Zangief preparing for one last ride in Street Fighter 6.
Image via Capcom

Legendary Zangief player beats Street Fighter 6’s top character, qualifies for Capcom Cup

Ken might have something to say, but he can catch this command grab too.

While any character in a fighting game can theoretically win a tournament, it is rare to see low-usage fighters take the crown—especially if they have a bad match-up against “top tier” options. Those statistics mean nothing to Street Fighter legend Snake Eyez, however, who piloted Zangief to a huge win in the Capcom Pro Tour Online event for North America West over top SF6 talent and a terrible matchup on Aug. 28.

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Snake Eyez has been actively competing in Street Fighter since the days of Street Fighter IV, and he has almost always remained loyal to The Red Cyclone when able. He has swapped off of Zangief or picked up secondaries in the past, but in SF6 he has made a name for himself as arguably the best wrestler in the world despite no big tournament appearances to his name.

Entering CPT Online: NA West, fans probably had their eyes elsewhere at the start, but Snake Eyez quickly drew them in with an undefeated pools run and a 2-1 win over Nephew’s Juri before taking down JB’s Rashid 3-1 too. Unfortunately, his winner’s run went up in flames when he ran into what is arguably Zangief’s worst matchup—JP. 

JP is known for mixing up opponents with varied attacks that can be used up close or at a distance for full-screen pressure situations, along with damage that can melt even the toughest of fighters. That range is incredibly taxing on Zangief players specifically because he has no projectiles and can only defend and approach slowly, limiting his effectiveness in a game where most characters can get in against oppressive strategies. 

For reference, Zangief is among the least-represented characters at big SF6 events and at the highest level in online play. 

At VSFighting XI from Aug. 18 to 20, only one Zangief made it into the top 64 compared to six JP players, which was only matched by Cammy, Juri, and Marisa and surpassed by Ken. JP’s crazy range and mixups also helped Kakeru win the Gamers8 Invitational earlier this month too. 

Online in SF6’s Master Rate rankings, only two Zangief players are listed in the top 100—Snake Eyez and Itazan, the two players best known for playing the character globally over the last decade. That matches up to 17 JP players including the number one ranked Fenritti, at the time of writing this. 

Related: AngryBird tops 7,000 competitors, claims Evo title as Street Fighter 6 continues to rise

This JP just so happened to be former Evo Champion and King of Fighters legend Reynald, who swept Snake Eyez in a decisive 3-0, though you could see how Snake Eyez’s Gief was adapting in the later rounds. And, after a quick stop in the loser’s bracket to beat Nephew in a 3-1 rematch, it was back to the JP matchup. 

Snake Eyez showed that his years of practice with slow-approaching, defensive strategies can adapt to even JP’s onslaught, taking the first series 3-2 and resetting the finals bracket to a dead even 0-0. From there, he went on a rampage and closed out the tournament with three straight 2-0 rounds, punching his ticket to the $1 million Capcom Cup in early 2024. 

This win does not mean Zangief is overlooked as a character, the usage rates should show you what top players think and Snake Eyez has been playing the block and walk style for well over 10 years, so not everyone can make this work. This does show that putting time in with basically any character with SF6’s gameplay systems can help you overcome even the worst matchups and potentially stand out with your favorite fighter. 

I would still recommend you prepare for an onslaught of players picking up Zangief in the mid to high ranks to try him out after this.


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Author
Cale Michael
Lead Staff Writer for Dota 2, the FGC, Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and more who has been writing for Dot Esports since 2018. Graduated with a degree in Journalism from Oklahoma Christian University and also previously covered the NBA. You can usually find him writing, reading, or watching an FGC tournament.