Smash Summit – Jeffrey “Axe” Williamson – A mouse climbs a mountain

At one of the most stacked Smash events of the year Tempo Storm’s Jeffrey “Axe” Williamson, an Arizona Pikachu player, defied the odds and won the Smash Summit.

Making history as the first Pikachu to win an event of this magnitude, we talk to Axe on how he broke through the walls and stopped the doubters talking down on Pikachu once and for all. 

(Photo by Beyond The Summit; Todd Gutierrez)

Esports InsiderOver the years, there’s been doubt on anyone below the top tiers winning a major and here you are, the winner of the Summit! How does it feel and what were you thinking through grand finals? 

Axe: I’m just extremely excited to win my first major. I’ve been playing for about 13 years now, and to finally have my first victory just feels amazing. For this year especially, I have been working very hard to improve everything about my gameplay. It’s just a great feeling to see the work paying off!

During [the] grand finals, there was an insane mental battle happening in my head. I kept thinking, “I’m so close to winning! I can do this!” But every time I have those kinds of thoughts, I lose. It’s already happened several times this year. During finals this time, I had to tell myself to fight those kinds of thoughts away in order to have absolute focus on gameplay. It was tough, but I eventually found the focus to bring home first place.

ESI: You’ve made history with Pikachu! There was a tweet that once implied you might convert to Falco for tournaments. What made you stay and believe in Pikachu, a character that so many had doubted? 

Axe: I play many characters, Falco being probably my second best. There are times where I feel my Falco could do better versus certain opponents, mainly because I think they would be weaker against my style of Falco. I didn’t mean to imply converting fully to Falco. Rather, I don’t think I should be afraid to use him if I think my opponent will struggle more against him. Pikachu is my all-around best character, but my secondaries aren’t very far behind. I have more hours practicing Falco than I do Pikachu, but there’s something that clicks better for me when playing Pikachu that I don’t feel when playing other characters.

I have been told plenty of times that I need to switch mains, but I think forcing myself to not play Pikachu would just be hindering my true potential in Melee. It might sound crazy but despite the things I can do with other characters, I think Pikachu compliments my style of play the best. People say that if I put all of my time into a high tier instead then I would be better, but I honestly think they are wrong.

(Photo by Beyond The Summit; Todd Gutierrez)

ESI: Do you believe it’s down to the character or can a player pull a characters potential through in the way you have with Pikachu? 

Axe: Everyone is different. The beauty of Melee is that there is no correct way to play. I don’t really see it as just characters that are fighting. I can really see the personality in the way that each person plays the game, regardless of the character. What you want to do is choose a character (or characters) that fit your style of play the best. People do it wrong when they just want to pick the best character, because the way they try to fight their opponent may be better suited with a different character if they learn how to move with them.

In my case, it’s Pikachu. But there are plenty of other characters with different strengths who may compliment you better. A lot of people don’t want to spend the time learning them though because there are way less examples of top level play. It takes work, but yes. There is potential in many characters.

ESI: Do you think absolutely any character can win a major? If no, which ones do you think still have the potential but haven’t broken through yet? 

Axe: It’s hard for me to imagine characters like Bowser and Kirby winning a major. Then again, when I see players like DJ Nintendo or Triple R, I start to question myself. Most people didn’t think Falcon could win a major in 2019, let alone Pikachu. I feel like anything can happen. I think Yoshi is an obvious pick. We’ve seen aMSa defeat basically all of the top players with Yoshi. He just needs to do it in the same tournament. Then, he would win a major, and that seems very possible.

One character I see a lot of potential in is Doctor Mario. Hardly any top players use him anymore, but I think he’s such a solid character. I can definitely see a Doc main winning a major, but he is very under-utilized. Other characters that come to mind are Samus and Luigi. Also as crazy as this might sound, I think an Ice Climbers main could win a major even without wobbling. It all comes down to the player and their ability to bring out each character’s biggest strengths while playing around their weaknesses. It’s too easy to get discouraged and give up after a while. I’ve fought very hard for a long time to win with Pikachu, and people would have to do the same to win with other characters. But I do believe it is possible.

(Photo by Beyond The Summit; Todd Gutierrez)

Now Summit is over, what are your plans to make Pikachu a regular occurrence at the first place podium? What do you feel gave you the edge to win Summit and how are you going to keep it up?

I basically just need to keep doing what I’ve been doing this year. Mainly it’s just have fun practicing Melee. I have been focusing on Melee more than ever lately, and I think just playing a lot while experimenting with a lot of unique and ‘out of the ordinary’ things gives me the edge over a lot of other players. I think most players focus too much on practicing what they believe are guaranteed optimal options, and not enough on creating their own unique movements, combos, and techniques. Thinking outside the box and creating new things in Melee is what gives me the advantage, and I think doing that for a long time is what helped me to win at Summit. Hopefully there’s more to come!