Why Evo Moment 37 Is Important 18 Years Later
Esports has been in the mindset of many gamers before some of the latest talents were even born. While it was significantly smaller before hitting the mainstream today, the beginnings of esports were founded in the fires of the fighting game community. But throughout Evo’s 25 years of concurrent running, one moment stands out as the pinnacle of esports fame, and that few seconds of pure unadulterated skill is Evo Moment 37.
Setting the Stage
Evo Moment 37 is the name given to the final seconds of a Street Fighter III: Third Strike match between two titans of the fighting game community: Justin Wong and Daigo Umehara. Wong and Umehara’s philosophy in gaming is notably different from one another. Wong plays a more conservative style than the aggressive yet disciplined Umehara, which earned him the nickname of “The Beast.”
His status as a titan of the fighting game community was solidified in the West after bringing down Peruvian-American Street Fighter player Alex Valle in 1998. With Wong also being from America, the notoriety of Umehara was sure to catch his attention. And with the almost supernatural skill he possessed to master any game that he put his mind to, many players started to wonder whether both Wong and Umehara would meet face to face.
These two players would not fight one another for many years, and tension is rising within fans to see the two undisputed masters of Street Fighter finally duke it out for all participants to see. At the same time, Evo was starting to wane in popularity, perhaps from the dying interest in fighting game tournaments or perhaps the fact that many spectators thought that Evo was just a fad and would vanish before too long.
Regardless, this unspoken rivalry was something many fans were looking forward to. On Aug. 1 of 2004, this exact match would play out, to the anticipation of many.
Evo Moment 37
With motivations set and Evo 2004 in full swing, Umehara and Wong would eventually have their fated match in the loser’s circle of Street Fighter III: Third Strike. Many gathered to see what would come of this literal clash of two of the best players in esports. The characters were chosen. Umehara chose to play as Ken and Wong as Chun Li. This match-up was very common. For Umehara and Wong, this was something both of them had already mastered. But nothing could have prepared either of them for what was about to come, as this single match-up was about to change the course of not only esports but fighting game history forever.
The players sat down and started their match. A brutal back and forth was happening right before the audience as Wong and Umehara face off almost completely equal. Umehara takes a point in winning a match after beating down Wong. However, Wong isn’t done fighting yet. Within the next round, Wong kicks it up a notch, using Chun Li’s abilities to break down Umehara’s health, giving him a win of his own. Now, with both players holding a single point. The final match to decide the first round’s winner is about to play out.
In the final match, Wong starts by breaking down Umehara’s health. Things are not looking good for Umehara, but he manages to knock Wong down to just under half a health bar. Thirty-four seconds are on the clock at this point, and audiences can barely see the health Umehara has left. Wong decides to finish Umehara off with Chun Li’s super art—a 15 hit combo that will completely overkill Umehara’s Ken. But as Wong starts dancing around to try and throw Umehara off, something changes in Umehara’s mind. He stops moving and starts positioning himself right as Wong uses the super art.
What happens next would become known as Evo Moment 37. Chun Li goes in for the combo, but Umehara’s Ken parries it. This does no damage. To fans, that’s one thing but Umehara is only delaying the inevitable. But then, he parries again, again, and again. He successfully dodged every single hit of Chun Li’s 15 hit combo. And right as Wong finishes the combo, Umehara unleashes a special of his own, completely ending the round and the match with a win for Umehara.
This is impressive, but it becomes even more impressive once you consider all the variables. Umehara not only had to dodge all 15 hits from Wong, but he had to do it during a live crowd of cheering spectators. Combine this with the fact that a parry needs to be near perfect, and Umehara had to hit 15 frame perfect inputs without getting hit even once during a live match with a room of screaming fans. Blocking would’ve only spelled Umehara’s demise as well since Street Fighter’s block does a small sliver of damage for every hit a character blocks.
This singular moment has become the pinnacle of esports history, with videos of what is now known as the “Daigo Parry” being the most-watched esports highlight of any Evo ever.
Evo Moment 37 is not just a video of two highly skilled players pulling off one of the most exciting moments in esports history. Evo Moment 37 is 10 seconds of the most anticipated rivalry in Evo history and 10 seconds where Umehara played at an inhuman skill level, hitting 15 frame perfect inputs that no other person at the time could have dreamed of.
The response to Evo Moment 37 has been labeled as the most exciting moment in esports history and became a massive inspiration to players who wanted to join Evo for decades to come. Many players join the fighting game scene because they saw that fateful battle where the beast was unleashed. Evo Moment 37 not only inspired a whole new age of players, but some even say that Evo would not have continued had it not been for Evo Moment 37.
The 10 seconds of pure gaming skill was compared to sports legends like Babe Ruth’s “Called Shot” and the Miracle on Ice hockey match between the U.S. and Soviet Union in 1980. As told by Glenn Cravens in his book, he wrote about Evo Moment 37 and the importance of the play that rocked the entire gaming community to its core.
Street Fighter III: Third Strike online includes a challenge called the Daigo Parry, in which players must replicate Umehara’s famous moment from that fateful Aug. 1. Wong and Umehara eventually faced off multiple times after that day. While they clashed, again and again, players would often know that the rivalry of the ages would always have its roots in that singular iconic moment, which bound the two together. Both Wong and Umehara brought themselves back to Street Fighter III: Third Strike and perfectly replicated the Daigo Parry for everyone to see live.
It is safe to say that Evo Moment 37 proves miracles are real. This singular moment that happened on Aug. 1 in 2004 is more than just a single-player pulling off the impossible. One moment players can look to when Evo is mentioned inspiring many to take up fighting games. It is a singular moment when players had their eyes glued to the biggest rivalry between the world’s most skilled players. While it did happen inside the loser’s bracket of the 2004 Street, the obvious fact lies in that it did not matter what the stakes were for the match. It mattered that what happened on screen was not only an insane miracle but that the entire small amount of time was what the fighting game community was about.
Evo Moment 37 was not just a fighting game match. It was a singular moment that inspired but created and showcased that gaming can have the same significance as any sport out there. It showed that Evo was here to stay and that esports was just getting started.