LVL UP EXPO 2023 will take place in Las Vegas, Nevada, this weekend and will feature brackets for Super Smash Bros. Melee and Ultimate. The event will take the place of Double Down 2023, which was scheduled for this weekend but was canceled alongside the Smash World Tour.
Even without the Double Down branding, this event has attracted a number of top players. As a result, the brackets will be stacked, albeit small. Here’s an overview of the biggest Smash storylines to watch out for at LVL UP EXPO 2023.
Sonix aims for the top at LVL UP EXPO 2023
Carlos “Sonix” Pérez was surprised to see himself ranked as low as 16th on the UltRank 2022. Despite suffering the occasional upset loss, he placed in the top 12 at all but one of the tournaments he attended last season. In the process, he earned his first major win at CEO 2022, defeating Gavin “Tweek” Dempsey, Michael “Riddles” Kim and Samuel “Dabuz” Buzby.
— Bandits | Sonix (@UltimateSonix) January 19, 2023
Going into this year, Sonix looked to combine the high peaks that characterized his second half of 2022 with the unmatched consistency that characterized his first half. So far, he’s succeeded. Sonix placed in the top four of both Let’s Make Big Moves 2023 and Genesis 9. Along the way, he beat Leonardo “MkLeo” López Pérez, Edgar “Sparg0” Valdez, William “Glutonny” Belaid, Pedro “Kurama” Alonso Jr. and Riddles, to name a few.
At LVL UP EXPO 2023, Sonix will look to continue his journey into the top 10 with his first big tournament win of the year. His biggest obstacle will be Paris “Light” Ramirez Garcia, against whom he has an 0-4 lifetime record. Still, there’s hope even against Light, as their last three sets have all gone to Game 5.
Hax$ returns to Melee after his ban
LVL UP EXPO 2023 will mark Aziz “Hax$” Al-Yami’s first out-of-region tournament since Smash Summit 9 in February of 2020. He was previously banned from competition in September of 2021 due to his alleged defamation of William “Leffen” Hjelte’s character in a since-deleted video and manifesto called Evidence.zip 2.
However, after Hax$ apologized and served a ban for more than a year, the NYC Melee team opted to unban him from local events. While it is unclear what major tournament organizers will allow Hax$ at their events, he will soon head to Vegas for his first post-ban tournament appearance outside of New York.
just got out of jail
— Hax$ (@ssbmhax) January 1, 2023
Since the beginning of the year, Hax$ has defeated Dawud “Aklo” Rahman and Toussaint “2saint” Turnier at locals, along with conquering Avery “Ginger” Wilson at an online tournament. However, only time will tell how he’ll fare against titans like Masaya “aMSa” Chikamoto, Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma and John “KoDoRiN” Ko this weekend.
Dylan Tate is an alumnus of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a gaming journalist with a love for Nintendo esports, particularly Super Smash Bros. and Pokémon.