Jin-woo “Saint” Choi, Byeong-mun “Qudans” Son, and Mu-jung “Kkokkoma” Kim. Tekken veterans Saint and Qudans previously won the world finals in 2016 and 2017, respectively, whereas Kkokkoma is a perennial challenger at major events despite being relatively new to the competitive scene. The general consensus before Collision had even begun was that these Korean powerhouses would have a good chance of running away with the entire tournament, perhaps with a little trouble from local hero Abel “Abel del Maestro” Segovia.
While the Korean players did end up making the finals bracket, that’s as far as they went, thanks to an admirable defense mounted by the competitive Peruvian community. Over the course of a few hours, the Korean reps were completely locked out of the top four positions, and in fact, none of the trio won a single game against their South American counterparts.
The hero of the day was Danny “NeNe the Dragon” Echevarria, who managed to eliminate both Qudans and Kkokkoma in back-to-back losers bracket matches before losing to fellow Peruvian finalist and eventual runner-up Roy “Roynichi” Herrerra. Anderson Antonio “Ruperto” Baptista Raga, a Venezuelan player who lives in Peru, rounded out the local talent’s defense of their turf by ensuring Saint’s exit from the tournament. Each of these matches were straight 2-0 sweeps, and the audience ate up every moment of South America’s dominance.
When all was said and done, three Peruvian players occupied the top three spots in Collision’s final results. Abel del Maestro earned another first-place finish to match his incredible victory at Tekken Extreme Tournament last year, only this time he had a much greater pool of talent to test his skills.
Collision also served as Peru’s introduction to the world stage of competitive Tekken. Foreign players have visited the country before, sure, but never to this degree and with so much at stake. Abel del Maestro, Roynichi, and NeNe the Dragon’s performances at Collision have helped them shoot up the Tekken World Tour rankings, and they now stand a very good chance of qualifying for the finals later this year if they are able to maintain this momentum.
In addition to this surprise explosion of Peruvian talent, Arslan “Arslan Ash” Siddique of Pakistan is considered the player to beat after he convincingly secured titles at both Evo Japan and Evo 2019. At this time last year, Arslan was practically unknown, but now, it’s hard to think of a better Tekken player. Add to that the continuing success of Filipino and Thai champions like Andreij “Doujin” Albar and Nopparut “Book” Hempamorn, respectively, and it’s clear that no one can be counted out, no matter how well-known their home country is according to the wider global community. South Korea may still have the largest and deepest pool of talent in the world, but there can only be one champion, and based on the year the Tekken scene has had so far, that champion could come from anywhere.