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July 12th, 2009: GENESIS 1, Singles Bracket, Winner’s Round 2.
The young Arizona native sits down, about to enter the highest stakes match of his entire career. Having made his way through Alex19 and Everlasting Yay in pools, and defeating PockyD, Axe comes face to face with one of the greatest players in the world. Jman, a Tristate Fox main, had been making a name for himself in the past year. Taking sets off of Mango, Mew2King and ChuDat, in addition to winning the first APEX, has cemented Jman as a Top 10 player in the world. There is a strong possibility, especially during this period in Smash history, that he had no idea who this Pikachu main was.
He did, however, have to realize the giant crowd behind him.
AZ was here for their boy, including one of the best in the region, Taj. Known for his Mewtwo at the time, Taj established that strong players of unconventional characters can come from the region down south. Another Pikachu by the name of PikaChad had also been making the rounds, proving that this character does have the potential to score some wins.
Still though, a win of this magnitude had never been seen from this yellow rat, not since the days of Rori back in 2003 and 2004, long before a standardized ruleset was in place. It would be tough, perhaps even impossible, for Axe to come out victorious.
June 16th, 2019: Smash Summit 8, Singles Bracket, Grand Finals.
The experienced Arizona native sits down, decked out in his Pikachu hat and Tempo Storm jersey. He has risen to fight in what was more than likely the highest stakes match of his entire career. Surging through the bracket, Axe defeated Moky, S2J, Zain, Mango, Wizzrobe and Leffen to make it to the winner’s side of Grand Finals at a major for the first time in his life. Across from him is a player he had already vanquished: Wizzrobe.
Wizzy had just done the unthinkable a mere two weeks prior, winning a major as Captain Falcon for this first time since Isai in 2005. With his placing today, he was in strong contention to be the best player in the world, a feat few saw coming. Axe, however, had been lanquishing in the 6-10 range his near entire career, with consistent but not insane performances. That is, until 2019, where he has since reached Grand Finals of majors 3 times, whilst never doing it beforehand.
There was no crowd as the two sat in the empty room, but everybody who was watching could feel it: This was Axe’s time. As good friend and Yoshi main Vectorman, along with AZ Marth main and additional good friend Tai, sat downstairs watching on monitors, the two began.
Axe started his journey in late 2006, attending local school tournaments and doing decently. There, he would meet a friend that has stuck with him to this day in Vectorman, as the two began to climb to the top of their school. Eventually, they went out to more regional events, and quickly learned of their place in the scene. Throughout 2007, the two would play in various Arizona tournaments that featured the heavy hitters of the time: Forward, Wobbles and Taj. While Vectorman would initially do merely okay, Axe began to break out as a player with true potential. By the end of the year, Axe would be ranked 7th in the state. By the end of 2008, heading into 2009, he was even stronger. It was time for his first major: GENESIS.
An intense first game erupts against Jman, as the two trade stocks back and forth. Jman’s solid fundamentals with a markedly better character like Fox easily shines through, both literally and figuratively. While his matchup inexperience is evident, Jman can clearly be seen as the better of the two players. Consistent grabs and combos rack up percent quickly, while up airs and up smashes easily take Pikachu’s stocks. However, Axe had some tricks up his sleeves, able to end Jman’s stocks much quicker than the other way around. With multiple tail spikes in use of Pikachu’s up air offstage, Fox can find himself hurdling towards the abyss far earlier than he would like. Axe brought this out twice in the first game, before mounting a large comeback on the last stock, utilizing uncharacteristically patient play and ledge camping before he found an opening. A solid combo that wouldn’t be out of place in the modern game commences, and Axe seals Game 1. The Arizona crowd explodes, one person shaking Axe in excitement, as they prepare for the next game. It wasn’t over yet, and Axe knew it.
As 2010 rolled around, Axe would eventually find himself at #2 in Arizona, above many of the idols he aspired to be like, such as the aforementioned Taj. During this time, he really started to establish as a top of the line player, showing consistent top results at majors and regionals alike. This would all come to a head at APEX 2010, where he garnered 5th place, defeating top players like DaShizWiz along the way and only losing to Armada twice, nearly defeating him in one of the encounters. By the end of the year, Axe was firmly a Top 15 player, a place he would never dip below for the rest of his career.
Axe would continue his astounding performances into the following years, such as his 4th at Pound V in early 2011, that would quickly be followed by his first God level win: A win over Mew2King in winner’s at Zenith 2011. While he would eventually lose to M2K in the runback in Loser’s Finals, this was a statement: Axe was no mere gimmick, and could hang with the best of them. Axe’s 2012 would be rather quiet, save for an inspiring loser’s run to 3rd place at Kings of Cali, where he took out Lucky, Fiction, SFAT, S2J, PewPewU and Shroomed before taking eventual winner PPMD to the limit. By the end of the next year, 2013, Axe would be #1 in Arizona with Wobbles both retiring and going back to Texas. He has never been below this spot since.
Grand Finals begins, and Axe and Wizzrobe immediately get to work. Intense games back and forth as the first set roars through, both displaying why they are two of the five best players in the world. While the games are close, Wizzrobe seems to be edging out Axe this time, as opposed to their set earlier in bracket. Eventually, with a comeback in Game 4, Wizzrobe resets the bracket. It’s a wakeup call for Axe, as he needs to refocus and try his hardest. Wizzrobe was a tough opponent, but was certainly somebody he had the ability to beat. It all came down to this.
Destruction. Complete and utter destruction.
Game 2 between Jman and Axe was a massive shock to the system for the Arizonian who must’ve been riding high. While Jman might’ve lacked experience in this particular scenario, he was still one of the best in the world, and Axe was just a newcomer looking to make his name. After a hot start from the Pokemon on his home turf of Stadium, Jman fired up and never looked back. As an onlooker puts aptly, in reference to another classic gaming moment, “Rare footage of Jman actually angry!” Jman was relentless with his nairs, his lasers, and early up throw kills, in addition to a devastating pit situation for our hero. A dominating three stock occurs, and all hope seemed lost. Jman had figured out this gimmick, and it was time to put the final nail in the coffin. Game 3 began. It all came down to this.
2014 would be Axe’s best year yet, as his continued improvement showed no signs of slowing. MLG Anaheim 2014 was a breakout from Axe into a definitive Top 10 standing, with his wins over Remen, S0ft, Colbol and Mew2King in pools, in addition to once again taking PPMD ever so close. In the final bracket, he vanquished Lucky and longstanding demon Hungrybox for what would be his first and only time yet en route to a 5th place finish. EVO 2014 would be much the same, as he defeated ChuDat, Plup, and put on an iconic show against Silent Wolf before losing in nailbiters to both Mango and Armada, the best two players in the world. Despite some small falters later in the year, he would end it as the 7th best in the world, his first Top 10 ranking. For the past five years, he has never dipped below 10th in the world.
With continued top level performances as the years went on at tournaments such as Sandstorm in 2015 with wins on both Mango and Leffen, or Smash Rivalries in 2017 over Mango and Mew2King, Axe has been a consistent force in Melee for the past decade. But, it never looked like he could win the big one. Scary matchups such as Ice Climbers or Jigglypuff, where he would sometimes feel cornered and be forced to use characters such as Falco, Fox, Marth or even Young Link, would often show up. These would often end poorly for our Pokemon master, and keep him from accomplishing his ultimate goal. Perhaps it just…wasn’t possible.
It just wasn’t possible. Jman continued to beat down on Axe for Game 3, easily taking the first stock as he looked to have this in the bag. When Axe attempted to fire back, he just couldn’t seem to end the stock as Jman continued to crawl back and rack up the percent.
Hope was fading….until the backthrow.
A quick and early stock brought the crowd alive once more, as screams of “He’s nervous!” ring out from behind the two players. Axe played with a new sense of vigor as he began to open up a lead, and suddenly Jman was on the backfoot. With nerves pounding, and every move catching everybody’s breath, Axe finally performed another backthrow. The ensuing sequence wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done. A point-blank thunder jolt, a tail spike that went in the wrong direction, followed by a nervous up b back on stage from Axe…and a nervous up b under the stage from Jman. It was over. Axe had won.
Axe leaped into the air as a person in the crowd rose his arm. Some chants of “Axe!” could be vaguely heard, but it was more indecipherable screams of joy from this travelling hometown crowd. Taj, a hero and mentor to Axe, rose him above his head, as he crowdsurfed for just a moment before coming back down. It had to be the height of his career.
Axe would then go on to lose to two Floridians: Raistlin, a Jigglypuff, and Linguini, one of the all-time great Ganondorf players. He would finish 33rd at the event, tying PikaChad for the highest placing Pikachu. For the next 7 years, Axe would be the highest placing Pikachu at every major he went to, and would continue to be after one freak performance in 2016 to this day.
It couldn’t be possible, it just couldn’t. A Pikachu winning a major? That’s nonsense! Pikachu was not a top tier character, confidently considered roughly 9th best in the game by many. Sure, Axe was amazing, but there is no way he could ever reach the top while championing such a lower character…could he?
With every game, it seemed more doable. With every stock, more realistic. With every victory screen, the truth entered our brains. Axe was going to win this. He was going to win Smash Summit 8.
An awe-inspiring performance at GENESIS 6, where Axe scratched and clawed his way through tight sets against Legend, iBDW, S2J, Kalamazhu, Rishi, Zain, Ginger, PewPewU, aMSa, Plup and Hungrybox towards a 2nd place finish, with nearly all of these sets going to last game.
A dizzying display at GOML 2019, defeating S2J, Zain, SFAT, Wizzrobe and Leffen before falling just short to a hungry Mango, proving his GENESIS performance was no fluke, and that he truly has ascended to a higher level.
And now…this run. It all came down…to this.
It looked beautiful, absolutely perfect. On Final Destination, at over 150%, Axe delivered a near picture-perfect 0 to death on Wizzrobe. Using the chaingrab to high percents masterfully after an open up with up air, he sent Wizzrobe offstage, and used perfectly timed tail spike and a divine angle to the ledge with his recovery to snuff Wizzy out and send him to the bottom of the stage. At 169%, Axe had done it. You could place it in one of those art museum picture frames used in The Axe Effect combo video made all those years ago. It was a moment where time froze, and everything…seemed right.
Axe jumped up in joy, as Wizzrobe, in a rare display of outward emotion, hugged Axe in recognition of his unprecedented feat. However, shortly after his explosion of utter satisfaction…Axe sat down.
And he internalized his accomplishment.
Before he could do anything else, a familiar face comes in: Vectorman. The longtime friend who has been with him from the beginning hugs Axe, as they both begin tearing up. Another decade long friend in Tai begins crying over the microphone, as eventually, Axe makes his way downstairs to the people awaiting him.
Chants of “AZ!” and “Pikachu!” ring out as Axe embraces Tai, before a tearful victory speech commences, and Axe is handed his trophy. He had finally done it. For himself, for his friends, for his state, and for his character. Axe had won a major.
Axe is a player that has shaped Melee’s history in so many ways, I don’t know how to properly put it into words. He took this…looked down on character, somebody nobody gave a shot to truly accomplish great things, and continuously pushed it to the absolute limits to bring out his best. One of the most technical players in the game, Axe not only shows what Pikachu is capable of, but what Melee is capable of too. A truly beautiful game that anybody can play, and anybody can get good at, with enough time, effort, and perserverence.
Axe was just a kid from Arizona, and with the support of everybody that gave it to him, be it his friends like Vectorman and Tai, his mentors like Taj and Wobbles, or even the fans around the world, he was able to achieve his dream. Of course, Axe himself is no slouch either, being one of the nicest and most caring individuals in the scene. He is somebody any of us should strive to be: A true hero.
Long Live Axe. Long Live Melee.