Image courtesy of Outlaws

Maybe it’s the fact we’ve gone nearly 6 months without any professional Overwatch esports. Or that the team I’ve lived and died by is looking as good as they ever have. Whatever the reason, last weekend’s opening matches for the Overwatch League were some of the best Overwatch I’ve seen. Even the teams that went home with some L’s played their damn hearts out and it’s a good sign for the season to come for fans of all stripes.

But as an Outlaws fan, I’m riding a particular kind of high that we in the green haven’t tasted before. The start of this season isn’t just a 2 – 0 for the fans of the Houston Outlaws, it’s the best opening weekend you could possibly imagine. They didn’t just come out the gate and takedown teams at the bottom of power rankings, they defeated the two most important teams in the league for them to defeat to set the pace of their 2021 season.

The Dallas Fuel

At first glance, it’s easy to see why this was an important win for Houston. It’s one of the few rivalries set in place by location and it’s one of the best rivalries based in recent history too. Every time these teams go toe-to-toe, it’s a nail-biter and it usually ends in a game five.

The Outlaws took the first few wins back in the inaugural season against Dallas, but up until this past weekend, Dallas had collected the W’s in 2020 and 2019. Though, Houston does hold the trophy for the exhibition match between the two from the Lonestar Challenge. But there was more on the line here than just who gets to be the sheriff of Texas til the next match.

William “Crimzo” Hernandez was a flex support for the Dallas Fuel last season and after being cut, was picked up by the Outlaws. He’s made sure everyone knows he wants revenge on the team that dropped him. Likewise, Dallas Fuel picked up both of Houston’s 2020 support players in Seung-soo “Jecse” Lee and Jung-keun “Rapel” Kim. The only way to describe the Dallas and Houston match-ups this year is that it’s personal.

The San Francisco Shock

Beating your arch-rivals is one thing, it’s nice to do and it feels great when casters and analysts rank them higher than you. But, the only thing sweeter than that, is taking the first win against the former two-time Champions, the San Francisco Shock.

It wasn’t going to be easy, the Shock is absolutely stacked in every category of player. While the Outlaws are looking as good as they ever have, they were still fielding three rookie players against two-time Champion caliber players. But, they never flinched, in fact, we reached out to both rookie tanks from the Houston Outlaws to ask what it was like going head-to-head with a legendary line-up that consisted of Super, Smurf, and ChoiHyoBin.

The Talon Esports tank duo was surprisingly cavalier with their answers. Main tank Myung-heum “JJANGGU” Cho said, “I was a bit nervous before the match, but after round 1, it felt like we could win.” His off-tank cohort Min-jun “PIGGY ” Shin didn’t feel the nerves whatsoever, “I don’t know why but I wasn’t nervous at all.”

Just like the match-up against Dallas, there’s a load of history and relationships at play that made this win taste even sweeter. Co-head coaches, Harsha Bandi and Jae-won “Junkbuck” Choi worked under San Francisco Shock coach Dae-hee “Crusty” Park.

Houston DPS player Dante “Danteh” Cruz started his Overwatch debut with the Shock before later being traded to the Houston Outlaws. On top of that, another of the Outlaws’ new players, Jung-woo “Happy” Lee was once a DPS partner to now Shock player Charlie “nero” Zwarg, when they both played for the Guangzhou Charge.

Houston Outlaws Going Forward

The opening weekend wins for the Houston Outlaws are undeniably good for the team and have opened the eyes to many naysayers of what the team is capable of. It’s just the beginning of the season and for a team with three rookie players, they still have a lot of growing to do.

Co-head coach Junkbuck said, “We don’t want to be complacent after this win.  We will keep working hard to improve because those teams will come back stronger, and we will be ready.” The Shock is notorious for coming back stronger, hungrier, and more deadly than ever after suffering a loss.

The Houston Outlaws are going to suffer the taste of defeat at some point or another, even their games this past weekend both went into a game 5 and game 6 and came down to the wire in both cases. But, don’t expect them to fall quietly into the middle or bottom of the pack like the Outlaws of yesteryear.

Asking General Manager Matt Iorio, an inaugural Outlaw himself, what the biggest difference is between this year’s Outlaws and those of the past, he said this. “The structure we have created this year for the Outlaws allows the players and coaches to perform to their maximum level. We spent months planning and strategizing in the offseason to produce an environment that we believe is the most conducive to support team performance.”

It’s just been one week and we’ve got an entire Overwatch League season to go. I like to always say that anything can happen on any given payload, but one thing is for sure, it’s definitely a great time to be an Outlaws fan.

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Note: CheckpointXP and the Houston Outlaws are owned by the same parent company, The Beasley Media Group.

Feature Image courtesy of the Houston Outlaws.