The Mystery of the Real-Life Ryu

A tournament is won, its winner disappears, what really happened?

For decades, Street Fighter‘s Ryu has had one consistent characteristic: he wants to fight and then move on to the next battle. Ryu doesn’t care about money, he doesn’t care about ceremony, he simply wants to walk into the sunset and fight stronger opponents. During Wednesday Night Fights, a weekly online Street Fighter V tournament, the spirit of Ryu coursed through one player who then mysteriously disappeared without their prize money.

Wednesday Night Fights is a Southern California-based fighting game tournament that, as a result of the pandemic, took the show online to stream hungry new Street Fighter players vying for local supremacy. You usually see a number of the same tags participating every week, but occasionally new faces show up to make an impression on the old guard. They generally stick around to make friends or partake of their well-deserved bragging rights, but that wasn’t the case for an unknown player named SFVRyuPlayerLol. This new fighter quickly fought through a number of well-known names in the SoCal scene and swept the finals against Christopher “ChrisCCH” Hancock, who was was bewildered by the entire thing.

“I was looking at the other side of the bracket, because it was wild in general to me,” Hancock told Fanbyte. “I saw that [SFVRyuPlayerLol] was just tearing his way to the top eight.” This made Hancock curious, so he investigated the player’s battle history. “I saw that he had never played any other matches besides the ones at this tournament,” he added, now convinced that this was a Smurf account.

In gaming parlance, smurfing is when players don a new ID or account to hide their online identity. This can be done for a number of reasons, such as wanting to reset the algorithm that determines skill-based matchmaking or simply just wanting to wear a mask and have some fun anonymously. In the fighting game community, it has become more common as the pandemic forces players online, but usually isn’t any sort of great mystery.

Hancock got sent to the losers bracket after a loss and spent a few minutes cooling off before returning to his console, only to find that the Ryu player had already won his next match. “I just went ‘Oh shit. Who is this guy?’ I knew at that point, if I wanted to win the tournament, I would have to face him, which got me excited. When I got to Loser’s Finals against [Alex] Meyers, I was extra motivated to win just to fight him.”

That little bit of motivation helped, as Hancock won the match and moved past Meyers, advancing to the grand finals against SFVRyuPlayerLol. Traditionally in Street Fighter V, Ryu is not really a character most players fear. While the series stalwart is always a good vessel to learn the ropes, competitive players for SFV have never really considered him all that good. That all changed Monday, when Capcom pushed a new patch for the game and wildly buffed Ryu. In theory, he was now tournament-viable for players that liked his strong fundamentals — a theory that was tested and proven for the first time Wednesday.

“I got smoked,” Hancock admitted. “Really bad.”

He lost 3-0 to the Ryu player and did not even get a shot at resetting the bracket. An astonished Hancock returned to the Wednesday Night Fights discord, where competitors usually arrange to receive their winnings when everything is over, and saw SFVRyuPlayerLol. After being congratulated, the Ryu player immediately responds by telling the tournament organizers to donate their prize money to the homeless “or whoever needs it.” He then says goodnight and leaves.

Ryu

Hancock screencapped the exchange and tweeted it out, saying “I’m pretty sure this dude is literally Ryu.”

Speculation began immediately over who this effectively-masked stranger could possibly be. A popular guess has been Alex Valle, longtime veteran of the fighting game community and president of Level-Up Series, a gaming-centered production organization that hosts Wednesday Night Fights. Valle is an exceptional Ryu player and, when he does play Street Fighter V, uses the same blue-and-white costume SFVRyuPlayerLol used throughout the night. The theory being passed among the community is that it would be considered gauche for Valle to win a tournament his company hosts, so he chose a pseudonym and donated the winnings.

Valle himself denies that, though, saying he’s still trying to figure out to which cause to donate the money. “A mysterious Ryu player signed up, kicked ass, and told me to donate the first-place prize,” Valle told Kotaku. “That is all I know.”

Hancock has his own theory. “I think it’s actually this dude from SoCal, Rekkoha,” he says, laying out several pieces of evidence. Rekkoha would congratulate other players after fights by saying “gg” and then using their character name — in Hancock’s case, saying “gg Sakura.” SFVRyuPlayerLol did the same thing, except with some other SoCal players, who the Ryu player called by their real names.

Doing a little research on Rekkoha, he definitely makes a good fit for the mysterious Ryu player. His YouTube channel, Rekkoha 93, starts with the description of “My name is Daniel & I have been a fan of Ryu for many years.” It contains 35 videos, mostly of SFV and most of those with him playing as Ryu, and oddly two Twitch exports of Rekkoha wordlessly streaming Neo Turf Masters for the NeoGeo. The two videos are identical, playing as Robert Landolt on the Baden Nationals course in Germany.

Perhaps the biggest piece of evidence is that SFVRyuPlayerLol’s PSN name, while mentioning Ryu, is also punctuated by a space and the number 93 at the end, just like Rekkoha’s YouTube channel.

I tried to get in touch with Rekkoha but found all avenues for contacting him were mostly gone. He posted a Twitter account on several profiles, but the account has been deleted. His Twitch channel has gone unused for quite a long time. He is as much of an enigma as his possible tournament personality seems to indicate.

Without being able to confirm with Rekkoha directly, it’s not likely we’ll ever know for sure if the Ryu player at Wednesday Night Fights was indeed Rekkoha. We’ll also never really know why he chose to participate in this manner. Hancock suggests that it got the internet talking about him, which is definitely true, but I like to think Rekkoha was just in it for the fight. Maybe that’s just me hoping he’s just that much like Ryu, though.

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Imran Khan

Imran is Fanbyte's News Editor and owns too many gaming t-shirts.

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