Str8 Rippin: Most Surprising Team of 2016

A legendary franchise revitalized, this roster made one of the biggest turnarounds of 2016, and brought back "the good old days" of competitive Halo.

I’m not afraid to admit that I am new to the competitive Halo scene.

In fact, when I heard back in high school that Visal “eL TowN Mohanan, someone who was breaking mile records while I was throwing around 12-pound metal balls for fun, became a professional Halo player, I had no clue that esports were a thing.

However, as I have grown to learn and love the scene when I started writing for GAMURS, I was given a crash course history lesson about the legendary Str8 Rippin side.

A long time ago (2006), Tom “Tsquared” Taylor joined a side known as Str8 Rippin, and would go on to place well with that side until several months before the release of Halo 3. At that point, he found Kyle “ElamiteWarrior” Elam (his partner in crime on your favorite Halo Twitch stream), Bryan Legit Rizzo, and current 343 Industries employee Mason Neighbor Cobb. That side became one of the most dominant Halo sides for several years, picking up title after title, even with the replacement of Neighbor for some upstart kid named Eric “Snip3down” Wrona.

He wound up being pretty good on the Halo scene, so I’m told.

After a disappointing sixth place finish to start off 2010, the roster split, and the Str8 Rippin name slowly became more of a symbol of old power rather than new dominance. Tsquared would compete one final time under his Str8 Rippin name before semi-retirement in 2015, and in several attempts to bring the name back to glory during Halo 5, the team would disband after the Last Chance Qualifier for the 2016 Pro League.

But like all legends, the Str8 Rippin name never died.

The ex-OpTic side consisting of former Str8 Rippin player Richie “Heinz” Heinz along with Aaron “Ace” Elam, Bradley “APG” Laws, and Kevin “Eco” Smith struggled in the fall Pro League season, even after Eco was picked up mid-season. The announcement of the team being dropped from OpTic Gaming near hours before the league in favor of the ex-Counter Logic Gaming squad was nothing short of shocking, and the side branded as “LOL” would go on to lose its first four games of the fall season. It would seem to be another season of mediocrity, as three members of this side fought for the team’s right to play in the Pro League over the summer after placing last during the summer season.

Even after a surprising three game win streak mid-season, LOL was still on the ropes of relegation come November, and with three games left to play, the side had limited time to save themselves, let alone qualify for the finals.

On Nov. 3, the side that once was a part of the OpTic brand no longer was a laughing matter, as Tsquared gave his blessing to this side and the Str8 Rippin brand became a full-fledged organization.

Instantly, the already strong following of these players were boosted by the wave of nostalgia across the scene. The franchise was not in its vintage mid-2000s form, but the team did win three straight to snatch the final qualifying spot for the HCS Finals.

It could be regarded as one of the biggest single season comeback efforts of the year, as the talent on this roster made up for their early season struggles. Attribute it to the Str8 Rippin name that sparked something, or to the reality of these players practicing their butts off to work out their kinks, but this squad placed fourth for HCS Las Vegas, as well as the HCS Fall Season and season finals.

Behind Str8 Rippin’s return was a sponsor in MoneyMatches, who already partnered with the upstart Team Allegiance and sponsored pro players, such as Tyler Spartan Ganza, before putting its name alongside a legendary Halo esports brand. As I’ve learned along with the history of Str8 Rippin, having MoneyMatches in your corner works wonders, and this company, filled with fans of the Halo esport, helped make Str8 Rippin a full-fledged organization.

With so much talent behind it, from its players to its sponsors and owners, Str8 Rippin finally became the organization that veteran Halo fans wished they had. And in a matter of weeks, the team went from fighting for their Pro League spot to competing for a fall season trophy, and Ace, APG, Heinz and Eco have exited 2016 on nothing short of a high note.

The biggest surprise of 2016 was not a player, nor an entire squad (okay, the whole relegation to finals story with this team still is impressive), but rather it was the return of a legendary Halo name in the form of an organization that showed the relatively new organizations on the Halo block, such as Team EnVyUs, Team Liquid and Team Allegiance, how to kick it old school.

Now if only 343 would give us those damn Str8 Rippin skins…

What do you think was the biggest surprise of 2016? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting us @GAMURScom

James Mattone is a journalist for GAMURS and can be contacted on Twitter –@TheJamesMattone.