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Shacknews Esports Hero of 2023 – AngryBird

Shacknews Esports Hero of 2023 – AngryBird

Find out why Amjad ‘AngryBird’ Al-Shalabi captured our hearts to earn the Esports Hero 2023 award.

TJ Denzer

TJ Denzer

December 19, 2023 10:00 AM1

What do you do when you’ve competed for three days straight against a pool of over 7000 people, all hungry for championship gold, and with the possibility of $2 million USD at stake, when a technical issue disrupts your final match in a way that benefits you? Do you take the money and run? Amjad “AngryBird” Al-Shalabi didn’t. Rather than leave any doubt on the table at EVO 2023, he placed faith in his skill and played it out against a relentless Saul Leonardo “MenaRD” Mena II to take the first Street Fighter 6 EVO championship, and in doing so, he won our hearts as Esports Hero of 2023.

It’s simply astonishing, the skill and sportsmanship that AngryBird showed at the highest level of the game. He and his fellow NASR eSports teammate, Adel “Big Bird” Anouche, have been making a name for themselves since Street Fighter 5, but it’s been in Street Fighter 6 that they’ve gone into overdrive in competition. AngryBird has been well-known for rocking his mastery of Ken, who is widely considered to be a top dog of the Street Fighter 6 meta, but he’s also able to play across a few characters, such as Cammy.

One of the biggest trials to overcome was EVO 2023. Over 7000 players signed up to compete in Street Fighter 6 this year, and Angry Bird proved himself first by making it to the finals on Winners side. That means that among the pool of 7000, Angry Bird didn’t drop a set against any players. He looked like a force to be reckoned with in the Top 8 of the competition, but MenaRD did too, utilizing a solid combo of his unorthodox and aggressive Blanka, and a pocket pick Luke for hard matchups.

It ended up with Angry Bird and MenaRD in the final match of the Street Fighter 6 EVO 2023 finals. MenaRD was the only one to put a true scratch on AngryBird, beating him in the first set and causing a bracket reset for the true finals. The two were neck and neck at various parts of the competition, with neither willing to go down easy. However, the key moment of that fight was when during a match, MenaRD’s controller desynced from the console. By technicality, AngryBird could have taken the round and would have taken the match because of it. Instead, he asked the officials to allow MenaRD to play it out. And then he won, fair and square, in a truly emotional victory.

AngryBird didn’t take the easy road. He didn’t see the money and take the W. He didn’t want an asterisk on this win. He wanted the world to know that, at least at EVO 2023, he was the best, and he proved it. He put his confidence to the test, played out the match, and didn’t deny MenaRD the chance to challenge him fairly. It’s few and far between that we’re ever given such an opportunity between doing the right thing and doing the thing that will get us ahead easiest. AngryBird didn’t just prove to be an impeccable competitor this year. He was also a true sportsman, and that’s what makes him our Shacknews Esports Hero of 2023.

Be sure to read over the rest of the Shacknews Awards in our Year of the Games: 2023 feature.

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