LAS VEGAS -- At League of Legends All Star weekend, all eyes were on the one-on-one tournament. While a vast majority of the event was designed to be a vacation for the game's brightest stars -- no practice rooms, sponsored parties, non-serious game modes -- the one outlier was the single-elimination bracket to determine the game's best mechanical player.
The greatest player of all-time, Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok; reigning world champion and consensus top player in the world Song "Rookie" Eui-jin; and back-to-back defending one-on-one champion Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao were all in attendance to compete. The bracket was set up perfectly to deliver tantalizing hypothetical duels that could only happen in such a format. Faker vs. Rookie. Uzi vs. Faker. The crowd at the HyperX Esports Arena came to see the stars, and they stayed throughout the three-day competition to see which superstar would claim the title of the world's best duelist.
Australia's Jackson "Pabu" Pavone had different ideas, however. The 18-year-old, too young to even check into his own hotel room in Las Vegas, became the story of the weekend with his tournament heroics.
It all began with a victory over Chile's Sebastián "Tierwulf" Andrés Mateluna Cibrario in the opening round. Nothing too out of the ordinary. Possibly a slight upset, but nothing to write home about.
Next, it was North America's best player, Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng. Pabu shocked the North American League Championship Series MVP by besting him to move on to the quarterfinals, even dabbing in celebration to commemorate the win.
The victory over Doublelift dashed the chance to see the American AD carry face off with Faker in the round of eight. Instead, Pabu, playing against his idol, would pull off the heist of the century, beating Faker in the quarterfinals and jettisoning himself into stardom with a win over the face of League of Legends.
"I'm stunned," he told ESPN in-between matches on the final day of competition. "I'm still shaking from the games. It's been incredible. I usually lose most of my 1v1s. I used to 1v1 my former jungler, and he dumpstered me like every game."
So, how could Pabu follow up slaying the man nicknamed "The Unkillable Demon King"? Easy: With another astounding win. Pabu went on to eliminate Rookie in the semifinal, which meant the Australian youngster had defeated the North American MVP, a former South Korean MVP and the Chinese MVP in succession to make it all the way to the final match of the weekend.
He would face a best-of-three final with G2 Esports' newest signee, Rasmus "Caps" Winther.
"I just want to prove these players are beatable," he said before his final. "All Stars, being in Vegas, it's almost been surreal. Picturesque. Las Vegas is insane. I've never been to America, and I'm experiencing so many new things and meeting so many new people. It's just been amazing."
There was no fairy tale ending to be had. Although Pabu went up early on G2's new mid laner with a Game 1 victory, the League of Legends World Championship finalist fought back to take the next two games and hoisted the tournament trophy to close out the show.
In the background, Pabu shuffled off the stage, watching the silver confetti rain down on the one big name talent he wasn't able to defeat in Las Vegas.
Outside of the venue on the casino floor an hour later, a swarm of Chinese fans stopped Pabu to ask for pictures. Three days earlier, those fans more than likely had never heard of the blue-haired Australian top laner before.
"Oceania is generally considered pretty bad, but for what it's worth, everyone plays on 8 ping, so the micro is actually pretty decent in Australia," Pabu said. "Our brains are just a bit lackin'."
Now, though not the champion, his name has become synonymous with the one-on-one tournament. The outlier who not only beat Rookie but thwarted Faker's hopes of finally winning one of the only trophies he's never held.
Next year, wherever League of Legends All Star weekend is held, every young player from an emerging region will look back at what Pabu did this year.
In a sea of giants, one boy from Australia proved that gods can bleed.