The history of competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee is filled with many historic rivalries, and none represent the Golden Age of Melee better than Ken versus Azen.
From the earliest days of competitive Melee until around 2006-2007, Ken and Azen were the best players in the United States, with Ken dominating the west coast and Azen taking over the east coast.
However, when it came to the head-to-head matchup, as well as overall tournament wins, Ken had the leg up on Azen. As a matter of fact, the first couple of years that Ken and Azen faced off against each other, Azen never took a set from Ken.
Luckily, this set the stage for one of (if not the) greatest comebacks in Melee history.
Ken Vs. Azen – MLG New York Playoffs 2006
When Ken faced off against Azen in the Major League Gaming playoffs in New York, it was an unusual matchup; Ken was the 1st seed in the bracket, while Azen was the 8th seed. To understand this, we need to take a look at what happened before the MLG season began.
Azen had decided to go on hiatus from competitive Melee, having lost interest in the game. Ken, on the other end hand, had just come off his second consecutive year as the MLG champion for Melee. While he notably lost an unexpected finals match to PC Chris in the season opener, he continued to either win or place extremely well at every event of the season.
Because of Azen’s hiatus, he missed the first three events of the season. He came out of retirement in time for MLG 2006, where he placed 4th overall (although him and Chillin did famously break the winning streak of Ken and Isai in doubles.) Azen would return to glory when he won the next event at MLG Orlando. However, because he had attended so few events in the season, he would have to enter an open bracket to fight for the final spot in the pro bracket the New York playoffs.
Unsurprisingly, Azen won the open bracket, which set him up for a showdown against Ken in the first round.
The Best SSBM Upset
Clawing his way back into the pro bracket, at one of the most stacked Melee tournaments ever, and fighting against an opponent who repeatedly had his number, the odds were not at all in Azen’s favor; and when he went down 1-2 in the set against Ken, Game 4 was looking like yet another dominating victory for Ken.
Until it wasn’t.
Azen fought his way back from a 3-stock deficit to take the fourth game against Ken. He would then go on to 2-stock Ken in the final game, sending him to the loser’s bracket and finally winning his first set over Ken.
Azen would then go on to win the MLG New York Playoffs, while Ken finished at a disappointing 7th place overall. According to Chillin in The Smash Brothers documentary, this remains the only time that Azen defeated Ken in a tournament set.
Over the years, there have been incredible comebacks in Super Smash Bros. Melee, yet Azen vs. Ken remains the greatest ever because of all the different factors: playing in the MLG playoffs, down 3 stocks to 1, against the greatest player in the world who is also your personal bracket demon.
The stakes couldn’t have been higher, and Azen rose to the challenge that day.