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Unstoppable. If there was one word I had to use to describe Mango’s run through 2008 and 2009, it would be that. The SoCal Puff main, with a hint of Falco, seemingly came out of nowhere to blaze a path that had barely been seen before. Sure, Ken was dominant, but he never did it with…such style. Such flash. With iconic moments at seemingly every tournament he went to, Mango was a walking highlight reel. An unprecedented loser’s run to win Pound 3. Dominant and flashy local showings through the following year, never dropping a serious set. This includes a famous JV4 stock on fellow Top 10 Player, Zhu…using his Captain Falcon, a character Mango did not typically use and one Zhu tended to dominate. Mango was unbelievable as he rested and spiked his way through the year of 2009 as well.
A beatdown of the East Coast at Revival of Melee firmly cemented Mango as the best in the world, above any doubt or regional bias people might’ve had. He was so on top, Mango had an entire tournament named after him: Mango Juice, which he won as well with ease. He even defeated the legendary SilentSpectre using the man’s own character against him. Even after a seismic run from Armada at GENESIS in July, Mango was still able to rally, and bring us one of the most iconic moments in the history of our game as he was able to send Europe packing.
With Brawl reaching heights far beyond what Melee had to offer, and Mango’s continued dominance of the field, it seemed as if Mango’s reign would last until Melee’s flame burned out, and he would go down as our final, lasting champion…
Enter: The Warrior.
When it comes to Ganondorf, the villain of the iconic Legend of Zelda franchise, there have been some top tier competitors in the past. Eddie of course comes to mind, a Top 10 level player in 2003, who continued to have decent performances all the way up to 2007. However, after him, there hadn’t been many to truly break into that tier. Florida had a startling amount of talent with the warlock, with Tipman being an early progenitor of the character. Linguini would come after, and begin to show success in 2008, notably making 17th at GENESIS. An unexpected place for the blackhearted villain to find love would almost certainly have been where our hero of today hails from: Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Despite being the 2nd largest country in the world, as well as being adjacent to the most active scene for Melee, the United States, Canada had barely seen action on the grand stage. The few exceptions would be the likes of Mike and the Punch Crew, more known for their videos and entertainment value than actual skill (though MikeMonkey did show some prowess), and The King, an aggressive Jigglypuff main who ironically inspired Mango to pick up the character. Other than those rare caveats, Canada had seen practically no action prior to Brawl’s release.
This would, of course, change as 2008 rolled around, with players such as RaynEX beginning to travel stateside. While he performed admirably, there was still a lot to be desired from the land up north. That would all change in 2009, and from an unlikely source.
Kage, while a potent force locally, was not considered one of the absolute top players in Canada, or even Montreal. He consistently was seen losing locals to Vwins, a strong Peach player who would come to fame after his 13th place showing at GENESIS, defeating Lucky. While obviously a respectable loss, this dominant record Vwins had over our warrior was a clear sign that he just wasn’t up to snuff. He couldn’t hang with the top of the business, and there was no way he could score a win on a Top 10 player, let alone the almost omnipotent Mango.
Kage, however, would begin to prove others wrong, starting with Revival of Melee. While Mango easily plowed his way through the competition, Kage had an often underrated run to 5th place, defeating legend after legend in his wake. First defeating solid Midwest Falcon Jiano, Kage would then go on to make his way through quickly rising Jman, who was hot off his win on Mew2King in December of last year, and two forefathers of the game in KoreanDJ and Azen. He would lose to DaShizWiz, a player on the cusp of Top 5 level at the time, and then in a nailbiter to PC Chris, another legend. Perhaps it was just inexperience in such a strange matchup like Ganondorf, but Kage proved he could beat multiple top level threats all in a row. Still though, legends who are falling out of the game, and living legends in their prime are entirely separate matters.
After a ho-hum GENESIS run to 17th place, the same as fellow Ganon Linguini, it seemed as if Kage had finally settled into a suitable tier for himself. While yes, he was very impressive, he wasn’t quite at that Top 10 level, and a far cry from the best of the best. That’s when the sequel to his greatest run yet began: Revival of Melee 2. Here, Kage would prove why his name deserved to be etched into history.
After first defeating Linguini in a Ganon ditto, in a way establishing himself as the best Ganondorf main in the world, Kage eventually found himself against Mango. While many would have predicted an easy win for the best in the world, the Warrior had other ideas. With two swift games that looked almost too easy for the French Canadian, Kage defeated Mango’s Falco and Captain Falcon to progress in the bracket. While many would dismiss this as a merely Mango not trying, context has to be taken into account. Mango’s Falco was in some ways his best character at the time, and Kage was known to be far weaker against the character than his contemporaries, notably losing 3 times to up and comer PPMD at Tipped Off 4. Mango was also known to use these characters often in earlier periods of the bracket, and sometimes even later on to great effect. His Falco had defeated Mew2King at the previous Revival of Melee, and his Captain Falcon had the aforementioned victories over both Zhu and SilentSpectre. While it was undoubtedly an impeded Mango, make no mistake, Kage’s decisive victory here was still insanely impressive.
Still though, nobody thought this victory would last too long. Mango would ride his way through loser’s and easily win the tournament, with nobody considered on his level, such as Armada or Mew2King, attending the tournament. This would seem to hold true to start, as Mango easily dispatched of Lucky, Cactuar and Jman with the same characters Kage vanquished in winner’s, seeming to hardly try as he ventured to an inevitable win. Kage, however, had lost to rising Jigglypuff main Hungrybox in winner’s, before scraping by another Puff in Darc to meet back with the reigning champion of Melee in Loser’s Semis. After another win over Mango’s Falco in Game 1, it was time. Mango had to take the weights off.
Mango wasn’t messing around anymore, as he brought out the puffball everybody associated with a “tryhard” version of him: him at his very best. Game 2 began, and immediately the skillgap seemed apparent. Mango toyed with Kage around Dreamland, known affectionately as “MangoLand” by some at the time, en route to a momentum halting 3 stock on the Warrior. It seemed fruitless, a mere dream that Mango could ever be eliminated from a tournament. Sure, he had a bit of a scare when he was barely trying, but when Mango wanted to, he could beat you whenever he chose.
The 23-year old Ganon main didn’t take too long as he made his way to Battlefield for Game 3. A perfect setting for a true Warrior, as Kage might say. It started much the same as Game 1, with Mango taking the first stock, though Kage proved to put up much more of a fight than before. Perhaps after over 6 prior games against top level Puffs in the tournament, he was finally getting accustomed to how the character worked. A smaller stage than the gigantic Dreamland properly didn’t hurt much, either, nor did Ganondorfs ridiculous kill potential when the size of the stage is reduced. Slowly but surely, the tide started to turn, until a fateful up smash connected, killing Jigglypuff at under 50%.
The battle was even. A fair fight, something all honorable Warriors strive for.
A flurry of hard hits slammed against the soft exterior of Mango’s character, as the percent quickly racked up. 10, 20, 50, 70, it just didn’t stop. The nerves had to be piling on for the once unmovable, arrogant kid, as the unflappable might of THE WARRIOR pounded upon him. Well, actually, Mango was the one who pounded, albeit right into a ferocious Ganondorf forward air that sent him off the stage and to his last stock. Mango felt the pressure, and knew he had to go for something, anything. He saw Kage roll out of the shield, and memories flashed back to that legendary moment against Armada. He went for explosive rest, a move that would surely turn the tide in his favor…
And he missed.
It was over, the final barrier broken. Mango would take this stock and bring Kage to his last, but most knew it was over at this point. Almost immediately, Kage hit a one-two punch of aerials to send Mango out of the stage and out of the tournament. Mango had finally been defeated. It wasn’t a fluke, there were no excuses, Mango had fallen. The culprit? One Warrior. The Warrior. Kage the Warrior.
Kage would then, in a moment of pure joy, run up to the mic and let out his immortal words: “I just beat Mango, where you at?!”
Kage would go on to lose his next set in decisive fashion to PPMD, as Hungrybox would win Grand Finals and garner his very first major victory. Kage would continue his strong performances, but never again reach these heights. Still though, this accomplishment alone gives the undisputed honor of being the greatest Ganondorf main to ever touch Super Smash Brothers Melee.
Mango wouldn’t be impeded by this loss for long, with following wins at both Winterfest and Pound 4, before his Scorpion Master phase began in 2010. For many years, this would be considered possibly the greatest upset in the history of the game, and for good reason.
Sometimes, you can’t doubt a Warrior.