CEO 2021: Panda Recap

CEO 2021: Panda Recap

This year’s Community Effort Orlando was highly anticipated by the entire fighting game community. CEO is one of the most attended yearly fighting game events, and while its online version last July was successful, we’ve all been looking forward to the return of offline competition. Panda’s team is no different. For many of Panda’s players, CEO was their first chance to sit down in person with their friends and competitors in nearly two years. The Panda roster made the most of this opportunity to make a statement at an event watched by a worldwide audience, finishing strong in five of the main events hosted at CEO.  

Smash Ultimate saw two Panda representatives in the top 16. Panda’s Coney came along to provide coverage and represent the team. WaDi took 9th after being sent to the Losers bracket by event champion Kola, and ESAM made top 8 with a victory over Sonix. Even though the team’s arguably most accomplished player, Marss, was unable to attend, ESAM and WaDi demonstrated the broad strength of the Panda roster with their strong finishes in CEO’s most-entered event. 

Just behind Smash Ultimate in total entrants was Guilty Gear Strive, and Panda talent pulled off some world-class performances in the biggest offline event since the game’s release. With Saint Cola lending his commentating skills to the event, Panda’s presence in Strive was impossible to miss. The top 16 for Strive had no less than four Panda players, with HookGangGod and MarlinPie sharing 13th place. Panda’s Kizzie Kay took 3rd after beating Punk in Losers Semifinals, handing Punk a 4th place finish. All eyes were on Guilty Gear Strive for this event, as the latest entry in the beloved Guilty Gear franchise released in mid-2021, while large in-person events were still being postponed or canceled due to safety concerns. CEO marks the game’s debut at a tournament of this scale. This was Panda’s most successful event overall at the tournament and made clear that the team is one to fear in Strive.

Punk continued his incredible results at CEO with a 2nd place finish in Street Fighter V. Backed up by Kitana Prime on commentary, Punk proved to be a terrifying opponent in his main game. After beating fellow Panda Nephew in the Losers final, Punk fought his way to a bracket reset with a dominating 3-0 victory over Mono. However, Mono brought it back with a reverse 3-0 victory over Punk, a memorable final capped by a touching moment with Mono’s family. Punk bowed out with grace and a hug for the Puerto Rican challenger, demonstrating a high standard of sportsmanship. 

Panda accomplished another top 8 finish in Dragon Ball FighterZ, with HookGangGod entering the Losers bracket at Winners Round 1 at the very beginning of Top 48, then proceeding to tear through the Losers bracket all the way to top 8, finally finishing in 7th place. Lengthy Losers runs require stamina and mental fortitude. It takes a top-flight competitor to stay in it for the long haul knowing they’re only one game away from elimination, and HookGangGod showed that his reputation as such a competitor is well deserved. 

In Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Punk had yet another strong showing. Punk defeated the eventual bracket champion RayRay in the Winners Quarterfinal and kept up the momentum to break into the Top 8. Punk faced down RayRay again in the Losers Semifinal, and narrowly lost a 2-3 set to take home 4th place. This was Punk’s third top 4 finish in a headline event at CEO, a feat showing remarkable versatility and veteran skill in three completely different and highly technical games. 

Along with the impressive performance by Panda competitors in CEO’s main events, the Panda staff at the merch booth had the opportunity to connect with event attendees. With the return of offline events comes the return of face-to-face interaction with Panda fans, who had the chance to browse Panda apparel and merchandise, preview the Panda Controller, and even participate in some video content that will be appearing on Panda YouTube channels over the next month. 

Joining the community for this event was a privilege for the entire Panda team, and we’re all excited to see more of our fans as in-person events reopen in the months to come!




- Walker Manning

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