<
>

Watch out, West Coast: Punk makes a scrutinized splash in California

One of Victor "Punk" Woodley's goals for the year was to sign with a professional esports organization. Mission accomplished: Panda Global picked up the Street Fighter V star in March. Provided by ELeague / Turner Sports

Victor "Punk" Woodley needed just one night to make himself the most polarizing player in Street Fighter V.

He entered West Coast Warzone 6, a California tournament, as the only top East Coast player. He exited as its champion. In doing so, he proved that he was as lethal on the sticks as he was on the microphone.

The Panda Global-sponsored player was one of the hottest topics during ELeague for his dominating play with Karin and his trash talk during interviews. Between calling himself the "alpha" and stating that winning his group in ELeague was "just another day," everything the 18-year-old does has started being scrutinized.

At West Coast Warzone 6, he faced some of the region's best players and emerged from the rubble with only a few scratches. His only serious competition during the weekend was Echo Fox's Justin Wong, but the pair never met during the tournament. Punk experienced a few pitfalls, though.

His toughest match, he said was against Cygames' Darryl "Snake Eyez" Lewis because the result was not a sure thing. Although Punk dropped to the losers' bracket early, it was business as usual for the youngster.

There is no tag more befitting for Woodley than Punk. He's a charismatic ball of fire and has an unfiltered edge when he talks and why the fighting game community needs him.

"Now, I'm expected to do well," he said. "I want to do well at tournaments so people can't talk s--- about me. I like when people boo me. It motivates me to keep winning. I don't even have to respond back."

Punk only wants the support of his fans and the East Coast; the rest is background noise. Despite the bold proclamation, Punk's nerves are well-documented. He fell apart after a 7-0 group stage showing at the SXSW Conference's Fighter's Underground tournament with an 0-2 record during the main playoff.

The expectations after being signed to a pro team, Punk said, jarred him. Now, he chews gum during tournaments to stay calm.

Some play styles also affect Punk. He admitted that patient and extremely defensive players can have an edge on him. Punk's Karin is a cross between hyper-aggression and a lesser defensive style, though, which often throws the opposition off his or her plan.

On-screen, Punk's execution and optimization with Karin have become the talk of the Street Fighter community. But his smack talk has also become a focus.

"People get annoyed and frustrated when they play me. I know most of the situations in this game, and I remember everything from the match," Punk said. "I watched Kenryo 'Mago' Hayashi's videos and now Sean 'Shine' Simpson. Simpson shows me the combos that do the most damage."

That study can only make Punk stronger. What's worse for the West Coast: He's planning a return trip for Northern California Regionals, which begin Friday in Sacramento.

He expects, and wants, the crowd to bring the boos.