Vancouver Titans vs. San Francisco Shock: The rivalry Overwatch League deserves

Months of painful losses and glowing victories have created a rivalry that fans can believe in.

Photo by Robert Paul via Blizzard Entertainment

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Every good story includes a final battle. Two armies run at each other and clash in the middle, swords clanging, but only one will leave the battlefield alive.

If the Overwatch League was a dramatic movie, which casters keep assuring us it isn’t, this final battle would be between the Vancouver Titans and San Francisco Shock. The two top teams face off in the 2019 grand finals on Sept. 29.

But this showdown is more than just a game. San Francisco and Vancouver have clashed many times in the second season of the Overwatch League. Through multiple stage finals, they’ve developed a passionate rivalry that the league has always needed.

Real competition

Over two seasons, the Overwatch League has tried to manufacture rivalries to entertain fans. Take the Houston Outlaws and the Dallas Fuel for example, fighting a battle for Texas that only actual Texans have any real concern about. Faux geographical rivalries, like the London Spitfire vs. the Paris Eternal and the Boston Uprising vs. the New York Excelsior, may make more sense when the Overwatch League goes global in 2020. 

The rivalry between San Francisco and Vancouver developed naturally, emerging almost immediately after the stage one finals concluded. As the triple-triple meta reigned, the Shock and Titans were unmatched by any other team in the league. No one was able to stand up to Vancouver’s absolute mastery of the meta until the Shock pushed them to a seventh map in the stage one finals. While the Titans took that stage’s championship, the Shock cemented themselves as a worthy opponent.  

San Francisco took the loss especially hard, considering the game was so close at many points. That failure reignited something deep within the team before stage two began. The San Francisco Shock went on to complete the Overwatch League’s first “golden stage” by not dropping a single map in stage two. They won the stage two championship against the Vancouver Titans, securing the victory they so desired in stage one. 

Balancing act

Unlike many of the league’s rivalries, which involve teams who are often unevenly matched, the San Francisco Shock and the Vancouver Titans couldn’t be more similar. They’ve both won and lost one stage championship against each other. They have a 2-2 series record and, even more incredibly, have an 11-11 map record when facing each other. Neither team is up a single map against their opponent for the grand finals. 

Both teams have a similar amount of star players as well. The San Francisco Shock feature 2019 MVP Jay “Sinatraa” Won along with MVP nominee Matthew “Super” DeLisi. Rookie of the Year Kim “Haksal” Hyo-jong leads the Vancouver Titans, along with MVP candidates Lee “Twilight” Joo-seok and Choi “JJANU” Hyeon-woo.

Photo by Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Passion and disappointment 

Beyond data and statistics, beyond potential for fan engagement, a rivalry is made exceptional by the passion beneath the play. Both the teams and the audience have to care about what happens. A true rivalry won’t emerge if consequences and potential for redemption don’t exist within a game. These teams have shown fans the power of victory and the agony of defeat over the course of the Overwatch League’s second season. 

While the San Francisco Shock seem to outwardly be all trash talk and bravado, their experiences with the Vancouver Titans have shown their depths. After the Shock lost the stage championship, images of Super on the verge of tears while surrounded by blue and green confetti circulated in the Overwatch community. Juxtapose that with the image of Super clutching Sinatraa after their stage two win, which was a brief moment of vulnerability that perfectly expressed the joy of victory.

The Vancouver Titans have felt all of these emotions in different places halfway across the world. As Contenders Korea team RunAway, they faced an eight-map series against KongDoo Panthera to take the season two championship. After a hard-fought win, they shed tears and hugged their manager Lee “Flowervin” Hyun Ah in joy. These emotions crossed an ocean to the Overwatch League. One of the most powerful images of season two showed Park “Bumper” Sang-beom with his head in his hands after losing to the Shock. 

These players’ emotions, passion, and dedication are wrapped up in this rivalry. That’s what makes it real. Only one of them can win and it’s a guarantee that the battle for that trophy will be truly spectacular. 

The Overwatch League grand finals begin at 2pm CT on Sept. 29 when the San Francisco Shock and Vancouver Titans face off for the season two championship and over $1 million in prize money.