Though the first day of the Kickoff Clash featured some spicy showdowns, June 3 was the first day of competition that included real consequences for the teams invited to the Overwatch League’s first quarterly tournament of the season.
By the end of the day, the Washington Justice and Toronto Defiant were sent home from the West Region bracket, while the Hangzhou Spark were sent packing in the East.
Six teams remain in the West Region, throwing down for another two days at the first full-scale live event in North America since the COVID-19 pandemic canceled fan events. After their games on Friday, players had plenty to say about their experiences in the Kickoff Clash and their hopes for the rest of the tournament.
In Friday’s first match, the Atlanta Reign scored a relatively surprising win against the San Francisco Shock, the West Region’s first seed in the tournament. “It feels really good, especially because of our super disappointing performance last week,” said support UltraViolet. “I don’t think anyone was expecting it.”
The win meant more to some players than others. “I was on that team last year and I don’t care if they’re first seed, honestly. I just wanted to beat them, whatever seed they were,” explained nero, Atlanta’s flex DPS player and a member of the 2021 Shock roster.
“I can corroborate this,” Reign head coach Sephy added. “Nero’s wanted to beat Shock all season. It’s not personal.” Almost immediately, nero made a correction: “It definitely is personal,” he said.
While nero dabbled in some not-so-friendly banter, the Los Angeles Gladiators–Atlanta’s next opponent in the tournament–leaned even further into the trash talk. The team’s outspoken coach, Unter, led Kevster and Reiner into the land of bad manners during their press conference.
“You can kind of tell what they’re going to do as soon as you see their roster,” Unter said, when asked about strategy against Atlanta. The team’s clutch DPS was much more succinct. “You saw what happened last time we played them,” said Kevster, referring to the team’s 3-0 win against the Reign on May 29.
“I’m just happy we don’t have to play against Proper trying to deadlift his entire team,” added tank Reiner, getting a free shot in at the tournament’s first-place seed. “San Francisco Shock and their one player,” Unter quipped. “That’ll be a tough game.”
The Gladiators crew did have kind words for their future opponent in one arena: trash talk. “Atlanta and only Atlanta” can match them in bants, said Unter. “Otherwise, It’s just not even close. It’s embarrassing.”
The team who will have to deal with Proper, however he decides to play, is the Houston Outlaws. With a 3-1 win against the Toronto Defiant in the loser’s bracket, the team needs to beat the Shock on June 4 to stay in the Kickoff Clash.
Last year’s Rookie of the Year, Pelican, likely had the play of the day, if not the tournament, by taking down the Defiant in overtime on Colosseo. “We had to do something,” Pelican said, through translator and talent manager Bischu, about the surprise Nanoboost given to him from Ir1s. It wasn’t planned, he said; it was just a spur of the moment decision from his support. “I thought, ‘I need to make something happen.’”
Meanwhile, the Florida Mayhem players were celebrating a relatively surprising 3-1 win against the Washington Justice. Coach Gunba admitted in their press conference that the team didn’t come into the tournament expecting to win, but that it now seems “doable.”
“I’m naturally a really competitive person, so my goal in every event, every regular season match is to win, regardless of how likely it is,” said DPS Hydron, who put on a Widowmaker clinic against the Justice. “It’s fun being the underdog and taking it all. That’s the best feeling you can have,” he said.
Games continue in the Kickoff Clash at 2pm on June 4. The grand finals begin on June 5 at approximately 3:30pm CT.