Smash Bros Major Smash'N'Splash (held at a waterpark) ended on Sunday night with a surprise winner in Melee, as Justin ‘Wizzrobe’ Hallett took the tournament from winners' side, defeating a slew of top players along the way. His victory was crowned with comfortable back-to-back set wins over Juan ‘Hungrybox’ Debiedma, Team Liquid’s world number one, and marks the first supermajor win for a Captain Falcon main in modern Melee history.
Along the way Hallett sent the likes of William ‘Leffen’ Hjelte, Masaya ‘aMSa’ Chikamoto and Hbox himself to losers bracket without ever entering last chance saloon himself, which is an impressive run for any player. To then take the title in set one of Grand Finals against the notoriously obdurate Hbox turned his run from good into great, and potentially history-making after he also made top eight of Super Smash Bros Ultimate, defeating TSM’s world number one contender Gavin ‘Tweek’ Dempsey along the way.
As previously stated, this was an event with virtually every ‘god’ of Smash in attendance, meaning there can be no qualifiers or asterisks next to Wizzrobe’s W. His rise to this point has been a steady one, and is all the more impressive as he’s also a threat in Ultimate, as previously mentioned, and a top level performer in Super Smash Bros 64, with wins over the world number one and GOAT in the latter game.
Sign him up
One of the themes of the weekend was a campaign by his peers to finally secure a sponsor for Wizzrobe, who has been without a deal since his contract with Fry’s Electronics expired. That company had been funding Cognitive Gaming, and kept Wizzrobe’s contract when they shut down their esports org, but decided not to continue funding the player after some time, no doubt due to the limited economic benefits of working with Smash Bros pros outside of the year or so following a new game being released.
This lack of financial support is an indicator of the struggles Smash Bros pros are facing in 2019 as the esports scene continues to grow and the Melee world in particular risks being left behind. Smash 4 great Gonzalo ‘ZeRo’ Barrios decided to quit the competitive life prior to the release of Ultimate, and has moved into full time streaming, and Melee gods such as Joseph ‘Mango’ Marquez and Leffen have also spent more time on Twitch under their own name than at events in the last year or so.
The fact is that even the most marketable players, of which Wizzrobe is not one, will struggle to generate revenue for organisations that are used to being able to sell their teams and pros to any and all sponsors. Things like peripheral deals are notoriously thin on the ground when you need a Gamecube controller in a 20-year old title (which the devs would rather didn’t exist anymore), and the reluctance of Smash players to embrace professionalism has only contributed to the current state of affairs.
In this case, it is fair to say Wizzrobe is a tough sell to sponsors, which is also great news for the player, as that has nothing to do with him being a toxic asset and everything to do with him not having developed his persona yet. If he can build himself into a more confident, sellable asset in terms of content and social media reach, as the likes of Leffen and Mango have, it’s clear he’ll be an attractive pickup to many orgs, as he’s a serious threat in both Melee and Ultimate. With Demise esports apparently in the frame, the first step could happen sooner than we expect, too.
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Image credit: Liquipedia