© Mark Roe / twitch.tv/redbull
Golden touch: the Red Bull UK Discord just served up a true Tekken upset
Zohaib Salam entered a pre-event Red Bull Golden Letters Beat the Pro challenge, and ended up winning against top Korean pro, Chanel. Here's how...
Red Bull Golden Letters 2023 saw its fair share of upsets.
Not even Tekken GOAT – and eventual tournament winner – KNEE, was immune, succumbing 3-2 to last-chance qualifier HK Jr. in the Winners' Quarter-finals.
There were also in-person Beat the Pro matches during the LCQ of the event at Red Bull Gaming Sphere London, as the invited pros were at the venue limbering up for competition.
But one of the biggest upsets happened on Friday on Discord, the night before the tournament began, as an unsuspecting last-chance qualifier got a chance to go head-to-head with one of the invited pros.
Red Bull UK Discord member Zohaib 'Sensei Salam' Salam took on visiting South Korean pro Seong-Ho 'Chanel' Kang... and won. In the single best-of-three match, Sensei Salam's Negan beat Chanel's Akuma.
Salam isn't a total amateur, and competed in the first day of Red Bull Golden Letters himself, where he unfortunately went out in Losers' Round 3.
However, as you can see from his reaction to beating Chanel on Twitch, he's confident and collected when playing at home.
I was surprised to take the first game
As Zohaib reveals below, this isn't the first time he's beaten a pro at Red Bull Golden Letters, having dispensed with none other than Anakin in the same way in 2022.
"I did the last Red Bull Golden Letters," Salam explains. "I decided to take part in the beat the pro because opportunities to play against top-level Korean players on a good connection online are basically impossible.
"I normally go into a game with no expectations."
"In a first-to-three set anyone can win. That's how I felt going against Anakin in my win against him at Red Bull Golden Letters last year and it was the same here. I was surprised to take the first game and just rode that momentum through."
Watch his full Twitch broadcast to see Salam getting increasingly hyped as he closes in on the win, until he finally clutches the W and lets loose with the celebrations...
I live with my family and didn't start screaming as much as I wanted to!
"I would have popped off more," says Salam, grinning, "but I live with my family and didn't start screaming as much as I wanted to!" Still grinning, he adds that he's now 1-0 against Anakin and 1-0 against Chanel, a record he's quite proud of.
Salam beat Chanel with Negan, his main character. "He's a solid, fundamentals-based character," he says, adding, "also having a bat is pretty cool."
All of my experience against that character helped with my matchup knowledge
He credits the win, in part, to UK Tekken legend Dinosaur, who often mains as Akuma.
"Dinosaur's been playing a lot of Akuma recently, and I've met him in ranked many times." says Salam. "All of my experience against that character helped with my matchup knowledge."
Tekken 7 is Salam's first Tekken, and the first fighting game he's ever really clicked with. He's been playing for about six years, but only started to compete when Covid restrictions in the UK were lifted. As restrictions were eased, Salam started going to as many local events as possible, saying that living in London "makes it easier" to find chances to compete, especially as he works a day job that limits his travel.
Since leaving lockdown, Salam has been competing regularly at a regular monthly tournament in addition to online tournaments like the Intercontinental Fight Club. However, he mostly regards himself as a commentator and is attending some of the biggest events to cast matches played by some of the world's biggest players and several of the hottest names in Europe, too.
For players looking to attend their first offline tournament, Salam has simple advice: "My number one tip is to have fun, as cliché as it sounds.
"If it's your first tournament, then you can only go up from there," he says. "Most people go 0-2 in their first offline tournament unless they practise and compete a lot online, so don't set any huge goals for yourself unless you're really confident in your ability."
"Attending these events is almost like networking. Everyone who's competing at a high level doesn't just go to 'compete', but it's about meeting up with friends, learning to better yourself and just chilling."
Join the Red Bull UK Discord here.
Follow Chanel on Twitter here.