Rivalries drive esports, and there's few places with better beef than the fighting game community, or FGC. Joshua "Wolfkrone" Philpot and Kenneth "KBrad" Bradley's ongoing feud came to a head last night at Final Round 20 in Atlanta, Georgia, and the resulting conclusion could be called the "pop-off heard 'round the world."
It's hard to pin down when, exactly, Philpot and Bradley's feud started. A match between the two at January's Frosty Faustings is the generally accepted origin, where Philpot taunts Bradley after winning 2-1.
Leading up to Final Round, the two kept the rivalry going, with Bradley as the face to root for, and Philpot as the heel to root against. A since-deleted Facebook post from Philpot was the icing on the cake:
Lmaoooooooo I love how much this guy thinks of me. Somebody get this man some help pic.twitter.com/wy1YmyP5QY
— Kenneth Bradley (@KBradJStorm) March 9, 2017
When the two met at Final Round 20, they were both winners of their respective pools. Each needed the win to stay in the winner's bracket of the top 64, but it was also the culmination of months of build-up, and everyone at the event gathered to watch. Commentators Steve Scott and IFC Yipes were brought in to hype it as much as possible.
The match wasn't even close. Bradley served Philpot a 2-0, not losing a single round during the series. Though he was stone-faced during the match, once the win is taken Bradley pops off in a historic manner:
Wait, let's get some more angles on this:
— Decardo @ FR20 (@BigBoss_DP) March 12, 2017
— SMUG (@SmugDaBeast) March 12, 2017
The pop-off, a time-honored tradition in the fighting game community, is the art of excessive celebration, when someone can't help but celebrate a win, resulting in them jumping around, calling out to the crowd for some more cheers and in Bradley's case, getting right in your opponent's face to metaphorically ask them "what's good?" Bradley doesn't speak a word to Philpot, but the crowd's reaction says all it needs to.
Philpot, in his defence, takes it like a champ and plays it off well. But this is the sort of thing that makes the fighting game community so unique in the esports landscape: the personalities and rivalries, beefs and feuds, finally clashing against each other in tournaments. At times it can feel like wrestling in its storylines and larger-than-life competitors, and the hype men like Scott and Yipes elevate it even higher.
As esports becomes more of a business, cleaner and more presentable for broadcast, please let us never lose moments like Bradley's pop-off heard 'round the world.
Additional reporting by Ian Walker