Victor Woodley, more commonly known as Punk within the gaming and fighting games community, is one of the youngest professional Street Fighter V players. Punk started with Street Fighter IV in 2009. However, he was unable to attend many offline events, and spent most of his time playing Street Figher IV Online. However, with the release of Street Figher V, Punk now had the time, as well as the dedication to take his competitive desires to the next level.
The young competitor from Philadelphia headed to the Red Bull Battlegrounds, where a direct spot in the Capcom Cup was up for grabs. Punk made the most, if not more, out of this tournament appearance, beating the likes of Ryan “FChamp” Ramirez, Justin Wong and Chris Tatarian. Punk finished in 3rd place, to the surprise of many.
Punk’s victories over these high profile names, and overall finish at the tournament put him in the spotlight of the community, and in the cross-hair of his fellow competitors. This would bother many rookie competitors, but it did not phase Punk. The young gun was able to win out at the Northeast Championships and Winter Brawl.
Punk was signed by Pnda Gaming after his success at Winter Brawl 11. Representing his new organization, Punk headed to Fighters Underground @ SXSW 2017. His group stage performance was nothing short of dominant, beating the likes of NuckleDu, Momochi and Phenom to conclude his run in the group stage with a perfect record. This run would come to an abrupt end when Justin Wong extracted revenge for the Red Bull Battlegrounds loss and sent Punk to the losers bracket of the tournament. FChamp would extract revenge of his own by eliminating Punk from the tournament.
This setback was minor for Punk. He used this tournament loss as fuel, and thus went on an impressive run of form, winning out in the NorCal Regionals, Dreamhack 2017 and most notably, in terms of prize pool and publicity, the ELEAGUE Street Fighter Invitational.
At the ELEAGUE Invitational, Punk was able to qualify from the group stages with a 6-1 record, thus advancing to the Group A Semifinals. It was here that Punk was able to oust the likes of Brolynho and Smug to qualify for the playoffs with a top seed. In the playoffs, Punk met Group B’s top seed, PR Balrog. Punk was able to beat his opponent and advance to Match 7 in the Winners Bracket. It was here that he faced Phenom, and suffered a lost. He was sent to the elimination bracket to go toe to toe with Fuudo. After a hotly contested best of five, Punk prevailed 3-2, and thus was able to get into the grand finals. It was here that he met Phenom once again, and this time was able to beat the Norwegian 4-2 to place 1st at the ELEAGUE Invitational.
The next notable tournament was EVO 2017. It was here that Punk was able to fight through the tournament, taking out notable names such as Justin Wong, Tokido, ItaZan and Kazunoko. Punk’s run at EVO was incredibly impressive, as he managed to reach the finals of the tournament without dropping a game. As a result of this incredible run, Punk reached the grand finals of the tournament, where he met Tokido once again. It was here that Tokido was able to beat Punk 3-1 and 3-0 to claim the title of EVO Champion.
Throughout the course of the year, Punk has been a world beater, setting the Street Fighter V competitive circuit alight with his initial burst onto the scene, and then the incredibly solid and consistent performances that followed.
According to Damascus, Punk plays a fast style in Street Fighter V, whilst anticipating his opponents moves, as well as their counters. It could be said that Punk is at least one step ahead of his opponents. Punk is always in spots where he needs to be, and gels well with the pace he sets in the game. Damascus contrasts it to S1 Infiltration. Infiltration was a hit and run type of player, but Punk is more of a hit and stay just far enough kind of player. His spacing is active, which means he’s not only always taking initiative, but also far enough to prevent his opponent from taking initiative. His reactions are on point. Speaking in broad terms, those who play fast generally tend to compromise any element of defence, however since Punk maintains his space from his opponents, he allows himself the opportunity to restrict the opponent’s options and eventually punish them. Punk is also able to look at the opposition and their habits and shape his offence accordingly. Finally, and most simply, Punk does not over-commit.
Overall, Punk is an extremely fundamentally sound player.
Street Fighter is a game that consists of players with legacies, or players with incredibly long backstories and history. The players competing in the Street Fighter scene have been doing so for decades, throughout the various iterations of the fighting game. Whilst many of his opponents have had their legacies written and cemented in fighting game history, Punk has just started his own, and it is already looking like an incredibly solid legacy.
The path of Punk is short and was unconventional, in comparison to the other Street Fighter V competitors. Furthermore, it’s a path that has just started paving itself, and has a long way to go before the path comes to an end. The fact that he has been able to break into the upper echelons in a relatively short amount of time is extremely impressive, and his maintenance of said form only adds onto the list of wow-factors that the young competitor has been showing off to the spectators, commentators and analysts alike. Punk is definitely a player that will continue to impress, conquer high profile players and collect accolades to add to his resume.
His fundamentally sound game play, awareness, dedication, reactions, as well as his ability on the microphone makes him an entertaining and interesting player to watch, but most importantly, the best in the world.